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MOUNTAINEERING TRAINING | BUILD YOUR BASE

Aerobic Base Training Aerobic Base Training is the foundation that the subsequent layers of your training will be built on. The first of the three standard phases of training, the goals of aerobic training are to increase muscle efficiency and endurance. During this building phase, your body develops its capillary network, delivering more blood (and oxygen) to your muscle fibers, minimizing lactate production, maximizing lactate disposal, and increasing mitochondrial density (which produces ATP to fuel your muscles).

Aerobic base training was initially pioneered by New Zealand running coach Arthur Lydiard1. In the 1960 and 1964 Olympic games, three of the athletes he coached combined for 6 medals, dominating the distance events. The world took notice, and soon some form of his theory of aerobic base training had become commonplace in nearly all endurance events. There were many misconceptions to his theory though that endured: namely that aerobic training involves lots of long slow miles, and nothing else. In reality, Lydiard typically included three workouts into his athletes base periods: long runs, shorter steady state runs at an increased effort, and fartlek type interval workouts.

Each workout in the period accomplishes a specific purpose, with the overall goal being to maximize the aerobic energy system before moving on to anaerobic training. While long workouts accomplish the goals that we usually think of such as increasing blood flow and muscular efficiency, the steady state workout is designed to increase the aerobic threshold (the level of effort the body can exert while maintaining aerobic metabolism and not producing lactic acid), and the fartlek workout is designed to mix up the pace, letting the legs turn over more quickly to stimulate the muscle fibers in a different way and develop the neuromuscular system as well.

As mountaineers, these same principles and goals apply. During our base phase, our goal is to maximize the aerobic energy system, and so long workouts, shorter steady state workouts, and fartlek intervals will all help to build that strong foundation that the rest of our training will come to rest on. Into that mix, we can also add endurance strength (light weights, but lots of reps) and core strength workouts to start to build the well rounded fitness that is so essential for our sport! During the base building phase, higher intensity workouts should still be done at a moderate pace however, perhaps around 80-85% of your max heart rate, rather than a 100% all our effort. This pace will continue to develop your slow twitch muscle fibers while beginning to develop your fast twitch fibers as well. This has the added benefit of reducing the chance that you get injured as you move into more intense workouts during later phases of training.

Mt. Rainier may not be the Olympics, but we can certainly train like an Olympian, and that foundation laid now, will provide the support for a great climb on your next big objective!

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(1: http://runnersconnect.net/coach-corner/base-training-running/)

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!


Comments (2)

Great to have a refresher on this as I up my training game. I remember reading Dr. Phil Maffetone and hearing tri-athlete Dave Scott preach these often forgotten fundamentals.  Looking for a climb to do in the next 6-8 months.  Dave

Posted by: David A. DePodwin on

Please e-mail me another copy of the week 3 training schedule.  Thanks

Posted by: Phil Hanrahan on

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