Training for 14ers

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

Postby Upstate Hiker » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:00 pm

Yes, the running will make you physically stronger and give you cardiovascular fitness. But, it also makes you mentally tough. It teaches you that you can push through the discomfort and achieve your goals. This is what matters on the crux.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby Shawnee Bob » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:08 pm

I'll put my spin on it. Run trails. But like folks said, don't push too hard, too fast. Trail running is mostly easier on the joints, but it will also give you uneven surfaces that will make you work harder.

And like Wildlobo said, hike. Hike a bunch.

Lastly, when the weather gets bad, an indoor alternative would be something like a stairmaster at a good, even pace.

Running has helped me A LOT in terms of weight management, getting stronger and handling 14ers. And yes, I totally agree with the sentiment that distance running makes you mentally tougher. Although, being a flatlander, the 14ers all still tough to me.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby jdorje » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:44 pm

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 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.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby Rcizzle » Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:05 pm

I come from the firefighter school of thought, our training consists of long runs up to 5 miles, weighted pack hikes, runjoghikes up hills, and mixed Insanity and P90X. Try running tbatas (various calisthenics in between with push-ups and jump squats and stuff) all are good training for winter climbs too.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby kaitimae » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:06 pm

Thank you all SO MUCH for your detailed and kind replies!!!

I was actually a runner long before I got started hiking, and I've gotten woefully out of the habit since I developed a semblance of a social life, haha. I agree with whoever said to find an exercise partner, I think it would be good perhaps simply for the company. I've done 6 half marathons since 2007, so I'm no stranger to distance running. I guess it is time to start getting back into it! The Colfax half is kind of a tradition for me now (it will be my 5th year in 2013!) so, I think I'll spend a month or two building a base back up and then seriously training for that one next May.

As far as hiking goes, from your replies, it sounds like getting out more regularly, for longer distances, and/or higher elevations are ALL good strategies. I work in Wheat Ridge, so I do have access to some very close by hiking trails after work. I'm slightly concerned as far as hiking alone goes, especially now that it is getting darker... but if I can find a partner, that won't be an issue. Also, if anyone knows good (and safe) places on the west side of town, let me know. I've done Green Mountain a handful of times, and hiked at Apex once. Any other good suggestions?

Thanks again, everyone... it was really nice coming home from dinner to see all your comments. It really is motivating! I've been struggling lately because this is my second time around with the whole weight loss game, and I've been getting kinda burned out simply thinking about it. But, I LOVE hiking, I LOVE spinning class, and I used to love running - I think I just need to get on a schedule and stick to it.
Have faith in the long haul, have fun in the short term. ~wildlobo71
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby Billy the Kid » Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:03 am

I also agree, that hiking as much as you can will really help. This past year, I also started using the stair-climber at the gym. I found that has really helped me a lot with any hiking (such as 14ers) that requires a lot of elevation gain. I will now use the stair-climber for about 50 minutes, 3 times a week. I generally will climb over 300 floors, per workout. Once you get used to it, you can even use a weighted backpack to increase your results. I started this workout about a year and a half ago and I found that it made a BIG difference for me while I was hiking 14ers this summer....

Either way, glad you are getting out there and enjoying the beautiful outdoors here in Colorado!
"Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So, be on your way."- Dr. Seuss
"I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious."- Michael Scott
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Dave B
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby Dave B » Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:18 am

There's a lot of emphasis on cardiovascular exercise (which is very important), but don't underestimate the importance of strength training.

For most hiking, an emphasis on leg and core strength will go miles in terms of endurance, speed, agility and balance. If you're looking to do technical or other types of full body climbing, back and bicep strength are really important as well.

Long periods of exercise are vital to overall fitness, but without strength training you'll only get half the benefit.

This is of course, only my opinion.
Last edited by Dave B on Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby forbins_mtn » Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:26 am

+1 on the strength training. I lift pretty hard. Not body building hard, but I always keep it up. I've said it here many times, and I'll keep on saying it: deadlifts have changed my hiking life. My back, knees, core and legs are never sore after hikes.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby Bean » Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:39 am

forbins_mtn wrote:+1 on the strength training. I lift pretty hard. Not body building hard, but I always keep it up. I've said it here many times, and I'll keep on saying it: deadlifts have changed my hiking life. My back, knees, core and legs are never sore after hikes.

FWIW bodybuilders do lots of reps at (relatively) low weight.

I'll second jdorje's suggestion for Starting Strength. I've modified the program to fit my needs (and schedule) but the tweaks are pretty minor. Combine SS with lots of running and you'll be plenty fast in the hills.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby peter303 » Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:07 am

Task-specific training is best. That would be more moderate hikes- less climbing, less altitude- before 14ers. And do these every month. In the winter it may snowshoeing or ski touring.

Cardio, especially running, is next best. But some people find they poop out after their aveage length of cardio training which is far too short for mountain hiking.
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby illusion7il » Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:31 am

Ever try the Manitou Incline ? Just remember that when you get to the top for the first time that the record is like 16 mins, and its also been done 13 times in a row

+1 on running / Jogging Daily
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Re: Training for 14ers

Postby ThuChad » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:01 am

The only thing that gets me mountain ready is pounding the pavement. 35-45 miles of running a week will do it. Probably a little overkill for your every day weekend 14er hiker but it's a lot tougher coming from 1000 ft for me.

I've done heart rate tests on my friends here in OK before we go to the mountains. As a general and non-scientific rule I've found if the person has a resting heart rate of 60 or below they do fine cardio-wise at altitude. I know some of it is genetic but it seems to work. My current resting heart rate is 42.
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