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No Silver Bullet in Training

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Looking for the low down on how to train for outdoor and high altitude adventure?

Well, here it is.


There is no silver bullet, no straight, smooth path to success. When prepping for outdoor adventure, especially to altitude, those of us who live at low elevation (sea level) are faced with some specific hurdles we simply must deal with. Our bodies demand we go through a process called acclimatization and the lower one lives, the longer the process can take. There's no way around that, but we can prepare ourselves to better deal with it.

Drugs can vary in their effectiveness from person to person and even from trip to trip in the same person. Sometimes they can also have serious side effects! Homeopathic antidotes, such a cacao leaves, are hit or miss. The Three P's - patience, practice and preparation - are the only tried and true way to deal with altitude. Better conditioning at home equals greater capacity to deal with the rigors of adventure and altitude.

But what do we actually do?


Spherical training, conditioning your body in 360 degrees, in every dimension, is key. Building a well-balanced, fortified base of cardiovascular and muscular endurance is the first and most important step but, like it or not, takes time. An hour at the gym withÒtwenty minutes of cardio" just isn't going to cut it. The cardio portion of your program doesn't have to be particularly intense, but it needs to be long and it should be well planned, just like your adventure.

Start by adding at least one 90 minute walking/hiking session each week to your current exercise program. Plan your route in detail (good orienteering practice) and try to keep moving! From there, try to get in two such sessions per week, and then increase either the time or the intensity (speed, difficulty of the trail, or amount of weight in your pack).

Muscular strength endurance is the other key factor. This doesn't mean becoming a power lifter or body builder, but rather building the capacity to do something like pulling a weighted sled or scrambling with a heavy pack, over and over again without becoming too tired or hurting yourself.

If you're doing this portion of training at a gym, get there at least twice each week on non-consecutive days. Work the whole body, going for big reps instead of big weights, and look for dynamic ways to challenge yourself.


Here are four dynamic full-body exercises to get you started.

1) Walking Lunges with Trunk Twist:

Hold a plate (barbell weight) close to your chest. Complete a forward walking lunge and at the bottom of the lunge, twist your upper body opposite the leading leg. Repeat, alternating sides. Complete 20 lunges on each leg.

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2) Walk-over Push Ups:

Assume the push up position (knees are ok) with one hand on the floor and one on top of a BOSU or 12 inch step. Do a push up, bringing your trailing hand up, onto the BOSU/step and moving the lead hand off the other side. Do a push up on this side and make your way back in the same fashion. Go for at least 15 reps on each side.

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3) High Steps with dumbbells:

Use your hands to balance one dumbbell on each shoulder. March up onto a high step and back off. Use the abs for balance. Complete 20 reps on each leg.

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4) Tug-O-Wars:

Use a rope or strap handle on any cable machine that allows you to remain standing (no bars). Using both hands, stand with your hips square to the machine. Pull your hands to your pocket, twisting your shoulders to that side. Complete 15 reps and switch sides.

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What else?

I also encourage you to take as many different group exercise classes as possible, and get involved with a local hiking/outdoor group or climbing gym to find encouragement, learn from veterans, and share experiences and tips.

Outdoor and altitude adventures challenge the body in more ways than you can imagine. That's what makes these activities so special and so much fun! If you feel like you need some guidance, Proformance Athletics and Discover Outdoors have teamed up to bring you the Mountain Fitness Series, a series of dynamic conditioning classes specifically designed to help get you ready for your next outdoor adventure.


By David Tacheny, Discover Outdoors guide and owner of Proformence Athletics. David is a lifelong outdoor athlete, adventurer and functional fitness guru.

Categories: Adventure