Chalk It Up

Elevation Gains

NO MATTER what end of the climbing spectrum you prefer, you need to embrace some kind of consistent aerobic exercise. Otherwise, an ascent to 14,000 feet will feel like a slog up Everest, and your legs will Elvis uncontrollably in the middle of a 17-pitch vertical assault—the telltale sign of muscle fatigue.

You can bike, swim, or run your way to a stronger heart and lungs, but since climbing demands more than just cardio fitness, trail running works best for alpinists. "It's good mental training for climbing, since it forces you to focus on your balance and coordination for extended periods," says expedition climber Mark Synnott, who frequently runs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, near his home.

Start building your aerobic base by exercising at a conversational pace for an hour, two days a week. On two other days, warm up for ten minutes, then complete a workout of five sprint intervals. Go as hard as you can for two minutes—your muscles should be in anaerobic agony—then slow down for two more. Each week, add 30 seconds to the intervals and recovery time, working up to eight minutes apiece. The goal is to raise your lactate threshold, the oxygen-deprived point at which your muscles turn from useful to painful. The intervals are about as pleasant as a root canal but serve a vital purpose: preparing you to endure hours at oxygen-thin elevations without burning out.

Over the weekend, take a long hike or spend a day climbing your favorite wall. Remember: This is supposed to be fun.

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