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How should I train for Mont Blanc without further injuring myself?

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 montyjohn 10 May 2022

I'm aiming to climb Mont Blanc in early/mid July.

My training was based around short (circa 2 mile) runs on very hilly terrain (once or twice per week) and hikes (half day or full day) once a week on the weekend. I was making great gains, and it was going really well.

I've had a bit of a set back however.

I bought some very comfortable pricey trail running shoes in the hope to make life more comfortable and allow me to push that bit harder, expect they broke me.....

After using them twice on short runs I'm now suffering with Mortons Neuroma (nerve injury) in the ball of the foot. Never had it before, and apparently it's unlikely to just go away. Whilst painful, I've found that targeted exercises and massages removes 90% of the pain making it quite manageable.

This has left me unable to run, or at least unwilling, as I don't want to risk further injury.

Instead, I've just this week started slowly building up my hikes. A short 2 mile hike yesterday, and the same today. Foot feels ok, so far so good. I've also started doing step ups. 2 minutes yesterday, 4 minutes today. Really building it up slowly.

With only 9 weeks left to go, I want to be really careful to not injure myself again. I can't afford another problem.

I'm hoping in a couple of weeks to be hiking half day hikes again.

Also plan on building up my step ups to include backpack and weights on ankles (I'm thinking 2kg per ankle).

So far these two exercises don't seem to be aggravating my foot and are unlikely to result in any new weird unheard of injuries as far as i can tell

I'm also doing a bit of rock climbing. This probably doesn't help with Month Blanc, but I want to do it so tough.

Are there any other suggestions for training without causing injuries to myself given the limited time left available to me?

The plan is to do the Trois Monts Route. Almost all snow, fairly steep, short sections with axe use.

Post edited at 15:45
 DaveHK 10 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

Do you have a bicycle?

OP montyjohn 10 May 2022
In reply to DaveHK:

> Do you have a bicycle?

I do, but it wouldn't really help. It's a very low geared trials bike with no seat (by design)

1
 Rob Parsons 10 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

I've never trained by running or anything. You want good aerobic fitness for mountaineering - so getting out hill-walking every weekend would do it. Carry a heavy sack.

If you can't walk far, you're f*cked for that of course.

 Mark Haward 10 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

Do what you can walking without injuring yourself. Maybe borrow a bike since yours is not suitable or go to a 'spin' gym if you can. Plus, have plans b,c, d ready just in case. You may need to change your objectives for this year - plenty of short easily accessible routes to further build your knowledge and skills

In reply to montyjohn:

Do you have access to a gym?

I climbed Mont Blanc back in 2019 and did a big chunk of my training on a stairmaster in the gym.

The vast majority of walking up the Blanc is slow uphill plodding in cut out snow steps, so a stairmaster, although fairly boring will serve the purpose and hopefully avoid further injury from running.

 BruceM 10 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

And don't be too hung up on only doing Mont Blanc right now.  Chamonix is a cool place to be whatever happens!

Even if you can't walk at all, you could still use a lift to get up high and roll around in the mountain air.

I'm serious about that, as both my partner and I -- who both basically live only for the mountains -- have been downed several times (for long periods) by crippling foot/leg issues.  You can still have a great time.

If you are in it for the long term, you have to expect to be down sometimes by injury/degeneration.  And Mont Blanc isn't THAT great/special in the entire world of mountains.

Having said all of that: best of luck with your injury.  We know how you feel.

Post edited at 19:47
In reply to BruceM:

> Mont Blanc isn't THAT great/special in the entire world of mountains.

Mont Blanc is the finest, highest and most complex mountain in Europe with by far the greatest collection of varied routes on it. Even the Voie Normales are classics of their type with only the crowds to detract.

 BruceM 10 May 2022
In reply to Robert Durran:

Yes   But, if your body or otherwise doesn't allow it, there are many other fine places to be.

 ExiledScot 10 May 2022
In reply to BruceM:

+1, stair master step machine is the only machine or indoor workout I've found that work well, especially if disciplined and you don't lean on your arms. A hour of ascending or efforts is brutal. 

Post edited at 20:51
In reply to BruceM:

> Yes   But, if your body or otherwise doesn't allow it, there are many other fine places to be.

Of course🙂

 jasonC abroad 10 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

I have Mortons Neuroma as well, I've been using ice packs and doing some exercises such as calf raises, toe stretches and various other small exercises/stretches for the feet (worth googling if you haven't).   It seems to be getting better but I've only done small 2-3 hour walks and have been fine.  I think your approach is the right one, keep going slowly.  I've not tried using any weight but have been doing some one legged calf raises and also just balancing on one leg.

This is my second bout of it, I didn't get it diagnosed the first time but not going hiking for 6 weeks and starting slowly again sorted it out, but doing some jumping jacks in an effort to increase overall fitness brought it back, but I guess a long period of rest is not an option for you.

Good luck

OP montyjohn 11 May 2022
In reply to jasonC abroad:

I'm gad to hear it's manageable for you, at least when taking it easy. Hope t continues to improve.

> toe stretches and various other small exercises/stretches for the feet (worth googling if you haven't)

Yes, it seems there's plenty of physio therapists in YouTube that are willing to share the exercises. I'm sure I'm not aware of all of them yet, but will keep researching.

> This is my second bout of it, I didn't get it diagnosed the first time but not going hiking for 6 weeks and starting slowly again sorted it out, but doing some jumping jacks in an effort to increase overall fitness brought it back

Oh no. I definitely feel like I want to avoid any impact exercises. I haven't had mine diagnosed, but I have all the symptoms and respond exactly as suggested to the treatments so I have no doubts as to what it is. And to be honest, with all the information out there, I'm not exactly sure what further benefit a physio could provide, especially since the Dr Google treatment is working well for me. 

> I guess a long period of rest is not an option for you.

Exactly. I'm confident this will be workable however. I've been experimenting with different shoes I own and out of all of them, my winter boots aggravate it the least which is encouraging. So provided I can build my strength and endurance without aggravating it I'll be on to a winner.

OP montyjohn 11 May 2022
In reply to Ben_Climber:

> Do you have access to a gym?

> I climbed Mont Blanc back in 2019 and did a big chunk of my training on a stairmaster in the gym.

There are plenty near me but I really don't enjoy gyms.

If step ups have a similar result to stair-master I'd rather do them in my garden. I generally find I love the mountaineering, but find the training really tedious, so always try and do something I enjoy. This was the thinking around hill running. May not be the best targeted exercise but I enjoyed it (well I did). 

OP montyjohn 11 May 2022
In reply to BruceM:

> And don't be too hung up on only doing Mont Blanc right now

I'm confident I can make this work. I just need to be careful. My winter boots don't appear to be aggravate my foot, so provided I can get in shape I believe I will be fine.

In reply to Ben_Climber:

Stairmaster while wearing ankle weights, long sessions (not short fast) = win

 ExiledScot 11 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

> There are plenty near me but I really don't enjoy gyms.

> If step ups have a similar result to stair-master I'd rather do them in my garden. I generally find I love the mountaineering, but find the training really tedious, so always try and do something I enjoy. This was the thinking around hill running. May not be the best targeted exercise but I enjoyed it (well I did). 

The stair master works so well because it's rotating steps, you literally have to push your body weight up every step. So many machines you can just rock hips left to right, mini calf raises or lean on the bars, there's no escape on a stair master. The bonus for you is it's non impacting. You should explore podiatry and proper inner soles, as your condition is often linked to metatarsalagia and lack of arch or mid foot support. 

In reply to montyjohn:

I've had neuromas between my 2nd and 3rd toes for a while now. And have similar training goals atm.

Eventually had a cortisone injection which definitely helped initially. Once I up'ed the volume of running the pain returned a bit but much less and I'm able to continue.

One hack that really makes a difference is putting some tissue or cotton wool between the toes to separate the metatarsals causing the pain. I use some tape to position it. Has been much more effective than metasarsal pads. Also metatarsal specific insoles and lacing my running shoes from the penultimate eyes at the bottom to allow the foot to spread as much as possible.

Post edited at 10:05
 ExiledScot 11 May 2022
In reply to Steve5543:

You can get rubber spacers for just next to the big toe, between all toes, or to just sit under toes to lift then, I've found foot exercises help too. Claw foot, or a V space of toes spreading is a common associated problem. 

 wercat 11 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

then you need a bike that will help   I find cycling an enormous aid to hill fitness though it doesn't seem to work the other way so much!  I always used cycling in preparation for the Alps, as well as walking to the top of Skiddaw etc carrying about 10-12 litres of water, which of course you don't have to carry down!

 Jim blackford 11 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

cycling is really underrated for alpine training. It might not be "specific" to the kind of muscles you are going to be using when climbing, but its a great way to get loads of time at 60-70% Max Heart Rate with minimal injury risk. 

I have a friend who sets fastest known times on alpine routes etc and 90% of his training is cycling. 

 henwardian 11 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

Buy an altitude training mask and just keep doing everything else you are doing with it on. Les Trois Monts is a long day but for someone who is fairly fit it will only be the altitude that is the problem.

2
 johnlc 11 May 2022
In reply to henwardian:

> Buy an altitude training mask and just keep doing everything else you are doing with it on. Les Trois Monts is a long day but for someone who is fairly fit it will only be the altitude that is the problem.

I had never heard of an altitude training mask before.  A quick google has revealed lots of pictures of boxers and people looking silly in gyms.  Are these really a credible thing to use?  What is the idea behind them?

OP montyjohn 11 May 2022
In reply to johnlc:

> Are these really a credible thing to use?  What is the idea behind them?

I have no experience using one, but from a quick read it would appear they provide a restriction making it more difficult to breath. This in turn improves the strength of your breathing muscles.

The idea is that it allows you to take in more air when you're not wearing it due to these improved muscles.

Testing in 2016 showed that runners can go for longer before needing to breath heavily or accumulating lactics after training with one. Apparently it was a 15% improvement which is pretty impressive.

Whilst there does seem to be a benefit for high intensity activities like running, I'm not clear if it actually helps with altitude. It's not lowering the atmospheric pressure in your lungs. It's this reduction in oxygen and carbon-dioxide in your lungs which triggers your body to produce more red blood cells and blood vessels.

So I believe the masks will help you to get fit, but it won't help with acclimatization.

At least that's what I can gather.

In reply to Jim blackford:

I think I'd posted on these forums before, that I received pretty much the same you just posted (with some further details) some years ago from a highly accomplished Alpine and Himalayan mountaineer. It didn't seem to gain much enthusiasm here though, which I don't understand

 tingle 11 May 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

Did you have a physio or doctor diagnose you? I had so many issues with the ball of my feet but it stemmed from fallen arches, which is something else that doesn’t go away but is soothed with orthopaedics. Just planting the thought in case it can help you with your training plan.  

In reply to montyjohn:

Pretty much any question around what training should I do, which exercise should I do, how many, how long etc etc the question needs to be asked... what are your goals

Given you stated you aim to climb Mont Blanc (Trois Monts) I guess that might be described more granularly as as the goal is to develop:

* excellent overall endurance for a very long day (this is overall energy systems/liver/etc as well as cardio/muscular

* muscular endurance for the activity above for wearing boots (heavier than normal footwear)

* general conditioning for walking up/down hills

I'd say that the core of your training needs to be heavily biased towards lower intensity cardio (LISS) and only a smaller proportion of high intensity training. So things like a mask that restrict breathing may help your HIIT type cardio it may impede your ability to train very long LISS sessions and so be counterproductive for your goals. Get a mix of 40-60 minute harder sessions and >90 min (much more if you can) easier sessions. Consider stairmaster wearing ankle weights, hill walking, long slow jogging on the flat (if not aggravating your injuries), cycling! and as many long rucksack walks as you can get done.

Consider reading https://uphillathlete.com/product/training-for-the-new-alpinism-book/

That's my 2p worth. Enjoy

Post edited at 16:41
 henwardian 11 May 2022
In reply to johnlc:

Makes it harder to breathe. In all honesty I've not used one and don't know how effective they are but I did a quick google and this suggested there is a fair bit of evidence that they have some effectiveness.

I was starting from the premise of "altitude will be the problem" and following up with "he doesn't sound like he'd like the spend £50k on a hypobaric chamber or spend the next few months with monks on the Tibetan plateau" so that's what I came up with

 johnlc 12 May 2022
In reply to henwardian:

I like your answer!  Thanks for replying.

In reply to henwardian:

So the way to get good at altitude is just to go around wearing a mask for a couple of years. Oh, wait a minute.....


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