Climb Every Mountain, and Everything Else in Your Life Too

Climb Mountain
This article is the first in the Active Vacation Series. One person’s finish line is another’s mountain summit. Mountain climbing and hiking is one of the fastest growing sports and it’s easy to understand why. It combines the motivation of a challenge with the scenery of the great outdoors and requires travel to beautiful destinations all over the world. I’ve climbed on the steps of the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, along the slopes in New Zealand made famous in the Lord of the Rings movies, and most recently to the summit of Mount Rainier in Washington. The ironic part is I live in the flatlands in the Chicago area where the elevation level peaks at about 420 feet above sea level. You don’t need to live in the mountains, to train to hike or climb them. All you need is a good variety of workouts that focus on strength, incline training, climbing, endurance, and stamina. Here’s how to put together a training plan to climb every mountain.

Get strong

Strength training is on the top of the list because it is just that important. Whether you’re taking a total body strength class at the gym, pumping weights, performing body weight exercises or following a yoga and pilates class online, weave strength into your weekly regimen at least 2-3 times per week. Exercises like planks, push ups, wall sits, single leg squats and lunges, and bridges all help to build balanced strength and stability in the muscles and joints that will work hard to get you up and down the mountain.

Incline Training

What goes up also goes down while trekking in the mountains, and simulating these inclines on a treadmill with your pack at weight and boots or shoes is an effective way to prepare for your journey. Treadmill climbing is a useful partner to trail workouts, and a wonderfully convenient means to train during a busy work week. In addition to my outdoor trail hikes, I used the treadmill twice per week and built up my pack weight slowly over time. We carried forty pounds up Mt. Rainier, and it was useful to up my weight during shorter hikes indoors to allow my body time to adapt to the load before I did so outside on the trails. One of my favorite treadmill mountain climber workouts went like this. Please note: I built up to this over time. If you want to try this workout it is wise to start on the low end of the incline percentage (2-8%) and slowly build up (6-15%). Warm up: 10 minutes easy at first, then progress to brisk effort Repeat the following 2-3 times:
  • 3 minutes at 6%, followed by 2 minutes at 0% at a brisk pace
  • Continue to repeat this 3/2 interval and increase the incline by 1% every interval to 7,8,9, 10-15%.
  • After you complete one full set, repeat it again.

Climb every mountain, and everything else in your life too

One of the greatest ways to prepare for the mountains is to incorporate stair climbing where ever you can. I used a combination of my elliptical machine with the stairs in my house and in hotels as I traveled. It’s a high intensity activity with low impact on the body and builds strength and stamina like no other activity. You can weave it gingerly into your workouts by sprinkling in stairs, elliptical or climbing machine minutes into a cardio workout. For instance, if you’re currently running or cycling for 40 minutes, shorten the time by ten minutes and add in the climbing time post run or bike. As you progress you can increase the time long enough to where you can climb as a solo workout. One of my favorite workouts on the road is to climb the stair wells at the hotel. It’s burns a ton of calories, gets my heart rate pumping hard and aids in maintaining my climbing muscles. I also incorporated stair intervals at a local park within my long endurance hikes to simulate the mountain climb.

Go the distance

In order to climb for hours on end, you need to train for hours on similar terrain. I created my own mountains by training at a park that has 109 steep stairs and 8 miles of rolling trails. I blended stair intervals with my heavy pack within my long 4-8 hour hiking workouts to simulate the stress and demands of the mountain climb. It’s vital to get the time in on your feet, with your boots and with the weight (or more) that you plan to carry on your climb. Start out with a lightweight and short distance (1-2 hours and 15- pounds) and slowly build over a period of several months to allow your body time to adapt to the demands.

Push hard

Getting into your anaerobic effort zone aids in preparing you for the demands of the altitude as well as the incline. You can do this in a variety of ways including running, cycling, rowing, climbing short, hard rd zone effort intervals for 1-2 minutes followed by 2-3 minutes easy recovery to catch your breath. You can also follow a high intensity interval program on any cardio machine. Whether you’re looking for a ways to prepare for the hiking season or training to climb a mountain, mix it up and add in plenty of these ingredients and you’ll be well on your way to a summiting experience. Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.