The date today is the 18th of February 2015. I leave for Everest in 34 days.
A lot of people ask me how I train for Everest so I thought I would give a summary of my routine here.
But first a short video of some mountain specific training.
I normally keep pretty fit but obviously with Everest looming I have stepped it up a few notches and been training pretty solidly for the past 2–3 months. I try to train 6 days a week although some weeks I only manage to do 4 due to a very hectic schedule. (I commute to another country each week for work!).
My training regime has been put together by my long time Personal Trainer — Goncalo Garcia (www.goncalotraining.com) — who helped me get through previous expeditions.
To create a good training regime for Everest one must understand their body, the way it performs in different scenarios, its strengths and its weaknesses. After my previous expeditions I now have a good understanding of where I excel and where I struggle.
My main problem areas are:
- Processing enough oxygen when exerting myself at altitude.
- Neck, shoulder and back pain after prolonged movement with a heavy pack.
- Dodgy knees and ankles which have received countless injuries and multiple operations leading to very painful descents.
- Right shoulder never fully recovered from the reconstruction operation in November 2013 which has left the area weak and created an overall imbalance.
- I am an asthmatic and it seems to have been getting worse over the past few years.
The good news is that a seem to be very fit, my legs can carry me up anything and I have good stamina and endurance (for 8–10 hours at least).
Heart and Lungs
I tend to have a low resting heart rate of around 46bpm (beats per minute) and also have a very large lung capacity being able to hold my breath under water for 3 minutes without too much trouble. Despite these apparent positive traits, my cardiovascular system struggles at high altitude. When I am pushing myself to my limit at altitude I cannot seem to get enough air. To be fair I have not compared this with other climbers, maybe everybody is struggling the same as me but I usually feel like I’m about to pass out which is not ideal.
I suppose this leads onto the topic VO2 Max.
VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use. It is measured in millilitres per kilogramme of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min).
VO2 max is a set limit and each person is different. I have not undergone any testing in this area so I cannot comment on my genetically predefined limit or whether I am close to achieving it or not. All I can do is train as hard as I can and hope that my oxygen processing is as efficient as I need it to be.
To combat my breathing problems up high, all of my cardiovascular training has been focussed on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I aim for a lower heart rate of 130bpm and a high of 170bpm which usually gets me gasping for air like I do at altitude. The duration of time I maintain these heart rates for depend on which routine I am doing on the day. The goal is to strain my cardiovascular system to its limits. The idea is that my lungs get more efficient at processing oxygen with every breath and my heart becomes more efficient at pumping oxygen rich blood around my body therefore doesn’t need to pump as rapidly during exertion thus lowering my heart rate. More and more I find it difficult to get up to 170bpm when I am really pushing myself. I suppose this could be considered as progress.
Oh and I am an asthmatic, half allergy induced, half exercise induced. I have had my asthma under control for well over a decade until lately where I have been getting some pretty bad attacks. I have a couple of new types of inhalers which I carry around at all times and I am pretty sure the recent attacks have been allergy induced so as long as I have my inhalers with me at all times on the hill and keep my mouth covered to avoid breathing in dust and dry air I think I should be fine.
Firstly is the right shoulder in which I have a severe muscle imbalance due to my reconstruction operation which took place in November 2013. Ideally I would have swam my shoulder back to full strength but as I still have a loose collar bone I cannot swim without it banging around and getting jammed under my scapula so I need to stick to weights in the gym and elastic bands for which feels like a never-ending rehabilitation program.
Secondly the whole neck, shoulder and upper back get painful and full of knots after hours of climbing with a heavy pack. I suspect this is due to my work and my history of sitting at computers for long durations of time. To deal with this I am strengthening my back, core and chest which seems to provide the support the smaller muscle groups around the neck and shoulders.
Lastly are my knee and ankles. The years have not been kind to these slender, flimsy, pathetic joints. I have had two operations in my left knee to remove torn cartilage and I have another operation due in my right knee which I am avoiding. Walking down stairs sounds like stepping on cornflakes. The ankles have had their fair share of severe sprains which has caused overstretched ligaments causing my ankles to roll easily leading to more sprains and thus continuing the cycle. Due to these bad knees I have had to stop performing my HIIT training on stationary bicycles and move to an Elliptical or if I am in the right gym I get to use a cool new machine I recently discovered called an AMT (Adaptive Motion Trainer) made by Precor. This is like an Elliptical but the user controls the length and height of each stride. I think this machine will be a favourite in the future.
Monday —Cardio and Core — 45–60 minutes
Cardio: 40 minutes of varying HR between 130 and 160 beats per minute.
Core: 8 exercises 10 reps 3 sets
Tuesday — Weights and Cardio — 90–120 minutes
Weights, Upper Body and Legs: 8 exercises 12 reps 3 sets.
Cardio: 60 minutes ((30 seconds @ 170 bpm then 2 minutes @ 130 bpm x 12) + (1 minute @ 170 bpm then 1 minute 30 seconds @ 130 bpm x 14))
Wednesday — Rest
Thursday — HIIT — 90–120 minutes
Cardio: 80 minutes ((4 minutes @ 170 bpm then 2 minute @ 130 bpm x 7) + ((1 minute @ 170 bpm then 30 seconds @ 130 bpm) + (2 minutes @ 170bpm then 1 minute @ 130 bpm) + (4 minutes @ 170 bpm then 2 minutes @ 130 bpm) x 3))
Friday — Cardio and weights 60–90 minutes
Mixed weights and cardio session with Personal Trainer and may do another cardio session later on in the day for 45 minutes if I’m keen.
Saturday — Outdoor workout — 120 minutes minumum
Mountaineering in the Pyrenees (usually 5 hours minimum. Try to ascend/descend 1000m minimum. 15Kg+ pack)
Mountain Biking (usually 2 hours minimum 40–50kms. Try to achieve maximum ascent/descent)
Stair climbing with 20Kg pack (23 floors is 80 vertical meters x 13 rounds equals a total of 1040 meters of ascent), this usually takes less than 2 hours and I get the lift back down each round to save my knees.
Sunday —Training/Pleasure workout or rest
Mixed workout in the gym / Long distance paddle boarding / Mountain biking / Long walk or rest depending on how the body is feeling.
A good 10 minute stretch after every workout to minimise muscle soreness and help flexibility.
Having said that
I haven’t worked out for 4 days as this week I am sick with man flu. Can’t wait to get moving again.
This post doesn’t make for very interesting reading so I threw in some Rocky images to spruce things up a bit! Now I can give people a URL instead of explaining the above every time ☺