Several months ago my co-workers and I decided to climb Washington's tallest peak, Mt. Rainier, which stands at 14,416'. Our goal was to use this climb to fundraise to bring solar power to five schools in Nepal that were devastated by the 2015 earthquake. I'm a very active person and have climbed some tall peaks, but climbing Mt. Rainier was by far my biggest objective to date. On top of that, my fellow co-workers are incredible athletes with a lot more experience in mountaineering and I wanted to make sure I could compete.
My goal was to keep up my normal routine, and then train hard for the last two months before the climb. Unfortunately, I just didn't have extra time to start my training in June, so when July 1st came around, I knew I had to step up my game .
Here is an outline of the five steps I took to get in shape for this climb and below is how I accomplished each one.
The first thing you need to do before you start training is to understand your objective. What types of challenges are you going to face? Each one of the steps above was for a reason to prepare for this climb.
1. Eat Healthy: Eating healthy was something I already do, but I took it to another level for training. A big part of eating healthy is also eating the right portion sizes and that was something I had to work on. Almost every meal I ate was all organic, I avoided anything with added sugar and although I already almost never drink, I decided to not have even a sip leading up to this climb. Although I was eating less and being extremely active I felt like I had a ton of energy just by putting the right fuel into my system.
Here are some of my go-to training meals:
Breakfast: I had super organic smoothies every day for breakfast. The typical smoothie ingredients included: a mix of frozen berries, two bananas, half an apple, an avocado, a scoop of powdered peanut butter, a scoop of hemp protein and a carton of unsweetened hemp milk. Sometimes I added some spinach and kale in there for a little extra kick.
Lunch: I ate pretty small lunches most days and they usually consisted of a lot of kale chips, some fruit, another smoothie and sometimes noodles with a lot of veggies.
Dinner: The go-to for dinner was spinach noodles with tofu and a ton veggies. Plus, two glasses of water. I also would make some veggie burritos with crumbled veggie burgers and sometimes I would just have a smoothie and you guessed, some kale chips. I totally love pizza, and decided not to deprive myself during training but I made it myself with super healthy ingredients. I actually brought a pizza up for dinner on our first night of the climb. (See the recipe below)
Snacks: Kale chips - I ate an incredible amount of kale. Anytime I needed a snack I pretty much ate just kale. I also had a lot of fruit and some raw unsalted nuts.
Bonus Tip: Drink as much water as possible throughout the day and try not to eat right before you go to bed. Being hydrated is of course important for training, but also it helps keep you feeling full even when your meals are smaller than usual.
2. Cardio: The two main things I knew I had to prepare for was 1) long hours of hiking and 2) high elevation. The summit of Mt. Rainier is at 14,416' and, there just isn't as much oxygen as there is at sea level where I live. To prepare, I decided to focus much of my training on building up my cardio. I went on a bike ride four to five times a week and stepped the distance up each week. The first week was 15-20 miles each day, the second week was 25-30 miles, the third week was a mix of 15-20 and a couple of 40-mile rides. In the middle of the third week I was feeling pretty good about my cardio and decided to really take it to the next level by trying a triathlon. That Saturday, I competed in my first triathlon and the entire race I just kept thinking about how much easier Rainier would be if I pushed myself the entire race. I am not a runner, nor am I a swimmer but my experience is an example of how stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself can make you both physically and mentally stronger.
3. Mental Strength: I knew reaching the summit of Rainier was going to be as much of a mental challenge as it was physical. When you're looking up at the largest glacier in the lower 48 covered in massive crevasses and you have 15 hours of hiking ahead, you need to be mentally prepared for that. My mental conditioning was sort of a three-part process. For starters, I wanted to get my adrenaline pumping so went to the sky with my new passion paragliding. I know not everyone reading this is going to go fly off a peak, but you can try a new sport or face one of your fears. Here's a clip from my flight off Blanchard Hill:
The second part of building up my mental strength was yoga, I tried to do yoga at least once a week and I also did it the final two nights before the climb. Yoga is great to practice breathing techniques, increase balance and help focus your thoughts, all things that come in handy when crossing a crevasse. The third part was pushing myself on every activity I did; I knew the harder I charged the easier the climb would be.
4. Practice: Knowing that hiking was basically what we’d be doing, I scheduled a long hike every weekend with weight. My hikes were all around 5-10 miles on steep terrain and I would carry around 30-50 lbs in my pack for each hike to simulate the loads we would be carrying up the mountain. The weekend before our climb I went halfway up Mt. Rainier to 10,188' (Camp Muir) to get some practice on snow/ice and to get some elevation under my belt. I also spent some time going over some of the safety steps like tying the proper knots in the rope, how to self-arrest and crevasse rescue techniques.
5. Push Yourself Every Day: The key is to make progress every single day! I tried to run faster, bike harder, eat healthier, carry more and push myself every day. A good example is after one of my first training hikes my quads were toast, but I still pushed myself to go for a long bike ride the next day. It actually made my legs feel a lot better. There's always something you can do to keep progressing towards your goal.
It's that simple! Just five easy steps and you'll be ready for your next adventure. I'm happy to report we made the summit and I felt very prepared both mentally and physically.
Got questions about training? Leave a comment and I'd be happy to help you out.
Want your own adventure? Wildland has lots of adventure trips to challenge yourself. Maybe you want to practice these techniques to join Gretchen and me this October in Patagonia on our Wildland Signatures: Torres del Paine W Trek.
Your friendly adventurer,
PS - Here's my healthy organic pizza recipe: