Tag: training programming

Treadmill Interval Workouts

Have I mentioned several times already that I really like treadmill interval workouts? I wrote an article [HERE] in response to an article in Runner’s World recommending against doing treadmill interval workouts. Here’s a sample:

They claim that in order to bail you need to push buttons, whereas on the track you just slow to a stop. Well, to make it apples to apples, I think you’d need to just stop moving your legs on the track to see what happens. Just kidding, don’t do that. When it comes to bailing, all you have to do is grab the handles and jump up on the frame. It takes a half of a second. – Stay Injury Free on the Treadmill (SevenSummitsBody on Blogger)

I also discuss a few treadmill form tips and how to stay motivated and beat boredom if you want to go read that article.

treadmill interval workouts on an Incline Treadmill
Treadmill Interval Workouts on an Incline Treadmill at 5 AM while the family sleeps – 2013

Back to Back Treadmill Interval Workouts

That’s what I did today, March 27, 2014. First I got on the treadmill set at 3%, did about 15 minutes of warming up at up to about 4.5 MPH (MPH easier to use on treadmills than Pace). I did a test interval of a few minutes at 6.0 MPH followed by walking at 4.0 MPH. Keep in mind that my treadmill is at 9,400′ and that I’m 54 years old. My 100% HR (based on the 220-AGE formula) is 166 BPM. I did two Anaerobic Threshold workouts already this week [EXPLANATION] and one 75% zone workout. I am not recovered from those. That will explain a little bit about the numbers to come.

After my warm-up and cool-down I did an interval of 6.0 MPH followed by 4 intervals at 6.6 MPH. I was using a very simple 1:00/1:00 pattern. A minute high and a minute low. I stayed low then for a few minutes, since I hit my 100% level and needed a short break. I prefer a bit of flexibility which is why I don’t program in an interval training session in the presets.

I then did 3 intervals of (1:00 @ 6.8 / 2:00 @ 4.0). That’s one minute at 6.8 MPH and two minutes at 4.0 MPH. I walked most of the lower speed rests for these last three. At that point, my last glance at the treadmill was that I had gone just under 50:00, like 49:34 and 3.668 miles. I accidentally pulled the safety magnet off the console and it zero’ed out and stopped. Dang. I hate that. I need to superglue the magnet on. Drat. So I rounded it to 49:00 and 3.7 miles for my stats.

I raised the deck on my NordicTrack Incline Treadmill to 32% and began walking at 2.0 MPH. Immediately I realized something was wrong and I was running at what I guessed was about 4.0 MPH. At 32% that’s running. Try it and see. Anyway, I checked the readout and it said I was going 2.0 MPH. I slowed it to 1.0 MPH but still was running at 4.0 MPH. I stopped it and continued running as the belt kept moving. Then I unplugged the treadmill to reboot. This happened before once. The controller forgets to add tension to the motor so it’s nearly freewheeling at a very steep angle.

After the reboot everything was back to normal so after a too-long delay I got it up and running and began to walk on that steep incline at 2.0 MPH. Averaging 2.0 MPH at 32% is approximately 1000 VAM. My primary goal right now is Elbrus Race 2014 so working the VAM is essential to my training. [CLICK HERE] for an explanation if you’d like to know more.

After 9:00 @ 2.0 I did 1:00 @ 1.0 MPH. That’s a very long interval, but when I’m on a mountain I like going for as smooth and long of a pace that I can. Then I did 6:00 @ 2.0 / 1:00 @ 1.0 MPH. Getting a little shorter there but I was feeling pretty beat from my previous running interval. Finally I did 5:00 @ 2.0 / 2:00 @ 1.0 to finish. It felt good. One of my secondary goals was to get as close to 1000 VAM as possible. That’s why I was doing the really long intervals at 2.0 MPH.

I hung out for a bit cleaning up before I turned off my Suunto Ambit2 S Heart Rate Monitor and plugged it in for the stats. I spent quite a bit of time just under my 100% Heart Rate Zone. Do not do this! Unless of course you know for sure you can. The 200-AGE formula is just a starting point for average cardio training people to start with. When I’m rested I can spend time at 110%. I am guessing my actual Anaerobic Threshold to be around 166. I will get the blood test sometime but it’s much more difficult than it needs to be in CO. In UT it was a piece of cake and I didn’t take advantage of it while I was there. Maybe on a business trip…

Back to Back Treadmill Interval Workouts - stats on Movescount
Back to Back Treadmill Interval Workouts – stats on Movescount

I used my Incline Treadmill Calculator [HERE] to get my stats from the back to back treadmill interval workouts.

Treadmill Interval Workouts March 27 #1:

Time: 49:00
Distance: 3.7
Incline: 3%
Elevation Gain: 586.08'
Average MPH: 4.531
Average Pace: 13:15
Vertical/Hour: 718'
Vertical/Minute: 11.96'
VAM: 218.7

Treadmill Interval Workouts March 27 #2:

Time: 24:00
Distance: .728
Incline: 32%
Elevation Gain: 1230.03'
Average MPH: 1.82
Average Pace: 32:58
Vertical/Hour: 3075'
Vertical/Minute: 51.25'
VAM: 937.3

Treadmill Interval Workouts for You?

So now that I gave you all of this information about my own treadmill interval workouts, how does it relate to you? What information can you get from my examples?

  • Warm Up and Cool Down Sufficiently
  • Be ready to change gears in a heartbeat if needed
  • Get enough rest in the lower speed phases of your intervals
  • Mix it up with different inclinations and speeds
  • Set targets and goals that apply to your larger goals
  • Do a variety of training protocols over the weeks
  • Be sure to keep your eyes open to the big picture

I’ve been doing different types of treadmill interval workouts depending on my current goals, on what altitude I’m at, and what kind of treadmill I’m on. It also depends on what my previous workouts were that week as well as what workouts are coming up in the next week.

Don’t be afraid of these workouts. They’re as easy or difficult as you want to make them. Start out slow and work your way up. Remember that most of the running information you find on the internet, deep down inside, is meant for people running 7:30 miles. If that doesn’t apply to you then sort through it and find what you need and make it work for you.

If you have any questions, comment here or on my Facebook page. I’m happy to offer little suggestions or advice, and if you subscribe to the blog (little box to the upper right) you’ll get notices whenever I post a new article here.

Interval Training is perfect for the stop and go nature of rock climbing
Interval Training is perfect for the stop and go nature of rock climbing

Steve House Training Seminar Part 1

At the 2014 Ouray Ice Fest I attended a Steve House Training Seminar based on his most recent book. I’ve been excited by the prospect of looking at this book since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. One of my friends is a Reviewer and told me he was getting an advanced copy and that was also exciting to me.

When I looked at the preview of workshops available at the Ice Fest and I saw that Steve House Training Seminar was on the list, I set a timer on my calendar to let me know that registration was open for the workshops at the Ice Fest so that I could be first in line. Happily I made the cut and got registered before it filled up.

The Steve House Training Seminar was held at the Rescue Barn at the Ouray Ice Park, and with a few minor glitches with the projector and screen (Thanks Nate Disser of San Juan Mountain Guides for fixing it fast) we were up and running.

Steve House Training Seminar

We were able to get our hands on a copy of the book and leaf through the pages. It was very thick and well worth the projected price around $35 (Steve House Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete Amazon Pre-order at $22.14 as of this posting).

Steve House Training for the New Alpinism Proof Edition
Steve House Training for the New Alpinism Proof Edition

It was a great seminar to attend. I had a slight advantage in that with my previous Personal Trainer Certification, most of the material made instant sense to me. It was fairly technical in nature, and proved to me beyond any doubt that Steve House knows his stuff.

Takeaways from the Steve House Training Seminar

I took some notes in my ColorNote app on my phone, and here are some of my key points

  • You need a transition period in order to get yourself and all your loved ones used to your new training life.
  • The concept of using professional coaching is new in the world of high level climbing.
  • The NFL has more money than any other sport in the world. If they chose the Combine as their means of testing readiness then it must be a profitable idea.
  • The higher your base level of fitness the greater gains you can obtain through High Intensity Training. Otherwise it probably isn’t worth the risk.
  • In spite of naysayers in the rest of the training world, Isometric Training is a Sports-Specific Protocol for climbing.
Steve House Training Seminar: Steve explaining a slide with an example program
Steve House Training Seminar: Steve explaining a slide with an example program

There are a few of my favorites from the Steve House Training Seminar at the Ouray Ice Fest. If you attended or have an early edition of the book, please check in and let me know what your key bullet points are. If you want more explicit personal hands-on education, you can check out Skyward Mountaineering for scheduling information.

Elbrus Race 2012 Qualifier Training Considerations

Elbrus – 18,510 ft (5,642 m) is a volcano in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia. It’s one of the Seven Summits, and also one of the Volcanic Seven Summits. It is generally considered the highest peak in Europe, and is included on both the Bass and Messner Lists.

In 2010 I trained to enter in the Elbrus Race 2010, and managed to successfully complete the Qualifier, despite contracting dysentery from contaminated water. It was an awesome, life changing experience, and I look back on it fondly. I wanted very badly to return last year, but because of some political unrest in the area, there was no Elbrus Race 2011.

Tram Top on Elbrus
Elbrus Race 2010 acclimatization day at top of Tram

It has been recently announced they will be running Elbrus Race 2012, with political stability and increased tourism to the area. I will talk about some of those issues, including obtaining the proper visas and logistical support in the vicinity of Elbrus, in one of my other blogs. My intent here is to focus on training for the 2012 edition.

There are three events in the Elbrus Race.

First is the Qualifier. It begins at the Barrels Huts at approximately 12,300 ft (3700 meters) and ends at Pastukhov’s Rocks at about 15,750′ (4800 meters). From the Elbrus Race website:

Qualification route goes from refuge Barrels (3708m) till the Pastuhkov Rock top ~4800 m)
Start point is on small square between 2 row of Barrales.
Terrain at September — snow + ice destoried[sic] with sun — safe to walk as the ice surface keep strong grip if one would fell down
Length of the route ~3980 meter
Vertical drop of the route ~1090 m


The participants who have passed the qualification standards will be admitted for the Elbrus Race. The standard will be calculated from the starting time until reaching the Finish line, set on the top of Pastukhov’s Rocks. The participants are considered passed if they reached the section line independently less than 2 hours of ascent and descended down to the starting place not later than at 16.00.


Me in blue #24 at start of the 2010 Qualifier

Explaining these stats, you need to climb 3576′ over the course of 13,058′ or 2.47 miles, in less than 2 hours. Even with my dysentery, which required me to somewhat waddle up while squeezing it in so to speak, I made it in 1:41, a relatively comfortable margin. That’s equivalent to a 40:53 pace, or 1.47 mph with an average ascent rate of 35 feet/minute. The fastest time in 2010 was 1:04 for a 25:55 pace, or 2.31 mph and a 56 feet/minute ascent rate.

Elbrus Race 2010 Training Objectives

Last time, I trained to merely qualify, with a time around 1:45. I did end up doing about that too. The course on Elbrus is roughly averaged to 27% grade. For my vertical training I walked at 1.5 mph at 28% grade on an Incline Treadmill for 2 hours, very close to the course stats. I also did lots of Stairmaster Stepmill work. The vertical ascent rate of 35 feet/minute is roughly equal to a 53 step/minute rate on the Stairmaster. I also used an elliptical trainer with a very steep ascent angle on the foot pads, and the guage monitors vertical step distance, but it’s not body-weight training by any means, so I was able to easily do 9,000′ in 60 minutes. Good workout, and great for the glutes and quads, but not specific enough.

My back bicep pose
Back and Biceps during Elbrus Race 2010 Training

At the time, for general physical conditioning I ran about 2 miles every other day. For weights I did box squats and straight leg deads, calf raises and lat pulldowns and bench presses. Not a lot of upper body, primarily low weight/high volume work to prepare for poling up the slope. For core work I was doing reverse hypers, reverse curls, and Roman Chair exercises. I did a little messing around and experimenting with Mountain Climbers and various planks, but the above was my primary workout.

While training for Elbrus over the course of four months I went from 195 to 175 pounds, and my resting heart rate dropped from the mid-50’s to the mid-40’s. I did splits 3-4 days a week (splits is a bodybuilding term for two workouts a day, usually a different body part or different training goal like cardio vs. weights), and a typical workout was 3 hours long. My work and home life suffered a bit (or more) because of this heavy of a training load. I did make great progress though.

running up Rainier on Muir Snowfield

I did very little training outside, with a few tests on Quandary, and one on Rainier to test my shoes and crampons out. I hadn’t really tested my outdoor clothing system out yet, and relied on the advice of a good friend from Italy, Luca Colli, who had come in 5th in the Elbrus Race 2009 for shoes, clothing, and gear.

Now it’s 2012, and a lot of water under the bridge later, I have some interesting advantages over training in 2010. I’ve sustained a weight between 180 and 185 since I recovered from the 2010 race. I have run a lot, including weeks with more than 40 miles. I’ve entered a handful of running races, and have a better feel for tapering and pre-race nutrition. I can sustain a 55 feet/minute ascent rate on the Stepmill. I haven’t had easy access to an Incline Treadmill, so I can’t say how that will go, but in small steep hills with a gradient over 20% I’ve been able to average up to 3.0 mph (20:00 pace) in short bursts.

I’m not saying I can “win” the Qualifier, but I do feel like I’m in a lot better position for 2012 than I was in 2010. In the next episode I’ll explore how I am training now, with some ideas of my programs and goals. I’ll also explore the stats from the main Elbrus Race – The Classic.

To view my reports from the 2010 event check out my old blog on [ Blogspot ]

To view some of my current outdoor training reports check out my current Seven Summits Quest [ Blog ]

I’ll do my indoor and accessory training here on this [ Blog ]

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.