Via Valais advanced mountain running training plan, 16-weeks


Uphill Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston

All plans by this Coach


16 Weeks

Typical Week

2 Day Off, 1 Other, 6 Run

Longest Workout

26 miles

Plan Specs

running trail advanced multi day hr based tss based strength base period

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Are you targeting a multi-day mountain running goal like the Via Valais, the Tour d'Mont Blanc or the Haute Route? These are challenging runs with major elevation gain and loss for 5 to 9 consecutive days. You'll want to have a very good running base with the ability to handle 40 mile (~65km) weeks to start and build to 70miles (~110 km) in the biggest week. Speed is not necessary in these runs but durability is.

This plan includes the same proven gym-based circuit style muscular endurance strength workout as is used in Mike Foote's Big Vert plan to build the key muscular endurance to better enable you to handle the high climbs and descents, day after day. This workout is used 1x/week in a progressively more difficult form for the first 9 weeks before moving to more traditional long uphill interval workouts for the next 7 weeks. Another specific leg strength workout progresses through the first 10 weeks before transitioning into short and hard uphill intervals for the remaining weeks. While hilly terrain for your basic running training is ideal, it is not necessary. You can substitute a treadmill (even better, an incline trainer) to simulate the uphill running.

For detailed information and to understand how this plan is constructed, please consult our book, “Training for the Uphill Athlete” published by Patagonia Books. For specific questions about this training plan, or to send us your success story email us at

Thanks for becoming an #uphillathlete

Steve House and Scott Johnston


Training Load By Week
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 09:48

Uphill Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston

Uphill Athlete LLC.

What originally inspired us to write Training for the New Alpinism, and what inspires us to continue to share the things we’ve discovered through, is the information void when it comes to specialized training for endurance mountain sports. We have successfully demonstrated a more systematic approach, using proven principles, to help you improve both your chances of achieving your goals, and your long-term fitness and safety in whatever mountain sport you are practicing.

Back to Plan Details

Sample Day 1

Aerobic Threshold Test for Zone 1 and 2 determination

If you are careful and diligent you can do your own test using Training Peaks Premium edition. 
Thats what we are going to explain now. Read this article to understand this test better.

This test can be done on either on a treadmill, stair machine or a flat to very gentle loop course outdoors.  It can not be done on an uphill/downhill out and back course.

1) TREADMILL: Set treadmill to 10% and begin hiking slowly. If training for flatter runs set treadmill to 3% and run. Gradually build speed over the first 10-15 min until HR stabilizes at what you FEEL is an easy aerobic effort. If you have a good idea of what your Aerobic Threshold HR is then target that HR for the beginning of the test. NOW YOU ARE RADY TO BEGIN THE TEST.

NOTE: If hiking you may need to use a steeper grade (10%+) in order to get you HR up sufficiently.

Once that speed and grade is dialed in do not adjust speed or grade again during the test. Run or hike continuously for 60 min at this speed. Record HR and upload to TP

TREADMILL CALCULATION: Since GPS does not work indoors the pace part of the Pa:Hr will not be accurate so you can not use the TP Pa:Hr metric on a treadmill. That's why is so important that you hold the pace and grade constant once you start this test on treadmill. It is very likely that you will see an upward trend in the HR over the course of the hour. To calculate HR drift you need to select the first half of the test in the graph of HR/Pace?elevation. Note the avg HR for each half. Compare those to see if avg HR rose more than 5%. If it did you will ned]ed to redo the test at a slightly lower HR.

2) OUTDOORS: Run, preferably on a flat (or very gently rolling) course, at what feels like an easy aerobic pace. Once your HR stabilizes start the recording feature on your GPS enabled HR monitor watch. Record for one hour while you do your best to keep the HR as close to that initial HR number. Upload the data to TP.

If the Pa:Hr is greater than 5% your initial HR/pace was above your Aerobic Threshold and you should do the test again at a lower HR. This may take several attempts to find a Pa:Hr decoupling of less that 5%.

Once you determine your AeT HR set that as the top of your Zone 2 in your Training Peaks Zones. Subtract 10% from this and set that as the top of your Zone 1.

Sample Day 2

Zone 1 trail run

Do this run in a fasted state, preferably in the AM.
Warm up gradually for 15-20 min so that the final 5 min are at AeT HR and you have a good sweat going.
Run the remaining time in Z1. Walk the steepest sections if you need to stay in your HR Zone.

Sample Day 3

Lactate Threshold Test Instructions

Lactate Threshold Test Instructions
This test determines your lactate or anaerobic threshold (LT or AnT); which will be useful 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 (minimum of 15%) or a steep uphill. 

Find a hill that will take about 45 min to climb at maximal effort. You will run as hard as you can while pacing yourself not to tire too early. We are looking for your average heart rate during the climb.

• Do a 15-20min 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 by the end.

• As soon as you are done with the warm up continue immediately into the AnT test. Once you start, go as hard as you can sustain for the full duration up this steep hill.   Pace yourself so that you don’t blow up 5 minutes into the test.

NOTE: If you do not have an extensive aerobic training history or have any doubts use a 30 minutes test. Those with many years of mountain running should use a 45 to 60 minute test.

• Note your average heart rate for the full test after the warm up. This will be your AnT Heart Rate.

This HR will set the upper limit of your Zone 3 in the Training Peaks Zones in your personal data.

Sample Day 4

Zone 1 trail run

Do this run in a fasted state in the AM.
Warm up gradually for 15-20 min so that the final 5 min are at AeT HR and you have a good sweat going.
Run the remaining time in Z1. Walk the steepest sections if you need to stay in your HR Zone.

Sample Day 5

Hill Sprints for specific strength

See notes in Pre-Activity Comments.

Use 20% grade minimum and 50m-100m long hill is best. Find the steepest short hill with good footing.

Warm up: 
This is critical to avoid injury with this workout so do not short cut the warm up.

A) 15 min easy running up to your hill.

B) Important to get well warmed up for this. 10 min dynamic stretching exercises 10 total reps of each of the following exercises:
1) Walking, pull alternate knee to chest
2) Walking high front kick, reach to touch toe with opposite hand
3) Squat jump
4) Front lunge
5) Jumping split squat

C) 2x 30" med effort hill run
2x30" skip up hill

Do the hills sprints as laid out below
Wk#1&2; 2 sets 4 x 10sec sprints
Wk#3&4: 2 sets 6 x 10sec sprints
Wk#5&6&7; 2 sets 8 x 10sec sprints

Easy 2 min walk down recovery between each sprint. Take 5 min easy stretching between sets.

Cool down: 20' cool down run

Sample Day 6

Long Aer Base Run

This run is used to improve your basic aerobic capacity. It should be done in the upper HR range of Z2 (as determined by the AeT test on day#2) IF THE SPREAD BETWEEN YOUR AeT and AnT is more than 10%. IF that SPREAD is <10% then do this run mostly in Z1 with no more that 30min in Z2.

Sample Day 8

Recovery run

This run needs to be easy as your legs are going to be tired from the ME workout this week.
Stay on the flats or gentle terrain.

Via Valais advanced mountain running training plan, 16-weeks

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