Recovery is one of the most overlooked aspects of training by mountaineers worldwide. However, if done right, it can be an incredible aid to your training, your health and, ultimately, your performance on the mountain.
Let me tell you why:
A little while ago, I got a question from an aspiring mountaineer, who said something along the lines of:
"I want to fit in five days of training a week, but I am struggling to balance these sessions out with rest days. If I train two days in a row, I need a rest day. And I need a day off before and after my big scramble on the weekends. So how can I fit in five days of training?"
My first thoughts to this, if there a reason you need so many days off a week?
Not that it is bad (I certainly love having a few rest days in the week!). But is there something compromising your bodies recovery between sessions, which is stopping you from training on back to back days, even if you wanted to?
This is a very common situation I see from mountaineers. Because many mountaineers LOVE to train, they are happy to do 5,6,7+ sessions a week of training, for multiple hours at a time. That training volume is not my cup of tea, but plenty of mountaineers do it. But, there seems to be a massive blindspot in most mountaineers programs (and endurance athletes in general) when it comes to recovery.
So with this in mind, here is a simple checklist for recovery for mountaineers. These are some of the biggest 'bang for your buck' recovery strategies. Which, if applied consistently, can make a tremendous impact on your bodies ability to recovery, your training performance and, ultimately, your chance of success on the mountain:
During your training, you should be striving to get 8 hours a night of sleep. This is one of the single most significant things you can do for your recovery, health and mental state.
While we can survive on 7,6 or even 5 hours sleep a night, it will be compromising your training. There can be no question about it. So if you have the opportunity (i.e. don't have a young baby keeping you up all night), this is a great area to focus. If 8 hours is impossible, even sneaking in an extra 30 minutes each night can make a big difference. Do what you can.
(If you can get more than 8 hours, even better! Many professional athletes sleep 10 hours a night. The more you train, the more you need)
In small doses, stress isn't a bad thing. But in large, unyielding doses can impact your recovery (among other things). Now we all go through periods of stress, maybe it is from a busy job, family drama or relationships. Everyone deals with this stuff, and I am not saying you need to avoid it all together...
But what you can do is take some simple actions to help minimise this stress. And reduce its chance of impacting on your training, recovery or health.
A few simple things almost anyone can fit into their day:
Nutrition is a vast subject on its own. And there is no way I can do it justice in a couple of paragraphs. But it is safe to say, if you are not eating enough, of the right things, your recovery will be compromised, your training will suffer, and you will never reach your potential.
A few simple points to consider:
4) Active Recovery
Another often overlooked strategy is active recovery. Many mountaineers I have come across, struggle to commit to these sessions because they would rather use this time to 'actually train'. Which I completely understand. But, these sessions are so incredibly valuable!
Between days of training, or after a big session, fit in 15-30 minutes of casual, gently exercise. This does wonders for helping clear out waste products, stimulate recovery and regeneration and make you feel good!
A few of my favourites:
Now, none of these recommendations is probably new to you. None of them is rocket science. Are you have probably heard it all before.
But I want you to be honest with yourself...
Are you actually doing these consistently?
Because if not, you are shooting yourself in the foot.
If you struggle to fit these things into your training and want some help putting together a structured, specialised training program for mountaineering, you can find me here:
Yours in adventure,
Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.