Cover of book Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete

Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete

by: Steve House, Scott Johnston

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  • When I failed—and it happened a lot—it was because ambition outstripped ability.
  • The consequences of falling short made training important. I realized early that controlling the things that I could control gave me greater freedom to address the things that I could not control. And the mountains offered those in spades. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to use the gym, and without someone to ask, I made many mistakes. I tried to
  • We decided that the ideal &ldqlo;engine” for alpinism could go forever, produce explosive force on demand and keep delivering 50 to 60 percent of peak force without “overheating.” Tuning Frequency and consistency and accumulation allowed me to go harder, higher, and for longer
  • Because those pioneers knew that alpinism—indeed all mindful pursuits—is at its most simple level the sum of your daily choices and daily practices.
  • Progress is entirely personal.
  • Constant practice begets examination and refinement of technique as well as fitness.
  • there is also the process, coming every time as a surprise, of self-discovery, deepening a little further with every climb: who we are, how far we can go, what is our potential, where are the limits of our technique, our strength, our skill, our mountaineering sense: discoveries whose acceptance means that, if necessary, we may turn back and return another time, several times if need be–’Tomorrow is a new day.’”
  • If you aspire to climb difficult routes on Patagonian spires and you have only been rock climbing for a short time, then you are best advised to spend a majority of your time climbing granite cracks—and do so as much as possible.
  • The fact is that you will gain the strength and endurance to climb a hard pitch much, much more quickly with a training regime plus climbing than by climbing alone.
  • Their bodies adapt to every workout, every meal, every rest, to slowly, additively, become incredible athletes.
  • I need a clear goal; I’m not the type of person who climbs a bit and then by chance goes for a run. I always need a goal, and that goal is the foundation for an efficient workout.
  • You only have to arrange that you peak at the right moment, and this requires a plan. I always train according to a plan.
  • While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent, you will no longer see them, but you will know that they are there if you have observed carefully.
  • “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
  • On big routes in big mountains, speed equals safety. Traveling fast over complex technical terrain requires a high level of technical ability and the endurance to support it.
  • no matter how fancy your training plan or how high your stated goals are, it comes down to getting out the door and doing the work day after day.
  • “Training is not the work that you do, it is the value and the cost of your body’s response to that work.”
  • THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES: CONTINUITY, GRADUALNESS, AND MODULATION
  • Continuity in training refers to maintaining a regular schedule of training with minimal interruption. You have to be motivated and disciplined to fulfill the requirements of the plan you lay out.
  • Gradualness is a virtue that cannot be overemphasized.
  • Through empirical processes, coaches have come to realize that adaptation occurs in roughly three- to six-week cycles.
  • As an alpinist seeking to improve your endurance you should give priority to weight-bearing exercise. This means running or hiking, especially uphill, which will be more specific training than swimming.
  • You may find that you can barely jog, or can only hike uphill very slowly, before you must begin mouth breathing or your speech becomes disrupted and your heart rate starts to climb out of this zone, right through Zone 2 and into Zone 3. This situation arises more often that you might think. This phenomenon is called Aerobic Deficiency Syndrome, and people this afflicts are forced to rely on the contributions of high-intensity, anaerobic energy pathways even to do slow-paced work.
  • Without stopping to rest, run hard for two minutes up a hill with a grade steep enough (usually about 6–10 percent) that allows you to run but not so steep it forces you to hike.
  • When you are training, you are not just training your body, but you are also, maybe even primarily, training your mind.
  • The fatigue of the central nervous system is one of the hardest to sense and often takes the longest to recover from. The
  • The adaptation of the aerobic systems necessary to maximize your oxidative energy resources is one that responds to gentle, frequent coaxing rather than infrequent, brutal flogging.
  • During this phase, volume is the key. The more you train, the bigger the base you have to work from. The intensity needs to be kept low to moderate on most workouts, or you will not be able to achieve the necessary high volume.
  • A low but somewhat persistent level of fatigue is not only likely, but to be expected through much of this Base Period due to chronic glycogen depletion.
  • For those with minimal to no structured previous endurance training, or heading off on an extended expedition, it can last sixteen to twenty-four weeks.
  • The results of the training you do during the Base Period will be slow to accumulate and subtle to detect.
  • Don’t expect to see or feel any significant fitness gains before four weeks.
  • Training makes you weaker, not stronger. It is during the recovery that you become stronger.
  • Some level of fatigue will be your nearly constant companion when training.
  • The one thing that all the symptoms of fatigue share is your body’s response. The response to all fatigue is a reduction in power output: You slow down and, in some cases, dramatically.
  • For endurance sessions lasting longer than one hour we generally recommend carrying water mixed with a sports drink; this will reduce glycogen depletion during exercise.
  • This may sound more like punishment than recovery, but dunking tired legs—or even better, your whole body—into ice cold water has an anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Determination, motivation, visualization, courage, stress management, and channeling emotions must be concretely managed.
  • An “A” means you felt like a superhuman and had plenty in reserve. A “B” means it was a good workout. You completed the task with no problem. A “C” means you did the workout but felt “flat” or “off.” A “D” means you could not finish the planned workout or had to reduce it. An “F” means you could not train that day due to fatigue or illness.
  • Eating during and within thirty to sixty minutes after these long workouts is vital to reduce the time needed for recovery.
  • We have found the simplest prescription for quickly regaining the flow in your training is to give yourself one day of easy training for every day you have been sick and away from training.
  • This is one reason that we will advise having benchmark climbs or workouts you can do to check for progress or regression in your program.
  • It starts with the immediate effect of raising the heart rate for every level of exertion compared to your normal heart rate for the equivalent level of exertion.
  • You should feel a little tired immediately after the workout, but not severely so. More often you will feel energized.
  • No top-performing endurance athletes achieve their results on a diet of short, hard intervals and circuit training in the gym. Instead they build hours and hours of baseline fitness and then temper the foundation in races, and with a very small percentage of high-intensity interval training.
  • However, movements done on foot, using free weights (dumbbells, barbell, kettlebells, etc.) require three-dimensional stabilization, balance, and sport-like muscle-firing sequences and timing that is easily transferable to sport-specific performance.
  • “I would say that the need to climb comes from that tough, lonely place of searching for your dignity. You know, that place—where we actually choose to confront our own weaknesses and fears, where we rebel against the terror of death—is really about dignity. That’s why alpinism is not just the act of ascending a mountain, but also inwardly of ascending above your self.” – VOYTEK KURTYKA, from an interview in Alpinist #43, Summer 2013
  • The term aerobic base refers to a well-developed aerobic energy production system in the working muscles as well as the ability of the heart to pump large amounts of blood along with the oxygen it carries. It allows for the enhanced ability to do prolonged (from two minutes to many hours) periods of moderate work without incurring so much fatigue that you have to slow down or stop the exercise. The better developed the aerobic base, the faster you can move for these extended periods
  • As Anders Ericsson, the psychologist and researcher on expertise wrote: “When the human body is put under exceptional strain, a range of dormant genes in the DNA are expressed and extraordinary physiological processes are activated.”
  • In well-conditioned endurance athletes, fat supplies most of the fuel for producing ATP at low-intensity activity, especially when that activity lasts many hours.
  • One of the most beneficial results of aerobic training for alpinists is the adaptation of the muscle cells to prefer fats for fuels at a relatively higher intensity, which before training would have required glycolytic metabolism (the breakdown of sugars) with its inherently very limited fuel supply.
  • As was our intention, we never hurried or pressed the pace but moved continuously,
  • easily? Well adapted to long duration exercise at moderate power output, we could produce almost all of the power we required using fat as fuel and still go at a pace that an untrained climber could not maintain without dipping heavily into his limited glycogen.
  • Remember that this capacity is highly trainable; the higher the aerobic power you can sustain means the faster and longer you can move on the mountain.
  • The improvement we seek with correct training is the ability to produce more and more power with less reliance on glycolysis and its attendant drawback of unsustainability.
  • For the alpinist the best stimuli for all three are the duration and frequency of the training load; the intensity of training is not as important.
  • The adaptation of mitochondria takes place on a short-term scale of days to weeks but can continue, with proper stimuli, for several years.
  • The biogenesis response by the mitochondria begins to occur within minutes of the training stimulus and ceases within about twelve hours after the stress of training is removed and can result in a longer term doubling of mitochondrial mass.
  • For the less well trained, there is very strong evidence that the stroke volume reaches its maximum level at much lower intensities. This means that for many aspiring athletes, even moderate training intensities will have a very beneficial cardiac training effect.
  • Endurance training is a cumulative effort. I did not gain all of my fitness in one workout or even one season. From year to year my muscles, tendons, and ligaments are strengthening in response to the workload.
  • The common term for this is bonking. Because the brain requires glycogen for fuel, bonking will result in a loss of muscle coordination and slowed cognitive function. An athlete in this state will often be off balance and a little confused or slow witted.
  • Go at an easy to moderate pace and the ST fibers are the predominant ones used with fat as their primary fuel. Speed up a bit and the ST fibers will need to start using more glycogen.
  • Train too much at too high of an intensity for too long and your aerobic fitness will drop.
  • FTa fibers are also very trainable for increased endurance so they can become a major contributor to sustained difficult climbing.
  • Certainly this is an extreme example, but it illustrates that in order for the brain to engage the FT fibers (even the FTa ones), you must make a concerted effort. In a running analogy you would have to force yourself to run harder.
  • In climbing, the emphasis was on the amount of work completed. It was considered normal for a person to climb 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) on a wall during a training day.
  • This is done by a high volume of training done at low intensity at or below your aerobic threshold.
  • “If you don’t have the strength to pull a single move . . . there is nothing to endure.” — TONY YANIRO, legendary rock climber and climbing strength coach
  • “Let me state that simply going climbing is not the best method of strength training for climbers.” – ERIC HÖRST writing in Training for Climbing
  • As with any athlete, climbers do not view strength gains as an end in themselves. We don’t get stronger just to be stronger. We gain strength so that we can climb longer, harder routes.
  • We have observed large gains in strength in women athletes using only a well-crafted eight-week maximum strength program that we will describe later in the book. They did this without gaining weight or increasing muscle bulk. Much of a woman’s strength increases will come about due to the neurological adaptations mentioned above.
  • The first step in planning a training program is to map your course. You must know where you are, where you want to go, and when you want to arrive.
  • “If people knew how hard I had to work, they wouldn’t think I was such a genius.” – MICHELANGELO
  • No matter your climbing goal, your life, family, co-workers, and your body will all need to adjust to regular training.
  • Training is not the same as exercising; training requires discipline, attention, and consistency. The challenge is to adhere to a schedule and gently coax your body into a regime, not bludgeon it into submission.
  • Continuity. Gradualness. Modulation.
  • Without continuity, the other two will become moot.
  • You’ll learn how much volume you can handle. You’ll learn whether morning or afternoon is the best time for high-quality training. You will learn to tell when fatigue is mounting and you need a break.
  • Grade each workout and be sure to record a few impressions about your daily training and climbing. These notes will often jog your memory when you review your training later and will help you remember specific workouts, or specific climbs and how they felt.
  • If you have trained the previous year, you can use the rule of thumb that you can start at approximately 50 percent of your average weekly hours from the previous year. This means that Steve would start at 8.5 hours per week.
  • Less-experienced climbers will need to make smaller incremental increases during the Transition Period.
  • Zones 1 and 2 (120
  • Weight-bearing sports like running, hiking, and ski touring are best; though any modality will work.
  • A dirty little secret of training is that the training plans during the Transition Period are very similar for everyone. The main difference will be the volume of training rather than what makes up the training. Those who do not have a history of structured training have to guess at a starting volume.
  • The idea for all these exercises is to hold the best, strictest form you can regardless of how few reps you can do, or how short a time you can hold a particular pose.
  • Always be guided by the principle of maintaining maximum core tension.
  • “A few hours mountain climbing turns a rogue and a saint into two roughly equal creatures. Weariness is the shortest path to equality and fraternity—and liberty is finally added by sleep.” — FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
  • “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.” – MICHAEL POLLAN, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and food-guru
  • Carbohydrate ingestion during the hours before exercise, even in relatively small amounts, reduces fat oxidation during exercise largely through the action of insulin.
  • The thing to note here is not to eat a gel or bar right before training or climbing at low intensity. A small snack with a balance of carbs and fats is best immediately before starting to climb (to the degree to which your stomach can tolerate it).
  • Start every day with a full breakfast consumed two to four hours before training. This is important. Not only do you have to replace the liver glycogen depleted while you were sleeping, you have to lay in extra glycogen for the coming training.
  • One thing that we’ve experimented with, that worked for us, is training while fasting. If your training day is going to be less than two hours, wake up, drink black coffee (or tea) and water, and go train. The idea is to adapt your body to preferentially burn fat.
  • as long as the duration of the exercise is less than 120 minutes and the intensity is low.
  • A 150-pound climber needs 270–400 calories of carbohydrate during this post-exercise window.
  • When we are tempted to make bad food choices we consider the hard work we’ve been doing, and ask ourselves if we want to disrespect that work.
  • “What I got out of climbing is a very strong belief in myself.
  • “Train hard, go as naked as you can, don’t make it too complicated. Go and do it. In the background was a lot of training; even the guiding was training.