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