Mountaineering Training | Guide’s Perspective: My Training For Aconcagua
At the end of a long season on Mt. Rainier I enter my off season; sleep deprived, constantly hungry around midnight (breakfast time at Camp Muir), fuzzy on what my role is at home after being away for 5 months and physically worn down. I am in great shape to walk uphill slowly with a heavy pack, but that’s about it. All of my attempts to continue my strength and conditioning during the Rainier season can’t override my body’s need for rest. Yet when my guiding season ends, training season begins.
Personally, I hate the monotony of traditional gym training, which is why I use CrossFit. The workout is different everyday and the community is supportive and at the same time competitive. I am asked to improve my competency in the following fitness domains: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. I have coaches who hold me accountable to my goals and adapt the programming to my needs. It is a tricky balance though, since diving into this type of programming after being absent for five months exposes me to injury.
I typically have two and a half months starting in October to train for the Aconcagua season. For the first week my schedule is 2 days on, followed by 1 active rest day. The 2 days involve attending a one-hour class, which incorporates a 15-minute warm up, 10 - 15 minute skill session followed by the 7 - 20 minute workout. The class finishes with mobility and recovery exercises. My active recovery day might be a long run, mountain bike, or climbing. My goals during this first week are to work on the ten fitness domains and get plenty of sleep. The active recovery days are designed to give me a break from the intense workouts, but are certainly not a day to sit on the couch.
For weeks 2 - 6 I increase my training to 3 days on followed by 1 day off. My off day will usually be an active recovery day. During this phase I continue to build on the previously mentioned fitness domains. Increasing intensity and output allows me to embrace the suffering of the next set, mile, or hill climb. This helps me address the mental side of climbing mountains.
During weeks 7 - 10 I continue with 3 days on followed by 1 rest day. On Monday and Wednesday I will complete a one-hour class in the morning and that evening o an additional hour of interval training; either running or rowing. My rest day is just that, a day to recover and prepare from the two-a-days. I program eight workouts per week to train my body and mind to work hard when I ask it and better utilize rest when available. Interval training provides the most direct correlation to how I exert myself in the mountains.
When I arrive in Argentina I am confident that I am prepared physically and mentally for the expedition. I may still struggle with altitude or fatigue at times during the 20-day trip, however, I have trained my body and mind to work hard when needed and (as importantly) rest when opportunity arises.
Mike King guides around the world for RMI Expeditions, from Argentina to Alaska. He has climbed and guided across the country, thru hiked the Appalachian Trail, and ridden his bike across the country. Mike now lives with his wife in Bend, OR, where she owns and runs Fearless Baking. Mike will be guiding an Alaska Mountaineering Seminar next May, and is headed to Aconcagua on December 20th with Jake Beren. Follow them on the RMI Blog!
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