Wednesday, November 26, 2008 How to not blow your training during the holidays.

If there was ever an excuse to take a break from a strict nutrition or training regimen, it is most certainly the five weeks that make up the holiday season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all crammed packed at the end of the year, each one offering up its own siren-like song of high calorie food, frantic schedules, and booze (yes I'm talking to you Seasonal Ales) that can lure even the most adherent athlete right off the tracks.

Right now there are about six months left for you to train before the climbing season begins. For all of you who are waiting to cash in on New Year's resolutions to begin training, the number of months is reduced to five. Factor in about a month of actually developing the habit of training and eating right, and you are down to four months of consistent training. So you can start to see the benefits of using the remaining weeks of this year to keep working toward your goals.

Here are some tips for integrating your training into the holiday season, so that come next summer you can't blame Aunt Edna and her killer pie for why you can't make it to Camp Muir.

Where Ever you Go...Bring Your Gear
After beginning my training last fall, I developed a habit that has stuck with me long after my climb. Included in my suitcase every time I travel are my running shoes and comfortable work out clothing. I enjoy getting out and running in new places. Often times gyms will allow you to get a "Free Trial" pass and use their facilities for a day, or pay a small day user fee. At the very least breaking out on your own for a run or a hike is a great way to kill holiday stress and avoid "quality family time" burn-out.

Hey--it all adds up.

Find yourself running up and down the basement stairs 800 times gathering holiday decorations? Strap on a pack and your boots and bust a sweat while getting tangled in tinsel. Believe it or not, a lot of the extra chores you will find yourself doing during the holidays burn a lot of calories. So step it up and offer to do as much as you can around the house (Think shoveling the walk, not mashed potatoes into your mouth). Who knows, maybe things will get done in time for you to take off on the trails for a few hours.

Drink, Drank, Flunk
Eggnog is not part of the program, I don't care what program you are on. Booze packs on a ton of calories, but more important for training, drinking alcohol in excess (as we tend to do during the holidays) will leave you feeling sluggish and dehydrated and not wanting to get out and run/hike/bike/ski or really anything that does not include trashy daytime tv and greasy breakfast items. Eliminate hangover days, and you will have that many more days to train. That being said, it is the holiday season--a time when old friends and family get together and reminisce, so to prepare yourself for what could be a few long nights with a few drinks, pick selected occasions where you will be drinking, and cut it out all together on the other days. Another angle is to simply imbibe with abandon and train anyway. This is great for those who want to know what climbing at altitude might feel like (yes, kind of like wanting to hurl), or how your body performs when exhausted ; ).

There is no way to undo months of training with a few days of excess. But particularly if you haven't begun to train, look at these next few weeks as the perfect start to your challenge. I mean if you can refuse a second piece of pie, then surely you have the willpower to get up Rainier.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nutrition for Mountaineers

There are several schools of thought on the best nutrition plan for mountaineers. Serious mountain climbers need to focus on endurance while hobbyists have a bit more room to formulate their nutritional needs based on many factors. It is important that mountaineers plan their nutrition differently depending on whether they are about to start training, are currently training, climbing or recovering. The most important factors to consider are your energy needs and adequate hydration.

It is advised to start on your training diet a few days before actually starting to train. The reason is because carbohydrates are the best source of fuel for training and are stored as glycogen molecules in the muscles. A carbohydrate loaded meal the day of training will not provide the energy stores needed to reach peak performance. Therefore a carbohydrate-rich diet should be started at least a few days before beginning training.

Training nutrition should focus on muscle building. Many people think that protein is all that is needed to build muscles, but carbohydrates are the energy needed to make it happen. Therefore a combination protein and carbohydrate-rich diet is essential for training. Some healthy foods that can bulk up the daily carbohydrate content in your diet include: whole wheat pasta, whole wheat breads and fruits. Make sure to eat vegetables since they are needed for cell repair for a body under stress. Also, to get some extra protein, eat more meat, dairy and beans, if you are not a meat, dairy or bean enthusiast try a whey protein powder shake daily. For strength training you need about 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight. And don’t forget fats. Fat is a necessity since it can enhance your performance. Try mega doses of healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil on salads and use coconut oil for frying and sautéing.

Remember that the nutritional needs of athletes in training must be met daily and not just on actual training days in order to ensure sufficient energy storage. On training days some people like to use sugar to enhance endurance. Sugar just prior to training may provide some additional energy but this depends on the athlete. Each athlete would do well to experiment with this strategy to gauge their blood sugar reaction. Sugar can be a quick source of energy immediately before training, but for some people it can cause a real energy drain if it wears off in the middle of the training session.

For climbs, there are plenty of well-balanced pre-packed meals to ensure you get adequate nutrition. Protein is especially important for athletes to optimize the benefits of carbohydrate storage and to repair muscle tissue broken down during mountain climbing. Endurance athletes have a daily protein requirement of 0.6 to 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. It is vital to athletic performance to remember the importance of quality protein. For example protein from fish, chicken, milk and peanut butter will serve you well. And of course for a climb, increase your carbohydrate intake to get adequate energy; try rice, pasta, bread and fruits. Staying well hydrated will provide a little extra energy, so keep drinking. A study shows that drinking tea will not dehydrate a climber but can improve their mood, so try taking some tea on your next climb.

Recovery nutrition is often the most overlooked aspect of mountaineering. When you finish climbing and no longer need the extra energy, it is still not time to let up on eating correctly. Immediately after the climb your body needs to replenish its energy stores and repair muscles. So go back to your pre-training diet for a few days after a climb. Since recovery nutrition keeps you prepared for the next climb, after those first few days keep on with your balanced nutrition plan and stay hydrated to maintain muscle strength.

The love of mountaineering can be enhanced when the body has all the necessary tools to thrive. Finding the right combination for your body may require a little experimentation to find just the right nutritional plan for you. Be sure to incorporate a balance of healthy carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Most of all, don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Relevant Studies:

Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient Timing. 2008;5:17.

Major GC, Doucet E. Energy intake during a typical Himalayan trek. High Altitude Medicine & Biology. 2004;5(3):355-63.

Montain SJ, Shippee RL, Tharion WJ. Carbohydrate-electrolyte solution effects on physical performance of military tasks. Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine. 1997;68(5):384-91.

Westerterp KR. Limits to sustainable human metabolic rate. Journal of Experimental Biology. 2001;204(Pt 18):3183-7.

Zamboni M, Armellini F, Turcato E, Robbi R, Micciolo R, Todesco T, Mandragona R, Angelini G, Bosello O. Effect of altitude on body composition during mountaineering expeditions: interrelationships with changes in dietary habits. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 1996;40(6):315-24.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Training Programs

Personalized Coaching from Body Results
Special Offer for Whittaker Mountaineering Clients
Whittaker Mountaineering is proud to partner with the mountaineering trainers of, Courtenay and Doug Schurman. The Schurmans have been helping people train for mountaineering and other wilderness adventures for over a decade. They are also the creators of the DVD, Train to Climb Mt Rainier, that Whittaker Mountaineering recommends and sells. They work with clients in their training center in Seattle and they offer an online training service for their clients from around the US and internationally to guide them through customized monthly training plans to be physically prepared for mountaineering adventures around the world.
Whether you've never climbed more than a flight of stairs or you're working on the 8,000 meter peaks, the Schurmans can work with you to create a customized training plan and coach you along to reach your conditioning goal. To learn more and take advantage of a special offer for Whittaker Mountaineering clients, click here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Importance of Training with a Pack

Log as many miles running or biking as you want, but skip training with a pack and you will risk being unprepared for your climb. People might want to forgo this type of training for a number of reasons. Sometimes you may not have access to a pack, especially if you plan on renting one. Also, people can get embarrassed at the thought of hiking around town with a weighted pack, or feel even sillier strapping on the pack to spend time on the elliptical at the gym.

It's very simple though. No other exercise or training will prepare you quite like hiking up some hills with a loaded pack. You will become comfortable with the level of exertion that hiking up steep terrain with a pack requires, as well as developing the same muscles that you will use extensively on your climb.

The key to training with a pack is to start with light to moderate weight and gradually increase as your training regime progresses. Gradually working up to what your pack will weight during your expedition will insure that you avoid injury. A favorite tip about training with a pack, is to use water bottles to create a lot of the weight of your pack. That way, if it gets a little heavy, or you want to reduce the weight on the descent, its as simple as pouring out some water on the trail.

Training with a pack also lets you assess your pack's fit and performance. Is it the right size? Are there any problems adjusting it? Does it fit all of my equipment inside? Are all questions that can be answered during a training hike. If you are planning to rent your pack, I highly suggest borrowing a pack from a friend to train, or at the very least, loading up the biggest backpack you have to attain some of the advantages of training with a loaded pack.

Short on hilly trails in your area? There are other ways you can train with a pack that don't require a hill. Climbing stairs with a pack will offer some of the same benefits of strengthening quads and calves. I would recommend reducing weight climbing down stairs, as going down stairs is more jarring on the knees than walking down hill. Leg presses and squats are also good to do with your pack. For leg presses, find a tall stair or two or a low bench. Press up to stand on the bench with one leg, then bring the other leg up to meet it. Step down and repeat on the other side. Keep increasing weight and repetitions as you progress through your training.

Overall, if you can aim for at least one long training hike per week with a loaded pack (even better if you can find some place with a little elevation gain) you will be working the muscles you need to help get you to the top.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Let it snow! Incorporating Winter Activities Into Your Training.

Nothing is more discouraging than having an established training routine only to have it disrupted by Mother Nature. It's so easy to hit the snooze button instead of waking up for that morning run when it's darker, colder, and perhaps snowier than when you began your regimen. What the winter can do however, is force us out of our comfort zones and try new activities. This will benefit your training program by reducing boredom, and training new muscle groups.

For those that live in regions where snow is prevalent, the possibilities are endless. This will be my first winter living where there is ample white stuff to play around in. Being a southern girl I did not grow up doing the family ski trip or participating in any winter sports. This year I am so excited to try all of these new activities.

Cross-Country Skiing

Remember Nordic Track? That cumbersome exercise machine from the 80's that seemed to be in every fitness enthusiasts spare bedroom? The idea behind it was to capitalize on the vast benefits of cross-country skiing all without having to go outside in the cold. XC Skiing is one of the most difficult endurance sports, utilizing every one of the major muscle groups. It also (along with running, swimming, and rowing) burns the most calories per hour of any sport--making it the perfect way to train for mountaineering. While many areas have hut systems with groomed trails, I've even seen people XC skiing on snowy running trails in cities like Boston and Milwaukee, making it a feasible undertaking anywhere there is a little white on the ground. Many shops (like ours...wink, wink) rent XC Ski packages to allow infrequent users or beginners to experience the sport using quality equipment without making a huge investment.

Be prepared to go only a short distance your first time out. The first time can mean a few falls while you are getting your "ski legs". But the benefits of this sport are so vast, that gliding along a snowy path while enjoying the quiet of the winter woods might just be a new way you decide to wait out the winter.


Snowshoeing is another great way to engage the whole body in a workout and continue a running or hiking routine when the trails become snow covered. Snowshoes help increase flotation across soft snow. Snowshoes are also widely used in the mountaineering world, so learning how to snowshoe or investing a pair of your own might be a great way to prepare for your climb. For tips on purchasing your first pair, or help learning about the different products available, call us at the shop.

If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Refining your snowshoeing technique to avoid exhausting yourself will be necessary, but in general snowshoes are very easy to use. Use snowshoes to hike your normal trails that have become buried in powder, or use them to access the backcountry to explore new terrain on your skis or snowboard.

One of the coolest things I have come across are new snowshoes designed specifically for running. Combined with a pair of Gore-Tex trail runners, racing snowshoes allow you to run safely across snowy trails with ease. There are also quite a few races out there for those who want to stay competitive while waiting for the spring race season to start up.

The training benefits of snowshoeing are the same as running or hiking. Snowshoeing provides excellent aerobic conditioning. Add a pack with some weight in it, and you can keep up your weekly mileage no matter what the weather brings.

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Aside from being totally fun, downhill skiing and snowboarding are great for strength training. Up the ante by skinning or snowshoeing up to your destination, but even if you take the lift, the ability to maneuver on skis or a snowboard requires tons of balance, core and leg strength and coordination. It will also help improve your anaerobic threshold, often requiring you to emit short bursts of energy while heading downhill.

Ice Skating

Most larger metropolitan areas have an indoor or outdoor rink to lace up some skates, and tap into our inner child. Ice skating, like running, is a great lower body workout. Make a few laps around the rink at a decent pace, and you will start to feel that heart rate rise. Ice skating is also low impact, so it gives your knees a break from running.

Tips for Success

Dressing appropriately for a winter activity is key for enjoyment. We here at Whittaker Mountaineering have a lot of experience dressing for all types of conditions. Feel free to give us a call and we can help you select not only the clothing for your upcoming climb, but clothing that will make your training more comfortable and enjoyable. There have been tons of advances in fabrics that allow us to play outside for long periods.

Softshell fabrics are great for winter aerobic activities because they breathe much better than waterproof fabrics, but are still highly water resistant--making them a great choice for the snow. Softshell is also stretchier than waterproof fabrics, and move with you making them more comfortable. They also come in a wide variety of weights. I prefer lighte rweight softshells for high aerobic activities like XC skiing, The Mountain Hardwear Tanglewood Jacket or the Mammut Ultimate Hoody are both light weight, extremely breathable, and water resistant.

Also, its very important in colder temps to eat and drink frequently. This will fuel your body to help keep you warm when the mercury drops, in addition to fueling your performance. Pack lots of high calorie snacks and water when venturing out in the snow.

Remember, while mountaineering is our specialty, we have the clothing and equipment to help you get through the training portion of your exciting adventure to climb Mt. Rainier. We are always happy to help you with your questions throughout the whole process. So don't hesitate to call. So bundle up, and get outside. You may just find a new sport that will carry you through a lifetime of fitness.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Building up Cardio

Having a high level of cardiovascular fitness is essential to mountaineering. Basically, cardiovascular fitness can be defined as how efficient your body's organs are at consuming, transporting, and utilizing oxygen. The maximum volume of oxygen your body can consume and use is your VO2 Max. Everyone's VO2 max is from the outset determined by genetics. But VO2 max can be increased through training. Interestingly, altitude lowers a person's VO2 max due to a reduction in available oxygen in the atmosphere, making it even more important for those interested in climbing high altitude peaks to train to increase their VO2 max threshold. The only way to do this is by incorporating "cardio" into your training routine.

Ultimately in order to climb efficiently, you should be able to sustain a moderate level of intensity for at least an hour. If you already run, bike, or XC Ski and can sustain an hour or more of activity, then congratulations! Your goals should be to increase speed and strength in preparation for your climb.

But if you're like most, and hour of aerobic activity can seem like an eternity. Below are some tips for building up cardio as you go along. The important thing to remember is that committing to a routine will put you in the best position to reach your fitness goals.

When I began training for Mt. Rainier last December I decided on running. Running is inexpensive, and can happen anywhere. Some tips for running include investing in some great shoes (a specialty running store like Fleet Feet will be able to assess your needs and get you in a great shoe), and run on soft surfaces i.e. asphalt as opposed to concrete, or trails or dirt roads to minimize injury from impact.

Begin with 10-15 minutes of warm up. I start out walking at a brisk pace or jogging very slowly. Once you feel that the blood is pumping and the muscles are warm get into a stride that has you increasing speed, but at a pace where you can still carry on a conversation. Intersperse your running with walking in order to keep exercising for a full 30 minutes (not including a warmup). Depending on your fitness this may mean 30 sec. of running and a full minute of walking. The important thing in the beginning of building up your cardio is not speed or distance but endurance. The longer you can keep training the better, even if you are walking more than half the time. As weeks progress, you can begin to lengthen your running intervals and workout sessions. For me it takes about three weeks of a consecutive running program before I feel I can start to feel it getting a little easier. So hang in there...but this can be different for everyone. Before you know it, running for thirty minutes without stopping will be a breeze.

To make the leap from thirty minutes to an hour, follow the same steps as before, setting small goals and increasing the duration of your intervals and workouts as the weeks tick by. Once your aerobic capacity has increased, then you can begin work on your anaerobic threshold. Anaerobic simply means without oxygen. Anaerobic training means incorporating short bursts in your workout that exhaust your threshold to intake and use oxygen. Incorporating sprints, sudden steep inclines, or exertion during your workout will allow you to train anaerobically. Over time this type of training will help build your overall aerobic threshold, allowing you to work harder for longer.

To add variety to your workout, you can include other types of aerobic activities that help increase your cardiovascular fitness like biking, xc skiing, swimming, or a class at a gym. Cross training will reduce boredom with a routine and make sure you constantly are improving. And know that every time you feel a little out of breath and are busting a sweat, you are getting yourself that much closer to being in prime condition to climb that peak.

Neat Article on High Altitude Training intro to Cardio Training

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Developing A Training Regimen

Mountaineering requires a level of fitness most of us don't have right off the couch. If you've made the commitment and investment to sign up for a mountaineering expedition, you owe it to yourself, your guides, and the others on your climb to be in peak physical condition so that the climb can be more successful, safe, and enjoyable.

Right now we are about 7 months out from when the main climbing season begins on Denali and Rainier...which luckily is about the amount of time most fitness experts recommend training before attempting a new activity like mountaineering. Now that time is on your side, coming up with a training regimen that is viable, effective, and fun will give you the structure you need to achieve your fitness goals.

Climbing a mountain is serious business, and your training schedule should reflect that. One of the places that I falter, and see others do the same, is when we let everything else in our lives take priority over training. This is easy to do when you might be the only one in your family or circle of friends attempting a feat like climbing a mountain. But getting into a habit of exercise and following a routine will be your best defense against letting all things trump your training. That being said, having a routine that allows for some flexibility will keep you from feeling resentful about your time spent training, and will help you stay motivated.

When at all possible, a training regimen should have you participating in the activity you are training for. Marathon runners train by running, cyclists train by cycling. Climbers should train by climbing. This means that the more you can find yourself in steep terrain (i.e. hills, stairs) wearing a pack, the more you will be training the muscle groups you will be recruiting from for your climb. The luxury of starting to train early though, means that you can ease into the steep hikes with a full pack.

Conditioning Needs for Mountaineering

Every sport has its own needs as far as training. Some sports require that you acquire more flexibility than speed, or more stamina than strength. Determining what the needs are of your sport first will make sure that your training regimen is focused and successful. The following diagram points out the conditioning needs of mountaineering.

Aim for activities that emphasize cardiovascular fitness and strength endurance. A great example of this is climbing steep terrain with a pack (see, its not a ploy). Really any activity that can get you "huffing and puffing" and "feeling the burn" will do. In the beginning this may look differently than you imagine. In the beginning "huffing and puffing" and "feeling the burn" may be achieved with a jog around the block or a short hike with no pack. The important thing is to start slow and stick to a routine. Build each week by lengthening hikes or runs, and eventually adding a pack with some weight.

Another great way to increase stamina is to incorporate intervals into your training. These help max out your anaerobic threshold allowing your body to learn how to do more with less. Break up a long run by adding some sprints. Or while you are on that long hike, find something in the distance and increase your pace until you reach that object.

Strength training for mountaineering can be a time to step out of the box, and get out of the gym. Weight machines tend to not be as effective as building the smaller muscle groups that are important to providing stability when descending a big mountain. We recommend incorporating different types of isometrics like lunges and squats to tone the muscle groups you will need for climbing when strength training.

So where is the training schedule? I have purposefully left that up to you. Creating a personalized schedule is part of the fun of training, and will give you an ownership of your training that I think helps with commitment and increasing will power. I could tell you to strength train on Tuesdays, hike on Saturdays, and rest on Sundays...but what if that doesn't work for you? The most important part of any training schedule is how easy it is to stick to, so get out the calendar and start planning! You have 7 months to get in the best shape of your life, while achieving one of the most rewarding, awesome goals--climbing a mountain.

Here are some resources to help you along the way:

RMI's Letter on Training
Article on Training by Kathy Colsey-Mountain Guide

Body Results DVD

Climbing: Training for Peak Performance

Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Training While Sick. Good idea?

Remember sick days as a child? Mom would call into the school secretary and you would spend the day holed up on the couch watching movies and eating soup. Funny how now as adults we don't take the same cues from our body and allow ourselves a day of rest. Most of our jobs or daily routines don't allow for it even.

But what about your training routine? What modifications (if any) should you make when plagued with illness. As I write this I am currently on day 6 of one of the nastiest colds I have been dealt in a long time. The fever has subsided only to be replaced by conjunctivitis in both eyes (pleasant I know). I am a member of the walking dead, drinking my weight in tea, and dosing on cold meds to stay afloat. Not exactly the shape I hoped to be in just a few short weeks away from a scheduled summit climb. It has been over a week since my feet hit the trail. My only exercise has been walking around Salt Lake City at a trade show over the weekend to keep up with coworkers as we made the trek from the hotel to the convention center. It hurts to read, talk, or generally stand for long periods of time. So what now?

A little internet scouring led me to discover a lot of different types of athletes saying pretty much the same thing. Whether you are a tri-athlete, a marathon runner, or bodybuilder, the general rule seems to be REST. Letting your body's immune system do its thing is the best thing you can do for your body and training. One quote from Dr. Stephen Cheung on the Pez Cycling site really sums it up: "it’s always better to be under-trained and healthy than over-trained but sick!"

Another general guideline that came up was to follow the "neck rule." If the symptoms are primarily above the neck, i.e. nasal congestion then it's okay to train. If symptoms reside below the neck such as fever, body aches, chest congestion, or stomach problems, it's best to take time off to recover.

The main thing is to not let some time off for illness discourage you from reaching your goals. Trust the base you have built with your pre-illness training, and use this time to do other things to prepare for your climb. Scour a climbing guide for info on the route, read trip reports online, or shop for the latest gear!

Friday, August 1, 2008

How to Train Mentally

I recently made my first summit of Mt. Rainier. It was really gratifying to see how all of my training paid off. At high break I remember being surprised at how comfortable and energized I felt. On the hike down I got into an interesting conversation with one of my fellow climbers and another guide. We were discussing common reasons people choose to end their summit bid and descend. We all agreed that while there are many reasons someone might reach their limit, many of them could be alleviated with a little mental training. A lot goes on while on the mountain. Your body is fighting the altitude, the exertion, and most importantly the stress of doing something new which can be scary at times. It was this last part of the climb where I knew I had a distinct advantage. Living in Ashford, and working closely with RMI, the Mountain is always the main topic of conversation. People are always discussing route condition, current hazards, and weather patterns. Over the past few months, I have become acutely aware of what goes on up there, before I had ever set foot above 10,000 feet.

Physical training is an important part of preparing for your climb. Building endurance and muscle tone are key to insuring your body can withstand the stress of mountain climbing. But it was the mental preparedness that I felt gave me the ability to withstand some of the moments that were "less than comfortable." Knowing what to expect allowed me to focus less on the big task of climbing the mountain (or the crevasses!), and spend my energy insuring I was using proper crampon technique and breathing correctly.

Reading climbing guides and trip reports will help you understand the route and have an idea of what to expect. Scheduling some time to speak with someone at your guide service to answer any questions will also prove helpful. Becoming more knowledgeable about the sport of mountaineering can make all of the finer points of rope travel and self arrest make more sense. The idea of mental training is to eliminate as much of the unknown as possible so that your mind can be more at ease with this new challenge you are undertaking.

Here are some suggestions of resources I used to prepare me for my climb.

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills

Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide by Mike Gauthier

Alpine Mountaineering DVD

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Sticking to a training plan is a challenge that everyone must conquer in order to achieve their fitness goals. But figuring out how to stay motivated can at times prove to be more challenging than the climb itself.

After years of stop and start exercise plans, when I found out I was going to climb Mt. Rainier, I knew I had to make a mental shift in order to see bigger and better results than I had in the past. There are ton of articles out there that speak to this topic, but sometimes the suggestions seem to add more work to an already full training plan. Here are some things that have really helped me stay motivated while I have been training.

At first it was easy to hit the gym or the trails. The excitement surrounding my decision to climb (which was coupled with the excitement of accepting my current position with Whittaker Mountaineering) made my workouts fun and exciting. Hopefully this excitement stays with you right up until your climb, but if it doesn't try these tricks to stay on the ball.

1. Have someone to hold you accountable. You can do this a couple of ways. Have a workout partner that you meet a few times a week. Or have someone that you report your progress to. I have a few friends that are serious runners, so when I started to get serious about the sport they loved hearing about my progress, and they had great advice when I would hit a wall. I also advertise pretty heavily when I am trying to develop good habits, because then it becomes one of the first things coworkers, friends, family ask you about. And when you are getting asked "How's your training going?" a few times a day, you want to have something good to report.

2. Get Creative with your Workout. Run the same route for four months and you will surely burn out. I try to run something different each time I go out. Here in Ashford, I am fortunate to have miles of trails right out of my door step. But for a change of pace, I ran on the road today. I also find ways to keep me upbeat when the going gets tough. On a recent hill workout I played cheesy pop music to help me sprint the switchbacks. On my long training hikes I listen to audiobooks.

3. Compete. Maybe its running you regular 5 mile loop five minutes faster. Or entering a local race. I like to find someone who runs faster than me, and push myself to keep up. Setting mini-goals will allow you to feel successful while on your path to the top. There is no rule that says you have to wait until you climb in order to reap the benefits of your training.

4. Take a week off. Counter intuitive? Sure. But it really works. I spent a whole week feeling pretty sluggish on my runs. I had no interest in strength training. Forget push ups. I was burnt out. So I took a whole week and didn't train at all. Sure I got outside, that's just my nature. But I didn't run once. And by the end of the week I was itching to get back out on the trails, and sure enough I had one of my best runs ever. Ear to ear grin the whole time and I ran harder than before the break.

5. Visualize the Mountain. One of the things that helps me on long runs or hike is to think about the mountain. I visualize myself succeeding because of the hard work I am putting into it now. I'm lucky that I get to see my peak pretty often living in Ashford. But if I didn't, I would put a picture of the mountain on my bathroom mirror or the fridge. Somewhere where I can see it everyday, and daydream about what the views will be like standing on top.

Liz is the Retail Manager for Whittaker Mountaineering, and will make her first attempt for the summit of Mt. Rainier this week.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Do you Sweat a lot.

This information is from our friends at Thanks.

Sweating a ton!
Q.I always seem to sweat a ton whenever I exercise, whether it’s hot or cold, regardless of whether it’s a cardiovascular workout or strength training. Is it normal, or something I should be worried about?
A. Sweating is a very natural way for your body to cool itself down. If your body did not sweat effectively it would be far more worrisome.
The main things to be concerned about with copious sweating are the following:
Replenish the fluids lost during hard exercise. One way to be sure you are doing this adequately is to weigh yourself before a long endurance workout and then be sure you drink enough during and after to return you to your starting point. Be sure you drink before you get thirsty or you may end up dehydrated.
Consume enough electrolytes (potassium and sodium) in addition to water to prevent bouts of hyponatremia, which typically only occurs in more extreme cases of heat and endurance activities (see for more information.)
Change clothing layers as soon as you stop moving, especially if you get really wet with sweat. This applies on warm as well as cooler, overcast days.
Make layering your buddy! Remove a layer just before you start to exercise so that you start out a little on the chilly side; this will help prevent you from overheating in the first few minutes of your workout.
Since a large amount of heat can be lost through your head, wear a very light knit hat or at least a bandana in very cold weather to help prevent too much heat loss.
As a courtesy to other exercisers, keep a towel handy if you are training indoors so you can dry off the machines and equipment after you are finished so the next person has clean gear to work with.
If you are one of nearly 8 million Americans who suffers from more extreme cases of perspiration from hands, feet, armpits or elsewhere, you may actually have a condition known as hyperhidrosis. Doctor-prescribed antiperspirants containing higher than normal levels of aluminum compounds can help plug up excessively active sweat glands.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Benefits of Massage

Ask someone their reason for getting a massage and you're likely to hear "because it feels good". We all know that a massage can relieve stress, help to make sore muscles feel better and even reduce anxiety, but can it help us achieve our fitness goals? Research shows that the massage you get to relieve stress can also have a positive effect on your muscle-building capabilities and fitness level.Massage improves circulation and general nutrition of muscles. This appears to be the most valuable fitness-related benefit. Massage is accompanied or followed by an increase interchange of substances between the blood the tissue cells, which increases tissue metabolism. After a muscle is exercised, vital nutrients must be supplied in order for it to increase in size. Massage maximizes the supply of nutrients and oxygen though increased blood flow, which helps the body rebuild itself. Massage improves the range of motion and muscle flexibility. This results in increased power and performance, which helps you work efficiently and with proper intensity to facilitate the body's muscle-building response. Massage helps to shorten recovery time between workouts. Waste products such as lactic and carbonic acid build up in muscles after exercise. Increased circulation to these muscles help to eliminate toxic debris and shorten recovery time. Massage can help prevent over-training. Massage has a relaxing effect on the muscles, as well as a sedative effect on the nervous system. This can prevent over-training syndrome which has limiting effect on muscle building. Massage may aid in fat loss. According to some research, massage may burst the fat capsule in subcutaneous tissue so that the fat exudes and becomes absorbed. In this way, combined with proper nutrition, massage may help in weight loss. Massage helps prevent and even heal injuries. By stretching connective tissue, massage improves circulation to help prevent or break down adhesions. Massage also influences the excretion of certain fluids (nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur) necessary for tissue repair. While a massage won't build muscle directly, it helps to facilitate the body's rebuilding phase following a workout and influences muscular growth. Getting a massage is just as important as regular workouts and supportive nutrition for a comprehensive fitness program. Great news for those of us who thought building a great body was all hard work!Before making an appointment with the first massage therapist you encounter, however, be sure they are a qualified bodywork practitioner. Ask for referrals, professional training information, and certification credentials from a reputable agency, such as the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).ABOUT THE AUTHORJon Gestl, CSCS, is a Chicago personal trainer and fitness instructor who specializes in helping people get in shape in the privacy and convenience of their home or office. He is a United States National Aerobic Champion silver and bronze medalist and world-ranked sportaerobic competitor and editor of the fitness ezine "Inspired Informed and Inshape." He can be contacted through his website at


The purpose of this information is to help you set and reach fitness goals. Our training goal is to help you get physically and mentally prepared to fully engage in the sport of mountaineering. Your climbing goal will be to perform strong and steady throughout your adventure.
Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) offers numerous adventures on Mount Rainier and Mount McKinley, and worldwide from nearby Mexico to far-away Everest. While different objectives require varying levels of commitment, sound fitness gained through a well-guided program is the single best way you can ensure a safe and successful adventure regardless of the destination you have chosen.
Start on a good foot and seek your physician’s approval and the advice of a physical trainer/fitness expert before taking on a serious training program. A sound fitness program addresses cardiovascular fitness (fitness of the heart) and motor fitness (particularly strength, endurance and balance).
Cardiovascular fitness is measured through your aerobic capacity, your body’s ability to take in and use oxygen. At sea level, the restrictive factor in delivering oxygen to the muscles is the heart’s ability to pump blood, not the capability of the lungs to take in oxygen. It is at altitude, where oxygen is effectively less available, that lung capabilities come into question. Aerobics should be directed at conditioning your heart muscle even though it can also improve somatic muscle fitness.
Motor fitness is needed to complement cardiovascular fitness. Motor fitness refers to strength (the ability to exert force), power (the ability to exert force rapidly), endurance (the ability to withstand exertion), balance (the ability to maintain stability), agility (the ability to perform actions quickly and smoothly), and flexibility (the ability to bend without breaking).
Fitness and Acclimatization: The fitter you are, the more effectively you can acclimate (i.e., adjust) to altitude. That is simply because fit climbers expend less energy for a certain task (i.e., a day of hard climbing), leaving their bodies ready for the task of acclimatization.
It is important to understand what your goals are so that you may maximize your training. This is especially important given the time constraints placed on a mountaineer by weather, route conditions, objective hazards, and the effects of altitude. Proper physical conditioning will allow you to perform better by climbing longer, stronger and faster, be more comfortable on steeper and awkward terrain, carry heavier loads, recover quicker at rest, and enjoy the entire adventure more completely. Training goals will vary from mountain to mountain. Here are two examples:
Mount McKinley 22-day Expedition:
Be able to carry a 60-pound pack for five to eight hours a day for several successive days.
Be able to recover from a difficult day of climbing within an eight- to twelve-hour period.
Be able to perform as an asset on a summit day of fourteen hours (on slopes up to 40 degrees).
It is wise to take a look at your current fitness level before getting started on a new fitness program. A comprehensive assessment (done under advice of a trainer at your local gym) can certainly be an important tool toward your fitness goals.
The Fitness Program
Start your entire fitness training program well in advance of your climb, and increase the intensity and duration of your exercising as you gain fitness. Very generally, a six-month minimum is needed to implement an effective program. Your first weeks in this new fitness program will most likely be focused on getting into a routine. Discipline yourself to begin both the cardiovascular and motor fitness training from the outset, but start carefully to avoid overuse or over-enthusiasm injuries. Use a variety of exercises, activities, locations, etc. to keep physically challenged and mentally engaged. Be cautious of month-by-month formulaic programs which tend to over-simplify expectations and promises. You should have a plan that is both regimented specifically for you and be flexible enough to meet your personal needs.
The more your training can simulate real climbing, the more you will benefit. The following exercises can be used in your fitness program.
Use aerobic exercises to develop cardiovascular fitness.
There are a variety of aerobic exercises which are fantastic for training. They include: climbing and descending hills, stairs or stadium bleachers, any kind of skiing, snowboarding, running and cycling.
Other excellent aerobic activities which can benefit you but tend to be less focused for our needs include: aerobics classes, stationary cycling, circuit weight training, boxing and martial arts. Swimming can also be valuable. For the purposes of this expedition it would serve you better to use aerobic activities more suited to our goal of maximizing cardiovascular fitness and maximizing the strength and endurance needed for climbing.
In addition to the benefit of cardiovascular fitness, there needs to be concentrated effort on developing your aerobic ability for the descent from the summit. We should prepare for the event of a big storm moving in at the end of the day and thus train so we have the ability to get down quickly. A good strengthening program for the legs, especially quadriceps and knees, can really pay off on the mountain. When training with a pack, use a bathroom scale to hold it accountable.
Some training recommendations for aerobic exercising include:
(1) Keep your training range at 65 to 85% of your maximum heart rate. There is a well known formula for ascertaining your maximum heart rate that is based on your age, which you subtract from the number 220 (beats per minute). Arbitrary at best. We suggest that you begin with that formula, and then be aware of how you feel. Your perceived exertion can actually be a better indicator of how you ought to be performing on a given day. Individually, we differ enough, and certainly we have good days and bad days, such that “how we feel” should come into play. For example, a 39 year old has a maximum heart rate of 181; i.e., 220 - 39 = 181 beats per minute. The training range, then, is between 118 and 154 beats per minute.
(2) We recommend that the time you spend working aerobically should be a solid 30 minutes a day, and shouldn’t exceed 60 minutes. In order to train for the lengthy days in the mountains, you’ve got to get out and do lengthy training climbs; nothing else will prepare you as adequately.
(3) The frequency of your aerobic workout can be rather unlimited. You can train every day if you like. Be careful that you don’t overdo it and set yourself up with injuries. You should include some rest time each week.
Use interval training to advance your cardiovascular fitness.
The technique of interval training calls for including surges in the activity while maintaining an elevated heart rate. Here are some examples:
(1) If you are a runner, begin by running at a moderate intensity for twenty minutes. Every ten minutes thereafter, increase your pace for three to eight minutes, then return to the moderately intense level.
(2) If you are at the track, run around the track once at a moderate pace. Sprint 220 yards, then run one lap again. Repeat.
(3) If you are using a step mill, step moderately (at the high end of your aerobic training range) for ten minutes. Every five minutes thereafter, increase your pace for 1 to 1½ minutes, then return to moderate intensity.
Remembering that the heart’s ability to pump blood to the body is a major limiting factor in our athletic performance, then here is a training technique which can help us overcome that limitation. What we are doing here is going beyond standard cardiovascular fitness. Interval training, when used over a longer period of time, can aid in increasing the heart’s capacity for pumping blood through the body.
This is a very strenuous manner of training, and it shouldn’t be initiated at the last minute. We have had success with interval training when we have a minimum of three months of training time.
Use weights, calisthenics and stretching to develop motor fitness.
We suggest that when you work with weights, limit it to 2 sets of 20 repetitions with lighter weights (lighter than the heavy weights customarily used to intensify muscle growth). Your first 15 reps ought to go easy; your last five with each set should be tough. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
Below are sample workouts which we have found successful. This program develops both cardiovascular and motor fitness. We have intentionally omitted describing the specific mechanics of the workouts as there exists a huge arsenal of exercises and machines to match an individual’s personal situation (personal history and present fitness level).
It is important that in addition to a sound lower body, you develop a sound upper body as well. A sound torso (both back and stomach) is especially important for mountaineering where heavy pack weights add a new dimension to our physical activities. These training principles are essentially the same for our upper and lower bodies. Use a physical trainer to help you build a program specific to your lifestyle and needs.
Stretching, balance, aerobic and abdominal exercises can be done every day. You should work with lower body and upper body weights at least twice a week (once every 3 days). Don’t fail to include a good warm up and warm down in your workout.
Warming up and warming down
Include 10 to 15 minute aerobic warm up and a 5 to 10 minute warm down in your program. This is an important component of any program. Keep your heart rate in an aerobic range; don’t get anaerobic.
Examples include walking, jogging in place, step mills, treadmills, cycling, and jumping rope.
Include 15 minutes of quality stretching into your program.
Focus on slow, static stretching. Avoid bouncing, ballistic stretching.
With static stretching, hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, breathing through the stretch. Hold it only to the point of tension, not to the point of pain.
Don’t stretch through pain; you are stretching and tearing muscle fibers with this activity.
Be patient. The reward of proper stretching is the joy of movement which results.
Remember that stretching is a warm up and warm down exercise as well as a “real” workout for your body. Your goal is the reduction of muscular tension, not an attainment of extreme flexibility. Improper stretching can lead to injury and disillusionment with this aspect of motor fitness training.
Stretch at the beginning of a workout, just after the warm up, and also, even more importantly, after the workout when the muscles are at their warmest and most supple state. Stretching after a workout will do a tremendous amount of good toward alleviating muscle soreness and decreasing the chance of injury.
Lower body weights
(1) 1 to 2 sets of calf raises. Use a platform which allows you to make the full range of motion as you stand up on your toes and then drop your heels. Use body weight only.
(2) 2 sets of leg curls. Your hams should be 1/3 to 1/2 as strong as your quads.
(3) 2 sets of individual leg extensions.
(4) 2 sets of squats. Use a machine to isolate the gluteal muscles and prevent back injury.
Upper body weights:
(1) Begin by exhausting the larger muscles first. This includes the chest and back, and shoulders.
(2) Work both the biceps and the triceps.
Points to focus on:
(1) All weight sets should be performed focusing on excellent form and technique. You should hire a physical trainer for at least a day to assist you with developing good technique. It may also be beneficial to meet again with this person periodically to ensure good form and to measure progress.
(2) Perform repetitions with a two-count positive motion and a four-count negative motion.
(3) Breathe out on exertion.
(4) Use proper rest periods between sets.
(5) With all these exercises, slowly increase the weights over time. Be patient.
(6) Tendon strength increases at a rate roughly ten times less quickly than muscles. Don’t supercharge your muscles on an aggressive weight program only to injure your tendons.
Abdominal exercises
Focus on the quality of the exercise, not the number.
Changing up the exercises (cross-training the abdomen) is key to increasing abdominal fitness.
The abdominal muscles adapt remarkably well to a punishing workout – continue to change up your workout, even if you don’t switch exercises, switch the routine.
Balance Exercises
Balance exercises reward you with increased body awareness and can aid in your ability to negotiate tricky terrain under a heavy pack.
Distinguish between static and dynamic balance exercises. Static exercises will keep one or both feet on the ground. Dynamic exercises involve the body in motion. Both are important for the development of this motor fitness skill.
Balance is a motor skill like strength, and can be improved over time.
Include some of these into your workout. Here are some possibilities:
Static balance exercises:
(1) Walk heel-to-toe in a straight line. Then return by walking backward. Then try with your eyes shut.
(2) Stand in balance on one leg. Fold the other leg beneath you and hold it by the knee or foot.
(3) Stand in balance on one leg, then squat, and then return to the stand position.
(4) Try the same exercise, but standing on a piece of foam.
Dynamic balance exercises:
(1) Skiing, snowboarding, roller skating, ice skating are obvious and fun.
(2) Tennis, racquetball, table tennis, basketball and volleyball are all also great for balance.
(3) Clamber up and down hills, the hard way – over rough trails or “off piste” over boulders and logs, through the woods, etc. This is a particularly effective exercise.
Training Log
We have found that a training log helps to keep people on track. It keeps you honest for one; but more importantly, it is rewarding to see progress occurring over the longer term. A log book can help you recognize and then seize some motivation and satisfaction, especially if you have been training for months.
Good luck. Train hard. We look forward to seeing you on the mountain!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

1st Post

This blog will follow several people training, diet and life as they prepare to climb Mount Rainier in the Summer of 2008. We will be featuring work out ideas, food discussions, training climbs, and overall experiences. Check back frequently