How to Extend Base Period (Plus Dealing With Mid-Phase Surgery)

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  • #3360
    Zach Wahrer

    I just started the training program outlined in the New Alpinism book (geared towards the more technical end of the spectrum). I’d like to peak next August, and since this is my first time doing a structured program, it seems like a good idea to start a bit early. The book mentions extending the base period for those who are less trained, but I’m unsure of how much load to add at the end of week 20. Any advice there?

    Another question: I have a minor hernia operation scheduled after 4 weeks into my Base Phase (Doc OK’d me for training until then). He says recovery should be about 3 weeks. I know it’s a good to drop back on intensity/load once I recover, but I’d like an idea of how much. Should I start Base Phase over or just scale back a week or two? Go easy and listen to my body?

    Thanks for the help! Scott and Steve, your book changed my life. I’m so happy there is now a place to ask further questions.

Posted In: Alpinism

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    Anonymous on #3361

    Bummer that you need surgery. But it’s a pretty minor one normally. So, good luck with that. Being in a good shape before the surgery will help you recover faster. Listen to your doc as to his recommendations for returning to training afterward.

    You are being smart to get started ASAP. As for where to start when you get back at it. That is a good question but not one that has an easy answer. For the aerobic training I’d suggest starting back at the volume you were at 3 weeks before the surgery. You’ll have to be aware of how your body is responding to the training. For strength. You’ll be in the Max Strength phase then and you’ll need to assess how much you have lost in that time. But you’ll figure that out fast and you’ll regain that strength in a couple of weeks.

    There is no way to advise you what a reasonable volume for week 20 will be. That is just too far in the future. I could not plan that far away if I was coaching on a daily basis and had done so for for years. There are too many variables involved to plan that far ahead. From using the book you should know that this is more art than science and general guidelines and basic principles are what you need to use for guidance. Do not get too caught up in the minute details or you might miss the big picture.


    Zach Wahrer on #3364

    Thanks for the response, Scott! I will definitely listen to the doc. The aerobic and strength guidelines you listed will be helpful.

    I understand it is hard to look past Base week 20. I was mainly hoping for a percentage gain progression outline similar to what is listed for week 20 and before. I’ll try not to get too caught up in the details and planning ahead. It’s a good lesson in general for me. 🙂

    Thanks again for your reply. From one author to another, I really appreciate you taking the time to come on here and provide such thoughtful, detailed answers.

    Zach Wahrer on #4222

    Hey! I just wanted to post an update of my progress, for anyone that happens to find themselves in a similar situation:

    After my umbilical hernia repair surgery, I was completely out of training for 2 weeks, although I did try to gently walk and move around (OK’d by doc) as much as I felt able. At the beginning of the 3rd week, the doctor approved returning to regular physical activity as long as it didn’t make my repair site too sore. I did as much as I could (running, hiking), but didn’t do any strength training that week (didn’t feel ready for it).

    Week 4 post operation, I returned to structured training, going back to the volume I was at 3 weeks before the surgery (as Scott recommended). This worked really well, and I had good grades for all of my training sessions. Max Strength (especially Killer Core warm up) felt really shaky, but that resolved after a week or two. I definitely dropped weights down to a low level and returned them progressively, and as Scott said, you have to go by feel. I was worried about tearing my incision or the hernia repair itself, so I added weight slowly over a couple weeks. I lost the most progress in Strength, although it is returning quickly.

    It has been 7 weeks since my surgery, and I’m starting to feel back to normal. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, my biggest recommendations are to follow Scott’s advice above, to listen to your doctor in regards to recovery time, and to be patient. I was super psyched to return to training, and it was really hard to wait long enough and not to push too hard when I finally was given the OK. Listen to your doctor and your body!

    Anonymous on #4223


    Great to hear that you are back to training again and feeling good. I know all to well the frustration of loosing training time to injuries. Good for you to use a conservative approach.


    Pete on #4378


    I decided to post my question here as it relates to extending the cycle.

    In October I’m off to an expedition and I’ve started the cycle of training in September last year. So far the training was more or less regular and now I just finished the ME phase of training and my question is if:
    1. should I go on with climbing-specific period (4 weeks as mentioned in the book) followed by taper period or should I start a new cycle of base period (20 weeks) + ME phase + climbing specific + taper?
    2. if I should start with base period again, how much should I increase the volume compared to the volume I just did? 5 percent?
    3. any other suggestions to make the most out of the time that I have left to prepare for the climb (6 months).

    Many thanks,


    Anonymous on #4389


    Now that you’ve built up the great fitness base I hope you can go on a climbing trip and utilize what you have built. All work and no play can make a climber a very dull boy after all.

    To your questions:
    1) Best to go into a climbing specific period. This will allow you to use this new level of fitness to improve climbing skills and experience. It should be a fun break from base building too. If no major climbs are planned after this then no need to taper. You probably should consider a break though before launching into the next base phase. You need to be fresh and highly motivated again when you start.

    2) As for volume increase in second cycle: This is very individual so no formula. If you are new to training and felt like the previous macro cycle was doable without stretching too far then as much as 25% can be in order. If you have trained extensively and have several years of regular training under your belt then 5-10% will probably be all you can handle. This is because the higher level athlete is already training closer to his or her personal limit than the beginner. I have had beginners who move up 30-40% from year one to year two.

    3)To best prepare: Carefully evaluate the demands of your goal climb. Make sure you can meet those demands on smaller less demanding routes in training. For instance. If the crux pitch entails AI4 or 5.11c or M5; make sure you can perform at least at those technical levels on other climbs. If the biggest day is going entail carrying a 50lb pack up a 40 degree for 3000ft and spending 12 hours of continuous work then make sure that near the end of your prep in 5 months you include a day that simulates something like this in one of your specific training days. In general: After determining the demands of the goal climb assess where you stand relative to all the individual components that make up the demands of this climb. Target your training at the weakest components from your personal assessment. If you can only lead 5.9 right now then you better get on the rock if the crux of your climb is 5.11. If on the other hand your climb is well within your technical abilities but needs tons of endurance then you focus there.

    I hope this helps.

    Pete on #4396


    thanks for your prompt and detailed reply. Really appreciate the effort you put in educating us on how to train smart and push our limits beyond what we previously thought possible. These forum discussions are a priceless fountain of knowledge. And I believe that I speak in the name of us all – future Uphill Athletes in the making :).

    Regarding the answer number 1 – how long should the break be before launching the new cycle and what activities during this period would you recommend?

    Many thanks again.

    Best, Peter

    Anonymous on #4401


    Thanks for the kind words. We hope to spread our knowledge and experience so that others don;t have to make the same mistakes we made.

    As with most of this stuff no formula exists for how long a of a break to take before launching into the next base training phase. Alternative activities that you enjoy and keep you active but maybe had to let slide during training are ideal ways of restoring your stoke. For some this might be a surf trip for 2 weeks. Maybe someone would play golf. For another it might mean bouldering and sport climbing for an alpinist. You just need to step away from the routine you’ve been plugged into for months. When you get really itchy to start training most people will notice that time.

    Sorry there is no better way to define this.

    Pete on #4404


    thanks a lot. You helped a lot as I was thinking somewhere in the same lines – do something fun, enjoy, take your mind off of training.

    Just yesterday I went through the calendar and calculated that I can have up to 14 days off before I jump into the next training cycle. Recon that this would be enough.

    Thanks again and stay safe.


    Mariner_9 on #4405

    Very helpful info, thanks Scott! I have some of the same or similar issues – main objective is winter season and my training program is basically a full year, so requires extending the base period.

    ikmortu on #5177

    I figured that I would just piggyback on this thread since I also have a question about extending my base period.

    This is my first time through the training plan and my first alpine objective. Since I started the plan, the date of my trip has changed, and I now have an additional 4 weeks to train. Should I extend my base period or specificity period?

    I live in the midwest with little opportuinity to get very specific in training and my objective (since it’s my first) is not technical, so my specificity will look alot like my last few weeks of base.

    Reading this thread it sounds like I should move into specificity, but is there any recommendations for percentage of Zone 1 or ME?

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