Mountaineering Training Program | Miyar Adventures
Mountaineering Training Program

Note:

The training program outlined below is a general program designed to meet the needs of most healthy people who are interested in training for mountaineering. Peaks this helps prepare for include Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Rainier. However, we each have unique strengths and limitations that may make following this program inadvisable. It is a good idea to consult a doctor or your physical therapist (when applicable) before beginning this training program. Adapt this program to your own abilities and schedule, and consider consulting a personal trainer for a program that is customized to your specific needs. We have guide staff who work as personal trainers. Let us know if you’d like to speak with them.

Equipment Needed:

Scale for weighing a pack, mountaineering backpack that can comfortably carry 40lbs, water jugs (totaling 15 liters), running shoes, pull-up bar, exercise resistance bands, hand weights/dumbbells, interval timer/interval phone app, clothing for exercising in sun, rain, and snow, water resistant headlamp (at least 250 lumens), Gaia GPS App with subscription so maps can be downloaded for offline use (highly recommended). Note on Backpack Weight: The weight of the loaded pack you use for your mountaineering trip will largely depend on what equipment you bring and your itinerary (a 4-day trip will require a heavier pack than a 3-day trip due to additional food). To keep your pack weight to 40lbs you should choose a 20 degree down sleeping bag with 800 to 900 fill down (the higher the number, the lower the weight of the bag for its warmth). Your backpack should be between 60 and 75 liters, and weigh 4lbs or less when empty. Your tent, or the portion that you will carry, should weigh 3lbs or less. You should stick to the packing list, and avoid bringing extra food, clothing, or equipment. Use collapsible water bottles that can be easily accessed to fill at creeks along the route so you do not need to carry more water than necessary. This commonly happens when using camelbaks or hydration bladders, because they are not easy to access when backpacks are full. Remember that you will be given some group gear to carry, such as a rope, snow anchors, or fuel for a stove, so even if you weigh your pack containing your personal items at home, it will weigh more when you go on your trip into the mountains. If you do not have lightweight equipment, or if you overpack, you can expect your pack to weigh more than 40lbs.

Time Required for Training:

Most days the workouts take around 1hr/day, with that time divided into two separate work-outs. Weekend work-outs can take from 1hr to 8hrs depending upon what point in the program you are in. Adapt this to work with your schedule.

Recommended Duration of Training:

For those who have had a consistent exercise regimen that contains running and hiking for the past year: 12 weeks. You can start this training program at week 13 on the table of the sample program below.

For those who have not had a consistent exercise regimen for the past year: 24 weeks (refer to the table below)

Rest Week:

To help your body adapt and to avoid injury it is a good idea to take an active rest week once every six weeks (one full week of active rest after five weeks of training). During the active rest week you should do activities that are different from those in the work-outs (such as going for easy bike rides or playing soccer), and you should make sure to take care of your personal and family needs that you may not have had much time for during the previous weeks of training. Try to get plenty of sleep during the rest week, eat healthy food, and don’t overindulge in alcohol which can decrease your ability to adapt to exercise and can prolong recovery. If you are feeling particularly tired before reaching the scheduled rest week, or if you feel you are having joint pain, then take the rest week early, or consider taking one active rest week every five weeks instead. Remember, this program should be adapted to your needs and not followed so strictly that you risk injury or make things difficult on your family or work.

Taper:

There should be two tapers in your training program if you are doing 24 weeks of training (if you are doing 12 weeks there should be just one taper at the end). One in the middle of the cycle and one at the end. The taper in the middle will help your body actively recover and come back stronger, while the taper at the end will give you time to recover so your body will be ready for the mountaineering activities you have been training for.

Non-linear Progression of Training:

You will notice that the training progression outlined is not exactly linear. In other words, the workload does not increase by a certain percentage or amount every week. Some weeks the workload will drop a little, and others it will ramp-up. This is intentional. This program is designed to gradually increase the workload over the entire course of the program, but not necessarily from one workout to the next. If the difficulty of all exercises were to increase every week it can be hard for your body to adapt, and you risk injury. For this reason you will see that as the difficulty of some workouts increases, the difficulty of others decreases for a short period of time before ramping up again.

You will find a day-by-day description of the training program after the overview table.

Sample 24-week Training Program for a climb of Mt. Baker

Week

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

1

AM: Aer (15min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Resist (1 set)

Rest

AM: Inter (2 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack (1000ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(1500ft)

2

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Resist

(1 set)

Rest

AM: Inter

(3 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack (1000ft)

Rest

3

AM: Aer (20min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(20min)

PM: Resist

(2 set)

Rest

AM: Inter

(3 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack (1300ft)

Hike 15lb pack (1900ft)

4

AM: Aer

(20min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(20min)

PM: Resist

(2 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(4 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack (1000ft)

Hike 15lb pack (1900ft)

5

AM: Aer

(25min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(25min)

PM: Resist

(2 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(3 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(1600ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(2300ft)

6

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

7

AM: Aer

(25min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(25min)

PM: Resist

(2 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(5 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(1600ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(2300ft)

8

AM: Aer

(30min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(30min)

PM: Resist

(1 set)

Rest

AM: Inter

(4 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(1900ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(2700ft)

9

AM: Aer

(30min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(30min)

PM: Resist

(3 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(6 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(1900ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(2700ft)

10

AM: Aer

(35min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(35min)

PM: Resist

(3 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(7 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(2200ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(3100ft)

11

Taper Week

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Resist

(1 set)

Rest

AM: Rest

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(1000ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(1500ft)

12

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

13

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Resist (4 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter (6 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(2500ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(3500ft)

14

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Resist

(3 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(8 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(2000ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(2500ft)

15

AM: Aer

(25min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Resist

(4 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(6 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack (2800ft)

Hike 15lb pack (2000ft)

16

AM: Aer

(30min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Resist

(2 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(9 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack (2800ft)

Hike 15lb pack (3900ft)

17

AM: Aer

(30min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Resist

(3 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(6 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(1000ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(4300ft)

18

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

19

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Resist

(3 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(7 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(3100ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(3000ft)

20

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Resist

(4 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(8 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(2000ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(4700ft)

21

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Resist

(2 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(9 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(3400ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(1500ft)

22

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(40min)

PM: Resist

(4 sets)

Rest

AM: Inter

(9 sets)

PM: Core

Rest

Hike 40lb pack

(3700ft)

Hike 15lb pack

(5000ft)

23

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

24

Taper Week

AM: Aer (15min)

PM: Core

AM: Aer

(15min)

PM: Resist

(1 set)

Rest

AM: Rest

PM: Core

Rest

Rest

Hike 15lb pack

(2000ft)

 

See program details below for a day-by-day description and key 

Monday: 

Exercise Session 1:

Aerobic Exercise (Aer): 15 min to start

The prescribed minutes of exercise are noted in the table.  Notice that the prescribed minutes each week for this will go up and down, with a gradual trend upward.  The number of minutes will drop a bit as other exercises go up in intensity and duration.  

Timing:   

Immediately after waking-up, and before breakfast.

Intensity:

Low Intensity.  You should be able to say “Happy birthday to you” without struggling too much while you are running.  Some would call this jogging

Notes

Running outside on a trail is best.  My next choice would be running outside alongside the road.  Choose terrain with some moderate hills if available.  If running is difficult on your body then cycling outside is a good option.  If that’s difficult then swimming would be an option.  Avoid treadmills and indoor bikes unless outdoor training is not possible.  Indoor training will not train your muscles to adapt to traveling over different surfaces very well, and will not accustom your body to exercising in different temperatures and environments.  You should be able to do aerobic exercise in the rain, wind, heat, and even the snow if it is not too dangerous.  I find it is usually easiest to wake-up, put on my running shoes, and jog straight out of my door and around the neighborhood rather than driving to a special location.  I do this regardless of the weather.  The less barriers you have to training, the better.  The reason to train before breakfast is to ensure that you are training in a fasted state.  Training when you don’t have any food in your stomach can help your body transition to burning fat as fuel, which is a much better source of energy for low output, long duration activities like hiking up a mountain. 

Exercise Session 2:

Core Strength (Core)

Timing:

In the afternoon or evening, at least 1 hour before you go to bed.

Exercises to do:

The “McGill Big Three” .  Click the link at left for an instructional video on how to do these

Notes:

These exercises are designed to increase the strength and stamina (endurance) of the stabilizing muscles of the core.  The core does not only include abdominal muscles, but also muscles along the spine and on the sides of your torso.  These exercises will help ensure that you avoid injury as you begin to carry a backpack and increase your training intensity and duration as time goes on.  Avoid doing exercise shortly before bed because this can negatively impact your sleep. 

Tuesday: 

Exercise Session 1:

Aerobic Exercise (Aer)

ITiming:   

Immediately after waking-up, and before breakfast.

Intensity:

Low Intensity.  You should be able to say “Happy birthday to you” without struggling too much while you are running.

Notes:

Running outside on a trail is best.  My next choice would be running outside alongside the road.  Choose terrain with some moderate hills if available.  If running is difficult on your body then cycling outside is a good option.  If that’s difficult then swimming would be an option.  Avoid treadmills and indoor bikes unless outdoor training is not an option.  Indoor training will not train your muscles to adapt to traveling over different surfaces very well, and will not accustom your body to exercising in different temperatures and environments.  You should be able to do aerobic exercise in the rain, wind, heat, and even the snow if it is not too dangerous.  I find it is usually easiest to wake-up, put on my running shoes, and jog straight out of my door and around the neighborhood rather than driving to a special location.  I do this regardless of the weather.  The less barriers you have to training, the better.  The reason to train before breakfast is to ensure that you are training in a fasted state.  Training when you don’t have any food in your stomach can help your body transition to burning fat as fuel, which is a much better source of energy for low output, long duration activities like mountaineering.

 

Exercise Session 2:

Resistance training (Resist)

Note that the number of sets in each workout are specified in the table

Timing:

At least two hours before you go to bed.  You should be well fed and well rested before the workout so you can achieve maximal effort

Exercises to Do:

Warm-up with 5min of aerobic exercise.  Jogging is best, but a stationary bike, jumping jacks, or jump rope will work.  Follow this with shoulder, elbow, and wrist circles, then 6 unweighted lunges forward, sideways, and backward.

Adjust the resistance so you can do exactly 12 reps of each exercise before failing on number 13.  Using this resistance, you will do 10 repetitions each set even though you could do 12. As you do more sets you may need to drop down to 8 or 9 repetitions if you can no longer complete 10. Once you finish a set of one exercise (10 push-ups for example) rest for 20 seconds, then transition into the next exercise (10 pull-ups), thus performing one set of all exercises listed as a circuit.  Once you have completed the entire circuit rest for 3min before doing additional sets.  If the exercise is too easy (ex: you can do more than 12 reps) then add resistance with weights or by incorporating a resistance band .  If the exercise is too difficult (ex: you can do fewer than 12 reps to start) then decrease resistance by using a resistance band to take weight off for pull-ups or allowing yourself to use knees for push-ups and heels for dips.

Notes:

The purpose of these exercises is two-fold.  The first purpose is to cause your muscles to begin to adapt to training by increasing the number of mitochondria and the density of capillaries in the muscle tissue.  This will allow you to more efficiently use oxygen and transport energy into muscle cells, which becomes especially important when hiking at higher altitudes and for long duration.  The second purpose is to build a base level of strength and mobility, which will reduce the likelihood of injury.  Although the upper body is not used much in mountaineering, increasing upper body fitness will greatly reduce the likelihood of injury when hoisting and carrying a backpack.  Because you are only doing one workout a week it is unlikely you will build muscle, but you should develop more strength in the muscle you already have. 

Wednesday: 

Rest Day

This day you should still be active in some capacity, such as going for a walk, practicing yoga, or doing one of your favorite physical activities.  Active rest is more effective than inactive rest.  It is best if the activities that you do this day do not resemble the activities of training days, and are done at low volume and low intensity. 

Thursday: 

Exercise Session 1:

Hill or Stair Intervals (Inter):

The prescribed number of sets is outlined in the table

Timing:   

Anytime of the day will work, but if you have a choice early afternoon is optimal.  Avoid doing this within 2hrs of bedtime.

Intensity:

Low intensity followed by high intensity, then back to low.

How to do it:

This is best done on a steep hill outside, but can also be done on stairs or bleachers if you don’t have hills in your area.  Stair stepper machines can be used if necessary, but outside training would be my first choice.  If you have achilles or knee problems then consider doing intervals on a bicycle instead.  To do intervals while running, jog slowly uphill for 2min, followed by sprinting uphill as fast as possible for 20 seconds.  One jog plus one sprint equals one set.  Recover by continuing to jog uphill as slowly as necessary (walk if needed) for another 2min, then sprint uphill for 20 seconds again. As your fitness improves you should try to avoid walking to recover.        

Notes:

The purpose of this exercise is to increase your body’s ability to flush lactate out of the leg muscles, thus recovering enough to produce power again.  This exercise improves stamina on steep terrain at altitude, such as the climb up the Roman Wall on Mt. Baker.  This exercise also trains your heart and lungs. 

Exercise Session 2:

Core Strength (Core): 15min to start

Timing:

In the afternoon or evening, at least 1 hour before you go to bed.

Exercises to do:

The “McGill Big Three” .  Click the link at left for an instructional video on how to do these

Notes: These exercises are designed to increase the strength and stamina (endurance) of the stabilizing muscles of the core.  The core does not only include abdominal muscles, but also muscles along the spine and on the sides of your torso.  These exercises will help ensure that you avoid back injuries as you begin to carry a backpack and increase your training intensity and duration as time goes on.  Avoid doing exercise shortly before bed because this can negatively impact your sleep.  

Friday: 

Rest Day

This day you should still be active in some capacity, such as going for a walk, practicing yoga, or doing one of your favorite physical activities.  Active rest is more effective than inactive rest.  It is best if the activities that you do this day do not resemble the activities of training days, and are done at low volume and low intensity. 

Saturday: 

Exercise:

Hiking with a 40lb pack

You will notice in the spreadsheet that this day will become progressively more difficult from the beginning of the workout program to the end, but that some weeks will be easier than the week before.  This is to allow your body to adapt to the increased workload.  

Timing:

Start early in the morning if possible, to accustom your body to being on-the-move early in the day.  As the duration of your hikes increase the early start will help ensure that you get back before sunset (especially in the winter months).

Notes:

For adding weight to your pack I recommend employing two strategies. For about one-third of your training I recommend packing your pack the way you would for a mountaineering trip.  This will build your skill in packing your pack, and help you feel what the pack will actually be like on your climb.  Going downhill with a full pack will also help you develop balance, strength, and endurance, though it can also be taxing on your joints.  For the other two-thirds of your training I recommend carrying the majority of the weight as water.  You will dump-out the water when you reach the high point of your hike and walk down with a mostly empty pack.  This will reduce wear-and-tear on your knees as you descend.  You may need to do laps on a hill that is shorter than the intended elevation gain (two laps on a 500ft. hill to equal 1,000ft for example).  If you don’t have access to hills in your area then you can use stairs or a stair stepper machine as necessary, but if possible try to plan some trips to do training hikes outside as this will be more motivating and train stabilizing muscles and descending movements more effectively.  I recommend making a list of hikes you would like to do and sorting them by difficulty so that you do the easiest hikes first, then progress on to the more difficult hikes as your training continues.  Don’t worry too much about how fast you complete these hikes.  What matters most is that your body becomes accustomed to carrying weight uphill and downhill on steep and uneven terrain, and that you learn how to take care of yourself when you are outside for a long period of time.  You should do these hikes even when it is raining, and even if there is snow- as long as avalanche danger along the trail is low and it is safe for you to do so.  It is a good idea to do one or two hikes in your mountaineering boots to get used to them and find-out if they will work with your feet.  However, unless you are hiking in snow it is best to do 90% of your training in shoes/boots that are flexible and comfortable (I like trail running shoes) because too much hiking in stiff mountaineering boots on dirt trails can lead to achilles, knee, and foot injuries.  If you are hiking in snow then it is better to use your mountaineering boots since they are warm and are more effective at kicking steps into the snow than flexible boots or shoes. 

Sunday: 

Exercise:

Hiking with a 15lb pack

Timing:

Start early in the morning if possible, to accustom your body to being on-the-move early in the day.  As the duration of your hikes increase the early start will help ensure that you get back before sunset (especially in the winter months).

Notes:

This day is intended to simulate summit day, when you will be carrying a small pack but will be covering a considerable amount of elevation over a long period of time.  By doing this after the day with the heavy pack you simulate a climb of most glaciated peaks of the Pacific Northwest where summit day comes after hiking into basecamp with a heavy pack.  As mentioned above, it is OK to do some of this training in mountaineering boots, but it is best to do most of your training in trail running shoes or flexible hiking boots to avoid injury unless the hiking is on snow where mountaineering boots are a good choice.  When possible, do some training sessions on steep snow slopes so you develop the skills and supporting muscle fitness for walking on snow.  A good venue for this are the snow slopes of a ski resort after the resort has closed for the season, or a mountain without any glacier travel or steep climbing, such as Mt. St. Helens.