Tag: cardio

Trail Running Fartlek Training

I went out this morning for some winter trail running. My goal for the current program was 4.2 miles. I figured I’d be able to crank that out even with some uphill walking in less than an hour depending on snow conditions. I started at a local pool parking lot, like usual. I had done some ice climbing the day before which required a mile approach with over 500′ of elevation gain hiking up a steep gully of rock and ice. I wasn’t sure how that would affect my trail running, so I was ready to just jog lightly if needed.

Spiked Trail Running Shoes
Spiked Trail Running Shoes: Hoka One One Mafate WP with screws

The first part of the road was slick ice over the surface. I was glad to be wearing my spiked trail running shoes [article]. They stuck to the ice and I didn’t feel at risk of falling at all. I ran to the gate, and through. The road surface was pretty icy for the first half mile, with long strips of ice-impregnated dirt showing through. My shoes stuck well. I was glad to be wearing them.

Trail Running in Keystone Colorado
Trail running up Keystone Gulch Road behind Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado

I actually felt really good. I did intervals up the road, choosing somewhat random targets. I ran to a fence post, or a stick along the shoulder, or a mottled shadow. Since you’re not at a track, trail running intervals don’t need to be structured as exact distances or times. This type of random-ish unstructured interval is called “Fartlek”.

Trail Running Fartlek

Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed varies, as the athlete wishes. Most fartlek sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes and can vary from aerobic walking to anaerobic sprinting. Fartlek training is generally associated with running, but can include almost any kind of exercise. From Wiki

I ran out 2.1 miles, my half-way point and rested for a minute and took some pictures. I started down, and felt like I was flying. I did a somewhat long trail running interval, and walked down till my heart rate was below 130, then took off flying again. Usually in winter trail running I slog along and just enjoy the scenery. I again set my distance target to various appealing looking sticks or trees or shadows or rocks. It was a struggle to get there sometimes, but it’s great mental discipline.

Trail Running at Keystone Gulch Road
Trail running turnaround point at 2.1 miles surrounded by snowcat tracks

I continued my trail running intervals to my “targets” and walking till my heart rate descended below 130 till I got to the gate. There were a couple guys skinning-up their skis, and someone walking a big dog. I walked past them so I wouldn’t scare them. My heart rate got below 120 for a couple minutes. I took off again on the ice-covered road to the parking area. I felt great. Since I set my new goal to do the Uber Rock 50k trail run in Vail this coming September I’ve adjusted my training program into something like “40 weeks to an ultra”. Trail running 30 miles up and down the mountains between Vail and Minturn will require that I be in the best of shape for it. I learned that in Aspen Backcountry Marathon in 2011. I survived. That about sums it up.

trail running stats on a gps hrm watch
Stats from my Polar RS800cx

Above is the result of my winter trail running fartlek session, via my Polar RS800CX GPS G5 Heart Rate Monitor. Oddly the intervals are mostly fairly regular. I didn’t do that intentionally. According to the Google Earth elevation profile I did 560′ up and down. I take into account stats from both Polar and Google. One is based on atmospheric pressure, the other on waypoint interpretation.

The temperature was about 15 degrees F, but in the sun it felt warm and in the shade cool. For winter trail running you have to dress for both the fast and slow portions of your run. You should feel a little bit warm while fast, and a little cool while slow. I had dressed for a slow trail running session, so I was really warm during the speed intervals. It was a bit too cool to unzip during them though. If you choose to go trail running in the winter, please be careful, dress appropriately to your own metabolism and running goals, and consider wearing spiked shoes or some detachable traction device.

Weighted Backpack Training – 60 lb pack

Weighted backpack training is almost essential for mountaineering success. Most types of climbing and hiking adventures require you to carry a backpack. If you train with a heavy backpack previous to your trip, you will most likely do better.

weighted backpack training is a necessity for alaskan mountaineering
Glacier travel in Alaska with 85 lb pack. It’s much easier if you train hard for it first.

I went in and put my bags through the x-ray, forgetting my passport in my bag, causing the poor door guards minor consternation, since I had to go past the gate to collect my passport, but could not pass the gate without one. We got it sorted out, and I went to the check in desk. My completely full backpack was only 14 kg. — Elbrus, My Waterloo (Seven Summits Quest)

Some mountaineers will have a few different backpacks for different conditions. Having one just for weighted backpack training probably won’t work for everyone. If you use the one you will be using for your trip, you will have a chance to work out any bugs or fitting issues. Begin with an empty backpack, with just an old pillow stuck in to keep it stable in use.

Hiking and Weighted Backpack Training – New Book “Rucking Simple Treadmill Training Guide” CLICK HERE

weighted backpack training begins with an empty pack
Start your workouts with a light pack and work your way higher and higher in weights

Over time you can add more and more weight as you improve endurance and strength. For my weighted backpack training I use bags of rice, since we usually have a few in the pantry. I double bag them in the disposable thin plastic shopping bags in case the paper rips. The rice is very close to the same density and feel as other backpacking gear. Slide it in near your back, and stuff another pillow between the rice (or beans, wheat, etc.) and the outside of the backpack. This will keep it from moving around while in motion.

Weighted Backpack Training helps you maneuver a heavy backpack
Be strong enough to hold your 45 lb pack off balance

When you get past 40 pounds or so, you’ll probably want to use something with more density. Unless you get a lot of rice or beans or get the 50 pound sacks if you can. Some people use gallon jugs of water. If you do a lot of weight training and have them handy and available, you can use weights. Steel plates, kettle bells, dumbbells, are all excellent additions to your weighted backpack training loads. Pad them well with pillows since they will have more inertia when you jostle in training. Just be very careful when setting the bag down. Dropping a ten pound bag of rice on your toe is very different from dropping a ten pound kettle bell on your toe.

Exclusive Offer: Hiking and Weighted Backpack Training PROGRAM HERE

weighted backpack training on a jacobs ladder machine can be risky
Be very careful if training on a cardio machine that requires you to lean in odd angles

If you have access to cardio machines, and it’s okay to use them for weighted backpack training, start slowly and be careful. Some machines, like the Jacob’s Ladder, can put your back at a dangerous angle. You might not be able to use as much weight on it. I like the Incline Treadmill the best, and just go steady and slow. I love the elliptical machines too, as it reduces greatly the impact you’ll feel while still providing a great leg workout. Set the resistance up high and go slow. This is more realistic for steep hiking. Stairmasters work good, and again, go slow. Also be sure you know how much you and the pack weighs so you can set it correctly. Most gyms have a scale that should go up to your weight plus the backpack.

New Article: Weighted Backpack Training On Stairs

Weighted Backpack Training Outside

Some people can just toss 24 pounds of rice in a backpack and walk 3 or 4 miles every day in their neighborhood. That’s probably good enough for most people and adventures, and it’s a great scenic workout. Some people can do a lot of hill climbing, or better yet, steep mountain trail ascents. If that’s the case consider using gallon jugs of water for weight. At the top you can dump the water on a handy needy shrub. This lightens the load to protect your knees on the downhill.

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Weighted backpack training can make hikes like Half Dome seem mild
Carry a daypack on a long hike

Weighted Backpack Training – What’s in the 60 lb pack?

Weighted Backpack Training Warnings

  • Don’t try so much to improve your speed and resistance. That’s nice and all, but your first priority in weighted backpack training is to increase the weight of the backpack. You can train up to a weight much higher than your anticipated on-mountain weight. This will make all your climbing feel a lot easier in general.
  • Be very careful and go slow. Putting on a heavy backpack can be difficult and a strain on back muscles that can cause damage or worse. If you start with a light pack and work your way up, you should be strong enough for each increase.
  • If you try to put your backpack on and just can’t do it, maybe that’s not the session for weighted backpack training. Relax and do something else.
  • Weighted backpack training is good for your core, but don’t try too hard. It’s potentially a lot of weight in a strange place at strange angles. Avoid hanging on for your life. If you have to, it means you have the machine set too fast.
  • In fact, mix it up. Do different machines, at different angles, at different speeds. Most hiking trails are a combination of things anyway. Try to avoid downhill under heavy load, just for knee and back safety.
  • I wear a tech tee under a cotton tee to provide resistance to the abrasion of the straps.

Good luck, and train safe. Only do what you are capable of safely.

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.

Ultimate Upper Body Cardio Training

Concept2 SkiErg Training

The moment I saw a clip of this in action, I knew this would be the most awesome training for low-angle ice, or glacier climbing ever. I think it was originally intended for cross country ski training, and having done some XC skiing way back in the day, I can see the benefit already. I am using poles for a lot of my vertical hiking – another perfect training application.

I ordered the wall-mount model direct from Concept2, and got the PM4 monitor (the higher end of the two monitors available). It took about a week to arrive. After hauling it down to my basement, it really took only a couple hours to assemble and install. Note that I do have exposed studs and no baseboard molding which might have helped it go faster. Also, advice to anyone else doing this – don’t tighten any screws on the sleeve in the middle of the main column until all the screws are started.

I decided to give it a few minutes spin to figure it out and see what I could do. The motion was simple enough, and after messing around I figured out various ways to stand for core activation, and balance and stability training. I’ve been training with it now for a little over a week, including the past 6 days after cracking 2 ribs. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t be doing this, but I can stabilize my core and relax it, using just my upper lats. I wish I could go now, but it will be a few weeks before I can try ice climbing again (4-6 weeks recovery for my ribs) to see if it helps. I’ll let you know.

After this I also did an experiment to extend my range of motion and then do a concentrated squeeze in my central back between my shoulder blades (rhomboid area). This short clip shows that.

Why Am I Doing This?

If you are interested in training at all, reading all the really good information in books, articles and forums on the net, you’ll see a lot of devoted fanboyz pushing their magic pills and formulas.

Train like a powerlifter. Olympic lifter. 400 Savage Paleo lifter. Functional. Bodybuilder. Complicated set and rep schedules that take software to figure out and track. Weakness Of the Day randomness.

You’ll also see them rip on each other. No bands, no gloves, or wraps, or straps. Metal suits, reduced Range Of Motion, maximum ROM. No machines, no cardio, no heat. Yeah.

So how do you wade through this morass? Think for a minute.

Why am I doing this?

Plank with feet on box
Plank with feet on Box

Yeah, think about it seriously. Why would you train like a Bodybuilder? You want to be a Bodybuilder. Why train like an Olympic Lifter? You want to be an Olympic Lifter. What about you? You want to go chop up Trojans? You want to set a PR in a Powerlifting Comp? You want to wheelbarrow race in bleachers with sacks of concrete? What do you want to do?

I’m assuming since you’re here, you want to climb mountains. What does that involve?

I feel like you should probably spend about 70% of your resources on cardio, and the remainder on weights. I’m not a big fan of “functional” and later I’ll explain why that works for me, but if you have a real, unimaginary issue, please put your 30% into that instead of weights for a few months, then evolve into weight training.

What type of weights should you do? What do you have, or have access to? A Glute Ham Raise is awesome, but it’s a rare gym you would probably belong to that has one, and it’s very expensive for a limited-use machine and the “bang-for-the-buck” is pretty low. Unless you’re shooting for a 500lb deadlift 😉

Wraps and straps and gloves? You’re training to climb a mountain, but you also have a life. You have to support your expensive mountaineering habit somehow, right? Gloves protect your hands from the knurling on the bar, so you can type or whatever it is you do. Wrist and finger muscles are tiny. They take a long time to develop for most people. If your fingers can only do three reps with the weight that your big muscles can do ten of, you need straps. If weak wrists are the only thing preventing you from doing pushups, then get your wrists wrapped.

Olympic Lifts are dynamic, complicated chains of events in 3D paths. You can hurt yourself very badly by missing a perfect arc. Search youtube for dislocated olympic lifters – these are the best in the world too. In a normal mountain climbing environment, you should never have to do anything involving major swings, leaps, or anything else plyometric. Vertical Limit aside …

Bodybuilding? Ten sets of every single little muscle every day is a bit much, in time and recovery. You should think about having a little bit more mass, but not so much that you are too big and heavy to get around. Muscles are a great fat-burning furnace to keep you warm and efficient as a cardio machine. A little strength is good for dragging packs around, lifting them onto your back, chopping steps in a headwall, cutting out a tent platform, digging a snow cave. Yeah, the fun stuff.

So, in this article I’m not telling you what to do, or what works, but rather to guide you in your search for knowledge to look at the big picture. Knowing your long-term goals of fitness and health, as you read articles and training programs, and ask yourself:

Does this make sense in the context of training for mountaineering?

Remember, you’re not training for a specific sport, like Power or Olympic Lifting. So who cares if you use bands or wraps or straps or chains? Who cares if you use a large or small range of motion? Heavy or moderate or light weights? A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, without getting hung up in dogma. It’s all good if it helps you achieve your goal.

These are all just little examples, to give you a jumpstart. Think about it for yourself. Be smart.

Training Report for November 2011

For November I increased my weight training a bit. My own personal opinion is that during the cold and dark winter months the body naturally goes into a form of anti-hybernation. You sleep more and eat more. Optimum conditions for gaining muscle mass. So I upped my weight training.

For weights right now I’m doing some good basics:

  • Front Squats
  • Box Squats
  • Straight Leg Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Military Press
  • Front Row
  • High Row
  • Low Row
  • Pulldown

Along with some limited accessory movements:

  • Facepull
  • Haney Shrug
  • Seated Calf Raise
  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Raise

Later I’ll post my set/rep plan if you’re curious at all.

For cardio, I’m still working on the Maffetone plan, riding Zone 2 on my Polar FT80 HRM which for me is between 130 and 140 bpm. Very tough to do, but I’m figuring it out, and committed to 3 months overall to see if it does work. Haven’t run any stats on it yet, and I don’t know intuitively yet either. I wrote a post about the Maffetone plan HERE. I’m mostly riding the treadmill right now, averaging about 20 miles a week of running and walking mixed. I’m working toward either growing to 30-ish miles, or incorporating other crosstraining cardio into the blend.

One important event that occurred is that the garage, even with an insulated roof, dropped below 50 degrees, the temperature at which my electronics start to go nuts. On the agenda is insulating the walls and doors, which might extend the season some, but without a heat source, it will eventually drop. That’s a major project, maybe someday.

I have a treadmill in the basement, but it’s right under the cold air intake for the furnace – tons of fun till you’re warmed up 😉 I have permission to bring some of my stuff in, and maybe I’ll build a really cool Home Cardio Theater out of it, if I can spare some time. If I do, I’ll post progress reports on it, to keep you in the loop, if anyone is interested.