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Mountaineering Training | Getting Out the Door

“Do you train?” A climber recently asked me as we descended the Disappointment Cleaver on Mt. Rainier. My answer: “Well, to be honest, training to most guides is a way of life.” We don’t HAVE TO go for a run, lift weights, and bike all day; we GET TO. Training and performing are both mentally demanding to do and to motivate for. My remedy is to remove the need to motivate and intentionally make training part of who I am. There are two ways to view the 5 A.M. wake up to go to the gym: The first - it’s a choice you make every day and the second - it’s what you do. Consciously removing the decision to get out the door and train makes the process easier. I was suffering from decision making fatigue just the other day as I tried to decide which Tillamook ice cream to buy, but had no problem walking out the door to get in a jog because it wasn’t a choice. On days when it seems harder to get moving, I tell myself; “Well, there is no decision to make. Here we go.” 

What do many of us guides do for training? You name it and guides are doing it: road biking, mountain biking, rock climbing, yoga, HITT, sprinting, jogging, swimming, skiing, weight lifting, sit-ups, bouldering, and on and on. The guiding lifestyle lends itself well to activity and a solid foundation of endurance, and as a result our training may be less structured. We all make choices around what’s important to us. If I am building fitness for a specific climb however, I will be more organized about my approach, dividing my training into specific categories and foci to more efficiently reach the gains that I’m depending on. This is probably more applicable to many of the climbers I work with, for whom their next climb likely is one of the largest athletic feats they have taken on in their life.

Training takes time in what is often a busy schedule. What if we took 5 to 10 minutes from different ways we spend our time each day (time on our computers, socializing, food preparation, tv watching, house cleaning, shopping, sleeping, social media) and put that into fitness?  There is no way I can navigate your personal time management, but it is all a compromise and we can do almost anything but not everything. 

There are lots of good blogs here on types of workout and training preparation routines so I’m not going to outline specific workouts here but instead link to some of my favorite references:






Christina Dale has led climbing expeditions all over the world - from Everest Base Camp to the Mexican volcanoes to the summit of Denali. She’s skied from the top of Chilean volcanoes, peaks in Patagonia, and across Mount Cook. During the summer, she’s a regular on Rainier. She spends her winters ski patrolling at Crystal Mountain, with her avalanche search and rescue dog in tow.

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