How to prepare for a climb into the ‘death zone’ (8,000m+)? (I)

First of all – you have to watch this video (link) for some amazing footage of Everest (and Lhotse) and Ama Dablam in a helicopter flight from Kathmandu. Maybe the madness grabs you too!

Many people ask how one prepares for a climb above 8,000m. I don’t claim to be an expert, but let me share my training regime and some thoughts around it. Starting point for my considerations was that I live in London and have limited time to train elsewhere (at least initially). I planned my training around two main blocks: fitness + endurance and outdoor, environment + equipment. Today I will focus on the fitness aspects only, which apart from helping you hike also help to keep fit (sick on the mountain often means expedition end).

Fitness & Endurance training: My starting point wasn’t too bad, but not grerat either. I had quit smoking about a year earlier and had spent my three month gardening leave in summer 2015 walking some 1,400km in Ireland, Spain & Italy. However, all that fitness disappeared pretty quickly as I settled back into office life resulting in my first ever belly. I felt fat for the first time in my life (where i enjoyed a mostly asparagus like shape). While I was still working full time, I spent around 7-10hours per week training and around 25-30hours since January. My preference is to mix workouts (better for body & mind) and not to forgot the fun aspect. Injuries, unfortunately, became a regular companion (hamstring, pulled muscles, inflammation, …) and Ibuprofen a necessary ‘dessert’ all too often.

Sample trainings plan (full time)

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Sample trainings plan (while working)

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  • Run & cycle outdoor: While still working I ran some 10km to / from work (right through Hyde Park & along the Thames). Get a Strava account and see how you improve your times on key sections (great challenge for commuter runs). Since the injuries I prefer the Boris/Santander bike to reduce the impact. Key positive: Its real, you can slot it in anytime and its free. Key negative: Running caused me injury (calves/hamstring) all too often and so I had to switch to the treadmill (have now decided to take up running school as I have poor technique on top of an ageing body).

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  • Barry’s bootcamp: Being generally sceptical of gym based workout this was not my own idea, but suggested by Chanel. A typical work out involve 50/50 interval training on the treads and floor workout to condition body & core. Cost is GBP20 for a single session, but with a multi session package and company discount this drops to about GBP15 or thereabout. Key positives: Interval training conditions your cardio well and group pressure / push from trainer (moderates the session through mic) push’s your limits. Early sessions start at 6am and slot in nicely before work (you wouldn’t believe how popular they are!). Key negative: Little scope to work on endurance (running intervals are usually 4-5mins before you switch back to the floor) and clearly not at all reflecting outdoor conditions.

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  • The Altitude Centre: Based near Bank station in the city it was a perfect match. You can run/cycle/row in a hypoxic chamber simulating 2,700m altitude (15% oxygen level) and there is an altitude pod that simulates up to 6,000m (very popular with hikers headed to Kilimanjaro). Won’t help you to acclimatise for the ‘death zone (8,000+)’, but at least your oxygen saturation is adjusted to about 3,000m. Key positives: Train at almost 3,000m altitude during your lunch break! Good selection of solo and moderated interval training sessions to push your limits. Key negatives: The three month event prep package at GBP175/month isn’t exactly cheap.

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  • Trube: My good friend Tibo suggested this app to me sometime late summer last year. Currently only available in London, you can order trainers to come to your home (or any other place). They offer personal training, boxing, kickboxing, pilates, yoga etc. About GBp35 per session for an 8 session per month package. I often used the app to fill early morning slots (isn’t it nice to wake 5.30am for a boxing session in your living room ;o). Key positives: Super flexible and efficient. Motivates you to get out of bed when you have a 5.30am appointment before work. Very affordable for 1:1 training even after recent price hikes. Key negative: You need to have the space and its not as effective as working out in the gym.

trube

  • Muay Thai & regular boxing: Boxing conditioning is great for your cardio. I got into it through Trube and then switched to gym based training. Muay Thai I now train mainly in ‘Fightzone London’ in Bethnal Green under Jose Varela (European champion 2014, World champion 2015, interview video) and with my Trube coach ‘Super’ Shane Campbell (active MMA fighter, video). Boxing I do mainly in the old fashioned, but great, gym ‘All Star Boxing’ on Harrow Road and sometimes with my other Trube coach, Shahid from Morocco. Usually 1.5h – 2h conditioning, bag, shadow boxing and sparing sessions. Killer – they are called KO circuits for a good reason! Key positives: Usually gyms offer midday, evening and weekend sessions. Nice to train with people (you don’t get this in a gym like Barry’s) and its not too expensive. Really good all round conditioning that makes a difference. All Star charges GBp8-10 / session and Fightzone’s GBp60 monthly membership works out to GBp7.50 too. Key negatives: Prepare to get hit. Prepare to get told off (and listen or you face push-ups).

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‘Super’ Shane Campbell

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‘Gym’ chez Rocket’s living room

  • Indoor & ice climbing: Cedric, who I spent most with talking about the trip and who joined me on my ‘interview’ with my Lhotse guide Tim up in Lake district back in October, got me into climbing being the keenest sportsman alive! We went to Westway, which has some very good indoor climbing facilities. Some proper hot shots train here including the UK national team. Beyond the traditional indoor climbing I also booked a few ice climbing sessions at Vertical Chill based in Ellis Brigham’s outdoor shop in Covent Garden. Again, not really required but its great to ‘be able t dance on you crampons’. Who knows when it will come handy … and I love it anyway. Key positives: Gets you into some basic rope techniques, securing yourself, belaying others, abseiling and lead climbing etc. So you get some technical skills should you need them either for rock or ice. Very good also to improve core strength! Climbing drains your arms in no time if your technique is off (against common thought you are meant to climb mainly with your legs). Key negatives: Helps your strength, but will unlikely be required on Lhotse and doesn’t do much for endurance.

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vertical-chill

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Westway climbing wall

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Vertical Chill

  • Tennis: The initial drive for that was to have a joint sport with my (now ex) girlfriend. I liked it and had quite a few 1-1 training sessions with John at close by Paddington Rec. Gets your heart-rate up and hitting this little yellow ball is just a great feeling. Key positives: Good for cardio and different to just working out. Key negatives: 1-1 training not cheap at GBp45/hour, otherwise you’ll need to time your session with a partner, and good luck finding a free court after Wimbledon was on TV!
  • Working out at home: Working out at home is certainly a cheap option and with a few accessories (I use weights, matts, abs roll, finger board) you can easily put together an hour of work out. Key positives: Cheap & super flexible. Key negatives: Needs a lot of determination … certainly in the early hours.
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One thought on “How to prepare for a climb into the ‘death zone’ (8,000m+)? (I)

  1. Pingback: Day hike to Mongla (3,975m): Ama Dablam views stunning | rocketontour

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