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Entries from Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Mountaineering Training | Underfoot: Using Footbeds

Whether training, or on your next climb, your feet are your Achilles heel.  If you develop blisters, banged up toes, or pain in your feet or joints, the whole process of climbing comes to a grinding halt.  While training for your climb, you’ll put in countless days with heavy weight on your back, countless miles of trail and rough terrain, and many, many hours on your feet.  Taking good care of your feet and giving them proper support  through all of this training can help to minimize a lot of overuse injuries, and leave you feeling better for your upcoming climb.  Get yourself a good pair of orthotics or at least a good supportive footbed for your training footwear and climbing boots.  

Our leg alignment can change dramatically throughout our life, often as a result of changes in the structure of the foot.  These changes in alignment, when you are in the midst of a heavy training load, can leave you with joint pain and a tendency towards persistent overuse injuries that can stick around and have a major impact on your training.  Orthotics are often the best solution for fixing your alignment and keeping those injuries from cropping up.  An orthotist can mold a footbed to help your alignment stay nearer the ideal.  This helps your knees track straighter, joints stack over each other better, and femurs rotate in the hip socket more smoothly.  

Many climbers rent boots for their climb.  While rental boots are well made, high-end brands, they are not broken in to your foot.  A custom orthotic or an aftermarket footbed such as “superfeet” is the best way to make that boot feel as though it has always been on your foot.  With the long days climbing up and down Rainier, or weeks on the glaciers of Denali, that extra comfort and support can be a major boon to enjoying the experience.  

In the last several years, there has been a lot of support for the idea of running in very low support shoes that mimic what it would be like to run barefoot.  While studies do support the idea that this is better for your body when running or walking, the heavy loads that we put on our backs and the stiff to nearly rigid soles of the boots that we wear when training and climbing all demand that we support our feet.  Look into your alignment and footbed needs and find your way to more comfortable climbing and training!

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

Mountaineering Training | Training With Trekking Poles

The use of trekking poles during climbs (in appropriate terrain) can dramatically reduce your expended effort, allow you to move more efficiently, and ultimately let you climb longer and further.  Trekking poles help us to balance, taking some of the work away from the small muscles in our feet and ankles responsible for balancing, and involving the core and skeleton instead.  They also help enormously when it comes to managing a large and unwieldy backpack.  There are ways to use and hold trekking poles that improve their efficiency.  

A common question is how long should the poles be?  For climbers’ purposes, trekking poles should be significantly shorter than most would think: right around hip height.  By setting our poles at hip height, and holding the pole by placing the palm on the top of the grip and draping fingers over the pole, the skeleton can take much of the load from the pole, reducing fatigue and effort.  The shorter height allows the bones of the arm to stack over each other, taking the load rather than the muscles.  Remember, this is not cross country skiing and having the pole tall and out in front of you only means more, yet less effective, work for your arms.  

Another element to think about is how overly active arms can actually create more exertion for your body.   Imagine that you were hiking up a set of stairs.  Now put a tall pair of poles in your hand, and hike the same stairs while you try to push yourself up with the poles at the same time.  Rather than two of your limbs working hard to move your mass uphill (lots of work already!) all four are doing the job; only your arms, working out in front of you, act as levers instead of pistons (like your legs) so they are mechanically much less suited to the task.  But, by moving your arms and trying to push on those levers, your heart rate will rise with the extra exertion; the result is a higher heart rate, earlier fatigue, and less efficient use of your system if your poles are out in front of you (like a cross country skier).  Even with the poles set to hip height, we see this happen often on steep rolls, when climbers don’t lower their grip on the pole to keep their hands at a comfortable height.  Once the hands are above the heart, they have little effect on balance or upward motion, and the heart has to work harder to pump blood uphill to them. Through small steep terrain features it’s key to choke up on your poles to avoid this.  

These are not absolute principles but suggestions. Play with them during your training to teach yourself to move more comfortably and efficiently with poles.  It will pay big dividends on your next climb, and can help to take some of the training stress of hiking up and downhill with heavy packs, off of your joints, helping to prevent injury!

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

Thanks for the tips! Would definitely want to have a trekking pole myself brought on hiking.

Posted by: Marge on 5/25/2016 at 10:57 pm

I’m doing the Ironman Lake Tahoe as a training program for my Mountaineering goals.  What are your thoughts?  If I do well with the Ironman at 6,000+ feet in elevation will this be more than plenty of training?  I have 9 months until the race.  After the race I expect to be in the best shape of my life.

Posted by: Will Beaubien on 1/26/2014 at 6:44 pm

Mountaineering Training | Training In Cold Temperatures

Another wide ranging cold front is dropping across the U.S. this weekend, drawing down Arctic air and threatening to plunge temperatures below zero from coast to coast.  Seriously cold wintertime temps aren’t abnormal for many athletes in more northern climes, and most grit their teeth, throw on a couple more layers, and continue with their training.  Training goes on and we make the most of the weather, but treat these cold snaps with respect.  Several studies, by the Norwegian and Swedish national athletic programs, as well as the US Olympic committee, have shown that strenuous endurance training in cold, dry conditions can lead to lung and bronchial irritation and inflammation, and that prolonged training in these conditions increases the incidence of asthma and bronchospasms. 

After the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, the US Olympic committee found that over 25% of the American team suffered from bronchospasms (uncontrollable spasms of the bronchi), and that of cross country skiers (athletes making long and exerted efforts in snowy and cold conditions), this respiratory problem was present in over half of the individuals.  A similar study of elite level cross country skiers in Sweden and Norway showed repeatedly that over half of these athletes display asthma like symptoms and decreased lung capacity. 

While a few days of training during a cold snap won’t be enough to cause most athletes long term respiratory distress, it could be enough to cause some bronchial irritation and inflammation that could impact training for the next few weeks.  This may be a good time to focus your training week on a few more gym and indoor workouts, and if you do train outside, consider training with a neck gaiter or buff over your mouth, to help warm the air as it enters your lungs.  In chronically cold places, such as Alaska, athletes have developed special masks for training in cold conditions.  Essentially stripped down respirators, they hollow metal grid of the mask retains the heat of each exhaled breath, helping to warm the next breath.

Stay motivated, wear a few more layers, and take care.  If an outdoor workout leaves your lungs and throat feeling raw and irritated, don’t push it.  Do your next few sessions indoors, the irritation heal and subside.  Good luck and happy training!

Read more about the respiratory studies here.

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

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!

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

two time in mauntain kilimanjaro.nice group!!!!!

Posted by: goodluck ndossy on 12/17/2013 at 12:55 am

Mountaineering Training | Training Zones Explained

One of the most important things to remember about training is that successful training is a conglomeration of various activities and intensities that as a whole improve your body’s physiological performance.  While many people may consider going for a half hour jog each day as “training”, when you are preparing for an activity like mountaineering, your training needs to go beyond this.  A major component of successful training is varying the intensity of workouts.  Some workouts are hard, some are short bursts of maximum effort, and many are long and slow endurance sessions.  A great way to think about these sessions is through the concept of training zones. 

Training zones have traditionally been distilled in to five categories, based on their physiological effect and the corresponding effort they require.  While it’s not a particularly exciting way to label them, the categories are named Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3…you get the idea.  There are a number of different theories and ways to define these zones floating around in the training world; Google training zones to find all the reading you could want to do on the subject.  For those that train with a heart rate monitor, percentage of max heart rate (MaxHR) is a useful way to help identify your training zones.  There are a variety of formulas to determine your MaxHR, but a good approximation for most people is to subtract their age from 220.  Heart rate monitors are great training tools, but are not necessary to train properly.  Another method of setting the zones is to use perceived effort.  The zones are described as follows:

Zone 1: Zone 1 is described as the aerobic recovery zone, and is between 50—60% of MaxHR.  At this intensity, the body burns fat for energy, and allows muscles to replenish their glycogen stores.  On a perceived effort scale, this workout almost feels like a non-workout.  At the end you should feel that you didn’t go hard enough to accomplish anything perhaps.  In reality, this is a great intensity to aid muscle recovery. 

Zone 2: 60—70% of MaxHR is where the body is most efficient at building endurance.  This is still an aerobic effort, and for those without a heart rate monitor, it is a pace that you can carry on a conversation while exercising.  Since this is the best physiological zone for building endurance, a lot of your long workouts will take place at this intensity. 

Zone 3: This is a bit of a gray area.  Zone 3 is between 70 and 80% of your Max HR, and generally is the zone when you stop being able to talk in full sentences, but can still get out short bursts of words at a time.  It’s a bit too fast for really building endurance, and not fast enough to develop speed or anaerobic capacity, so most serious people spend little time training at this zone.  It is useful for some tempo workouts, but is probably the zone to spend the least amount of your training time. 

Zone 4: Here, we are talking about speed, discomfort, and shorter efforts.  Zone 4 is the anaerobic threshold zone.  At 80 to 90% of MaxHR, your body burns significantly less fat, using the glycogen stored in the muscles instead.  This form of energy transfer is less efficient (lack of oxygen!) so lactic acid is a byproduct.  At your anaerobic threshold, your body’s ability to remove and process lactic acid is overwhelmed, and it begins to build up.  This is translates to your race pace, and feels like an effort that you won’t be able to keep up for very long, and what you’d like most to do is slow down or stop. 

Zone 5: 90 to 100% of MaxHR.  This is for pure speed and all out effort.  It typically involves intervals, or short bursts of max effort, and is useful for increasing your anaerobic threshold and increasing your body’s ability to cycle lactic acid and recover from hard efforts. 

Training zones are a great way to set the goal for a workout and ensure that you are getting maximum benefit from your training sessions.  Identify which zones you’ll be working out in before hand to design the day’s workout goals, and afterward assess yourself to see how you did - were you able to maintain your effort in your planned zone(s) throughout the workout?

The description of the zones is not set in stone.  If your heart rate monitor says that you are in Zone 2 but you are having trouble carrying on a conversation, then you should scale back what you consider Zone 2 to bring it in to line.  If you are going as fast as you possibly can but can’t make it to Zone 5, then your MaxHR estimation might be a little high, and you can scale it down.  Once the levels are dialed in, they are a great way both to design and track your workouts going forward.

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

Are these zones % of max heart rate or % of working heart rate. (Max hr - resting hr x % traing range + resting hr)

Posted by: Brett on 7/7/2015 at 11:24 am

Mountaineering Training | Picking Favorites: RMI Guide Adam Knoff Discuss Balancing His Passions

Today I was surprisingly asked a question that, as far as I can tell, is as old as human curiosity, parental affection and plain ol’ sibling rivalry.  This may seem strange because I only have one child, and my somewhat unhinged three wingnut dogs can’t speak and honestly don’t care about the answer as long as they are fed and played with.  As you may have guessed, the question so abruptly put on me this morning was: “daddy, who’s your favorite?”  Harder to guess was, who asked it? 

Things started normally enough; I made breakfast for my kiddo before packing him up and carting him off to preschool.  I fed my dogs and chickens, cleaned the kitchen, and prepared for a day of light recreating before my afternoon duties began.  It was when I entered the garage, home to my all important man cave and location of all my beloved fly fishing and climbing gear that things took a bizarre turn.  Standing in front of me (I kid you not!) side by side, with puppy dog eyes looking up, stood my 12’6” Echo spey rod and my carbon fiber, oh so beautiful, Cobra ice tools.  These sorts of things don’t just happen so I double checked my reality button.  Dreaming?  No I don’t think so.  I have been up for three hours, had my coffee, and still felt the throb in my left big toe where I slammed it into the chest at the side of my bed.  Ok, I’m awake.  Drugged?  No, I quit taking hallucinogens in high school and my wife, I think, genuinely cares about me.  Then what?  My two favorite activities in life, swinging flies for big trout with my spey rod and ice climbing, which is now doable in Bozeman, Montana, have come to a head.  With a few free hours, my fishing rod and ice tools came alive and wanted me to pick favorites.  Sheeesh!  What’s a guy to do? 

As time stood still, I began to reflect on the week long steelhead fishing trip I took just two weeks prior to the Grand Rhond, Clearwater, and Snake rivers.  Ohhh, the joy of that trip made me quiver.  It made me want to reach out, grab my spey rod child and declare my love for him.  28 inch ocean run rainbows on the swing, the thrill of the next hook up, not wearing a heavy pack; the reasons almost overwhelmed me.  Yes, yes, you will always be my favorite!!!  Then I saw my ice tools.  Hyalite Canyon is in!  I can’t wait for the thrill of running it out on newly formed thin ice over a stubby ice screw, waking up before the sun, and realizing this day was bound to hold everything but the predictable. Ohh, ice tools, you are my favorite, “let’s go climb something!”  I think you understand my dilemma. 

Parenting has taught me much in the five years that I’ve been at it.  Love, patience and compassion are always at the forefront of dealing with children.  Frustrations always arise.  Liam spills my wine on the new rug, my spey rod whips bullets at the back of my head leaving welts the size of cheese curds on my scalp, ice tools rip out unexpectedly and send waves of sudden panic through me that make me want to puke.  All part of the landscape I guess.  So how did I answer the question, “who is your favorite”?  Here I leaned on the invaluable lessons gleaned from seven years of blissful marriage.  I compromised.

That day I took the ice tools out for their first climb of the season.  I packed them up with the rest of my climbing gear all the while psyched I had just promised my fishing rod we would get out tomorrow.  It’s a difficult web we weave, balancing work and play.  I honestly felt troubled that I had to recreate two days in a row, climbing then fishing, but then again parenting is also about sacrifice. 

As readers of the RMI Blog, most of you are probably cracking a smile but are also curious how this story is relevant to the mission of mountain climbing, training, and/or preparing for an upcoming goal.  Here is how I connect the dots:  Fishing for me is the yin to my climbing yang.  It is a glorious mental escape which allows me to shelve my daily stresses and exist purely in the moment.  Everyone needs this periodic meditation to reset and clear the mind.  For many, exercise accomplishes the same release but regular exercise does not necessarily constitute “training”.  The expectations I put on myself when climbing on my own are very high and the specific training schedule I follow can at times be demanding, painful, and sometimes unpleasant.  Here is where we tie in sacrifice.  Everyone’s life is managed by time.  Somewhere on that big round clock is time you can utilize for yourself.  If you have a goal of climbing a mountain, running a marathon, or bench pressing a Ford truck, you need to prioritize and then commit!  Finding enjoyment and purpose in life comes when these commitments are made.  Being a husband and father keep me grounded.  Being a passionate climber and guide keep me psyched and motivated, and the hunt for big fish calms me down.  In the big picture I think I have found some balance. Remember it takes the black and the white, the yin and the yang, to complete the circle.  The web you weave and balance you seek are your own, but seek it with conviction and purpose and you will be just fine.       

Adam Knoff is a senior guide at RMI, husband, father, and fish wrangler.  A versatile and talented rock, ice, and big mountain climber, Adam has climbed and guided throughout the world, in Alaska, the Himalaya, and in his backyard of Bozeman, MT.  Adam is guiding an upcoming Mexico’s Volcanoes trip, Expedition Skills Seminar - Ecuador, and will be leading a team on the West Buttress of McKinley next June.

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

Mountaineering Training | Playing With Speed: The Fartlek

In the 1930s, Swedish running coach Gösta Holmér was trying to find a way to kick start a floundering national cross country running team that had been thoroughly trounced by a strong Finnish team throughout the 1920s*.  Part of his answer was an interval workout with a name that most Americans have trouble saying with a straight face: fartlek.  Fartlek translates to English as “speed play”, and the workout is just that.  A free flowing and loose type of interval workout, Fartlek has many incarnations and can greatly benefit climbers as part of a workout plan.  

Fartlek workouts have gained popularity in the sports of running and nordic skiing (both heavily Scandinavian sports) since Holmér’s creation, but they can be accomplished in a wide variety of activities: swimming, cycling, and walking are all conducive to playing with speed.  
Completed within a continuous workout, such as a longer run, the fartlek portion typically lasts for at least 45 minutes.  After a good warm-up, many people begin the fartlek with a few minutes of a sustained increase in effort.  This effort shouldn’t be all out, but a bump of 15 to 20 seconds per mile from your normal distance aerobic pace.  This continues the warm-up process and readies your muscles and body for the gear changes that make up the fartlek workout.  After this period, you are ready to play.  The fartlek consists of increases in pace of varying duration and intensity, always returning to your aerobic distance pace.  This could be a few quick steps thrown in every 50 meters - to simulate a bump in pace or a few difficult steps to get through an awkward section of Disappointment Cleaver - or a sprint of 50-60 meters every few hundred meters, simulating a short stretch of steep climbing.  Longer efforts of one to several minutes can be used, as well as harder efforts up hills, with recovery over the top and on the descent.  One of the main points of the fartlek is that it is continuous.  After your harder efforts, you should return to your aerobic distance pace.  If you can’t sustain this and you find your pace slowing, back off the intensity of your harder efforts.  
This is a great workout to do with a partner or group.  Switch leaders often, vary the length and intensity, and have fun.  Pick different points to push to; racing to signposts, up hills, and racing mailboxes (push for two mailboxes then back off, then push for four, and back off, etc.) are all great ways to keep the workout entertaining and fun.  Checkout these different fartlek ideas on Active.com and Triathlete.com for inspiration. 
Fartlek has benefits for climbers throughout the different phases of a training plan.  Early on in training, the goal is base fitness and building aerobic endurance.  While aerobic endurance is incredibly important to the sport of mountaineering, the long slow nature of these workouts can leave athletes feeling sluggish and with a difficult time increasing the pace.  During this phase, fartlek is a great way to maintain your ability to switch gears mid workout.  As you move into your threshold building phase, fartlek is a great mid intensity interval workout that helps train your body to recover between efforts - important in a sport where a few more difficult steps at altitude can leave you gasping for breath.  Experiment with different formulas, and try throwing these workouts into your plan once or twice a week.  The fartlek workout is a great way to add some creative freedom to your weekly training regimen.  Lastly, don’t forget the “play” in “speed play”!  
*Source: Wikipedia article “Fartlek”.

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

Fartlek + Burpees = now that’s a combo!

Posted by: Matt Stone on 11/11/2013 at 9:26 am

Mountaineering Training | Strength Training Beyond The Gym

When most people think about strength workouts, they think about joining a gym and lifting weights to build muscle mass. I grew up as an alpine ski racer and continue to stay involved in the sport now as a ski coach. If you have watched an alpine ski race, in person or on TV, you know that ski racing is all about leg strength. Although mountaineers don’t need to be hitting the weight room to the same extent as a ski racer, strength is a key component to climbing. 

Traveling around the world as an athlete, coach, and guide, I do not always have access to a weight room. During the season I still need to do exercises to maintain strength. I make use of local parks or playgrounds (where the entry fee is free) or even my own living room.
Below are a couple of key exercises that you can do either in a gym or in the comfort of your own home. Remember, whenever doing strength workouts, it is important to get a proper warm-up and cool-down and listen to your body in order to stay injury-free and get the most from the workout.
Warm-Up: This involves 15 - 20 minutes of running or biking to get your muscles warmed up. This is imperative since diving into strength training cold is a great way to hurt yourself. This time can be spent on a stationary bicycle, a couple laps around the neighborhood on a road bike or mountain bike, a few laps around the track or soccer field, or a jog around the neighborhood. 
Body Weight Squats: Start your workout with two legged squats, feet hip width apart, with no weight. As you up your training, adding weight is a viable option as long as your form and technique stay correct. Jugs of water, rocks, or chunks of firewood all make good weight additions.  To maintain form and avoid injury, make sure that your knees are stacked over your ankles. Start with doing three sets of 10 reps. I usually go down for a count of 2 - 3 seconds and up for the same count. 
One-Legged Squats: These are my personal favorite; still a leg strength building exercise, one-legged squats also add a balance component. In order to protect your knees during any squats, I recommend going no deeper than a 90-degree bend in the knee (doing these in front of a mirror when you first start can be beneficial).  Start out with the non-weight bearing leg parallel to the standing leg. As you master this, play around with the position of the leg in the air. It can be in front, out to the side, or back. Now not only are you working on leg strength but you are also working on balance. Work up to 3 reps of 10 on each leg. Depending on your baseline strength you may start with 2 reps of 5 on each leg and then slowly work up. 
Again as this gets easier for you, add weights in your hand or try these on grass or sand. All of this will change your balance and the difficulty. 
Wall-Sits: Simply sit against a wall with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle like you are sitting in an invisible chair with your back and butt against the wall. This is a real thigh burner. Start by holding this for 30 seconds to a minute and doing two or three sets, shaking your legs out in between. As you get better at this, increase the time you are holding to up to a few minutes. Another way to increase the difficulty is to hold an object straight in front of you, such as a ski boot or climbing boot. 
Lunges: With an emphasis on quad-strengthening exercises it is important to incorporate some hamstring-strengthening exercises as well. One suggestion is lunges. The key to these is that they are done slowly; you are building strength as you lower your body weight and raise it again. Make sure that your knees are lined up above your ankles and feet, and do not push your knee beyond your toes. I usually start with my hands on my hips doing 2 to 3 sets of 10 - 15 lunges on each side (20 - 30 total in a set), and alternate which leg is in front. Again, as this becomes easier for you, you can add free weights. 
Pull-Ups: These are nice because they can be done anywhere. Not only is it good arm strength exercise, but it also involves the core. Pull-ups can be done with a pull-up or chin-up bar in your house, or at the local playground on the monkey bars. Start out with 2 sets of five. If this is hard for you, have someone hold your knees to assist you after doing a few on your own. You will be amazed how much you will improve just by trying them on your own and then going through the motion with someone assisting you. 
Cool-Down: In order to aid recovery for the following days, do a proper cool-down. Spend another 15 minutes on a bike or finish with a light jog to get out some of the lactic acid. Don’t forget that stretching is also an important aspect of the cool-down process. 
Listen to your body with any workout.  All of the recommendations of sets are exactly that - recommendations; do what makes sense for you.  Depending on your starting point you may have to start with fewer and work up. That is okay; continue to work on strength exercises and you will see improvements. Set benchmarks and goals for yourself so that you can see the improvements!  Often times the process of seeing yourself improve is all the motivation you need!

Lindsay Mann is a senior guide at RMI Expeditions and a NCAA D1 Skiing Champion. She has climbed and guided around the world, from Peru to Alaska. Lindsay is leading a team of female climbers to scale Mt. Rainier on a special Four Day Summit Climb next summer, August 12 - 15, 2014.

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

Mountaineering Training | Starting Your Expedition Healthy

Illness is the enemy of every climber.  You have trained countless hours and are in the best shape of your life, but if you start a climb already sick, the climb you were prepared for can become infinitely harder.  Health on an expedition starts before the climb, before the team meets, and before the marathon of travel to get to your destination.  Start your trip healthy by making sure you are thinking about your health and your immune system several weeks before your trip even starts! 
Remember to “taper” your training before the climb. Ease back on the hours and intensity of your workouts during the last week or two before your trip and make sure that you are rested, recovered, and ready to go.  It’s always tempting to push the last few workouts, but doing so can lead to arriving tired and predisposed to getting sick before the climb begins.
Most climbing trips begin with an airline flight, whether across the U.S., or across the globe to South America, Nepal, and beyond.  An airplane full of people from all over the world is a big test for your immune system, and it will need all the help you can give it. To keep your immune system strong, don’t forget to start hydrating a day or two before your flight as well.  Airline cabins are often pressurized to higher altitudes than we are used to, and consequently, humidity in the cabin is also much lower than our normal environment.  Good hydration before your flight will help get you through the flight in better shape.  Lastly, don’t forget to get up and move around.  A few hours of sitting in your airplane seat can leave your legs feeling stiff, sore, and perhaps swollen; not an ideal start to a climb!
Once you are back on the ground, try to adjust to your new environment.  Often, the hardest part is adjusting to a new time zone.  Do your best to adjust your routine to the local time right off: eat your meals at standard times and try to stay awake until a normal hour.  Besides a time zone change, you may also be dealing with new and different foods.  Right before your expedition isn’t the best time to be adventurous with your food.  Be mindful of what you eat, especially when traveling abroad. Make sure that food, especially meat, is thoroughly cooked.  Beware of fruits and vegetables that are unwashed, or have been washed with tap water.  Soil and tap water in other areas can carry bacteria and viruses that our systems aren’t accustomed to dealing with.  Along the same vein, be careful with drinks.  Drink bottled water if in doubt, and ask for drinks to be made without ice (which is usually made from local tap water).  Use bottled water to brush your teeth as well.  If you are dying to spice it up and try the local delicacy, the time to do it is after the climb.  
If you arrive feeling a bit off, don’t stress.  Take the time to rest, recover from your travels, and refuel.  This will make all the difference if you are balancing the line between getting sick and staying healthy.  Vitamin-C supplements, Zinc, Echinacea, and innumerable other immune supplements are available.  Bring your favorite, and use them prophylactically during your travels.  Traveling can be the most stressful part of your climb.  Once you are in the mountains, routine takes over and all of your training pays off! 

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Mountaineering Training | Is Your Training Working? Using Benchmarks

The ability to measure your gains throughout a training program is a great way to stay motivated and identify areas that you want to work on more.  In college I raced on the cross-country ski team. On the team, we had several different benchmark sessions throughout our summer and fall training seasons.  These sessions helped measure strength, anaerobic threshold, race speed, and endurance.  While the demands of nordic ski racing are somewhat different than mountaineering, these categories still apply directly to mountaineering.  If you incorporate tests into your training plan early, you’ll have a benchmark to compare each subsequent test to.  With a tool to identify your progress, you’ll be amazed at the progress you will make in getting faster, stronger, and fitter! 
As food for thought, a couple of the events that we used were:
A Strength Test: The test encompasses three different core exercises that isolate different muscles groups: sit-ups, push-ups, and dips.  Starting with sit-ups, do as many complete sit-ups as possible within a 1-minute span, rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat.  We did the same with both push-ups and dips, keeping track of the numbers.  When repeating the test later in the season, you are able to track your gains in core strength.  
3000-meter running test and time trials: Both allowed us to compare times over a consistent course and test aerobic thresholds.  The 3000m is long enough (7.5 laps of a standard track) to attain a good idea of how you can push and maintain over an extended distance.  Time trials are the same, though distance and mechanism can vary (20 kilometers on a bike or a 45 minute uphill run). Longer courses focus on aerobic capacity (endurance), while shorter events move more towards the aerobic threshold (the ability to process lactic acid and maintain aerobic respiration). 
Uphill sprint test: Running uphill as hard as I could pushed me into the anaerobic zone and measured maximum performance.  Alpine ski areas, a local uphill grind, or even a long set of stairs are a great place to do this test.  Find a section 2-3 minutes long, duck your head, and give it all you have.  
Be creative with creating your own benchmark tests!  Enter a 5k race periodically, use your local stadium stairs as an anaerobic test, and create a strength test that works for you.  The options are pretty limitless, and when you see how much time you’ve dropped on that uphill run, or how many more sit-ups you can do over the period, you’ll be that much more psyched to keep getting after it. As always, be careful, especially at the beginning.  Training only works if it’s making you stronger so train smart and stay injury free!
Pete Van Deventer is a senior guide at RMI Expeditions. A former collegiate nordic skier, Pete climbs and guides around the world, from the Andes to Alaska. Pete is leading an expedition on Mt. McKinley’s West Buttress in May. Also an avid skier, Pete recently sailed and skied through Norway’s Lofoten Islands, read about the adventure on the RMI Blog.

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

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