Wilderness Sports Conditioning
Train Today for
Climbing Cardiovascular Preparation
Q: My winter maintenance routine includes a mix of cardio and strength training four times a week for 90 minutes. The other days I concentrate on upper body work. 2-3 times a week, I do 45 minutes of stair climbing with a 50 lb. pack. I feel good and have had no injuries. But I've been cautioned that I should limit these sessions to once a week. Any truth to that? Is it safe to boost the weight periodically?
A: We recommend that people do weighted hiking (or, in your case, weighted stair climbing work) no more than 1-2x a week, but since you have not had any knee, ankle or hip problems, you might try the following for variety (and to challenge the muscles differently, to prevent any overuse injuries and keep your workouts fresh): 1) 1x/wk, do stair stepping (or elliptical cross trainer) with your standard 40-50#; 2) 1x/wk, go outside to a steep hill and climb it (up and down, for intervals) with a weighted pack; 3) 1x/wk, go on a distance hike over more gradual terrain (longer than 45 minutes if you like, e.g. on weekends, and heavier if you like). That gives you the 3 times a week for endurance pack work. I'd also vary the weight, particularly in the off season, then ramp back up to the 50-60# closer to the time you'll need that particular level of endurance. That will give you more variety, recovery time, and also free up more time to do other things -- like get ready for ski season, for example. As always, if you begin to feel any strains in ankles, knees, hips, or lower back, then back off on the weight, frequency (maybe 2x/week would be optimal) or distance.
Another good alternative is trail running, although I'd primarily recommend it for those with no prior knee or hip problems. And if you happen to be someone with delicate knees, try hiking uphill with full water jugs in your pack, then dump the water at the top and hike (or jog, if you prefer) back down. Scrambling up and down talus or boulder fields (for speed and agility) is an even more challenging twist, although you want to make absolutely sure you've done "regular" cardio and strength training before trying that.
If you do not have access to a stair climbing machine, simply find some stairs and climb up and down them. Here are some suggestions in Seattle:
* University of Washington / Hec Ed stadium bleachers
* University of Washington / lower parking lot stairs
* SW Thistle St. (West Seattle) 352 stairs gain=150 ft.
* Any downtown building (I liked the 23 stories of the Seattle Tower Building)
* East Blaine St. (Capitol Hill)
* East Howe St. (Capitol Hill)
* Freeway Park (Downtown, good place for an outdoor circuit)
* John Street (one of the best hill climbs downtown) between 3rd and 9th
* Bell St Overpass between Athony's and the Odyssey Center (Waterfront)
* 3rd and Yesler (near Harborview)
If you have favorite spots in the Seattle area for outdoor workouts, send them to us and we'll add to the list here.