With the heavy eating of Christmas behind us and New Year’s resolutions in the making, I thought it might be a good time to talk about training for mountain climbing! With only about 90 days until teams start leaving for Everest 2012, it is too late to start training but for the rest of us it is never too late!
When I was training for Everest, I was told “Alan, you better be in the best shape of your life!” Well they almost got it right, actually I needed to not only be in the best shape of MY life, I needed to be in Everest Shape. With the clear disclaimer that I am not a doctor and everyone should visit their own Doc before entering any kind of Everest training program, let’s me provide some thoughts from my experiences.
My personal experiences with Everest have been difficult. I experienced a lung infection that stopped one climb, my body simply refused to acclimatize above 23,000’ on another, and I gave up mentally on my third. The vast majority of Everest climbers have full time jobs, full time families and cannot spend many hours everyday for a year to get in professional shape; so it becomes critical to make every workout count without hurting yourself. For my forth attempt and successful summit on Everest, my training mantra became: When you think you have given it your all, you have just started if you want to summit Everest.
If you ask 100 Everest climbers you might get 101 different answers on the best way to train and I don’t think there is one ‘perfect’ approach. Some climbers will say cycling for 5 to 8 hours in the middle of the night is best, others will prefer swimming and then some say weight training will get you there. And age does play a role.
But the common thread to all training is pushing yourself without injury and building mental discipline. There is no doubt that an Everest climb requires mental and physical endurance like few other sports. I consistently observe that competitive marathoners, tri-athletes and cyclists do well. However, all agree that training the mind is equally important as training the body.