Here we are…. Well over a month into quarantine (some maybe even longer) and some of us are going crazy! I know for me I am dying to get out and climb. Spring is IDEAL ski mountaineering conditions. Yet here I sit. In my house dreaming of peaks, hoping and praying this all ends soon. We do what we can during these uncertain times. So to keep those climber muscles from getting weak, try these 6 resistance band exercises climbers can do at home.
Stand on the center of the band. Tuck in elbows in, palms up. Curl arms up nice and controlled.
Stand on one end of the band and hold the band out to the side. Raise arm to a “T” position.
Stand on the center of the band. Slight bend in the knee, and bend over slightly. Tuck in arms and extend behind you.
Overhead Tricep Extension
Stand on the handle on one end of the band and hold the band behind you. Tuck in your core so your spine is aligned. Extend arms straight back.
The best way to do this exercise would be by wrapping the center of the band around door handles or around a post. Stand back and sit back slightly. Draw elbows in palms facing toward each other.
The best way to do this exercise would be by wrapping the center of the band around door handles or around a post. Stand back and sit back slightly. Draw elbows back with palms facing the ground. Think about squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Create a Routine
Try putting these exercises together into supersets! For example:
3 sets of 15 Bicep Curls, and 15 Tricep Extensions back to back. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
3 Sets of 15 Lateral Raises and 15 Overhead tricep extensions. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
3 Sets of 15 Bicep Rows and 15 Chest Rows. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
Don’t forget to stretch those arms when you are finished!
Are you fortunate enough to live near the mountains?
GOOD. You are going to need the altitude.
I’ll get right to the point. The BEST way to combat altitude sickness is acclimatization. No matter what the elevation of your nearest peaks are, taking advantage of high elevation before embarking on an expedition can be crucial to avoiding Acute Mountain Sickness during your trip. If you are within a short drive distance from anything at least 2-3,000 vertical feet from where you live, pay attention, this is for you! The goal in training is to get as high as you can for as long as you can to get a head start on acclimatizing for your climb.
STEP 1: Hang Out.
I would like to hope and think that if you are planning an expedition, or even a simple trek to Everest Base Camp, that you have SOME experience hiking at elevation. This step may be obsolete. But if it’s been a while, or you have been living at sea level, simply drive up the canyon and get higher. DO NOT go higher than 8,000 feet above where you live when you first start. (this means if your town is at 2,000 feet above sea level, don’t go above 10,000 feet). Ascending too fast can be dangerous if your body is not used to the altitude. Take your time. slowly increase the altitude, drink LOTS of water, and enjoy the view.
STEP 2: Work Out.
After taking a few trips up into the mountains, it is time to start working out at higher elevations. Altitude Sickness can start as low as 8,000 feet above sea level. If you live in a low sea level state like California, I do not recommend a trip to the High Sierras as your first hike. Start lower. you want to start working out no more than 3,000 feet above where you live. You can gradually increase the elevation as your body becomes more adapt to the altitude. Take gradually longer hikes and with gradually heavier packs. Again, Water is key. You dehydrate faster at high altitude as your body needs it more. Most cases of Acute Mountain Sickness actually start from dehydration.
STEP 3: Camp Out.
When you are feeling confident in your ability to hike high and feel good, it is time for a camp out! Sleep anywhere from 3-5,000 feet from where you live, but no more than 6,000 for the first night. Your body may feel adapted, but wait until it has to try to rest and sleep at that altitude. Your body uses sleep-time to heal itself. If it can’t feel like it’s getting properly rested, you won’t wake up feeling so good the next morning. If you are doing a multi-day trip, or decide to come back another weekend, you can slowly increase the sleeping altitude. try not to increase it by more than 1,000 feet per day. If you start feeling like you have a headache, light headed, nauseous, or dizzy, descend immediately.
Many major cities have Hyperbaric Therapy Clinics that can be beneficial to your training. Some are as cheap as $35/session. If this is simply not an option, a road trip to the nearest mountain range will do you some good, even if you can only find time for one weekend camping trip. Any elevation is better than no elevation. Regardless, the #1 key for those at at low elevations, is to maximize cardio fitness.
Once you feel like your body is getting into the groove of things as you train, you will want to start implementing targeted exercises. This means that you are doing things that specifically target muscle groupings or body functions needed while mountain climbing. Ideally, you would want to take a day hike with a certain amount of weight and hike trails with increasing elevation gain. However, not everyone has immediate access to nice high peaks to train on so I have come up with a few ideas you can do at home or in a gym. So here are 5 mountain training exercises you can do without a mountain!
#5: Hill Sprints
You may not have mountains, but most places have a nearby hill. Whether its an entire neighborhood in length, or just a little one at a park, you can strap on a pack, and time yourself. The first goal is to get faster. You want to be climbing at a rate of 1000 vertical feet per hour minimum before adding weight.
#4: Weighted Hill Climb
This is how you can add onto the sprints. you try it, add 10% of your body weight added to a pack. Each week, try to get a little bit faster and/or add 5% more weight. Your goal should be that able to carry a 20-25% of your body weight in a pack up 1000 vertical feet per hour nearing the date of your trip. If hills are simply non existent where you live, stair masters, or treadmills with high incline will work just fine as long as you don’t mind people in the gym giving you a look for wearing a rucksack.
#3: Stadium Stairs
High school and college stadium seats are full of stairs! Did you know that they are a great way to build endurance? You can create your own interval workout on any stadium seating! The bleachers are great for long strides. a great deep thigh burn in your quads, and high intensity cardio on your heart and lungs. The smaller little stairs can be used for rapid sprint bursts, or a rest walk on the way back down. On a target training day, hauling a heavy rucksack up and down those stairs will REALLY work those leg muscles. You can use the same method as the hill sprints and climbs by adding more weight and trying to increase speed over time.
#2: City Hike or Ride
NOTE: If you live in a crowded city, notorious for bad air quality, this one is NOT recommended. Keep your lungs healthy! Time to start putting miles on your boots. However, you may not have a mountain to climb on. If that is the case, pick 2 points in the city you live. they can be anywhere, or you can make it fun and visit some landmarks. You will be carrying 30-40lbs in your pack, and taking a stroll through the town. If your town is pretty flat, start with a goal of 5-6 miles (should take about 2-3 hours). Increase it by a mile or two each week. you can map out a loop, or have someone drop you off and pick you up and two different points, or utilize public transit. Just remember that once you start walking, don’t stop until you reach your endpoint. Another option would be to take a bike ride! Aim for at least an hour total ride time to start (12-15miles), and with the same idea, pick a landmark, and don’t stop until you reach your destination and return. Just be sure to obey rules of the road!
#1: Beach Run
Okay, okay so just because you don’t have mountains, doesn’t mean you have a beach either… but do you know where you can find sand dunes nearby? Or maybe sand trails or dirt hills? Running in the sand has always had a notorious reputation for being challenging and exhausting. The loose grains beneath your feet don’t give you traction and can slow you way down. This is a good way to build endurance not only in your heart and lungs, but in your legs. Equestrian parks are a GREAT place to run around for this. those annoying little wood chips are almost as bad as sand. If you are not a ran of running, simply strap on your pack, and try taking a stroll. Shoot for a 20-minute mile with 30-40lbs in your pack. That will get your heart pumpin’!
There you have it! Hopefully you can use these 5 mountain training exercises you can do without a mountain in your training routine!
So you have signed up for an expedition and are planning a big climb. Now what?! Usually the first, as well as one of the most important questions one tends to ask themselves is “how do I train?”. Mountaineering requires a well rounded level of fitness. I have studied, trained, and practiced for a number of years now and I have found the “easiest” way to get you started! So, Let’s create a mountain training plan:
Here’s what you will need in your mountain training plan:
A Timeline: A minimum of 12 weeks is recommended for any major climb, but for large expeditions like Everest or Cho Oyu, one should plan for anywhere between 6 months to a year of targeted training depending on current athletic state. If you are out of shape, start smaller, and plan out extra weeks to get into the groove of things.
Cardiovascular Fitness: Cardio fitness includes your heart and lung’s ability to use the oxygen in the air and is measured through aerobic exercises like running, swimming, and cycling. you will want to keep track of your heart rate and you will want to push it to a variety of levels. On days that focus only on cardio. focus on getting to 85% your maximum heart rate. On target days, where you might be hiking or carrying a backpack full of weight, shoot for 65-75%.
Intervals: Mixed into your cardio days, you will want to work intervals where you rotate from about 70% MHR to 85% MHR. This will help your cardio endurance by changing the various intensity levels.
Targeted Exercises: This means hiking with weight, gaining elevation, working out AT elevation (if you can), doing hill sprints, rock climbing, stair climbers, whatever you have access to. This focuses both strength and cardio endurance. We will go in more detail later.
Strength Training: Strength training focuses on muscle groups you will be using on the mountain. You can start with a well rounded strength day until you feel able enough to focus on muscle groups. regardless of what you work on, always shoot for 60% MHR during strength training to increase cardio endurance as well.
Flexibility: Safety and preventing injury are #1. You MUST stretch EVERY DAY (including rest day). This will keep you limber, as well as help with muscle fatigue. If you feel you are painfully sore constantly, you are not stretching enough. Having a full range of motion while you climb is extremely important. There are two different types of stretches, kinesthetic and static. Kinesthetic means “stretching in motion”, while static stretches are when you hold a stretch pose for 15 to 20 seconds. Be sure to do kinesthetic stretches before exercise to warm u your muscles. Examples include body twists, jumping jacks, high knees, squats and much more. After excising when your muscles are warm, you can do static stretches to prevent lactic acid build up. NEVER do static stretches on cold muscles as you could severely tear something. (take it from someone who learned this lesson the hard way.)
What is the end goal?
Mountaineering is an endurance sport. Many sports involve either long, slow and steady progress, or short fast bursts like sprints. Mountaineering requires a wide range of different intensity levels all day long. This means we have to train our bodies to do it all.
SO… How should we map it out?
Well, If you feel you are out of shape, that is your first goal! You want a minimum of 180 minutes of cardio each week when you start (NOT including your target exercises). As you get closer to your climb you should be increasing the amount. By the time you reach your final training weeks, you should have nearly doubled that time and your target exercises should be full day hikes, or exercise days. (I suggest planning these on the weekend).
Your strength training should be at least twice a week (not including your target exercise). Intervals at least twice a week, and again, stretch every day.
Here is an example of what a week might generally look like:
Begin mapping out your first 4-6 weeks and see how your body does. You can adjust it accordingly as you go along. By then end of your 12 week plan, you should be focused on walking or hiking 5+ miles a day, 5-6 days a week with added weight, strength training, and intervals mixed in.