Training For The Alpine Challenge
So the dust settles after an amazing two weeks in Italy and focus moves on to the next big challenge. For a while its been tough to see past the wedding and although i have been looking forward to this for months it took me by surprise when i checked the diary to realise that its only six weeks away! Now I would like to think that i keep myself at reasonable fitness level all year round however being fit enough to climb a 10,000ft mountain, thats a different question!
For those of you who don’t know i will be joining a team of climbers in an attempt to summit Mont Buet (pictured above) in Switzerland between the 9th and 12th of September and at three times the height of Snowdon i certainly have my work cut out! Last week i sat down with one of my physios and worked through a training plan i had put together with this climb in mind. Getting fit for this sort of thing is an interesting challenge given both the neurological complications i now face and my constantly evolving physical capabilities. I’m all for grit and determination on the day, believe me its as important as anything but attitude will only get you so far if your preparation isn’t right. Although successful, important lessons have been learnt from Snowdon that have affected the way i am approaching getting fit for this next ascent.
So what am i up to?
Firstly, like Snowdon, the emphasis still has to be on rehab. The goal is to work out a way to get the necessary fitness work done without negatively effecting my rehabilitation. In fact the goal is to actually merge the training and the rehab in a way that can positively effect my gait. Fortunately, although i ended up walking like the living dead after sevens hours on Snowdon, there was no negative long term repercussions and I even experienced a couple of positive changes. Training for the climb however did throw up a few challenges.
The first issue is the impact a lot of walking has on my joints. Im certainly not as large as i was before the accident but i still weigh over 100kg so inevitably there is a fair amount of force getting transferred through my hinges every time my foot hits the floor. This would be fine in itself but when combined with muscles that aren’t working properly and previous injuries, the problems are exacerbated. Primarily the issues come with my left knee which is missing 70% of its meniscus (protective tissue) from a previous rugby injury. On top of this my quadriceps and hamstrings aren’t working synergistically as a shock absorber and consequently i am sending a lot of force from bone to bone. The result if i over do it is often an angry, swollen joint which if not managed properly can stop me training all together. As well as the knee, the way i walk is overloading my lower back and left hip. These don’t give me as much of an issue however have to be managed as problems are often accumulative.
So how do i combat this? Well firstly in between training for climbs i will do most of my conditioning off feet. I still do a lot of walking from day to day so instead of adding to that I use circuits, high intensity weights sessions and cardio machines such as a ski erg or air bike. This allows me to maintain and even progress my fitness whilst putting no unnecessary stress on my joints. I probably use high intensity weights sessions the most, doing at least 4, normally 5 sessions a week. I will work in a 6 – 10 rep range and always to failure, but by high intensity i basically just mean that i limit my rest periods. Everything is performed in super sets and instead of resting in between each set i will do a core or rehab exercise. This maintains a high heart rate throughout and i find that this way i can burn at least 500 calories in 30-40 minutes. Its not easy but i much prefer to train at high intensity for shorter periods than mess around in the gym for hours. The health benefits are undeniable, its less time expensive and allows me to improve my cardio whilst maintaining and improving strength.
When i’m approaching a challenge however i will inevitably have to up my walking mileage in order to develop the endurance needed over these longer periods. I like to try and mix up not just my distances but where i go and do my walking. I find that staying engaged with what you are doing is very important and when i was training for Snowdon I would walk the same hill over and over again until eventually i was bored stiff of it. Im lucky that where i live i have quick access to the Mendip Hills AONB so i am spoilt for choice and this time around i am going to really take advantage of that. Since i climbed Snowdon i am now in a position to go and walk safely by myself which means that i am a lot less restricted on when and where i get the walks done. As i said i like to explore so although sometimes i will do some research before i go, i often just park up and head off across the fields. I always have a distance in mind and I use a heart rate monitor and Suunto GPS watch to keep an eye on my progress but dead ends and accidental trespassing are a regular occurrence. My watch also allows me to keep track of all of my other training sessions and monitor my work load so can make adjustments accordingly. Currently I am looking at doing 3 walks a week, two shorter and steeper around 6-8km and one longer one of 10km plus. Between now and Mont Buet I will also go across to the Brecon Beacons to do two bigger walks of around 20km. In between i still have my usual physio routine although the focus is more on fine tuning and management rather than work load. I will also continue to do 4 weights sessions a week with the emphasis shifting slightly more to strength rather than high intensity as i will be getting my cardio from the hills.
Mobility and soft tissue work is also more important than ever during these phases, so foam rolling, stretching and trigger point work is now a daily occurrence. The welsh wizard Ceri also does a lot of dry needling and acupuncture work with me which i find works wonders in getting rid of any unwanted tone. The DMS (deep muscle stimulater) will be getting more use as well, especially trying to keep my calves from turning into led.
Nutrition is obviously important as always although nothing will really change here for me apart from upping the calorie intake during and after my long walks. I am still intermittent fasting most days and keep carbohydrates low until the evening meal where i find they help me sleep better. For more detailed information on my nutrition please see previous blog post (Day 328).
I find the most important thing whilst training is to listen to my body. The time for ignoring the pain and pushing to and beyond the limits is during the challenge, but to get the most out of the training block there has to be a balance between exercise and body management. Theres no point doing the extra mile if it means you have to rest for two days because something has flared up afterwards. Finding this balance is a challenge as it is constantly evolving but i certainly feel i have a better grasp of it this time around.
I’ve stressed before the importance of setting goals and having something to work towards. I feel very privileged that I have the opportunity to take on these challenges and at the same time raise some money for a great cause. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far in my journey and iff you would be kind enough to support me on this next adventure, please visit Ed’s Alpine Challenge
P.s. If you have any questions on any of this or want some more detail on my training etc don’t hesitate to get in touch via social media.