Hi Mark,

I was hoping to ask you a few questions with regards to your current thoughts on training for alpine climbing. I have your book "Extreme Alpinism" and have followed the schedule you outline in the book before a previous trip to great effect, however since discovering your site gymjones, and from that being introduced to crossfit I have found much greater benifits from embracing short intense efforts and functional movements over high volumes of endurance and isolated 'sport specific' weights routines.

Following a forced period away from alpine climbing due to work I am now in a position where I can start planning and training for my next trips. Common sense along with reading about your own experiences and others convinces me that short duration workouts I have been doing through crossfit will not adequately prepare a climber for long duration efforts. While your program in extreme alpinsim got me fit for the mountains I am unwilling to give up on the benifits I have experienced through shorter more intense efforts.

I have tried to find the answers to my questions through researching the schedules on gymjones but your own training seems to be adapted to your cycling goals and people like Steve House seem to no longer have workouts posted on gymjones (not to mention that I am a world away from fitting the same training requirements as steve)

It seems that both anaerobic threshold work and power can be obtained from a "crossfit" style program but that what is lacking is both economy of movement and training the ability to utilise fat as an energy source, both derived from extended low intesity efforts. Obviously sport specific climbing training also needs to be considered.

So how would you currently train if you were still an active alpine climber with a possible 1-2 holidays available for big expeditions per year? Would you still reccomend a 2 cycle a year periodised schedule, but adapted to include "crossfit" style workouts, or a continuosly varying program incorporating more extended efforts as the climbing trip draws near?

Answer

No time, so this will have to be brief. Review what I wrote here about "recovering" endurance.

Randomized, high intensity training works for the general public, and to develop a foundation in deconditioned athletes. Once the foundation is built, formal, more specific training may begin. And specific, cyclic focus must begin if you have a specific objective that requires not merely fitness but technical skill and efficiency as well.

Scheduled peaks (periodization) are required for higher level athletes. Older athletes for whom recovery is more important than younger, i.e. there must be an off-season, also benefit from periodization.

We don't post much of the endurance training because it doesn't take place in the gym and few are interested. Fewer still are actually willing to do what is required -- most are quite satisfied to define endurance as anything approaching one hour duration.

This spring I trained for the bike, and for climbing simultaneously. Went to McKinley and summitted twice in three days from 14,000 with clients. I'm shit on the bike now about a schedule of progressive training (strength and power cycles from October to end of January, topped off with power-endurance in February and then more specific endurance in March and April) worked just fine.

As you have noted, doing only short, hard efforts can't prepare you for anything of meaningful duration. I beileve it's even worse than not working: this sort of training easily tricks you into thinking you ARE fit for endurance. But it does not exist in a vacuum: the training is affecting and modifying everything that came before.

"Crossfit", whatever it is, appears to work better than ... better than whatever it is compared to because if one used to do something different then any change will cause progress. Everything works, for a while. Specificity works, at a price. Looked at over a long enough time-line CF trains only one energy system. While that energy system certainly contributes in the mountains it is not the dominant system.

House is training over 800 hours annually. If one can't do that then knowing what he's doing isn't useful apart from saying you can be sure it is not at all random and he aims for two peaks per year.

The work for the bike is not so different than work for alpinism or any endurance type effort. If you understand the general layout of the training year, which it seems you do, and you know yourself and understand the requirements of a particular objective the rest is "easy". We tend to get hung up on details that only confuse us, slowing progress. Learn the philosophy. Learn the hard, certain rules. Then fill in the middle.

Best of luck,
Mark

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