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