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Conditioning

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Conditioning

Postby newclimber86 » Sat Apr 14, 2007 5:37 pm

I am going to be doing my first 14ers this summer. I am definently doing Mount Holy Cross, and possibly one more. I am 21 and not in the best shape but decent. Any suggestions?

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Postby Skip Perkins » Sat Apr 14, 2007 5:42 pm

Start hiking and jogging. The challenge of Holy Cross is not on the climb but the 1000 feet of ascent on the way back to the trailhead. It's a fun mountain but I don't appreciate having to climb 1000 feet when I'm coming down. Enjoy the mountain.

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Postby rlw49 » Sat Apr 14, 2007 6:00 pm

Lots of stairs, at a stadium if possible. don't have to run them, just hiking speed.

Kiefer

Postby Kiefer » Sat Apr 14, 2007 9:47 pm

Speaking of muscles::
rlw49 is right. Do lots of stairs. You're going to want to focus on your Calfs. (Gastocnemius), your anterior tibial muscles (shins) and believe it or not, working your abs. and glutes (butt) are going to make a world of difference.
So try calf-raises and toe-ups, hence stairs and crunches for your abs and core strength. Leg extensions and walking lunges for your quads, glutes and other minor muscle groups of your legs. Poor quad strength can lead to knee injury.

Cardio..
This can be complex. Poor cardiovascular health will stop you long before you can get even a mile up the trail. I would say hit the treadmills and stationary bike. The key is to find a steady heart-rate, hence respiratory rate. Once you find this 'comfortable' zone, stay there. Since you're at a considerably lower altitude, there isn't much you can do compensate for this except streghten your lungs and oxygen carrying capacity.
We all know air-pressure decreases with elevation. But with this, so do the partial-pressures (of the gases) in our atmosphere. Each gas, whether it be O2, CO2, H2O, N2 has a different P-value. This is what confuses people in thinking the higher you go, the less O2 is in the air, hence, the harder it is to breathe. It's not the (pseudo-decreased) volume of O2 in the atmosphere that makes it harder to breathe; it's the decrease in air-pressure. Which is why people coming up too fast from diving get the bends and people who are on assisted oxygen will frequently have emphysema. I've had friends move to Colorado (Vail and Leadville) from lower climes and actually lose weight (passively) because their bodies are working harder to compensate for this. At lower elevations, the air-pressure passively forces the air into your lungs, so your body doesn't have to work as hard to get the same "quality" volume as we do at altitude. This affects the efficency of O2 and CO2 going into and coming out of solution (your blood). This drop in pressure also negatively affects how functionally-efficently your aveoli can inflate to allow this gas exchange to occur. Your body will increase the production of a hormone called erythropoetin (EPO) which stimulates red blood cell production. If I remember right, it takes something like 6-10 days for your body to start cranking out new erythocytes (RBC). BUT, your body also increases its production of hemoglobin. The two go hand-in-hand since hemoglobin is the O2 carrying component in your blood. So even if these hemoglobin molecules which are located on your RBC are not fully saturated with O2, your bloodstream is carrying more of them. So the time it takes to get O2 to your muscles and CO2 back to your lungs takes less time. WHICH, is why acclimatization is so important.
So, in a nut-shell, muscle strength is just as important because, while your training, you're body is also slowly changing and converting your muscle tissue into I believe slow-twitch or short-fibered. These muscles contain inheirant myoglobin; similar in function to hemoglobin but they are found in muscle and work to elevate O2 content in your muscles (endurance).
So with low-air pressure decreasing your cardiovascular systems efficency, you can see how acclimatization and strong, healthy muscles work, together to compensate for this.

Some people will also take a prescription drug called Diamox (acetazolamide). This is supposed to "kick-start" your body into increased RBC production. But it takes on average ~3-5 days to start working and the verdict is still out (depending on whom you talk to) as to it's efficacy.

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Postby USAKeller » Sat Apr 14, 2007 10:00 pm

I've said this before in previous threads and I'm happy to say it again...

I am huge proponent that anyone wanting to climb/hike at elevation must have a "base-level" of cardiovascular fitness. This entails doing some sort of cardio at a very low intensity and low heart rate (like an intensity you could retain all day long). I find that training at a base-level 5-6 times/week for 60-90min really develops my base fitness (this was over the course of 3-4 months). I don't know how limited your time is, but I think that if you could get 4-5 days of 30-60min of cardio in would be great. And, you should definitely add in a "tempo" training session- like running at a higher intensity for 5-10min, then coming back down, and repeating that 1 day/week.

For specific cardiovascular exercises, what do you have access to? Hiking on the treadmill on as high of an incline as you can somewhere between 3.0-3.2mph simulates the hiking activity [fairly well]. Also, at my gym, we have a machine called the Gauntlet (where you are actually stepping on revolving stairs) and it just kicks my a** and keeps me in climbing shape during the offseason! This is different from a Stairmaster (which is also good). If you don't have access to anything, I still strongly recommend that you gets base training in, whether it be cycling, running, etc...

Just like eating food is a precursor to speeding up your metabolism, having a base-level of cardiovascular fitness is a precursor to becoming more fit.
Rise and grind. Every day.

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Postby gsliva » Sun Apr 15, 2007 7:34 am

http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Rate-Traini ... QT9CTZCSFH

Joe Friel has a series of great books on Heart Rate training that are a must if you really want to understand how to train. Getting into and how long you are in each zone will greatly affect your conditioning.

I'll sum it up: it's frequency and intensity. You have to have several workouts a week with a few that are high intensity. Mountain climbing is all about VO2 max and your body's ability to oxygenate. You're trying to improve the efficiency of your blood pump and that would be your heart of course. Great books. I have the Cycling through 50 which applies to everyone and the Heart Rate Training books as well as links to many cycling web pages. These cycling athletes are superfit individuals!

See you on the trail.
Live for the Climb and the search for commitment.

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Postby thebeave7 » Sun Apr 15, 2007 8:04 am

While heart rate training and VO2max are important, I don't think they are the most important aspect of mountain climbing training. Muscle strength and endurance(lower body) are initially probably more important when climbing peaks(especially long gains like 14ers). Before I really started ultra training I used to toast all the amateur cyclist up hills because their muscles weren't built for that type of exercise(they were definately fit still).
Basically I'm siding with the earlier posts on getting out and hiking uphill whenever possible. Stairs, slow jogging, and hiking(best of course) are in my opinion your best training. Try to do longer more endurance building workouts(1-6h), rather than sprinting a few miles.
Eric

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Postby guitmo223 » Sun Apr 15, 2007 5:24 pm

USAKeller wrote:I've said this before in previous threads and I'm happy to say it again...

I am huge proponent that anyone wanting to climb/hike at elevation must have a "base-level" of cardiovascular fitness. This entails doing some sort of cardio at a very low intensity and low heart rate (like an intensity you could retain all day long). I find that training at a base-level 5-6 times/week for 60-90min really develops my base fitness (this was over the course of 3-4 months). I don't know how limited your time is, but I think that if you could get 4-5 days of 30-60min of cardio in would be great. And, you should definitely add in a "tempo" training session- like running at a higher intensity for 5-10min, then coming back down, and repeating that 1 day/week.

For specific cardiovascular exercises, what do you have access to? Hiking on the treadmill on as high of an incline as you can somewhere between 3.0-3.2mph simulates the hiking activity [fairly well]. Also, at my gym, we have a machine called the Gauntlet (where you are actually stepping on revolving stairs) and it just kicks my a** and keeps me in climbing shape during the offseason! This is different from a Stairmaster (which is also good). If you don't have access to anything, I still strongly recommend that you gets base training in, whether it be cycling, running, etc...

Just like eating food is a precursor to speeding up your metabolism, having a base-level of cardiovascular fitness is a precursor to becoming more fit.


Hi USAKeller,

I've taken your advice, and have been fairly religious about the base-level excercise this winter. I also try to spend about 30 minutes 3 days a week on a stairmaster machine that sounds identical to your Gauntlet - a physical staircase that revolves, and yes, it kicks my a** too. The last mountain I climbed was Quandary in December and it wasn't too bad. I'm climbing Evans on Memorial Day as a warm-up (hopefully), so I'll let you know how much of a difference I notice.

Thanks!
"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred it be postponed" - Sir Winston Churchill

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Postby ccunnin » Sun Apr 15, 2007 8:30 pm

I've heard about this gauntlet several times. There is a stair machine that works just like that at my gym, but the name isn't the gauntlet. Does anyone have a pic of this magic machine. I want to let it kick my ass.
He who controls the spice, controls the universe.

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Postby ccunnin » Sun Apr 15, 2007 8:33 pm

Nevermind,....just found it. it's the same machine.
I second that emotion towards the Gauntlet. It will get your legs ready for a strong hike.
He who controls the spice, controls the universe.

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Postby climbhard511 » Sun Apr 15, 2007 11:48 pm

hit the stairmaster for an hour a day with your pack on... it does 2 things, 1 gets your cardio level up and 2 gets your pack weight down, something that everyone can use.
-mark
Every trip is a prep trip.
I train for vacation.

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Postby USAKeller » Mon Apr 16, 2007 7:11 am

guitmo223 wrote:Hi USAKeller,

I've taken your advice, and have been fairly religious about the base-level excercise this winter. I also try to spend about 30 minutes 3 days a week on a stairmaster machine that sounds identical to your Gauntlet - a physical staircase that revolves, and yes, it kicks my a** too. The last mountain I climbed was Quandary in December and it wasn't too bad. I'm climbing Evans on Memorial Day as a warm-up (hopefully), so I'll let you know how much of a difference I notice.

Thanks!


guitmo,
Yes, definitely let me know! What you should notice is the fact that you've built endurance, and that you can go longer without having to stop and catch your breath.
Rise and grind. Every day.

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