Training

What you are training for

Physical Expectations for a Mount Rainier climb:

  • Hiking with a 35-45 lb load for 5-7 hours
  • Steep climbing and glacier travel with a 20-25 lb load
  • On your feet for 10-14 hours on summit day
  • Mountaineering techniques requiring core strength and flexibility

Cardiovascular Training

A properly designed endurance training program is the key to being successful for long days in the mountains. For those not familiar with cardio training, it may be surprising that the vast majority of time spent is at a fairly low intensity. For better or worse, there is no shortcut to this process. To perform well over many hours climbing in the mountains you need to teach your body to be efficient and comfortable burning fat and operating a sustainable intensity. There is no way to do this except to spend the bulk of your time training at these levels. The good news is that most of the training isn’t brutally difficult at any one point, the hard news is that it can be time consuming and you have to be dedicated and consistent to see the best results. For most folks this will involve some early alarms during the week to fit in shorter bouts of training then doing the more time-consuming longest sessions on the weekend.

Cardio training needs to be reasonably convenient to execute and as sport-specific as possible. Striking a balance between these two goals is the key and depends on your geographical location and time constraints.  The following is an example of cardio training modalities that can be used in a mixture to help provide cardio training during your training phases.

  • Steep outdoor hills with lots of vertical gain
  • Steep outdoor hills that are short, requiring repeated laps
  • Stairs long (stadium or tall building)
  • Incline treadmill (40% max incline)
  • Normal treadmill (15% max incline)
  • Stepmill type trainer with actual rotating steps
  • Stairstepper/Stairmaster

Other training options like cycling, rowing, and swimming have their place at times for active recovery and/or injury rehab, but these activities are not sport-specific enough to adequately train you for climbing. Use the best training modes you have available. Make an effort to train outside and in varying weather conditions when you can. If you live in an area that has hilly terrain somewhat close, try and get out on the weekend to train in this terrain. 

Strength Training

Consistent and thoughtfully progressed general strength work can be a great benefit to climbers and mountaineers of all abilities. Being strong makes your movements more efficient and ultimately less taxing, it will also make you more durable and prevent injury in both training and on the mountain. Strength training does not need to be incredibly complicated, equipment intensive, or time consuming. We do recommend having access to some basic dumbbells and a couple different height boxes at a minimum.  Progress the workouts slowly and always pay attention to good form before trying to increase weights too quickly.

General strength and core exercises are great in the early and middle phases of training plans. As the training progresses and the goal climb approaches, you may want to use some of the training time to do more sport-specific strength training such as heavy pack carries that simulate the stress of climbing.

A good warm up is important for strength work just like any other training. One way is to do 15-20 minutes of low intensity aerobic work first to get the blood moving and all the muscles warm. This can be an easy jog outside, cycling, or using one of the machines in the gym like treadmill, stepper, or rowing machine. Then once warm you can dive into core work.  Pick 6-8 core exercise and work up to doing 3 sets of 10 reps. The following link has some suggestions and demonstrations of exercises that are great for climbing.

Uphill Athlete: Scott’s Killer Core Routine

Following the warmup and core exercises, you can move directly into a strength workout. A very basic but effective way to structure this is to include a couple of upper body and a couple of lower body exercises. The upper body movements would ideally include a pushing and a pulling movement, while the lower body would be primarily single legged (bonus points if they require a bit of balance as well). Alternating between upper and lower body is a great way to be time efficient in you training. For example:

10 reps of step ups onto a 16” box working up to a 24” box
10 Wall Pushups, Knee Pushups, or Traditional Pushups

Rest 3-4 minutes

10 reps of step ups onto a 16” box working up to a 24” box
10 Wall Pushups, Knee Pushups, or Traditional Pushups

Start with one round of this and work up to 4 rounds over a couple months. Use additional weight in the form of a barbell or weight vest to make 10 reps challenging. Progress the weight and number of rounds slowly over the training period always making sure your form is good during the exercises. You may also consider other similar movements with resistance bands or TRX straps. Full body exercises like the deadlift and Turkish get-ups are also great for this kind of general strength training.

Phase 1: Transition

Transition Phase – begin 24 weeks before climb

The following side tabs are examples of how you might construct the weekly flow of a training plan. Remember to progress the total volume of the weekly training slowly adding 10% or less each week. Approximately every 4th week should be a very easy consolidation week to prevent over-training and consolidate fitness gains. This week should be about 50% of the total volume of the last big week.

Weekly total training time: 6 hours

Monday - Rest

Complete rest at least one day a week. This is great day to get organized for the coming week. Stretching, foam rolling and a gentle 20 minutes walk are encouraged.

Tuesday - General Strength Training

1 x core routine + 1 x general strength for first week;
progress to 3x core + 3x strength by week 8.

Suggested core routine – Uphill Athlete: Core Routine

Suggested general strength workout – ????

Wednesday - Shorter Cardio with Hills

60 minute hilly long cardio day. Progress this to 80 minutes by week 8. Ideally hiking/jogging outside in as hilly of terrain as possible. Zone 2 HR throughout. Emphasis more on vertical gain and time on feet than intensity.

Alternative option: If outside hills unavailable, use treadmill on 10-15% incline.

Alternative option: Stair repeats in stadium or tall building can also be used.

Thursday - Recovery Level Effort

45-60 minute walk/jog. Zone 1 effort on flat to gently rolling terrain. Should not feel strenuous.

Alternative option: 60-90 minutes of cycling can also be used on recovery days instead of walk/jog.

Friday - General Strength Training

1 x core routine + 1 x general strength for first week;
progress to 3x core + 3x strength by week 8.

Suggested core routine – Uphill Athlete: Core Routine

Suggested general strength workout – ????

Saturday - Cardio with Pickups

60 minutes of Zone 2 running/jogging. Flat or gently rolling terrain is fine. You may need to walk at times or on uphill to keep your HR in Zone 2. Once 20 minutes in and warmed up, add in 4 – 6 pickups to a hard pace. These should last only about 10-20 seconds each and you should allow HR to return to normal in between.

Alternative option: Treadmill at 5% incline can be used.

 

Sunday - Endurance Cardio for Mountains

1.5 hour hilly long cardio day. Progress this to 2.5 hours by week 8. Ideally Hiking/jogging outside in as hilly of terrain as possible. Zone 2 HR throughout. Emphasis more on vertical gain and time on feet than intensity.

Alternative option: If outside hills unavailable, use treadmill on 15% incline.

Alternative option: Stair repeats in stadium or tall building can also be used.

Phase 2: Base

Base Phase: Begin 16 weeks before climb

The following side tabs are examples of how you might construct the weekly flow of a training plan. Remember to progress the total volume of the weekly training slowly adding 10% or less each week. Approximately every 4th week should be a very easy consolidation week to prevent overtraining and consolidate fitness gains. This week should be about 50% of the total volume of the last big week.

Weekly total training time: 8 hours

Monday - Rest

Complete rest at least one day a week. This is great day to get organized for the coming week. Stretching, foam rolling and a gentle 20 minutes walk are encouraged.

Tuesday - Max Strength Training

Core: After warm-up do 4 of the exercises from Scott’s Killer Core Workout that you find most challenging. Add weight or do progressions that allow 4-6 reps only. Work up to 3 sets.

Strength: do 4-6 reps of push-ups followed by 4-6 reps of box step-ups. Add weight as needed, a weight vest may be helpful. Repeat for a total of 4 sets. Then move to a couplet of pull-ups and box step down heel touch. Again add weight to allow 4-6 reps. 4 sets total. Progress to 6 sets over the course of 8 weeks. Strength Demo Video: Box Step-up and Heel Touch.

Wednesday - Cardio on Hills with Z3 Interval

90 minutes total of Zone 2 cardio seeking out steep terrain available. After first 30 minutes, go hard for 20 continuous minutes uphill. HR should climb into Zone 3 during this 20 minute interval. After those 20 hard minutes, hike remaining duration in Zone 2. Over the 8 weeks progress the 20 minute Z3 interval to 40 minutes. Carry a small pack or weight vest with abut 10% of body weight.

Alternative option: If outside hills unavailable, use treadmill on 10-15% incline or stairmill machine, still including 2o minute hard interval in Zone 3.

Thursday - Recovery Level Effort

45-60 minute walk/jog. Zone 1 effort on flat to gently rolling terrain. Should not feel strenuous.

Alternative option: 60-90 minutes of cycling can also be used on recovery days instead of walk/jog.

Friday - Max Strength Training

Core: After warm-up do 4 of the exercises from Scott’s Killer Core Workout that you find most challenging. Add weight or do progressions that allow 4-6 reps only. Work up to 3 sets.

Strength: do 4-6 reps of push-ups followed by 4-6 reps of box step-ups. Add weight as needed, a weight vest may be helpful. Repeat for a total of 4 sets. Then move to a couplet of pull-ups and box step down heel touch. Again add weight to allow 4-6 reps. 4 sets total. Progress to 6 sets over the course of 8 weeks. Strength Demo Video: Box Step-up and Heel Touch.

Saturday - Endurance Cardio for Mountains

1.5 hour hilly cardio day. Progress this to 2 hours over the 8 weeks. Ideally hiking/jogging outside in as hilly of terrain as possible. Zone 2 HR throughout. Emphasis more on vertical gain and time on feet than intensity.

Sunday - Endurance Cardio Max vertical with Weight

3 hour long cardio day. Progress this to 4 hours over the 8 weeks. Ideally hiking/jogging outside in as hilly of terrain as possible. Zone 2 HR throughout. Emphasis more on vertical gain and time on feet than intensity. Carry a pack with 10% body weight.

Alternative option: If outside hills unavailable use treadmill on 10-15% incline, stadium steps, or stairmill machine.

Phase 3: Specificity

Specificity Phase – Begin 8 weeks before climb

The following side tabs are examples of how you might construct the weekly flow of a training plan. Remember to progress the total volume of the weekly training slowly adding 10% or less each week. Approximately every 4th week should be a very easy consolidation week to prevent overtraining and consolidate fitness gains. This week should be about 50% of the total volume of the last big week

Weekly total training time: 8-10 hours

Monday - Rest

Complete rest at least one day a week. This is great day to get organized for the coming week. Stretching, foam rolling and a gentle 20 minutes walk are encouraged.

Tuesday - Recovery Level Effort

45-60 minute walk/jog. Zone 1 effort on flat to gently rolling terrain. Should not feel strenuous.

60-90 minutes of cycling can also be used on recovery days instead of walk/jog

Wednesday - Muscular Endurance Hills

Muscular Endurance hills Zone 3 effort (heavy pack)

90 minutes total seeking out steep terrain available. After 20 minute warm-up, go hard for 40 continuous minutes uphill with heavy pack. HR should climb into Zone 3 during this interval, but the weighted pack should feel like the limiting factor, not HR. After that hard interval, hike remaining duration in Zone 2. Over the 8 weeks progress the 40 minute Z3 interval to 50 minutes. Carry a heavy pack with about 50 pounds or 35% of body weight.

Alternative option: If outside hills unavailable, use treadmill on 10-15% incline or stairmill machine, still including 4o minute hard interval in Zone 3.

Thursday - Recovery Level Effort

45-60 minute walk/jog. Zone 1 effort on flat to gently rolling terrain. Should not feel strenuous.

60-90 minutes of cycling can also be used on recovery days instead of walk/jog

Friday - General Strength Training

2 x core routine and 1 x general strength. This is for maintainence only and should not feel particularly draining.

Suggested core routine – Uphill Athlete: Core Routine

Suggested general strength workout – ????

Saturday - Endurance Cardio for Mountains

1.5 hour hilly cardio day. Progress this to 2 hours over the 8 weeks. Ideally hiking/jogging outside in as hilly of terrain as possible. Zone 2 HR throughout. Emphasis more on vertical gain and time on feet than intensity.

Sunday - Endurance Cardio Max Vertical with Weight

3 hour long cardio day. Progress this to 4 hours over the 8 weeks. Ideally hiking/jogging outside in as hilly of terrain as possible. Zone 2 HR throughout. Emphasis more on vertical gain and time on feet than intensity. Carry a pack with 15% body weight progressing to 20%.

I would totally recommend the intermediate course for anyone wishing to advance their knowledge following the beginner course. I felt well prepared for our guide’s instruction.  

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