Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Denali Training: General Weekly Routine

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Getting in good physical shape for ski mountaineering is much different than getting in good physical shape for skiing.  I've gotten quite a few questions about what I'm doing to train for Denali (aside from skiing other peaks), so I figured it would be a good idea to do a little write-up about my general weekly training routine.

Hopefully this video gives you an idea of what the training has been like.

Denali Training Weekly Routine from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.

For starters, my training schedule usually looks something like this:

  • Sunday - Family Day and Rest
  • Monday - Gym Day
  • Tuesday - Ski Day
  • Wednesday - Gym Day
  • Thursday - Gym Day
  • Friday - Ski Day
  • Saturday - Ski Day
Since January my gym workouts have changed significantly compared to my autumn gym workouts.  Likewise, for about the past month my ski days have focused more on big peaks, cardio and technical skills than they did in January, February and March.

Gym Workouts:
My gym routine for Denali focuses a lot more on cardio fitness and endurance than it does on power and explosiveness.  When I train in the autumn I prepare my body for jumping off of cliffs, skiing hard and fast in short bursts, and large impacts.  Climbing Denali will be different.  For Denali I have been training for prolonged exertion with large amounts of weight and little oxygen.  Thus, I have been focusing a great deal on cardio fitness and developing lean "wiry" muscles instead of "bulky" explosive muscles.   The strength training has transitioned from a high-weight-lower-reps routine to low-weight-higher-reps routine.  Below is a general idea of what I've been doing each day in the gym.
  • Monday - Bike Warm-up (5 miles), Upper-Back, Shoulders, Cleans, Jump Rope, Tire, Sledge Hammer, Stair Climber (1500' vertical in ~20 minutes), Stretch
  • Wednesday - Bike Warm-up (5 miles), Lower-Back, Squats, Abs, Shoulders, Stair Climber (1500' vert in ~20 minutes), Stretch
  • Thursday - Bike Warm-up (10 miles), Medicine Ball Drills, Stair Climber (2000' vert in ~28 minutes), Stretch
Starting off the workout with 5-10 miles on the bike.
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Workouts end with 1500'-2000' vertical on the stair climber.
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Doing 4 sets of cleans (10 reps), jump ropes (50 reps), tire toss (10 reps) and sledge hammers (10 reps) as fast as possible with no break has been a staple of my weekly routine.  The cleans work my back, shoulders, hips and legs.
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The sledge hammers keep my heart rate elevated in between cleans and jump rope and also help me work on balance.
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Doing a set of jump rope in the middle of this cycle really works the lungs.
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While doing the tire toss I do my best to focus on having a flat back and snapping my hips through.
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I am not doing nearly as much weight with my squats as I did this autumn, but I do far more reps.
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Doing medicine ball drills adds variety to the routine while working on balance and strength.
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I'll be hauling a lot of weight on Denali, so I've put a lot of time into strengthening my back.
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Not only will my back feel a lot of the weight that I'm carrying, my shoulders will, too.
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Dynamically working on ab strength.
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Mixing in a variety of exercises, like the rope (which works my shoulders and lower back) help prevent the workouts from getting stale.
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Stretching after every workout has helped me stay loose and ward off injury.
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As a result of this type of training I have lost about 35 pounds since January.  Much of that weight isn't from body fat, but instead because of the different type of muscle I've developed.  Additionally, my cardio and endurance fitness is better than it has ever been in my life.  I really hope that I'm able to reap the benefits of this when on Denali.

Ski Training:
Aside from the occasional powder day (big late season storms!) my ski training for the past month has been focused on skiing high peaks, working on technical skills, and/or getting cardio workouts at altitude.  I've had big days on mountains like The Grand Teton, Long's Peak and Pikes Peak (with more to come, hopefully), and I've had days of hauling lots of weight at altitude (like a hut trip with my family).

Ski-mountaineering on The Grand Teton.
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Ski-mountaineering on Long's Peak.
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I have always eaten like a horse.  Even when I was a little kid I ate more food than most adults.  During my Denali training it has been important that I fuel my body properly.  This means eating well before, during and after workouts.  I have recently signed-up a company called The Feed who tailors different types of workout fuel for given athletic goals.  I've been using products that they send me that are specifically for pre-, during-, and post-workouts and I can honestly say that I notice the difference.  Combined with eating a healthy regular diet (at least most of the time) I have certainly seen the way my eating habits have benefitted my performance.

A typical dinner at the Bettner house - lean protein, veggies and starch and water.
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Marilyn was interested in my box from The Feed with food specifically for my ski-mountaineering training.

The way I fueled myself for The Grand Teton.

Even with all the training and preparation for Denali, there is still a chance that we will not be able to do everything hope to do.  There are some things that are simply out of our control (weather, avalanche conditions, etc.) and even fit people can have adverse reactions to altitude.  But, the training and preparation drastically increases our chances of success on Denali, so it is certainly worth doing.

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