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In-Season Maintenance Routine Between Adventures
By Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS
Now that you have done all the training leading up to your climb, trek, scramble, hike or backpacking trip, what next? If you have several climbs planned over the summer, how do you maintain your performance levels, avoid burnout, prevent overuse injuries, and hopefully increase performance with each outing? The answer actually depends on a number of different factors. Some of these include your age, existing workout routine leading up to your hikes, intensity and frequency of workouts, in-season goals, and experience level in your current activity. All have to do, to some degree, with how well you recover from hard and/or long effort. For more on active recovery, please see www.bodyresults.com/E2ActiveRecovery.asp; for more on rest, its importance, and various restoration techniques, see www.bodyresults.com/E2restoration.asp.
Let’s consider each factor and how it affects the answer:
As we age, in general, our bodies simply need more recovery time. A hiker in his or her mid-twenties may be able to do a heavy hike one weekend and a mid-week hike only a few days later, repeating that cycle for a number of weeks leading up to several great climbs, long hikes, or backpack trips in a season. Someone in his or her sixties may need a day or two off following longer hikes and a complete week or even more to fully recover before doing another serious hike, and therefore may want to plan several good outings a season spaced farther apart, rather than going out every weekend or twice a week. Much of this also depends on prior conditioning levels, hiking experience, and how long a person has participated in a given activity.
If you have been building up training volume for at least three months, then after your first major climb or outing of the season you may be due for a rest or recovery week before launching into another building or maintenance phase. Think about breaking the year into four quarters, with 11 weeks of periodized training (gradually increasing volume and intensity) ramping up to a week of rest and recovery (lowered volume and light intensity) before repeating. If you enjoy hiking year-round, you may find that your in- and off-season training routine are pretty similar.
One option to try is embarking on a four-week mini-cycle summer (or in-season) program that includes a week of endurance building, a week of speed work, a week of stamina workouts, followed by a week of active recovery or rest. If you have several big outings spaced roughly a month apart, this pattern may work quite well. You could look at the fourth or “rest week” as either a “peak and taper” phase leading into a climb, or as a recovery week after a climb, with the climb falling at the end of the stamina week. The main point here is to make sure you include several built-in easier weeks throughout the year so you give your body the rest it needs to improve before the next event.
The higher the intensity (or amount of effort exerted in each workout) during your building phase, the fitter you will be, but also the more tired you may end up feeling after each cycle. High intensity workouts require more recovery time. Assuming you stay healthy and do not go into overtraining, a period of active recovery (for more on that see www.bodyresults.com/E2ActiveRecovery.asp and www.bodyresults.com/S2recovery.asp as an example for climbers) can be quite beneficial and important.
This refers to the number of workouts you had per week in your building phase. If your routine consisted of three workout days a week, your maintenance program will end up looking far different than someone who worked out twice a day for 5 days a week. The person with 3 workout days a week may very well continue to train exactly the same way in a “maintenance program,” whereas the person who works out with far greater frequency would end up having significantly more room to cut back for a maintenance program – perhaps 5 workout days of only single workouts rather than doubles, essentially cutting exercise time in half.
The person who is training for a one-time-only big climb or backpacking trip may find that returning to original pre-goal intensities, duration and frequency of workouts is okay. Someone who has a whole season of trips planned, as often as perhaps every other week, would embark on a far different maintenance program that would include mini-ramp-ups, peak training and recovery cycles several times throughout the season to be as ready for each outing as possible.
The more experience an individual has at hiking, trekking, climbing or backpacking, the more technique will factor into how he or she performs in a chosen activity. As an example, if you have been alpine climbing for years, you may have extensive knowledge of the rest step, proper crampon techniques, pressure breathing, plunge stepping, and efficient pacing, tools the novice has not had time to master. The experienced climber, therefore, will exert far less energy on the same climb than the novice, and therefore will be able to recover more quickly than a new climber who is more awkward and less familiar with performing the same tasks.
SAMPLE MAINTENANCE PROGRAM
Below is a sample weekly schedule for someone who has been training for Mt. Rainier or another 14’er and who wants to be able to do a repeat, or other similar climbs. This example is based on a culmination of clients in a typical May month leading into the summer season, but is only one of many possible scenarios. The sample client would be someone who has gradually built to at least 5 workouts a week, including (1) weekend hike of 2000-3500’ gain over 5-10 miles with anywhere from a 12 pound daypack (if hiking as far as Camp Muir is their main target) to a 40-45# climbing pack (i.e. reaching the summit of Rainier); (2) strength workouts combined with shorter (30 minute) cardiovascular workouts, one being either a high intensity (> 85% MHR) intervals workout or a circuit-type workout (alternating a minute of cardio and minute of strength throughout the circuit) and the other a medium intensity (to 80% MHR) steady state, shorter cardiovascular workout; and (2) endurance workouts ranging from 45-75 minutes each from 60-75% MHR.
A maintenance routine, then, to keep up this level of fitness and to enable the client above to do other similar trips throughout the summer as they might crop up, would be to include (1) one hike every other weekend (twice a month) with target hiking pack weight, at least 6 miles round trip and elevation gain comparable to potential objectives when (or if) possible; (1-2) full body free weight strength workouts mid-week if hiking days are predominantly on weekends (Wednesday if once, full body, and, Tuesday/Thursday if twice, splitting into lower and upper workouts), and (2-3) cardio workouts, one short (alternating a week that has steady state higher intensity cardio with a week that has intervals, depending on end objective and altitude to be attempted, combined with strength workout), one optional moderate distance (45 minutes) at 75% MHR, and one longer endurance workout of at least an hour. Such a person could get away with a maintenance workout program of 4 days a week, varying intensities, types of workouts, and focus for each week, with a build of 2 weeks leading into another climb.