Training for challenging Hikes

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  • #3854

    Hi, I am posting this in the mountaineering section although the topic is not strictly speaking about mountaineering but hiking, but the limits between the two are sometimes blurred in my part of the world, at the foot of the French Alps.

    I am about to finish reading “Training for the New Alpinism” and has found it very helpful and inspiring.

    My ultimate goal this year is to pass the entry exam to become Hiking Guide here in France (Accompagnateur en Moyenne Montagne). The exam has three parts, I will only speak about the technical part here rather than the theory and interview. If I can, I have a secondary goal of running my first trail race: 22km and 1700 height gain in August.

    This entry exam consists of a hike of about 18-23 kms, with a height gain between 1400 and 1700 meters if I remember well. Part of it is out of tracks. there are numerous countrol points to find, using only the map provided and a compass, no GPS allowed. The Challenge is to stay concentrated for 6-8 hours, in order to find all those control points within the time limit, and with a backpack weighing a minimum of 10kgs.

    One of the prior requirements is to provide a list of 40 hikes, many of these with a height gain of over 1000m, and over 5 hours walk. 10 of those must be done in winter. I have already done 13-14 of these hikes.

    I am new to formal training, although I am used to walk 6-8 hours with a backpack and significant height gain of over 1000m. I need to improve my endurance, gain strength and speed.

    I started running three/four times a week over the last month 1/2 since I didn’t have time to go in the mountains snowshoeing (and there is no snow at teh time of writing). I am planning to introduce some core strength exercises in the coming weeks and will go out for some hiking/snowshoeing/skiing as soon as it starts snowing on the French Alps. Spring and summer will see me do more hiking as I prepare the list required. I need to be in top form for the exam in the middle of September.

    Is there anything specific I must be aware off as I start planning my training and go from the transition period to the base period and the specific training period later on?

Posted In: Mountaineering

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    Anonymous on #3864


    It sounds like you have a good base for your hiking guide training goals. The main thing you need to concentrate on is increasing your weekly volume and vertical over the next 8-9 months. I’d recommend doing 3 weeks of building the work load then take a recovery week where you drop the workload by 50% for that week then start building again each 4 week cycle like this. Doing this in winter on skis will be a great way to build both strength and endurance for these longer hikes when the spring comes. On days when you do not have so much time for big hikes or ski tours I recommend runs because runs compress the training into a shorter period. The transfer of the training effect from running to hiking is very high so you will get to be a much stronger hiker from running. in the summer you can do specific steep muscular endurance workouts that will really make your uphill hiking much stronger.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with your goal.

    keloumat on #3894

    Thank you Scott, this is helpful. You are confirming some of my thoughts. I had understood the need to have a lighter week regularly, but didn’t think it was so often.

    I may do a bit of skiing but will replace it mainly by snowshoeing as I need 10 snowshoe outings of at least 5 hours for the list.

    It is snowing at last on the Alps, so I’ll be able to go out in the snow at the end of next week.

    Anonymous on #3898

    If you look at the way we structure the planning in Training for the New Alpinism, for instance starting on page 247, the charts all show 3 building weeks then a recovery week. Years of experience have shown that either 2 or 3 building weeks followed by a recovery week are the best strategies for long term progression.

    Good luck,

    Jan on #14428

    I hope it’s okay that I revive this thread …
    I’m also using TftnA for my hiking training, objectives are challenging multi-day hikes like the Sierra High Route which I did last August.

    In my base period, I do 3 hour hikes in rolling terrain twice a week, next to some trail running (mostly Zone 3, 90 minutes) in the same terrain and ME-training (steep up- and downhills with a weighted backpack, 60 minutes), and some strength training and bouldering.
    Right now I do these training hikes with a pack weighing a bit more than I carry on my trips. Is this a good idea or should I do the hikes without added weight? Or should I do one with weight, one without?
    Also, I’m using poles while training, as I do on the actual trip. Should I leave these at home to give the legs a better stimulus, or keep them to mimic the actual effort better?

    Thanks in advance and best regards from Germany


    Jan on #14457

    Okay, I think I can answer the question myself:

    Ditch both the hiking (lower end of HR Zone 1 most of the time, up to Zone 3 in steeper sections) and the running for a mix of running most of the time and hiking in steeper sections: Trying to be constantly able to breath through the nose and stay around a heart rate of 125-147 (with 147 being my Aerobic Treshold according to MAF). Obviously without weight, probably also without poles.
    As this might still be more exhausting than my former plan as I’ll be running much more, dial down the volume and try to get it up again.

    Doing some hikes with weight and up-/downhills with even more weight at the specific period. As I hardly ever have a time frame of more than two month between two rather challenging multi-day hikes, this period might get very short.

    Does that sound about right?

    hafjell on #14488

    Jan, I think you would benefit from one of the plans (16 week skimo, for instance). These plans are very detailed and will limit your Z3 time. I don’t think the poles are that big of an issue. They could help you train for ski season. For the number of hours you’re training, the poles won’t limit your Z1 efforts.
    The 16 wk SkiMo plan coupled with Training Peaks as the guide took away all of the guesswork for me. It also forced me to take time off or decrease my volume every 4th week. This was worth 5 times what I paid for the plan.
    (In other words, if you have the plan and use Training Peaks, you wouldn’t be asking any of these questions. Good luck.)

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