Is elevation gain per week an important metric?

  • Creator
  • #5453

    I’ve been motivated by and focused a lot on elevation gain per week as a metric to measure my fitness. But I’m wondering if it matters as much as I think.

    Going up steep hills will slow my pace when I keep in the same HR zone, but in flatter terrain I can move faster. So will the pace difference make up for the difference in elevation gain?

  • Participant
    Neil on #5470

    Focusing on total ascent is sort of like focusing on any other single metric such as time, calories burned or distance. I think you could improve things by combining vertical gain with other criteria such as steepness of slope (you could work out 3 different slopes, say- mild, moderate and steep), rate of ascent if you have an altimeter, heart rate and breathing. Then with modulation, progression and consolidation, adding weight for ME and so on, I am sure you will come out the other end a lot fitter than going in.

    Anonymous on #5472


    Niel is right. Our mountain sports, climbing, mountaineering Skimo, Running all involve going uphill, often for a long time. Training in terrain similar to the terrain you will encounter on the event you are training for is very wise. We’ll spend way more energy and time on the uphill sections of whichever of these events we are doing. So a small improvement in uphill fitness can translate into a bunch of time and saved energy. Using XC ski racing as an example: The race courses are divided into roughly 1/3 up + 1/3 flat + 1/3 down. but the skiers will spend well over 50% of their race time and WAY more that 50% of their energy on the uphills. While they must train for the flats and downhills much of the training and especially the higher intensity training is done on uphills. If you are training for Alpine climbing then it is the steep long approach that will require that good aerobic base. There is not better way to acquire that base of fitness than by doing frequent steep long hikes uphill. Spending a lot of training time to improve your flat 5km running time will transfer poorly over to these alpine approaches.

    I hope this helps,

    Anonymous on #5473

    I just realized I didn’t fully answer you.

    Yes I think it is an important metric to track. A 10 hour training week that includes 2000 meters of vertical is not going to be as tough or as beneficial as a 10 hour week that contains 3000 meters. For mountain athletes you can almost think of the accumulation of vertical meters the way a marathon runner does about accumulating miles each week. More miles+more base. More vertical meters= more base for our sports.


    Matt Tse on #5515

    RE Thread:

    Do you have any tips/tricks/advice on how to get more vertical in a city that doesn’t have buildings taller than 4 stories generally (Boston) and without using a stairmaster or 300,000 step ups?

    SFmike on #5719

    Matt – I’m a city-dweller with a similar situation (apartment building is 3 stories and office building is 5 stories). I settled on doing my daily Z1 sessions on a treadmill at my office. I set the treadmill at max incline (15% grade), turn on my heart rate monitor and adjust the speed to keep my heart rate a few bpm under my aerobic threshold (AeT). As fitness improves, I increase the speed 0.1 mph. As for tracking elevation gain, it’s simple enough: (0.15 * 5280 * # of miles) = elevation gain. So, a session at 15% grade that covers 2.00 miles would be: (0.15 * 5280 * 2.00) = 1,584 feet of elevation gain. I won’t embarrass myself by admitting the pace I currently go at, but it appears to be working. I’m able to accumulate 5, light Z1 sessions during the week and still feel ready for a long(ish) Z1 on the weekend. The rub, here, is that 15% on a treadmill isn’t very steep and those box-steps will prove useful when motoring up a talus slope while wearing a pack.

    Play around with it. Occasionally, I’ll wear a pack and toss a couple of jugs of water in it…sometimes more. Consistently gaining elevation in my Z1 workouts has helped a lot.

    Treadmills, Stairmasters and box-steps suck but they’re the only options I’ve got (for daily use).

    Good luck!


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