Mountaineering Training | Will I Be Ready? Setting Benchmarks In Your Training

Posted by: | October 22, 2012
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

On a personal fitness level, time sometimes seems elastic to me: if I have plenty of time to train, I’ll sit around and lolly-gag; tell me I only have a couple of months to get prepared and I’ll be up at 5 a.m. training like a prizefighter. 
The question of, “Will I be ready?” will ultimately be answered only on the climb. However, we can stack the odds in our favor by creating a tracking system that gives us a snapshot of where we are in the preparation process.
A simple method is to make a graph depicting where we are today and where we need to be for the climb. For this example, I used a January Expedition to 22,841’ Aconcagua in Argentina if I started training in October:

Aconcagua Training Timeline

This allows me to see:

1. What I’m capable of today (see my post “Setting A Baseline” if you need help with this).
2. What I need to accomplish on my target date. 
3. Where I should be during the process. 
My experience is that progress is rarely a straight line on a graph and you may be ahead or behind at any given point; but you can see generally what you’ve achieved and identify what work remains to be done throughout the training period. 
So, what if you’re running short on time to prepare? This happens often. If the goal is ambitious, we may need to intensify our focus and really adopt the mindset of an athlete. 
Some training recommendations if you are short on time to prepare:

• Try to establish a sensible progression and use the entire time you have rather than “front load” your training (which could create setbacks or injury). 
• If you do have an aggressive training plan, be sure to focus on rest and recovery as well as quality nutrition. 
• Make your training as specific as possible: Mountain climbing and hiking are perfect. Cross country skiing, running, Stairmaster, and cycling are all also good. Focus in on these activities to benefit the most from your training. 
• Embrace the adventure and focus on the process more than just the result; it’s easy to expend a lot of energy thinking only of the summit. By focusing on enjoying my training and doing the best I can each day, I find I enhance my training experience and my overall experience on the climb.

Take some time this week to sit down, pull out a pencil and paper, and graph out the training progression you need for your climb. It will give you a clear picture of not only where you need to be for your climb, but also where you need to be in three months, in one month, and even next week. Keep this graph in a convenient place and pull it out every once in a while to check in on yourself. It can be helpful to establish specific, repeatable benchmarks to revisit during your training to measure your progress. Check out RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer’s ideas on using benchmarks

- John Colver
John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX  brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle.

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