This plan will prepare you for long days in the mountains and is for the athlete that is already regularly active (e.g., exercises 3-5 hours per week). It includes a shortened base phase that utilizes strength training workouts that are aimed at improving hip strength and flexibility as well as core stability. These types of exercises will pay dividends when carrying those heavy packs in the backcountry. Additionally, the entire plan will continue to build a solid aerobic foundation to support multiple big day efforts in the Alpine. Your biggest training week (week 15) comes in at 11 hours of total training for the week.
Think of this plan as the building an Alpinist plan. Lots of time in the saddle, lots of strengthening of the uphill propulsion and climbing muscles. Specific endurance for rock is built starting week 3 and culminates to power workouts in the final taper stages.
The first 4 weeks of this plan are meant to help you transition you into a regular structured training program, They are primarily meant to prepare you for the harder work ahead and may not feel particularly challenging in the initial weeks.
The first workout you find your lactate threshold (LT).
Before we can start improving your fitness, we need to see how fit you already are. To do this, I'll have you perform two field-tests to determine both your critical intensity (CI, your highest sustainable exercise intensity) and your lactate threshold (LT, the intensity where you start to rely more on glycolytic energy production, rather than mostly fat oxidation).
Use one of the following protocols to determine your LT, which will be the upper heart rate (HR) limit for your aerobic capacity building workouts. For more information on Aerobic Capacity and Lactate, threshold you may reference the book “Training for the New Alpinism” by Steve House and Scott Johnston (note: the LT is called the aerobic threshold and the CI is called the anaerobic threshold in their book, but both refer to the same physiological responses). You may also contact Dr. Ferguson if you would like to gain a more scholarly perspective on the subject.
1) LT Test
We would like you to use the first test listed below only if you have engaged in a regular low-intensity aerobic training program for over one year. By regular we mean a structured program of training at least four days a week for extended periods of at least 30 minutes of continuous aerobic work in each training bout.
LT test: Walk, jog, or run on flat ground (or on a treadmill) easy for 10 minutes to warm up enough that you're starting to break a sweat. Then close your mouth, continue to breathe normally, and continue to increase the running/walking pace to the point where you can no longer breathe only through your nose. Back off the speed and hold this pace for the rest of the 20 minutes. This will also correspond to the upper limit at which you can carry on a conversation without needing to catch your breath. In your mind, make a note of what this intensity feels like and also note what your typical HR is at this intensity (check your HR monitor for this). This is your lactate threshold (LT) pace and HR.
2) Maximal aerobic function (MAF) HR estimation to determine LT.
If you have not engaged in the type of aerobic training referred to above or have been involved in a training program utilizing regular bouts of high-intensity training such as CrossFit, P90X, Tabata or other gym-based interval protocol type workouts, then use the following formula to estimate the top of your aerobic zone:
You should also perform the first test as a comparison but use whichever is the LOWER of these two HR values as the upper limit for ALL your aerobic training unless otherwise instructed in the workout info.
Note: All aerobic training for long duration activities (i.e., mountain climbing, big game hunting, alpine climbing) should ideally be done on foot. Cycling and swimming, while great exercise, are not weight-bearing exercises while running and hiking is much more specific to your sport, which requires you to perform on your feet for extended periods.
This is our base strength and core routine. Expect it twice a week for most weeks. Number of sets will very but for the first two weeks we are doing just once (1x) through the core routine and 1x through strength.
Run/hike on rolling terrain
This should be a very easy run/hike on flats. HR should be well below LT. (e.g., LT-10-15 bpm)
This is the second of the field tests I need you to do before we can really get started. Again, before we can start improving your fitness, we need to see how fit you already are.
This test helps us estimate your critical exercise intensity (CI); which will be useful for us to help control and monitor your training. It should be performed at least 3 days after any hard efforts. You can do this either on a steep treadmill (15%), a steep uphill. The test will take 30 minutes and you will need a recording heart rate monitor. This test requires maximal output so you need to be physically and mentally ready for a hard effort.
You will want to be well fueled prior to testing. Make sure you ate your most recent meal at least 120 minutes pre-testing and ideally top up with a light carbohydrate-focused snack of about 100 calories within 30-45 minutes of beginning the test.
• Step One: Make sure heart rate monitor is working and ready to record the whole workout.
• Step Two: Do a 15 min warm starting easily and gradually building the effort until you break a sweat. Ease into this warm up so that your aerobic system is fully on-line.
• Step Three: As soon as you are done with the warm up continue immediately into the CI test. Once you start, go as hard as you can sustain for the full 30 min.
• Step Four: Pace yourself so that you don’t blow up 5 minutes into the test.
• Step Five: Note your average heart rate for the 30 minute test. This will be your CI Heart Rate.
Lactate Threshold (LT) Run/hike. Run/jog/walk at a pace you can maintain while breathing through your nose (assuming your nose is clear).
Run/Hike on hilly terrain, vert gain min of 1,000ft.