For those considering taking up mountain climbing, even for a one-shot adventure, it’s not enough to just show up with your gear and guidebook. You’ve also got to be physically prepared to go the distance, as there aren’t any quick exits from the side of a mountain.
So if you’re planning to take on a peak, you’ll want to spend an appropriate amount of time and energy on getting your body’s physical systems ready for the demands that climbing puts on you. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the types of training exercises which ought to be in your workout regimen, so your body won’t crap out on you while you’re exposing it to the extreme conditions that mountain peaks present.
Mountain climbing doesn’t require powerlifting skills, but it does require a fair bit of strength. After all, you’re not just hauling your body up the mountain, you’re also probably hauling a large pack on your back and your body needs to be able to move vertically with that extra weight.
Bodyweight training is a great place to begin if you’re not already fit, including exercises such as pushups, pullups, dips, squats, and lunges. Once your body becomes comfortable with those exercises, it’s time to add some extra weight, via a weighted vest or a loaded pack on your back. In addition, getting into the gym for some classic weight training is going to net your body the strength it needs to get up (and down) that mountain. Some suggested strength training exercises for mountain climbing are dead lifts, front squats, bench press, power cleans, and military presses.
But weight training alone isn’t going to translate perfectly into strength on the mountain, so emulating some real-world conditions is a must. Training with your mountaineering clothing, boots, and gear on, including that loaded pack, will help you to bring your strength with you from the flatlands to the cliffs.
Most of us are not going to ‘bag a peak’ in an hour or two, so increasing your stamina is a huge piece of training for mountain climbing. Being able to keep moving and alert, for hours and hours, is a key skill for mountaineers. Any mountain climbing exercise regimen should include both aerobic endurance and anaerobic endurance training, which would include both continuous movement and high intensity interval training.
Some methods which are easily accessible for increasing aerobic stamina might include running, distance cycling, and the obvious, aerobics classes of any flavor (as offered in gyms across America). To increase anaerobic endurance, workout routines should include regular doses of interval training, such as Fartlek or high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Because climbing mountains depends on moving your body upwards, activities such as stair climbing (with a pack) and hiking steep terrain are great for working those lower body parts which will bear the brunt of the work when you’re actually out on the mountain.
Climbing mountains isn’t like too many other adventure sports, even aside from the risk factors involved. Sure, the fitness requirements are somewhat similar to other activities (such as strength and stamina), but with mountain climbing, the higher you get, the harder your body has to work.
Unfortunately, the only way that most of use can increase our efficiency at altitude is to actually train at altitude, which may not be an easy option. In addition, it can take days for a body to acclimate to high altitude, so it’s not enough to simply head for the hills and start training. But the good news is that for shorter duration climbs, the efficiency of your body can be increased through your stamina training, and a body which uses oxygen more efficiently tends to do better at altitude.
There are methods which can be used by serious climbers for altitude training, such as a hypoxic tent, but most of these methods are not easily implemented by amateurs or hobby climbers.
Even with the best of physical training preparations, the real test is when the boots meet the rock, and one of the best ways to train is, you guessed it, to go climbing. Climb often, climb hard, and climb smart.
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