Written by Climb Fit Athlete, Ben Treble
In reality, training for an 8000'er or any mountaineering adventure, begins well before you make the conscious decision to go for one. By the time I had put any serious consideration into laying down a hefty deposit on a commercial expedition to Manaslu, I had done a range of training through rock-climbing, smaller mountaineering trips and courses knowing I needed to train smart.
When I chat to people about training, most people are thinking about the gym indoors but not necessarily your climbing and outdoor experience in totality. There is no one size fits all approach to training, but you need a starting point. The starting point for me was the alpinist’s bible 'Training for the new alpinism' by Steve House and Scott Johnston [This is not endorsed]. This book teaches a number of valuable lessons, one of which is to take very long-term approach to your training. In reflection, if I could give myself three tips to stick by before going on another trip they would be: train to your specific needs, learn to rest and have fun!
Tip #1 Train to your specific needs: Everyone is different, I was working a relatively intense consulting role while training for Manaslu and I had to balance a lot of travel and varied working hours which meant training consistently was a challenge. My solution was to build a training program that had a high degree of flexibility including:
· Workouts that could be done outdoors and indoors with basic gym machines (or in hotel rooms)
· Diets that were accessible when travelling and working late
· Strict rules on getting sleep every day
Tip #2: Learn to rest: I thought I could make up for missed sessions with double workouts but in reality, I ended up getting sick which put me out for much longer than sticking to the plan. Maintaining a balance between training, work and a social life can be very challenging. I spent a fair bit of time surrounding myself with people that supported my goals and understood where my priorities were so that I could focus on my training with minimal distractions. The key part to training smart is to make sure you get enough rest physically and mentally. Climbing mountains, or any adventure, can be just as physical as it is mental or emotional. Being in a good frame of mind can make a world of difference particularly during the tough times when you have to climb through bad weather or get stuck in a tent for 6 days straight...
Tip #3: Have fun: Training over long periods of time requires extremely high levels of intrinsic motivation to test myself physically, mentally and emotionally. It's a type of collective challenge I can't find in anything else that gives me an immense sense of achievement and satisfies my internal self-competitiveness. Getting to the top is of course a large part of the motivation but mentally it was very important for me to focus on the bigger objective, to come home alive and to have fun. Whenever training wasn't 'fun' I found myself struggling to stick to my training plan. Where possible, I would try train with friends or come up with mini-competitions and goals in each workout, such as beating my PB on the erg.
In summary, be clear on what your objectives are to will drive your training needs, including rest, and most importantly maintain a level of fun!
Words by Ben Treble, Climb Fit Athlete
Find Ben on instagram @benjamintreble