Mountaineering Training | A Successful Climber’s Perspective on Training for Mt. Rainier
Categories: Mountaineering Fitness & Training
I summited Mt. Rainier a few years ago with RMI. I won’t lie to you: it is to date the HARDEST physical challenge I’ve ever taken on (even as a collegiate athlete, and a yoga, barre, and spin instructor). But, I can also tell you, it was COMPLETELY worth it.
And I can tell you what got me to the top: the right preparation.
First of all: STAIRS, stairs, and more stairs. Whether you find them at a local stadium, in your apartment building, or even the stair climber at the gym, stairs are a must (I lived in Seattle when I summited, but I’m in Texas now. I know that you might have to get creative depending on where). Put some weight in your pack (immediately) and just start climbing. You can increase the weight in your pack as you get stronger.
One thing that I wish I had known as I trained on all those stairs is the “Rest Step”. The Rest Step is exactly what it sounds like: you take a step, rest, take another step, rest. Over and over at a quick tempo—rest, step, rest step, rest, step. If you’re not familiar, do a quick search on YouTube for “Rest Step Climb” for a visual. With just a little practice, you’ll have the Rest Step down—it’s a vital technique for conserving energy, and that’s what an endurance climb is really all about.
Which leads me to my next training tip: YOGA. Yoga helped me develop a greater awareness of my breath and lung capacity. When the air gets thin 14,000 feet up and you feel like your lungs are collapsing, you’ll be grateful for your practice breathing deeply and evenly. I was doing yoga about 3 times a week leading up to my climb, and I had very little trouble with altitude.
Speaking of altitude—that’s what breaks new climbers down the most. It shows up as shortness of breath (see above), but also as fatigue and nausea. For these last two, help yourself: pack REAL FOOD—ideally food that you LOVE, so that you’ll be willing to eat, even when you don’t want to (trust me, at times you WON’T want to).
All those goop packs you can get at REI are great, but they’re not meant for 2-4 day adventures. I’m gluten-free and vegan, so I packed dried fruit, trail mix, LARA bars (or homemade date balls! My favorite!), and pre-made quinoa. I also had some rice tortillas. Remember, this is mountain climbing, not a walk in the park—calories are your friends: get a good balance of sugar, carbs, and protein, however works for you. I’ve done quite a bit of hiking, so I had an idea of what go-to foods I’d want on the climb. If you don’t, I’d recommend taking some test-foods out with you on a few hikes or stair workouts, so you can see how your body reacts to certain foods or proportions in the middle of long workouts.
Stairs, Rest-stepping, breathing, and food prep. If you’ve been preparing with marathon runs and Olympic weightlifting, these training methods might sound like small things. But then…“It’s not the mountain ahead that wears you down, it’s the pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammad Ali
Hi! I’m Adrianne. I’ve been an athlete my whole life, starting as a dancer at age seven. Eventually, I danced at the Olympics in Sydney 2000, but after juggling dance and soccer for years, I eventually chose to focus on soccer. Soccer got me a college scholarship, and I played for four years as I earned my degree. After college, I desperately sought to maintain my sports brain (and body) and soon I discovered yoga. Before I knew it, I’d completed three yoga teacher trainings—I’ve been teaching yoga since 2010! My love for teaching grew exponentially during this time, so I sought other ways to grow as an instructor. That’s how I discovered FlyBarre—on the first class, I was HOOKED! I then began teaching Indoor Cycling at Flywheel in Austin and cannot imagine my life without a coaching aspect to it.
I summited Mt. Rainier in the midst of all of this and can honestly say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and my 3rd most accomplished (after the Olympics and soccer scholarship). I love the outdoors and anything to keep me out there is always forefront in my mind. I would love to help you on your journey to summit ANY mountain you have your sights on. You can follow me on Instagram @thirtyish_ and check out my blog thirty-ish.com.
Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!
More to Explore
January 25, 2018
January 26, 2018