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Training for 14ers

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby tlongpine » Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:58 pm

I read your trip report and my best advice is to increase cardio.

It doesn't have to be running - although nothing beats it. But something that forces you to be mindful of your breath and develop lung capacity.
I am unable to walk away from the mountain without climbing it. An unclimbed mountain tugs at my consciousness with the eternal weight of time itself. Until I've pressed my face into it's alpine winds, hugged it's ancient granite walls, and put it's weathered summit beneath my heal I'm unable to resist it's attraction.Knowing nature gives the mountain more time than she gives us adds urgency to the obsession. As has been said before; the mountain doesn't care.

It can wait forever. I cannot.

Re: Training for 14ers

Postby shredthegnar10 » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:01 pm

SurfNTurf wrote:I'm always the voice of dissent in these types of threads, but I've never ran more than three miles at once in my entire life. I do pretty OK in the mountains.

Living at sea level preparing for 14ers, I trained in the gym on a stairmaster and by walking on a treadmill at max incline. Now that I live in Denver, I mostly just get above treeline every 5-7 days. That's it. If I get stuck in the city for a weekend or two in a row I do a difficult nearby training hike such as Mt. Falcon or Mt. Morrison.

I can cruise through 6,500 feet and 15 miles, but I doubt my ability to run a 5K. Running isn't the end-all be-all training method.

+1
I hate running. Hate it.*
I only run about one mile a day, as my warmup for whatever workout I'm doing.
If you don't have access to a trail where you can hike UP something, walk up and down stairs for 30 minutes a few times a week. Yeah, it's monotonous, but it gets the job done. I did this to train for Cotopaxi.
My training now consists of hiking up about 1500-1700' with a 40lb pack twice a week (or once a week if I'm going on a legit hike on the weekend), powerlifting, and crossfit**. So much less time, so much more benefit.

*I love sprinting though.
**There's no actual crossfit gym here so I just go on the website and do the WOD
There's a fine line between being a badass and being a dumbass.

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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby joshbrink » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:25 pm

I live in Michigan and I was really happy this year after training with INSANITY. I felt better than ever on the mountains.
“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news”
― John Muir

Re: Training for 14ers

Postby Bean 2 » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:44 am

jdorje wrote:I feel like to get and stay in pretty good shape, most people need 7-14 hours of medium-hard exercise a week (a minimum of 1 hour a day on average). What form this exercise takes is less important than that you actually get the exercise. Pick something you enjoy doing, and it'll measurably improve your quality of life & overall happiness. Hiking is one such activity (and a very good one), but you probably won't be able to hike 14ers even 7 hours a week year-round. Doing more than 14 hours a week is awesome and will give proportionally bigger benefits, of course. But if you're exercising in the belief that it is training or just to lose weight and not enjoying it...you are doing something wrong. Regular exercise has to be fun.

A random list of exercise activities:
* Mindless movement: Running, bicycling, rowing, kayaking, hiking, walking, swimming, taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
* Indoors mindless movement: such as running, bicycling, or rowing at a gym. Just like the above, but you get to watch TV. If this works for you...
* Team sports: basketball, hockey, ultimate, etc. etc. Almost all ultimate leagues and pickup games are co-ed.
* Individual sport: racquetball, tennis, golf, disc golf. Golf sports mostly involve a lot of walking, which ain't bad.
* Motionless exercises: burpees, pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, crunches. For the most part these suck since they focus on one part of the body, tiring it out in little time and leaving you needing to do something different for the rest of your workout. Situps and crunches are particularly useless; burpees and pull-ups are good.

On top of the regular exercise there is "training", and that's where people tend to disagree. I would define "training" as exercise that specifically improves your other exercise. Unlike regular exercise, "training" may involve things you don't find fun. When it's 10 degrees outside, any form of exercise might possibly qualify as "training" since the alternative is sitting on your couch.
* Most people exercising regularly at a novice level won't really need cardio "training", since your regular exercise has a significant cardio component. A vertical hike where your breathing and heartrate are elevated for 6-10 hours is about the best possible cardio exercise you can do. Or to put it another way, since so many things involve cardio, you shouldn't need to do something unenjoyable just to improve your cardio. Check your resting heart rate regularly, and use it for comparison to your own numbers over time.
* Training for a particular sport (like hiking) generally includes doing that sport a lot and pushing your limits further each time you do it (try to increase your pace or distance a little each hike).
* Strength training can make exercising a lot more fun and greatly increase your body's limits (the book "Starting Strength" is a great place to begin). Unlike cardio, strength basically stays with you your whole life.
* If you're training for a power sport (which hiking certainly is not), you can improve your performance with power exercises: sprints, various other plyometric exercises, etc.

Then there's diet and nutrition: extremely important but outside my line of expertise. Eat healthy, and breakfast is your friend.


I second this.
gdthomas wrote:

Bean, you're an idiot 2.

http://throughpolarizedeyes.com/

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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby RosieTheSummiter » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:33 pm

I love doing cardio (biking especially) but my vote is primarily for strength/weight training. That helped me more than anything. I pick about 4 exercises that I do in a row, hard enough so that I'm sweating and breathing hard after finishing the circuit, and then I rest for about 30 sec to 1 minute. I repeat that at least 3 times before I'm done. The exercises I pick are usually one for quads and glutes (like walking lunges or step-ups), one for arms (either some sort of push-up or negative), one for core (crunches) and then either one more strength exercise like leg lifts. For fun, I might throw in some mountain climbers. Other days I might substitute in dead lifts. I avoid all the Nautilus stuff and go for the balance stuff - more fun and it seems to work a lot more muscles.
When you are hiking hard up a mountain, you are doing step-ups the entire time. Simulate this in the gym, and add some weight.
You can still get a ton of cardio during strength training if you turn it into a circuit. But I can't argue with overall benefits of cardio, too - it's all good stuff. But if you want to also take off lbs and FAST, strength training can be up to 4x as effective, per my experience and per my trainer....and I don't argue with a Marine. :wink:
"Don't get mad, get altitude."

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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby Lotso » Thu Sep 27, 2012 5:24 pm

I live at sea level so I totally understand having a hard time catching your breath at altitude. What helped me the most was to load my pack with about 40#(weight is relative) and hit the steepest hiking trail I could find. I started doing stairs but found that the more I could simulate the actual conditions (real trail) the better my legs, balance etc responded. I would just load my pack up and just climb this 200 yrd steep hill over and over for a total up hill time of an hour. i did this as much as possible (about 4x week) for about 3 weeks leading up to my last 14er. I did better than ever in regards to catching my breath, stamina etc. Not sure if this helps but it sure helped me. Best of luck and remember to have FUN!

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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby SSC_43 » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:03 pm

I'm going to be very straight and forward with this post, and I think it's going to rub some the wrong way because of its frankness and my probable pompousness. I am a fitness professional and a bodybuilder (please don't don the "Planet Fatness" commercial stereotype to me before reading this, though) but I feel like I need to stop lurking and speak up, as there's some bad(ish) or lack of information in this thread.

First, you need to get healthy. Getting healthy will, and does include, getting to an optimal bodyfat percentage and weight that is conducive for day-to-day living. Every *little* movement and everything you do will be easier and better - and I can vouch for this having lost 150 lbs some years ago (I use to weigh 350 lbs at like 65% bodyfat. Believe me.) This is as big of a priority as you make it but don't kid yourself, doing endless bouts of cardio but then eating fast food, candy, or even crap like Subway in excess is not going to benefit you in the slightest. Take charge of your diet and accountability, and become a new and better person as so many others have. You can do it. This is a process that's so convoluted you're better off finding a good fitness website and/or legitimate personal trainer / dietician and finding a good person to help steer you in the right direction. Soak up their information, and latch on to any "nuggets" you encounter. Remember this, though, Inspiration comes from others, but motivation comes from within.

Cardio is valuable and extremely important (especially concerning losing weight,) but lifting weights is highly underrated for many women. You hear the same stupid "I don't want to get too bulky" thrown out by women who don't lift weights. I hate to say it, but they body DOESN NOT WORK THAT WAY. Especially for women. There's so little testosterone and (to simply summarize) additional elements available for women to build muscle, it's almost impossible for a woman to not get more "toned" (a term that's ridiculous and stupid) but not 'bulky' if they're lifting seriously and intensely. Believe me. That being said, you probably won't need anything crazy, and a basic total-body routine done maybe 3 times a week should be plenty sufficient, especially early-on.

When it comes to "strong legs," though, I'm skeptical. I'm a 215-pound 24 year old with strong legs, but carrying extra weight is still hard as heck. Simply put, the less you weigh, the easier it'll be for you. I've hiked many times and seen stringy little guys who are much better hikers than myself. From an actual physical standpoint? No, I can probably out sprint / out lift the majority of them, but that has no bearing with hiking. Every pound (or lack thereof) counts. Immensely. Plus, the more pounds you carry in the gut / love handles will trash your lower back and greatly affect your posture, which can lead to more physical pain when hiking at altitude, and having heavier (fatter) legs will also just make it flat-out more difficult to continue steps upwards while hiking. It's simple!

Now, back to the cardio thing, hiking at altitude is hard enough from a cardiovascular standpoint, so make it easier on yourself! I think I've already droned on enough about losing weight and how paramount that will be, but while yes, running is a great tool, it's not the best thing to do for knee health, especially on paved / hard-surfaced areas. Also, as a person who's heavier, you will have that additional stress placed on your knees from basic movement alone. When you get into a gym, utilize the elliptical. This is *much* friendlier on the joints and leg health, and I attribute this mostly to my large weight loss (other than the obvious fact of diet change.) Stairclimbing is something that's truly amazing, as well, and should not be overlooked. When it comes to out-of-gym work, sprinting has benefits that are almost too high in number to ignore. I know what it's like to sprint when obese (it's not pretty, it's not fun,) but it will just freaking work wonders.

I've really kept this as brief and to-the-point as possible because there's billions of other things to discuss (carb cycling, fasted cardio, partitioning of nutrients, when to do certain types of cardio, etc.,) but hopefully you will take the steps to figure these out or find a fitness professional in your area to assist you with this. I just want to make it very clear that ultimately, getting a grasp on your health and physical WEIGHT will do much more good for your success with hiking than to "just run" (as was echoed multiple times here) will.

*Edit* It does appear wrchad23 said similar things in a much more concise manner. Still, I don't think it's any coincidence...

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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby DArcyS » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:53 pm

Hike slow enough so that you don't have to catch your breath. Do not do fast, stop, fast, stop, fast, stop . . . Going anaerobic makes it harder for you the longer the hike.

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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby kaitimae » Thu Sep 27, 2012 9:51 pm

Hey all... just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate all your responses, and that I am still reading them and absorbing your ideas and suggestions! Thanks!!! :-D
Have faith in the long haul, have fun in the short term. ~wildlobo71

Re: Training for 14ers

Postby shredthegnar10 » Thu Sep 27, 2012 9:54 pm

SSC_43 wrote:First, you need to get healthy. Getting healthy will, and does include, getting to an optimal bodyfat percentage and weight that is conducive for day-to-day living. Every *little* movement and everything you do will be easier and better - and I can vouch for this having lost 150 lbs some years ago (I use to weigh 350 lbs at like 65% bodyfat. Believe me.) This is as big of a priority as you make it but don't kid yourself, doing endless bouts of cardio but then eating fast food, candy, or even crap like Subway in excess is not going to benefit you in the slightest. Take charge of your diet and accountability, and become a new and better person as so many others have. You can do it. This is a process that's so convoluted you're better off finding a good fitness website and/or legitimate personal trainer / dietician and finding a good person to help steer you in the right direction. Soak up their information, and latch on to any "nuggets" you encounter. Remember this, though, Inspiration comes from others, but motivation comes from within.

+1. I know there's a lot of animosity, both on 14ers.com and in the climbing community in general, towards the paleo diet, but it has done wonders for me as a mountaineer. Granted, I've also been cardio training more, but here's something to consider: in August 2011, the hike from Paradise to Camp Muir (4500' with a 45lb pack) took me 6 hours. I've been about 85% paleo compliant since October 2011, and in August 2012, that hike took me just over 4 hours. Not only that, but the first time, I hated my life while hiking up there. This time, once I got past that initial 45 minutes of "warm-up," it was great fun.

SSC_43 wrote:Cardio is valuable and extremely important (especially concerning losing weight,) but lifting weights is highly underrated for many women. You hear the same stupid "I don't want to get too bulky" thrown out by women who don't lift weights. I hate to say it, but they body DOESN NOT WORK THAT WAY. Especially for women. There's so little testosterone and (to simply summarize) additional elements available for women to build muscle, it's almost impossible for a woman to not get more "toned" (a term that's ridiculous and stupid) but not 'bulky' if they're lifting seriously and intensely. Believe me. That being said, you probably won't need anything crazy, and a basic total-body routine done maybe 3 times a week should be plenty sufficient, especially early-on.

Also true. FWIW, I can bench 3 reps at 90% of my bodyweight, and my arms aren't bulky at all. Toned, yes. Also, with squats and deadlifts, start with very, very low weight and spend at least a couple months perfecting your form before you really try to ramp things up. Proper form not only prevents injury, but it fully develops your leg/core muscles.

SSC_43 wrote:When it comes to "strong legs," though, I'm skeptical. I'm a 215-pound 24 year old with strong legs, but carrying extra weight is still hard as heck. Simply put, the less you weigh, the easier it'll be for you. I've hiked many times and seen stringy little guys who are much better hikers than myself. From an actual physical standpoint? No, I can probably out sprint / out lift the majority of them, but that has no bearing with hiking. Every pound (or lack thereof) counts. Immensely. Plus, the more pounds you carry in the gut / love handles will trash your lower back and greatly affect your posture, which can lead to more physical pain when hiking at altitude, and having heavier (fatter) legs will also just make it flat-out more difficult to continue steps upwards while hiking. It's simple!

Here's where I get skeptical. This may work for hiking Colorado 14ers in the summer, but I've seen several string-bean-physiques who cringe with a pack more than 30lbs. Mountaineering =/= marathon running. Some of the fundamental skills and fitness aspects are the same, but they're two vastly different activities and shouldn't necessarily be equated.

SSC_43 wrote:Now, back to the cardio thing, hiking at altitude is hard enough from a cardiovascular standpoint, so make it easier on yourself! I think I've already droned on enough about losing weight and how paramount that will be, but while yes, running is a great tool, it's not the best thing to do for knee health, especially on paved / hard-surfaced areas. Also, as a person who's heavier, you will have that additional stress placed on your knees from basic movement alone. When you get into a gym, utilize the elliptical. This is *much* friendlier on the joints and leg health, and I attribute this mostly to my large weight loss (other than the obvious fact of diet change.) Stairclimbing is something that's truly amazing, as well, and should not be overlooked. When it comes to out-of-gym work, sprinting has benefits that are almost too high in number to ignore. I know what it's like to sprint when obese (it's not pretty, it's not fun,) but it will just freaking work wonders.

If your gym has an actual stairmaster, that is infinitely better than the elliptical. But if not, the elliptical will get the job done, at least to start. I hate to admit [that ellipticals aren't totally useless], but for a lot of overweight people, they're alright.
There's a fine line between being a badass and being a dumbass.

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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby pvnisher » Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:20 pm

People worry about what they eat between Thanksgiving and New Years.

They'd be better off worrying about what they eat between New Year's and Thanksgiving!

Consistency and duration are the keys in my opinion. Doing something, anything, 3x a week for a year will leave you in a better place than doing the most awesome, perfectly calibrated workout ever that you only stick with for 2 months.

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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby SSC_43 » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:51 am

shredthegnar10 wrote:+1. I know there's a lot of animosity, both on 14ers.com and in the climbing community in general, towards the paleo diet, but it has done wonders for me as a mountaineer. Granted, I've also been cardio training more, but here's something to consider: in August 2011, the hike from Paradise to Camp Muir (4500' with a 45lb pack) took me 6 hours. I've been about 85% paleo compliant since October 2011, and in August 2012, that hike took me just over 4 hours. Not only that, but the first time, I hated my life while hiking up there. This time, once I got past that initial 45 minutes of "warm-up," it was great fun.


Heck, while I don't necessarily adhere to a strict Paleo diet, as for bodybuilding things such as steel-cut oats, Ezekiel bread, extra virgin coconut oil, quinoa, nut butters and other things that are "frowned upon" with paleo can be great for performance and physical composition, I feel like for the basic "layman" (if you will,) the Paleo diet is terrific choice for daily living. We, as a human race, didn't evolve by eating Cheerios and Lean Cuisines... we ate food that was grown and/or produced by mother Earth. Denying this is simply wrong and misinformed (unless you're a hardcore bible thumper in which case, er, that's a whole different story.) The proof is in the pudding, and there's a direct correlation with diet to general health that simply can't be ignored. Being thin and being healthy are two toooootally different concepts, as I'm sure you're aware of. :-D

Here's where I get skeptical. This may work for hiking Colorado 14ers in the summer, but I've seen several string-bean-physiques who cringe with a pack more than 30lbs. Mountaineering =/= marathon running. Some of the fundamental skills and fitness aspects are the same, but they're two vastly different activities and shouldn't necessarily be equated.


Very true, I agree. Looking back, I suppose my thoughts on the subject weren't accurately penned as well as what I was thinking. What I meant more was that yes, leg strength is of great importance on hikes and can't be understated but, I believe a lot of it is in a relative manner. I'm not trying to throw out numbers for ego stroking, but I can squat "@ss to grass" 405lbs+ for reps - This is great for bodybuilding and leg size but, has very little to NO carryover for hiking, I've discovered! In my humble opinion, I think that there is a very real point of diminished output when it actually comes to leg strength and hikes. For instance, my friend/former hiking partner was a compact 150 or so pounds. He had squatted mid-250s for some uglyish (lol) reps to parallel, and even box squatted 315 a couple times for good measure. He wasn't weak by any standards, but was by no measure in any danger of filling out pants sleeves for his size 31 jeans. :P He did, though, possess a good balance between basic (if not slightly above-average) leg strength and "Functional ability" (hate the term, but it does apply,) and never had too many issues hiking. Myself, on the other hand, being 60-70 lbs heavier, but relatively stronger, would eventually find hikes to be a total slog of a mess due to my heavy and big freaking legs.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, YES, I agree with you, leg strength is of great use in climbing those mountains but also yes, there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing." :) ...not that I think the average climber/mountaineer is in any risk of eclipsing that point, to be fair.

If your gym has an actual stairmaster, that is infinitely better than the elliptical. But if not, the elliptical will get the job done, at least to start. I hate to admit [that ellipticals aren't totally useless], but for a lot of overweight people, they're alright.


Totally. Stairclimbing is flat-out amazing. I always used them "every once in a while," until I moved to Denver and worked out at Armbrust Gym. There's a ton of high, HIGH-level fitness professionals there and lo and behold, 90% of them did their regular cardio on the stairclimbers. Proof is in the pudding, I figure. Since switching to this, I've noticed the best overall impact on my physical appearance and cardiovascular capacity as well. The same 150er mentioned above^ also skimped on his cardio (due to wanting to gain weight, and being naturally thin.) Where he would surpass me hiking in terms of actual weight he had to worry about, my cardio endurance was always better, tenfold, than his when hiking, to which I attribute in large part to the stairmaster. I feel like it definitely has the most carry-over (other than 15 degree treadmill work) to hiking than any other form of cardio...!

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