Many people asked me how to train for the Himalayas but it’s hard to answer.
I don’t want to say what you need to do; I can only say what my training is like as it works for me. Last year I was preparing for Island Peak and soon will be off to climb Mera Peak. I have never really stopped my training and now when it’s just over 3 months to go I am even more dedicated.
Training is enjoyable as long as it’s not boring. Legs, core, upper body, cardio… There is so much you can do and in different ways.
I arranged some PT sessions as I needed someone to help me structure my training and guide me to avoid injuries with the amount of exercise.
We kicked off the training focusing on one goal, something that was my weakness and what I was struggling with. We do one session a week or a fortnight ensuring I stay focused and train properly. Different exercises, different parts of the body. Lots of squats, lunges and box jumps for leg strength and using weights to make it harder. All types of planks to strengthen the core and burpees are all thrown in the mix.
I highly recommend engaging a personal trainer to help to stay focused and push you passed your limits, even when you think you can’t. Having a lot of variety in your training plan will make your sessions varied and interesting, and it keeps your body guessing and getting better results.
I do my usual weekly routine at the gym, including the exercises from my PT sessions, so I can do it harder, better, faster, stronger at my next session (and soak up the praise from my instructor!)
I train about 5 times a week, normally with a double training session on Monday. This gives me a good combination of cardio sessions (run, spinning, squash), weight training (PT sessions, circuits) and HIIT (high intense interval training). HIIT is a really good cardio session with only short amount of rest between and is very intense exercising. Weight training has so many different options and combinations. I often choose separate parts of the body for each session.
I am always focused on the intensity of the training and try to make the most of every minute. It can be hard and painful but I always push myself and never stop whatever the exercise I’m doing. That’s my way to become stronger and achieve the results I want.
There are hard exercises that I struggle with but I never avoid them. I keep working on them and then make it harder by using heavier weights or more repetitions. That way I’m continually challenging myself. In seeing the progress I make, I stay motivated. For example, as much as I hated burpees at the beginning, I don’t mind them now. It came with time and hard work. The more I did them the less of a struggle it was. After some time now, it has become part of the routine to do a burpee pyramid after every PT session. The pyramid of burpees is with a press-up and a jump.
It starts with one burpee, one press-up and one jump, then one burpee with one press-up and two squat jumps, one press-up and three squat jumps, four squat jumps and so on till 10. Then count down to one but this time 10 press-ups and one jump, 9 press-ups and one jumps, 8 press-ups and one jump…
It is a hard exercise and following an hour workout, even harder…and I even make my PT do it. There is no stopping on this though, so screaming and verbal abuse is allowed. It is good to see the improvement and the strength gained.
Example of my week training schedule:
Day 1: Morning training :1 hour PT session followed by a game of squash. Afternoon: a session of core workout and 45 minutes spinning.
Day 2-hill training/ run followed by 30 minutes workout/ circuits
Day 3– two sessions of 30 minutes high intense trainings (grit, sprint)
Day 4– one hour of circuits training
Day 5– rest day
Day 6– long walk (20 miles) or long run (10 miles)
Day 7-rest day
It may sound a lot and there are times when I feel a bit flat and lack of energy but would still continue the training. I know climbing at high altitude might affect my physical abilities but I don’t want that to stop me. Why should I stop now?
It might look as if I live at the gym but I do train outdoors as much as I can. There are no mountains, nor many hills on my doorstep so I have had to adjust my training to compensate for this. My PT sessions are often arranged outdoors with different terrains.
Long walks or hiking I would do with additional weight in my backpack (I use bottles of water as these are easy to drop if necessary). For long runs, I push myself more when going uphill. I know I’ll have to face a BIG hill one day.
I am also working on my mountaineering and climbing skills. I have been to Scotland for winter skills training and also cover navigation and winter camp craft. The experience in different, often rough, weather conditions allows me to adjust my gear and clothing. (My wardrobe is getting quite vast now!).
The hidden disciplines, some might say, which are as equally important, are stretching, resting and diet. I have had a few injuries whilst training in the past and it makes me realize how important they are. Stretching has become an important part of my training routine. Using a foam roller at home to break the tension in my muscles always makes me feel good after a heavy training session. I always ensure there are rest days in my week when I can recover and regenerate.
Structured training, setting goals and pushing boundaries – that’s my recipe.
It is not about the time you spend at the gym, it is about the effort you put in – I know I’m always giving 111% (which is that tiny little bit more then everyone’s 110%).