Training for the 8000 m Arena
The purpose of this post is to provide a general idea of how I train physically for my 8000 m climbs.
My training changes significantly depending on the season of my next expedition – spring versus autumn. I’ll cover my training in 10 day blocks; which is how I mentally organize my training schedule. When training for an autumn climb I’m coming out of a full season of guiding on Mt. Rainier. Climbing Mt. Rainer 2 to 3 times a week is a fantastic base to train from. If my climb is in the spring, I’ve got to dedicate more free-time to training during the winter off months. This is the big difference I experience between the two 8000 m climbing seasons.
Definitions and best practices will be given at the bottom
Spring Training (10 day blocks)
- 1 climb with gains of 5,000ft+ (moving as fast as you can maintain for 2 hour stretches)
- 3 trail runs with a gains of 2,500ft+
- Multi-muscle lifting 2x
- Enduro lifting 1x
- Anaerobic 8 set 1x
- 2 single push 20+ hour ascents (within my total training period)
Autumn Training (10 day blocks)
- 2 – 3 Mt. Rainier summit climbs (18,000 – 27,000ft vertical gain)
- Trail run 2x with 2500ft+ gain
- Multi-muscle lifting 1x
- Enduro lifting 1x
- Anaerobic 8 set 1x
- Muir Snowfield sprint (goal of sub 2hrs) 4-5 times during the summer
(Substitute any snow climb of a constant grade with gains of 4000 – 5000ft)
Laps on Mt. Rainier, as I mentioned before, is a fantastic base to train from as it mimics much of the climbing on 8000 m peaks. Nothing beats the real thing for training. My fitness in the spring vs the autumn reflects my training. In the spring I am able to move faster but with less endurance. Meanwhile in the autumn I feel a deep reservoir of endurance but a lack of speed.
Definitions for Clarity
Multi-muscle lifting: Clean and Jerk, Dead-lifts, Power snatch (Olympic style lifting) and I add a Bosu ball into any lifting I can for a balance component.
Enduro lifting: I think of this as anything I can do 15 to 20 reps of, whether push-ups, sit ups, pull-ups, machine, barbell lifting or Olympic style lifting. The goal of lifting for myself is not to bulk up but to ensure I have a solid strength base.
Anaerobic: The goal is to get into your max heart rate zone for as long as you can handle (shouldn’t be able to go over 2 minutes). Techniques I “enjoy” wind sprints, Aerodine machines, row machines or dead-lifts to accomplish this anaerobic state. You’ll perform best coming off a solid 2 day rest.
Single Push Ascents: Within my training window I’ll try for a few 20+ hour single push ascents. This goes into more of the mental category, as 8000m summit days are quite long and arduous.
Climbs: These “climbs” are most effective if they are easy to moderate snow climbs, so that the focus is on aerobic fitness and not technical proficiency. My goal is to either single push through the entire ascent or with quick 5 minute maintenance breaks every 2 hrs. Keep the stress high, my go-to’s have been Mt. Baldy outside of Los Angeles and the Muir Snowfield.
Personal Best Practices
First off, we all have days we don’t stick to the plan. That’s totally ok! Days I say “F’it” and just curl up with a box of Cheez-its marathon’ing Netflix are definitely required. Our mind and body need time to recover. Go into your next workout ready to push until exhaustion!
During the winter I spend periods of time climbing in the mountains, let your routine adjust to this. Try to work-in whatever parts you can but don’t sweat the stuff you miss. Trail runs and body weight exercises to replace lifting can be very effective and give your body new stressors.
Combine some of these bullet points into one day to take more rest days. In additional, I believe the extra stress of pushing hard through longer days is good mental preparation.
Change things up, don’t get into a routine. I know the ways I want to stress my body within this 10 day block but how I go about it should change regularly.
I keep a list of exercises I use, it’s an easy way to – at a glance – select a new routine for that day.
It can also be a good practice to workout with driven friends as their routine will likely take your body out of any established routine of your own. Exercises you find fun and effective should be added to your list so that you have a broader program to pull from.
Now is not the time to diet, make sure your calorie intake is adequate or you won’t see the strength gains.
Let’s make this a discussion, I’d be psyched to hear from you on exercises, programs, whatever you find effective. My fitness program is a constant work in progress and I am anyways up for new take-aways!