Training

Training Overview

Please review all training sections to get a full sense of what type of condition you need to be in for this trek. For those who have not specifically trained for trekking in the past,  we recommend utilizing numerous resources to build your training plan.

Books to consider:
The Outdoor Athlete by Doug and Courtenay Schurman
Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston

Personal trainers that are familiar with trekking are highly recommended as they can create personal training plans utilizing both indoor and outdoor locations with long range objectives and criteria. Trainers and training programs can help build a program based on your location, recognize your access to health climbs and outdoor training.

For those who have not trained for trekking or want to refine their training with some industry professionals, we recommend:

Doug and Courtenay Schurman of Body Results

Steve House and staff at the Uphill Athlete

Preparation for Patagonia Trek

Our Patagonia Trek requires cardiovascular endurance (via aerobic training), strength endurance (through strength conditioning), and hiking-specific training (via hiking with a pack). Being in strong physical shape is one of the most important aspects for success on a high altitude trek. During your training, you should be planning to progressively ramp up your speed, duration (time or mileage), and pack weight of weekly training hikes to give you hiking-specific conditioning that cannot be matched by any other sort of training.

Cardiovascular Conditioning

Suggested conditioning activities for our Patagonia Trek include running, walking on an inclined treadmill, doing stair stepping or stepmill training, trail running, working on an elliptical machine, walking up and down hills, or participating in step aerobic classes. While biking, rowing and swimming are cardiovascular options for the off-season or earliest stages of your training, be sure as you get closer to your expedition that you include predominantly spinal-loading cardiovascular exercise such as any of the activities mentioned above.

When embarking on a cardiovascular training program for our Patagonia Trek, be sure to include at least three to four sessions of 30 minutes of sustained activity at a moderate intensity, and build to four to six aerobic sessions of sustained effort for at least 45-60 minutes each. Be sure to include a 5-10 minute gentle warm-up before working at your target heart rate for the day (for most workouts, choose a level of exertion that allows you to connect a few words together in a phrase, but leaves you feeling comfortably tired at the end of the workout), and cool down with 5-10 minutes of appropriate stretching of the muscles you use most in your activity, including lower back, calves, hamstrings, hips and quadriceps.Training with free weights, bands, a backpack, bodyweight exercises, or gym machines will help you build overall strength, particularly in the core (lower back and abdominals), upper back, and legs. Developing strength in your upper back and shoulders will help you with such tasks as carrying a pack and using trekking poles effectively. The calves, hips, quads, hamstrings and glutes are all involved in ascending and descending trekking routes, and strength endurance is required in all areas of the legs and hips.

Climbing Conditioning

Hike along outdoor trails, gradually increasing your pack weight until you are comfortable carrying a 25 lb. pack. If you live where it is relatively flat, go up and down stairs or train on an inclined treadmill or Stair Master. Use whatever varied surface terrain (i.e. gravel beds, sand dunes, river banks) you have access to. A reasonable goal would be to ascend 3,000 feet, carrying an average pack of 25 lbs. in a three-hour period, or roughly 1,000 vertical feet per hour. A good training option for pack weight is to carry water in gallon containers or collapsible jugs, so you can dump water at the top as needed, to lighten the load for the descent.

In early season, start with a hike that gains up to 1,000 ft. elevation over 4 to 6 miles round-trip, and carry a 10-lb. pack; each hike, try adding two to three pounds until you are comfortable with a 20-lb. pack, then begin increasing the total elevation gain and mileage. When you can gain 3,000 feet with a 20-lb. pack, start decreasing rest breaks and increasing speed on each conditioning workout. A month from your trek, you should be comfortable carrying your target 25-lb. pack.

Two training techniques that will be useful for high-altitude trekking are: 1) Interval training. 2) Back-to-back training (discussed in more detail in “Putting It All Together,” below.) To include interval training, find a steep hill or set of stairs that will allow you to climb steadily for several minutes. Push as hard as you can going up, then recover coming down, and repeat for anywhere from 20–45 minutes depending on how close to your climb you are. Gradually add weight to your pack (no more than 10% per week) until you can carry 25 lbs. the entire time. If possible, participate in as many hikes at altitude as you possibly can to learn how your body reacts above 13,000 ft. elevation.

Flexibility Conditioning

Be sure to include at least 5–10 minutes of targeted stretching following every workout, specifically for the hamstrings, glutes, hips, calves, lower back, and quadriceps. If you have any areas of concern early season, add emphasis to making sure you have normal range of motion about all your joints. This will become even more important as you add weight and distance to your conditioning.

Strength Conditioning

Training with free weights, bands, a backpack, bodyweight exercises, or gym machines will help you build overall strength, particularly in the core (lower back and abdominals), upper back and shoulders, and legs. Developing strength in your upper back and shoulders will help you with such tasks as carrying your pack and using trekking poles effectively. The calves, hips, quads, hamstrings, and glutes are all involved in ascending and descending scree and dirt trail terrain, and strength endurance is required in all areas of the legs and hips.

Training primarily with free weights will give you the functional, trekking-specific strength that will help you most in the mountains. Free-weight training requires that you balance the weights as you would your own body: weighted with a pack, in three-dimensional space. When starting any strength conditioning program, complete two full-body strength workouts a week for 30–45 minutes each, focusing on compound exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, dips, pull-ups, rows, dead lifts, bench presses, push-ups, and overhead presses.

In the beginning phase of strength conditioning, focus on building a foundation for harder workouts; to that end, keep the weight light enough to concentrate on good form and complete two sets of each exercise for 8–10 repetitions. As you continue to train, you will shift focus to building strength (generally fewer reps, five to eight, with heavier weight). Four to six weeks before your climb, shift your training to focus on strength endurance (more reps, 10–15, with light weight) to turn the newly gained strength into greater strength endurance. Each training phase should vary the weight used, repetitions completed, number of sets, and rest intervals. Regardless of training phase, always be sure you maintain proper form in order to prevent injury or strain.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Roughly a month before your trek, you should be at the conditioning level where you are comfortable hiking on consecutive weekend days, what is referred to as “back-to-back training.” This involves hiking with your target climb pack weight (20 lbs.) on the first day for at least 2,000-3,000 ft. elevation gain, and a somewhat lighter pack for greater mileage on the second day to simulate two days of trekking in a row. This will not only be helpful physically, but also prepare you psychologically for the challenge of repeat high- effort days without any recovery days in between. A sample week of training one month prior to your trek might look like the chart above in an effort to help you build as much stamina as possible.

Be sure to include at least one recovery day per week and listen closely to your body. Take the final week to taper or gradually reduce intensity and volume of training so that by the time you leave for your trip you are well-rested and physically and psychologically up to the challenge.

You can find additional training resources at www.BodyResults.com for the following:

  • Training articles
  • Training books and DVDs
  • Customized online mountaineering specific training

Special discounts are available for Alpine Ascents’ customers at the page www.BodyResults.com/aai

This training information was provided by wilderness sport conditioning experts Courtenay and Doug Schurman of BodyResults.com. They are the exclusive conditioning resource for Alpine Ascents. They oversee all client training, are co-authors of the book, “The Outdoor Athlete” (2009), and are creators of the “Train to Climb Mt.Rainier” DVD.

Monday

Strength Training
Full body, 12–15 reps per set, 1 hour

Cardio Training
30 minu. no pack, recovery level (<65% Max HR)

Flexibility Training
10–15 minutes at the end

Tuesday

Climbing Training
Hills, stairs, or high-incline treadmill, 35–40 min, 20-lb. pack (short bursts >85% Max HR)

Strength Training
Full body, 12–15 reps per set, 1 hour

Flexibility Training
10–15 min. at the end

Wednesday

Cardio Training
75 min. no pack, distance level (65-75% Max HR)

Flexibility Training
10–15 min. at the end

Thursday

Strength Training
Full body, 8–10 reps per set, 1 hour

Cardio Training
45 min. no pack, tempo level (75-85% Max HR)

Flexibility Training
10–15 minutes at the end

Friday

Rest Day

Saturday

Climbing Training
Hike 6–8 miles, 20-lb. pack, gain 3,000 ft.

Flexibility Training
As needed to prevent stiffness

Sunday

Climbing Training
Hike 8–10 miles, 15-lb. pack, gain 3,500 ft.

Flexibility Training
As needed to prevent stiffness

As we expect from Alpine Ascents, the quality of the accommodations and guides was exceptional. Clearly Jose Luis is a very experienced expedition climbing guide. The local guides (Rodigo, Roberto, and Jonas) were all very knowledgeable about local fauna, flora and geology. They were great.

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