Having just started with mountaineering/hillwalking, I am having troubles with my muscular endurance, specifically in my calves and lower quads, which in the summer months cramp up a lot. My cardiovascular fitness is good as I’ve been training for about 4 days a week for 5 years, however this has been strength/bodybuilding weightlifting training which is not suitable at all! Whilst I don’t want to stop my current training for fear of losing my progress, I’d like to be able to improve the trouble areas. This issue here is time. I have added 10 mins of High intensity interval training (HIIT) on a watt bike, and 10 mins on the stair master as I only have 20 mins to spare on top of what I’m already doing (around 1.5 hours of intense weight training) I’m not certain this will be much use as the aerobic aspect is pretty much non existent to what I’ve been reading online.
Has anyone here got any better suggestions on what I can do within the 20 minute time frame to really make a difference in the hills?
Thanks in advice for any suggestions!
The big clue is in your first sentence:
> Having just started with mountaineering/hillwalking, I am having troubles with my muscular endurance, specifically in my calves and lower quads, which in the summer months cramp up a lot.
If it's a summer-only problem, that suggests that you're possibly not drinking enough whilst exercising during warm weather. So make sure that you're drinking enough throughout the day.
Stretches can also help.
Thanks Becky, yeah most likely the cause behind the cramps, I do sweat a lot! But still have fatigue issues and a heavy burn when it’s colder, Any exercise suggestions for the gym?
Well, they always say that the best training for climbing mountains is to climb mountains.
In the absence of a mountain in the gym, I imagine some time on a ramped treadmill could be useful.
Hydration sounds an issue. Remember salts are an important part of hydration.
Bang yourself up some stairs with a heavy pack. Hotels are good. Take the lift back down to save your knees.
The usual cause of cramp is asking your muscles to do something that they are not trained to do. Hydration will play apart but if all you are doing is 90 minutes weight training then trying to walk 15 miles in the hills no wonder you get cramp. You need to gradually increase your endurance by doing longer and longer walks with maybe shorter walks at faster pace than normal.
It's a difficult one to answer with the limited information, but you might be better just doing 20 minutes of solid Stairmaster to hone in on the quads and calves to mimic the climbing movement.
One thing to take into consideration, if you have been doing resistance training and you are now quite muscular, then your cardio endurance might not be as good as you require. Pumping the blood/oxygen around the body for prolonged periods of time at a steady rate will be something it is not used to.
Depending on your overall goals, it might be worth taking out a further 20 minutes of strength training for a total of 40 mins cardio. Maybe consider this the 5 weeks leading up to the 'summer walking season' so you aren't sacrificing gains elsewhere.
As others have said, hydration is also important in the summer, remember to rehydrate, not just water but also electrolytes lost in your sweat - consider dissolving a couple of grains of Himalayan Pink salt into your water for these.
I think your pretty much bang on, I’ll be trying just the stair master for 20 mins now and up the pace as much as I can, if I want to push it any further I’ll just have to re-consider my training priorities, but as I’m on the south coast I’ll probably only get to the mountains once every few months or so.
I’ll also be paying more attention to electrolytes in the future!
Do you guys see much value in HIIT training for mountaineering at all?
Mountaineering means a pace and effort you can sustain, all day or even for several days so you are still functioning physically and mentally at the end. Otherwise you are heading for a whole heap of trouble down the line..
HIIT would seem to be the opposite. By all means incorporate some into a training programme but it's a bit like training for a marathon by doing sprint intervals
I wouldn't think about it as "training" in the sense you train for weights etc. Forget the gym stuff, it doesn't help. Just go out mountaineering and walking and build up.
Many people try to go too fast, this may be your issue along with dehydration. Walk at a pace that you can hold a conversation, the mountain isn't going anywhere fast! Don't think of it as a "sport" with times to beat, think of it as a nice day out with good views and hopefully good company.
Find any gym with a stair master.
Rolling steps , for hill training it's impossible to beat, other than real hills. It's not flat/shallow like a tread mill and you can't just rock from side to side like many step machines. Ideally get your balance and go without hands as well. Ideally 1hr three times a week and you'll be cruising up hills in no time at all. But even 5 mins warm up, 10min killing it then 5mins cool down is better than nothing.
> Many people try to go too fast, this may be your issue along with dehydration.
Sweat management. You should feel a little cold stood still in the car park waiting, if you are toasty warm before you set off you'll likely melt while ascending. Then have a layer to put on later once the work is done. Layers and pit zips work wonders.
> I think your pretty much bang on, I’ll be trying just the stair master for 20 mins now and up the pace as much as I can, if I want to push it any further I’ll just have to re-consider my training priorities, but as I’m on the south coast I’ll probably only get to the mountains once every few months or so.
> I’ll also be paying more attention to electrolytes in the future!
> Do you guys see much value in HIIT training for mountaineering at all?
Paying more attention to electrolytes will get you no where. The reason you get cramp is you are not fit enough to sustain the effort you are putting out.
As others have said more mountaineering and less time on the weights is the way forward.
There's a reason why Mo Farrah doesn't look like Usain Bolt.
If you want to train for the hills you'll have to completely re-structure your training. It seems you're mainly building fast twitch muscle fibres and your aerobic system is geared towards high intensity short efforts while what you need is lots of slow twitch muscle fibres and an aerobic system which can cope with long efforts at a slower pace. I know high intensity workouts can be quite addictive but they are of little use in mountaineering, even high level technical mountaineering.
If I'm training for Scottish winter or Alpine routes most of that training will be long hours walking uphill with a pack on or long mountain bike routes on hilly terrain. Long runs at a slow pace will also be good (although due to injuries I can no longer run). Think a minimum of 2 hours of constant effort. If you're training for hill walks then you're probably strong enough already, by all means keep strength training but knock it down to once a week and work on endurance for the rest. If you're training for mountaineering and some bits are too hard then pick easier routes and work on your strength on single pitch.
Some one once asked on here if they could train for the Alps with kettle bells. The best reply was that they should put them in a rucksack and walk up a hill. I'm afraid either the gym will suffer for the hills or the hills will suffer for the gym, there's very little you can do in 20 mins.
Reminds me of when I was hiking in the Sierra Nevada in Spain, we saw a couple walking down one path, the man was carrying a kettle bell in one hand. It did look a bit odd.
Have a look at the book 'Training for new alpinism.' There's a shift in thoughts on training for mountaineering and this leans towards the new style training.
Another recommendation for Training for the New Alpinism here, and the complementary book Training for the Uphill Athlete. With your training history avoid HIIT like the plague.
Their website Uphill Athlete is a goldmine of free supporting information. You sound like a classic case of Aerobic Deficiency Syndrome. Try a heart rate drift test on a treadmill with a a monitor on. You will be amazed at how low your Aerobic Threshold is, but you have to start somewhere.
Some really useful pointers from everyone, I’ll be looking into that book and the uphill athlete link, and see how I can work longer walks into my weekly routines!
I generally agree that the idea of long steady cardio training, particularly with gradient, is good but don't neglect core strength and flexibility work. 20 mins in the gym on, say, alternate days to steady cardio work where you concentrate on core and stretching will help, particularly as you get older. Helps recovery as well. It's a neglected area. The attitude of training for your sport by doing your sport is fair enough, but if that's all you do you'll miss out key conditioning that will help. Good core helps, for example, with balance and carry a rucsac. Also, whatever you do make sure it's something you enjoy. Otherwise you'll stop. Good luck.
So now you need to develop core muscles in order to go for a walk carrying a rucksack.
Well you learn something everyday.
Now, now, you know full well I didn't say that. We're all capable of making our own decisions. Do what you want. But core strength and good flexibility definitely help, particularly as you age. Just offering up some advice for someone who asked from someone who has experience.
My usual activity regime consists of weight training, road cycling and bouldering often on 45 degree board. Which I believe might give me reasonable core strength.
However I’ve never felt it helped me walk any easier up hill.
I dare say it does. And I've had a long term back problem and feel that it definitely helps me. My point being that we all have our own experiences and advice. And the OP will no doubt find their own way by trial and error as we all do. There's no need to be sarcastic though as you were clearly being in your first response when I'm just offering up some advice from my own experience.
> However I’ve never felt it helped me walk any easier up hill.
If I may dip in an un-asked for oar here, the Training for the New Alpinism book mentioned above is quite emphatic on the usefulness of a strong core for all manner of active pursuits - that's core as in the 'central connecting and stabilising muscles' rather than 'wondrous six-pack' core.
Possibly your own core hasn't felt like it's helped you walk up hills because it's strong already and not struggling to cope with what's asked of it
But you still need to walk a lot to get better or fitter at it. Which goes for any activity.
A statement which most of us on this thread clearly agree with, which is nice. A good way to start the weekend.
> you still need to walk a lot to get better or fitter at it
True. And Steve House bangs on about that possibly most of all
you might want to drop some of the pure weight lifting and substitute with 20-30 minutes using a step box and 12kg pack start easy - 20 step ups, rest 30 seconds, repeat for the time. Extend this until you’re doing 50-100 continuous step ups with the pack. Combine with a couple sets of 10 lunges, straight into 10 jumping lunges then 5 body weight squat jumps
Uphill Athlete has some good info on this stuff
As someone whose fitness comes about 90% from road cycling I can tell you that gym work (or cycling) is no substitute for getting out and walking over real terrain with all the changes in angle and texture that help to build up good all-round strength and tone. Your muscles will gain strength fast if you stress them but your skeletal system takes much longer to adapt to increased stress and gym and cycling work are almost completely limited to the set of muscles that you happen to be exercising at the time, so not very good for building that ancillary muscle and joint strength that you need for stability over rough terrain.
As a cyclist I also know a bit about nutrition for endurance sports and can recommend that you buy maltodextrin, which is pure carbohydrate, from Myprotein.com and mix it in your drink bottle. In warm weather drop in an electrolyte tablet, there are loads available and the ones by SIS are as good as any. You can of course buy fancy sports drinks but pure maltodextrin is what's needed.
> but as I’m on the south coast I’ll probably only get to the mountains once every few months or so.
How about some long fast walks on the South Downs Way? It is plentifully supplied with steep hills. OK, that's going to take a bit more than 20 minutes.
Can I ask what the gym training is for? Are you training to get bigger / lift heavier weights / look ripped, or are you using the gym to train for climbing / mountaineering?
Also, to improve CV endurance, would commuting by bike be an option? (2nd best to working at the top of a hill and walking there, but better than sitting in a car)
Italian climber Stefano Ghisolfi has made the second ascent of Adam Ondra's 2012 route Change 9b+ in the Hanshelleren Cave in Flatanger, Norway after spending one month over two trips attempting the line.