AeT and Vert

  • Creator
  • #66172
    Julie Forbes


    I would love some advice on gaining vert while staying below my AeT.

    I just started the 16 Week Mountaineering training plan to prep for an 8 day backpack on the Wonderland Trail. Yesterday’s workout was a 1hr 30 min, Zone 2 hike/run with 1,000 ft of vert. I found it challenging to keep my HR below my AeT while walking at a painfully slow pace on a steep (to me) climb (855 ft of gain in 1.06 miles, 40mins). I’m curious to understand the best way for me to gain vert and avoid quick, steep spikes in HR? Is it better to go super slow on a shorter sustained climb, or slightly faster & easier on rolling terrain and accumulate vert over more miles?

    My total workout was 7.8 miles, 1355ft up and 1275ft down, 2hrs 45mins total time out and I felt great… except for the slow going on the steeper hill. My AeT is low (130 via nose-breathing test) and my HR spikes quickly on hills despite a solid winter of skinning- which I now recognize was likely a solid winter spent well above my AeT!

    Thanks for any advice!

  • Participant
    Dada on #66173


    Nosebreathing test is unreliable. I suggest you do a proper Aet test and then come back with the result.


    hiker on #66178


    I have had the same problem hiking on steep hills. I am currently doing a lot of treadmill walking at the steepest setting, under my aerobic threshold, in the hope that when I return to the mountains, I will be able to go at a more reasonable pace on the uphills.


    Julie Forbes on #66396

    Thanks, Dada! I plan to repeat my AeT with HR drift tomorrow and will share my results. Perhaps my question is somewhat separate from my AeT.

    When hiking for my zone 2 workouts, knowing that I am prepping for some long steep climbs on my trip, I’m curious if it’s better to hike on terrain that is closer to what I will experience on my trip (steeper) but requires a MUCH slower pace to maintain a HR that is within my zone 2, or is it better to accumulate vert over a greater number of faster rolling miles and very easily stay within my zone 2? I have 8-9 days planned to complete my trek, but at my current pace on steeper hills I’d be out there for months, haha.

    Dada on #66400

    My advice might deviate from UA here, but I would do 2-3 weeks of VO2MAX training first. After that, fully concentrate on staying below AeT. The VO2MAX should help you to stay below the AeT more easily.

    bill on #66598

    I am on my second round of training using the UA twelve week plan, which comes after six or so months of steady, slow aerobic training. Some observations…

    As predicted in TFUA and TFNA, when I started, keeping my HR under AeT (measured by two drift tests) required painfully slow speeds when climbing. Over six months of following the plan – lots of hours of Z2 hiking, starting on low grade (less than ten percent) and gradually mixing in steeper terrain (greater than fifteen percent) – I’ve watched my under-AeT speed almost double, though my AeT hasn’t really changed. Now I am doing weighted pack carries on steeper terrain at a faster pace with less effort then my original lower grade, weight-free hikes. That’s a long way of saying “give the program time and stick to it, it works (dataset of one, of course)”.

    Do a proper AeT drift test a couple of times to set your AeT. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it just works better than RPE or breathing assessments.

    If you’ve been living in the HIIT or cross-fit training world for any length of time, like I was, you are likely to find a lot of the TFUA guidance to be counter to your understanding of what works. If you can overcome the resulting resistance and give the approach six months, you are likely to be quite happy with the results.

    Yes, condition-specific training is better than non-condition-specific training but lots of people here are demonstrating that it is possible to do very well when one has limited access to steep terrain.

    Good luck!

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