Training Tips and Prep

Training for a mountaineering/climbing/ski trip can seem intimidating at first.  Also, knowing the proper nutrition for these activities can be a challenge.  Thankfully, we have a resource from a local company Cascade Endurance to help.

Check out the two article below about fitness and nutrition in preperation of your trip.  Both are provided by Cascade Endurance and written by Sam Naney

Training Tips and Prep
 
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Training for your Mountain Adventure

 

Congratulations! You’ve decided to embark on a mountain adventure completely under your own power. It’s a feeling like none other to get into the high country using only the engine known as You, and appreciating the remote scenery that only a few ever experience. Now the priority is on making that Engine of You ready for the journey by getting your aerobic and muscular systems at a level which will allow you to confidently tackle whatever the mountain throws at you. Training for the backcountry, whether by skis, on foot or climbing is about building up the fundamental parts of your physical fitness to form what’s known as an endurance base, and then doing some specific tune-up training to make that base ready for the adventure you’ve chosen. Fundamentally, the goal is to make you ready for MORE than what you’ll likely encounter in the mountains; this way you’ll have a reserve of strength and fitness to bolster your confidence, and to draw upon if circumstances require it. Placing technical skills aside (such as climbing-specific techniques or equipment usage; these skills should be developed in person with a trained and experience instructor), your physical preparations for any mountain adventure require two fundamental components: aerobic fitness and strength. Within these core elements you can build in specificity of movement (such as hill climbing or ski practice) to hone in one your goal. Below I’ll outline the basics of these two systems and give you ideas on how to train them. Like all fitness programs, these preparations are best done under the guidance of a coach who can monitor your progress and tailor the training to yourindividual goals and abilities.


Aerobic Development

The lynchpin to any successful pursuit lasting longer than three minutes is aerobic fitness. Essentially, this is your body’s ability to use oxygen to power the muscles to move farther and faster with the least amount of energy expended. Whether you’re a 1500m Olympic track runner or a professional climber on a Himalayan peak, the core principle and function is the same. But how do you build this system? There are three components to good aerobic training: Frequency, Duration, and Intensity. Frequency and duration go together, and are self-explanatory: you get better at something the more you do it. Aerobic training in particular benefits from frequent outings, done gradually over a longer and longer duration. In other words, if you begin your training with a 30 minute run every other day, to progress your fitness you should consider adding more first more days of running, then increase the duration of each run to build your overall total volume each week. The third factor to consider in training aerobic fitness is intensity: how hard you go in your workouts. If you spend all your time training at a pace that leaves you mostly breathless and sputtering, unable to hold a conversation and speak in lengthy sentences, you’re going too hard and probably aren’t helping your aerobic system that much. This is because you’re demanding energy at too high a rate from your body, and it is therefore seeking it from more readily-available sources like glycogen (sugars). In contrast, a well aerobically-trained person will burn a higher proportion of fats, which have a much denser energy quantity, thus allowing you to go longer with less demand on the body. To manage your intensity and to ensure that you’re staying in an aerobic zone during your training efforts, try the “Nosebreathing” strategy: anytime you exercise, close your mouth and breathe only through your nose, in for a 2-count and out for a 2-count. Only go as fast as this breathing style will allow; you may likely find yourself walking more! The killer secret to this method is that if you stay honest with it and don’t cheat, over time you’ll find that you are going faster over the same terrain while still nosebreathing, which results in a greater economy: more work for less effort.


Work Out Suggestion


Strength Development

To build the strength you need for mountain travel, you don’t need big muscles or the ability to do 10,000,000 burpees in five minutes in The Box. What you do need is to improve your strength to weight ratio and resulting muscular endurance for greatest efficiency. In the same way as training the aerobic system, your muscles must be able to do a high volume of work for the smallest amount of energy expended. There are a myriad ways to approach this and they vary based on time and equipment available, as well as your abilities going into the training. But there is one component that holds strong (get it?) throughout all the variables: core strength. Now, don’t confuse true core strength with images of beefcake abs and endless sit- up routines and Jane Fonda videos. The core musculature of importance are your deep abdominals, those muscles which support and hold firm the rest of your body during movement. As you start to fatigue from a long climb up the mountain, your weakening extremities shift the burden to your core to hold your body firm. If you have a weak core, you have no link in that chain and the whole system collapses. The legs and arms are forced to work harder, earlier, and they tap out before you reach your objective. Building a strong core supports those muscles so they’re not overloaded, and supports your whole frame so that there are no “energy leaks” that come from imbalances.


 Core Strength



Seeking adventure in the mountains offers an unparalleled opportunity to challenge yourself physically and mentally. Getting prepared in advance of your trip with smart training will not only make you more capable and able to have more fun, it will set you up with a base of fitness which can extend beyond your trip’s end date, and on to the next foray into high country. With strength and speed comes success in mountain travel – good luck! 
 


              Dialing Nutrition for the Mountains

How many times have you found yourself at the tail end of a long, arduous effort in the mountains or on the trail, hallucinating with dancing visions of hamburgers, milkshakes and Snickers bars in front our your wobbling eyes? If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, you’ve fallen victim to The Bonk. But fear not, for this energy-sucking monster can be held at bay with a few smart preparations and attentiveness during your next adventure.
First let’s understand briefly what bonking is all about. Essentially, when you make a significant energy demand on your body (such as an endurance effort climbing a mountain), it will use a combination of fats and glycogen (stored sugars) to fuel you. As the effort goes up, this ratio shifts in favor of glycogen, which is more readily available and burns more quickly to respond to the increasing demand. This is fine, so long as you can maintain intake to match the demand, AND process the by- products that come from glycogen metabolism. But unfortunately no one can do that indefinitely, and eventually your body cannot keep up the high effort because your glycogen stores get depleted. The brain then sends a signal to the muscles to slow down, and also starts powering down some of your peripheral systems in order to preserve the core components of your physiology such as brain function and circulation. What you feel in this moment then is a sweating, hazy fog of disorientation: the Bonk. How do you prevent this from happening? There are two things you need to keep your body moving efficiently and for longer on a mountain: fitness and proper nutrition. Fitness comes from advanced preparation; read more about it in our other article on Training for the Mountains. Nutrition however, is a simple matter of planning and diligence during your trip.
Believe it or not, during an alpine adventure you will likely burn between 3,000 and 5,000 calories per day. This number is dependent upon your body mass, your fitness, and the type and intensity of activity, but can serve as a good general rule. In addition to the total number, the other factor many folks overlook is WHEN you eat; throw out your old notions about three squares a day – when you’re on the mountain you should always be thinking about food and when you’ll next fuel your body.
Breakfast, as they say, is the most important meal of the day, and this remains true for mountain sports. Waking up from a long sleep (especially at altitude), your body is fasted and craves nutrition. Providing a balanced meal of carbohydrates, fats and proteins will ensure that you get the system off and running well.
During the day, regular snacking is key. Think about foods you can bring which are easily accessible, offer little mess and provide a ratio of carbs and fats with a little protein thrown in. You want the fats involved because that will help steer your metabolism to burn fats, which are much more an efficient fuel at low and moderate intensity than carbs, and will help prevent you from a sugar bonk.
Lunch is often a brief affair on trips, as in the middle of the day your guides will want to prioritize movement and getting to the destination. As such I will make my lunch basically a larger version of what I’ve been snacking on, such as a whole grain bread sandwich with lots of meat and cheese, washed down with 20-30oz of water. Water during meals and throughout the day helps in a myriad ways: it helps to transport fuels such as carbohydrates into the muscles; it transports waste products away from the muscles; it provides crucial plasma for your blood to move oxygen; and it accumulates in the body’s skin cells, moving to the surface to help cool you on warm days or intense excursions.
I find that once the afternoon rolls around I’m craving more sugary snacks as my body starts to tire. Combining things like honey, peanut butter, berry jams and dried fruit can curb these cravings without making me turn to overly-sweet gels and candy. That’s not to say the latter don’t have a place – they’re conveniently packaged and easy to digest, but in general I subscribe to the idea that whole foods are better than processed, as they take longer to move through your body and thus are less likely to give you a spike of energy followed by a drop. But hey, sometimes circumstances just call for a Snickers.
Dinner is another chance to find balance; you’ll likely be craving big carb loads at the end of the day but make sure to get the fats and proteins in no small measure; the fat is longer burning and thus will continue to fuel and recovery your body into the night while you sleep, and the protein is the essential building block for repairing muscle tissue damaged during your day’s efforts.
Below is a sample menu for a day of travel in the mountains. The best advice I can offer is to experiment with different foods and quantities during smaller trips to find what works for you, so by the time you get to your goal trip you’ll have dialed in a food plan and will be ready to crush the vertical!



food suggestions



All else aside, I will leave you with a metaphor which will might help you understand fueling during activity. Consider your body’s energy needs as a metabolic “campfire” – the larger the fire (i.e. the workload), the more fuel the campfire needs to maintain itself. In the same way, you must match your body’s efforts with commensurate fueling. Taken one step further, quality fuels will burn longer and brighter than cheap tinders. Fuel your body often and with quality, and your fire will burn long and bright through your mountain adventure. Flame on!

 
Sam Naney is an endurance coach and owner of Cascade Endurance, a coaching and events business based in the Pacific Northwest. After competing for a decade as a professional cross-country ski racer, Sam retired in 2014 and shifted his focus to coaching. He competes in trail running and marathon ski races, and regularly adventures in the mountains with his wife Alison, daughter Fiona and Siberian Husky Nikki.