Training for and Maintenance on longer trips

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  • #5972
    John S

    I recently finished a 7 week climbing trip to the Cordillera Blanca, my first trip to the region and my first high altitude climbing trip. (I had a great time!) Towards the end of the trip I was really starting to feel beat down from the climbing (mostly in the legs but also a general feeling of fatigue) and surprisingly weak in the core and upper body. And after the last one I was just “done” – it took quite a few days for my legs to stop aching – so although there was time for another climb I opted to call it good and just enjoy life in town. Individually, no single climb was what I would expect to absolutely exhaust me, it seems like it was more the accumulation of fatigue.

    So, a couple of questions:

    I’m wondering how best to incorporate some strength maintenance during the trip – what would be beneficial/appropriate? (Putting aside for the moment the fact that on the days back in town between climbs all I wanted to do was eat and nap, so any workouts would require discipline!)

    I’ve always been fit and active (ski touring, cycling, trail running, climbing) but have never trained before this past year. In terms of training I followed a reasonable self-written plan as per TFNA, but I didn’t do much in the way of ME workouts because I felt I would benefit more from continuing to work on aerobic capacity. Which seemed to have paid off as I generally felt great – not ever gasping for breath – but my legs were dying on the last couple of climbs. My thought is that the next training cycle I would do more ME workouts as I have improved my aerobic base enough for my legs to be the limiting factor. Sound right?

    Any insights much appreciated.

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #5978

    Thanks for contacting us and congratulations on what sounds like a pretty successful application of our book to build yourself a plan and reap the rewards in good trip to Peru.

    Have you read this:

    This will help you understand what happened during your trip. You might want to also click on and read the posts under the Capacity vs Utilization heading over to the right in the forum index. Here is the deal in a nutshell: During your training you were building/increasing the capacity to do more work. Since you principally focused on basic aerobic work capacity that quality improved and it sounds like you nailed that part well. Your aerobic capacity bank balance was high. When you embark on a trip like you were on with several almost back to back objectives with only short breaks there is no time to build capacity during the trip as you found out. All you can do between ‘events’ is recover. You were withdrawing from your overall capacity bank account on each climb you did. Because the aerobic bank account was really big you didn’t overdraw that one and felt aerobically fit the whole time. However, your strength/ME capacity account balance was insufficient so you were overdrawn on that account early in the trip as you had to maximally utilize the ME quality on all these climbs as well. You went way into the red zone in the ME department which is why your legs were so worked at the end.

    What can you do about it? During the base building period: Increase the capacity bank account in all the qualities that make up your event so that when you go on the next trip you have adequate capacity to go on a wild spending spree during the trip and not get overdrawn. You can not build capacity and utilize it at the same time so if you go on the trip with inadequate capacity you are hosed from the get go. IF and only if you have a substantial break (2-3 weeks) from climbing during your trip could you return to a capacity building period. As you found out; you were too wasted to train during the short breaks between your climbs to even consider any capacity building training. Recall that the way you build capacity is by slightly exceeding your current capacity on a nearly daily basis which over weeks improves that capacity but also induces a fair bit of fatigue. Had you tried to do this during your short breaks, your trip would have been shorter and much less successful.

    I repeat: YOU CAN NOT BUILD AND UTILIZE CAPACITY AT THE SAME TIME. This is the purpose of the base period and why we use periods for our training.

    The next cycle through your program you will be significantly fitter and able to handle more work so I suggest you incorporate ME workouts into the final phase of your preparations


    John S on #5999

    Scott, Thanks so much for the detailed explanation. (and everything you and Steve put into this website – it’s much appreciated).

    I’ve now read the relevant articles and forum topics and currently re-reading TFNA, getting set for another training cycle and will plan on working on the strength/ME department. And I’m excited that on the next trip to Peru, the rest days between climbs will continue to be focused on naps and slow roasted pork.



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