Month: August 2012

My Training Log from Elbrus

Here are some examples of what I’ve been doing the past few weeks while training for Elbrus. The following is only the cardio segment of each day so that you can get an idea of what type and amount of cardio I do while training for a big mountain.

Running on Incline Treadmill
Treadmill Running at 5 AM while the family sleeps

Note: ITM = NordicTrack Incline Treadmill (-6% – +40% inclination)

July 30
ITM: [123′ – mostly 6.0 mph]
2.34 mi – 24:00 – 1% – (5.85 ave.) – [10:15 pace] – 123.552′ – (309/5.15 vert per hour/minute)

Ski Erg:
L5 – 06:00 – 983 meters – 6.108 mph – 9:49 min/mi – 2.731 meters/second

July 31
Freestrider: 24:00 – L10 – 3624′

ITM: [423′]
2.01 mi – 24:00 – 4% – (5.025 ave.) – [11:56 pace] – 424.512′ – (1061/17.69 vert per hour/minute)

August 1
ITM: [1542′]
1.12 mi – 40:00 – 27% – (1.68 ave.) – [35:43 pace] – 1596.672′ – (2395/39.92 vert per hour/minute)

Stairmaster: 40:00 – 75 spm – 2000′

ITM: [63′]
1.21 mi – 14:00 – 1% – (5.186 ave.) – [11:34 pace] – 63.888′ – (274/4.56 vert per hour/minute)

Ski Erg: L5 – 15:00 – 2420 meters – 6.015 mph – 9:59 min/mi – 2.689 meters/second

August 2
Trail Run: Big Baldy Traverse
4400′ (up and down) – 3:51 – 11.0 miles

August 3
ITM: [876′]
(1.81 mi – 46:00 – 5-10%)

August 4
ITM: [-685′]
(-2% – 74:37 – 6.50 mi – long intervals 5.0/6.0/6.5 mph +/- 20:00 ea)

August 5
Bike Ride: Keystone to Montezuma and back (Colorado)
1300′ (up and down) – 1:49 – 14.3 mi

Run to top of Olympus
Mountain Trail Run Ascent and Descent

August 7
ITM: [-749′]
7.10 mi – 72:30 – -2% – (5.876 ave.) – [10:13 pace] – -749.76′ – (-620/-10.34 vert per hour/minute)

August 8
I: 2:00
Starimaster: 70:00 – 75 spm – 3500′

Ski-Erg: L5 – 15:00 – 2263 meters – 5.625 mph – 10:40 min/mi – 2.514 meters/second
(circuit with abs, lats, pecs)

August 9
ITM: [577′]
5.50 mi – 66:15 – 2% – (4.981 ave.) – [12:03 pace] – 580.8′ – (526/8.77 vert per hour/minute)
really beat – unrecovered – legs empty but still managed some 1/4 mi. intervals of 7.0 and up

August 10
ITM: [5696′]
4.14 mi – 90:00 – 27% – (2.76 ave.) – [21:44 pace] – 5901.984′ – (3935/65.58 vert per hour/minute)

August 11
ITM: [-738′]
7.00 mi – 69:22 – -2% – (6.055 ave.) – [9:55 pace] – -739.2′ – (-639/-10.66 vert per hour/minute)

August 12
10:00 – 85 s/m – 566.67 ft. – 0.12 mi.
10:00 – 90 s/m – 600.00 ft. – 0.13 mi.
4:00 – 95 s/m – 253.33 ft. – 0.05 mi.
= 1420′

Jacob’s Ladder:
5:00 – 309′

Biggest Loser Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder Trainer

August 13
46:00 – 100 s/m – 3066.67 ft. – 0.65 mi.
ITM: [3435′]
2.50 mi – 50:00 – 27% – (3 ave.) – [20:000 pace] – 3564′ – (4277/71.28 vert per hour/minute)
Roughly Equal to Classic in 96:00

August 14
ITM: [-453′]
4.31 mi – 50:06 – -2% – (5.162 ave.) – [11:37 pace] – -455.136′ – (-545/-9.08 vert per hour/minute)

Freestrider: L8 – 44:00 – 7316′

August 15
ITM: [1244′]
.82 mi – 24:00 – 30% – (2.05 ave.) – [29:16 pace] – 1298.88′ – (3247/54.12 vert per hour/minute)

Stairmaster: 12:00 – 110 s/m – 880.00 ft. – 0.19 mi.

ITM: [1296′]
.86 mi – 24:00 – 30% – (2.15 ave.) – [27:54 pace] – 1362.24′ – (3406/56.76 vert per hour/minute)

Stairmaster: 6:00 – 120 s/m – 480.00 ft. – 0.10 mi.

3900’/4020 in 66:00

August 16
ITM: [161′]
1.54 mi – 26:06 – 2% – (3.54 ave.) – [16:57 pace] – 162.624′ – (374/6.23 vert per hour/minute)

August 17
Trail Run: ascent of Mount Olympus in Salt Lake City
4500′ (up and down) – 3:39 – 6.3 miles

Stairmaster Stepmill
Stairmaster Stepmill Training

August 19
ITM: [1000′]
.51 mi – 24:43 – 40% – (1.238 ave.) – [48:28 pace] – 1077.12′ – (2615/43.58 vert per hour/minute)

Jacob’s Ladder: 12:00 – 747′
Freestrider: 23:23 – L6 – 4000′ (FAST!)

August 20
ITM: [3600′]
1.84 mi – 63:25 – 40% – (1.741 ave.) – [34:28 pace] – 3886.08′ – (3677/61.28 vert per hour/minute)

Stairmaster: 34:00 – 80 s/m – 1813.33 ft. – 0.39 mi.

Trail Run: Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Utah County
1200′ (up and down) – 1:47 – 8.1 mi

August 21
ITM: [-527′]
5.00 mi – 58:54 – -2% – (5.093 ave.) – [11:47 pace] – -528′ – (-538/-8.96 vert per hour/minute)

August 22
ITM: [2725′]
1.80 mi – 72:02 – 30% – (1.499 ave.) – [40:01 pace] – 2851.2′ – (2375/39.58 vert per hour/minute)

August 25
Bicycling: Frisco to Vail Pass and return
1900′ (up and down) – 23.3 mi – 2:57

August 27
ITM: [10,700′]
7.78 mi – 162:04 – 27% – (2.88 ave.) – [20:50 pace] – 11091.168′ – (4106/68.44 vert per hour/minute)

August 28
Freestrider: L6 – 13:00 – 1868′

August 29
Stairmaster: 45:00 – 75 s/m – 2250.00 ft. – 0.48 mi.

Core Week – Standing Side Abs with Barbell

You need to work your obliques, including the abs on the side. Bending side to side is a pretty good way to train your core and improve strength that applies to mountaineering, like picking up your really heavy pack, lifting a sled over a crevasse lip, digging out a tent platform.

The instructions for this one are pretty simple. In my case I like to use a barbell for the instability, but you could use something more compact and stable, like a kettlebell, dumbbell or weight plate. I grab the middle from a mid-thigh position off a rack, straighten my back and shoulders for good posture, then dip the bar up and down, lower and lift, pulling with my side muscles.

I avoid tilting my hip, bending my elbow and wrist, so that the force is applied better to the side ab muscles.

As for the other exercises, guard your back and joints, be careful, and really, you don’t need a lot of weight for this one. I usually use an empty bar (45 lb) for about 25 reps, but anything from 10 to 25 reps is good. These are tiny muscles overall, and don’t worry about bulking them up grotesquely – it would be really tough to do with a movement like this.

Core Week – Standing Band Ab Curls

The Standing Band Ab Curl is a pretty cool exercise for your core that works a lot harder than you would think. Gravity really doesn’t give you a boost, since you’d be pulling against the resistance from above and/or to the rear. Typically you’d use a little over-the-shoulder yoke hooked to a cable and a pulley to a weight stack, like in a lat tower. I prefer to use bands crossed over my chest. Pretty cheap and simple, and you can adjust the resistance by stepping forward or back as needed.

Lean into the bands and use your core to curl forward into a “C” shape, pulling your chest toward your knees. This can be as hard or easy as you like, but be careful not to go too heavy with bands that are thicker than you can handle. If you can’t make the curl correctly, you won’t get the best benefit from it. I also arch backward a bit at the top, but let your own flexibility and condition of your lower back be your guide to your range of motion.

I have my bands girth hitched to my power rack, but you can hang them from your door frame, or stair railing or something else convenient. If you do things like this a lot, you might consider a pullup bar that fits over a door or in the frame for the best multi-tasking opportunities.

Go easy on your back, be safe and in control. Steady and slow is the right way to progress for these. I’d say anything between 20 and 50 reps would be good. If you can’t do 20, then step back or use longer or thinner bands. If you are comfortable with the power to do sets of only 10, then I’d say 3 sets with about a minute of rest between. FWIW I normally do 2 sets of 25.

Core Week – Inverted Situp

So you want a set of six-pack abs? Or at least a strong core, which is probably more meaningful for ice climbing and hauling around an 85 lb pack while dragging a 45 lb sled (standard fare in Alaska). I really like this exercise – the inverted situp.

I do it a few different ways, but one of the easiest for me is on the Glute Ham Raise bench. If you go to a gym, there is probably some type of bench designed for inverted situps, or something you could improvise. At home you might be able to figure out how to use a deck or staircase, but don’t blame me if something goes horribly wrong…

Lock in your feet with the back of your knees up on the pad, and drop back down slowly and carefully. Use your core muscles to thrust/pull yourself up quickly, pause, and drop back down slowly to repeat for sets of 10 to 25 reps. This can be pretty intense for some people, and there might be minor risk of back and joint pain, so be careful and check with your health provider if you have any questions.

A couple of notes. I have a jacket under my knees so I can slide around a bit without sticking to the vinyl. At the bottom I almost touch the floor, so I hold my fingers out as feelers so I know how close I get without bonking my head. Don’t crank on your neck with your hands, in fact, don’t use them at all for any normal ab curl/crunch/situp motion. Especially be careful with your back in the extreme forward position like when I’m starting and stopping to free my feet (barely visible at the very beginning and end of the clip).

Core Week – Rotation Planks

Very simple and very effective – works your entire core, including your abs and obliques and the QL. I like to use something to take the stress off my wrists when I do planks. In the video below I’m using the Perfect Pushup handles to allow my wrists to stay in a neutral position and rotate a bit. I type and mouse for a living so that’s really important to me.

Just get down into a plank position with your feet wide and hands close, then put a hand up in the air above you, rotating into place off the balls of your feet, using your hips and shoulders to drive the motion. Gently return to the plank, switch hands and repeat on the other side.

For an ab exercise like this I recommend you do 10 on each side to begin and work your way up to 25 on each side. If that gets too easy you can elevate your feet, or suspend them in straps or bands to make it more difficult. Go slow, be careful, and protect your back and joints.

Core Week – Roman Chair Crunches

First up in this week of core movements is the Roman Chair Crunch. I have a Back Hyperextension/Roman Chair combination bench.

Roman Chair from the front
Roman Chair – Front
Roman Chair from the side
Roman Chair – Side

Hop up to sit on the large front pads with the large fleshy part of your hamstrings, and hook your ankles under the round foot pads.

Roman Chair with feet set
Place your feet under the pad – Roman Chair

Lean back carefully. If you’ve never done this before, or your abs are particularly weak, you should be very careful. You don’t need to go all the way back or down, just to level or parallel to the floor is fine. From there do a crunching motion. Bring your chest up toward your knees and lower back. With a good range of motion this would be like curling your spine into a c-shape and then flat again. In this little video clip I go a little below parallel, but not too much. Your own levels might be different from mine, either less or more as the case may be.

If you’re doing good at this, you might do sets of 15-25. If that doesn’t give you a burn in the abs, I wouldn’t recommend that you add weight, since your spine is hanging out there. Maybe a 10 pound plate held outward in your hands would be okay. Just be careful. Otherwise, slow down, concentrate on your core, find the burn there by contracting and pausing at the top and bottom.

Do be careful not to hang onto your neck and crank on it. Notice that my “cue” is my hands out in front of and barely touching my face. If your back or knees hurt or are noisy at all, this might not be a good option for you.

80 calories of frozen veggies


This is what 80 calories of frozen mixed veggies looks like. Add in 8 oz. of chicken breast for a 300 calorie meal that’s pretty good and good for you. I like Fajita Seasoning on it in the steamer.

Glute and Hamstring Training – Warmup

Recently on my Facebook page I linked to an article about Posterior Chain training. That’s a fancy phrase that powerlifters use to describe the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. These are basically the “pulling” muscles if you lay flat on the floor on your front and pull your knees off the ground and up behind you.

I mentioned that I normally trained these muscles hard, as they were majorly involved in mountaineering. Ryan of asked me for my opinions about why it was important, and while I gave a short answer on Facebook, I have a little more here.

Ryan from postholing in bottomless slush
Postholing requires strong balanced leg muscles. [Ryan from]

When walking uphill you normally place your foot out in front of you, then pull yourself over it. That’s the posterior chain working. When climbing vertical, either rock or ice, you place your foot higher, but generally under your body, then use mostly your quads to lift your body up over your foot. As your quads become more tired, you’ll have a tendency to stick your butt out some then pull it into the crag. That’s to roll off some of the work to your glutes and hamstrings. Of course that’s an over-simplification, but you get the drift. Another consideration is the agonist/antagonist balance. If your quads are too big for your hamstrings, you’ll be more likely to have injuries and pain, and they’ll most likely be manifest in your knees or hips – where the muscles from both groups attach. Most people like training their quads more than their hamstrings from my experience.

I made a couple videos of my Posterior Chain Warmups:

In this first video, I’m using a Back Hyper Extension bench. I keep my back fairly still, while hinging at the hips and as I hit the bottom and top, my hamstrings flex a bit. Since there isn’t much angle at the knees it’s an interesting difference, contracting a fully extended muscle. If you do this and don’t feel your hams and glutes firing at all, go slower and consciously squeeze your glutes at the top, and try to feel that squeeze all the way to your knees. If you look at the video as I come to the top, you’ll see my hamstrings flex some.

I usually do sets of 25 for this, since it’s really easy. YMMV.

In this second video, I’m doing one of those classic “not as intended” movements. The Glute Ham Raise bench is a powerlifting classic, and hard to find at most facilities except maybe some basement gyms. I can’t really see you getting away with taking ski poles into Gold’s or 24 hour, but this is just an idea. You can totally make do with the knee pads on a lat tower and a cardio step held out in front of you. Be creative. I am doing this move with the poles way out in front, similar to a core training move called a fallout (if done with straps) or rollout (if done with an ab wheel). I’m not putting a lot of weight on them, using them mostly for balance, and to give a little boost if I get tired so I don’t fall forward and snap my legs off at the knees.

I ride the poles out as far as I can go feeling sure I can get back up, then bring my butt back to over my heels, then do it again. The majority of the stress with this is at the fully extended position, and a little pause there is good. I normally do sets between 10 and 25 depending on what my training goals are for the day. If I’m doing 25 I don’t hang out to the front for as long a period, and use a little momentum to start my ride back. With sets of 10 I hang out there quite a while, and use a lot more hamstring to pull my butt back.

While I call these warmups, for some people just starting out who’ve never done serious hamstring or glute training, these might be a dang tough workout all on their own, so go slow, be careful, and be safe. Remember that anything you do is better than nothing you do.