Hi everyone. It has been a very long time since I last posted. And while I don’t want to make excuses, since my last post things have been pretty hectic but awesome. I have taken on a new job and have been lucky enough to move to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. While I often thought about moving, I never considered that it would be south. I always thought that I would end up closer to the mountains. However I could not pass on this opportunity. And while I am a bit farther from the mountains I am now in walking distance of an amazing training facility called the Chesapeake Bay. As I write this post from the loft in my house I am watching a thunderstorm dump rain and wind across the Bay. We now live on the Eastern Shore near the famous Kent Island. I feel so lucky to be able to walk out my front door and launch my SUP only a few hundred feet down the road. While its not the mountains it is an amazing area to train. The back roads are quiet, the Wye River & Bay are amazing areas to paddle, and the there are plentiful trails. However just like our last house its dreadfully flat. In fact its even flatter than the rolling fields of Oxford Pa, my watch currently says that we are just 6 feet above Sea level. While this is by no means ideal for preparing for the big mountains it certainly is a challenge that I am ready for. Stay tuned.
I will start off with a disclaimer that I have used in the past: I am not a fitness professional, professional trainer, or doctor. I do however live in a totally flat area surrounded by corn fields and do decently ok in the mountains. Which is actually the reason that I started this blog, I want to inspire, motivate, and help other flatlanders enjoy the mountains. Now on to the training! This post is focused on what many fitness pros would call the “base” period. There are many interpretations of this but I think in general they mean a period of time in which you are getting into decent enough shape to set you up for a period of goal specific training. For example, when I ran XC for Philadelphia University my base period was during the summer break and focused on mid-grade mileage and general fitness. Once we got back to school, we then would transition into more specific training focused on our 8k races. Many books such as Steve House’s book Training for New Alpinism put a heavy emphasis on carefully planning this training period. I totally agree with this but find that its not always feasible for everyday people in everyday life. We get busy, life events happen, work gets crazy and goals change.
For my upcoming shot at the Great Range Traverse I would love to say that I carefully planned out a base training period and scheduled my transition into a specific training period. However, the reality is that it did not work this way for me but I still feel like I am in a good place to perform. This is based on my strict focus on staying generally fit. This past winter I focused heavily on both backcountry snowboarding (see my past post on splitboarding). My ideal plan was to come off of the winter season (Early April) and then have at least 6 weeks of easy to moderate running and then 5 weeks of hard uphill running before the traverse. However, work and life got in the way and I settled on early June for the traverse. My theory is that my months of uphill splitboarding, hard lifting, snowboarding, and daily fitness routine (yoga, climbing, kettlebell, etc..) provided enough of a general fitness for me to transition right to hard training for hard mountain running. Is it ideal? No, but I think it will work. I love the idea of staying generally fit at all times, this concept is something that Sean Sewell talks about in my recent interview with him: “The way I train is to be ready for action any day and any moment. So I don’t really have “off season” or peaking”. Check it out under the training section of my blog.
Ok on to my “base” period. While the majority of the focus was on snowboarding, I believe that the portion focused on uphill travel served as a decent base for my current training. When I am focused on mountain sports I care most about time on my feet and vertical gain. For me mileage has mostly been a secondary metric unless I am training for a marathon. Loosely my base period started in early winter. Below is my overall time spent on each training activity:
Looking back at this I find it promising that 28% of time was spent running combined with many hours hiking and backpacking. Additionally, many miles focused on uphill travel. However, on the negative side over the course of those 13 weeks I was only on my feet for 124 hours which comes out to roughly 1:22 hours a day, I think this has the potential of being troublesome. Especially because there where at least 5 or 6 full days of lift access downhill snowboarding (19% of time on feet). While downhill riding certainly works muscles I don’t think it will help me with the Great Range. However, on the more positive side I am pleased with the elevation gain profile:
While there are certainly some low weeks, I averaged 5175 feet of vertical gain a week. A lot of this was done through inclined treadmill and box step works outs but there was also a good amount of outside uphill travel as well. I should also note that sometime around week 11 I realized that winter was coming to a abrupt end near me and I started upping my miles. I even got in a 31-mile running day for my 31st birthday. While that completely sucked it was for sure a confidence booster for me.
Overall, I can draw both a number of negative and positive conclusions from counting this as my “base” period. In reality only time will tell, but so far so good on the “specific” training period. In the coming weeks I will touch on progress and specific workouts focused on the Great Range, however in the meantime feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts. By no means am I saying this is a brilliant plan and I would love to get everyone’s overall thoughts. Until next time, thanks for reading.
I distinctly remember the first time I saw the high peaks of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. As we drove NW on route 73 I remember being in complete awe with the sheer amount of exposed, steep, and seemingly endless peaks. A few months later I got the chance to climb one and I was instantly hooked. I soon wanted to complete as many of the 46 peaks as possible. Over the next few years I started doing the long drive up the thruway many times a year to give them a shot. One year I even convinced my family to take their summer “beach” vacation there. I have since made decent progress but got side tracked by an experience I had on the famous Great Range. In an attempt to make the most of my trips I often would try to slam in as many peaks as possible in a short amount of time. This led to eventually trying the Great Range Traverse in a day. While there are many variations of the Great Range Traverse, it generally means doing 25+ miles, 10k in elevation gain, and 8 high peaks. While my first time doing the GRT was slow, wet, and very painful my friends and I had a blast and it got me hooked on this concept of endurance peak bagging. Since then I have done a host of different endurance peak bagging days including the Presidential Traverse, the notorious Devils Path, and a climbing ascent up Mt Whitney.
It has been several years since I have been up on the Great Range but each year, I find myself itching to get after it again. I am happy to say that I finally have it on the books for this coming June. The general plan is to start at the Rooster Comb Trail head and finish up at the Garden Trailhead. (more to come on the route in a later post) After getting this on the books I called up my good buddy Shawn D’Andrea. Shawn is an all-around running badass and has been kicking my ass in races since college. He recently finished the Boston Marathon in 2:32:58, which if you’re not familiar is freakin fast!!! While mostly a road runner his ability to suffer and unrelenting grit makes him a perfect partner. This past fall Shawn agreed to “run” the Devils Path with me and ended up getting more elevation gain in one day than the rest of the year combined. His ability to adapt to the Catskills rough terrain and push me to a sub 10-hour Devils path is both inspiring and motivating. Stay tuned to the blog and Instagram over the next few weeks as I will be posting what I have done so far to prepare, each weeks training recap, and some short stories on past ADK experiences. My next post will focus on my base training period and my training log set up. Thanks for reading.
As I progress down this blog journey an important goal of mine is to feature a series of Q&A’s on how others prepare for adventures in the mountains. I am so excited to kick this off with the below Q&A with Sean Sewell from Colorado Personal Fitness. Sean Sewell is a Certified Personal Trainer (and also has a whole host of other badass certifications check them out here BIO ). Sean currently resides in Colorado where he can often be found splitboarding, hiking, camping, or just exploring the beautiful wilderness of Colorado. Sean specializes in Functional Training, which he defines as “creating training programs to enhance your day to day life and activities.” What I love about Sean is that he works with a variety of different everyday people, not just high performance pro athletes. He helps real world people achieve their fitness goals, this includes seniors, couples, and busy professionals. I think Sean says it best below:
“Previous to becoming a trainer, I worked in the corporate world – for 12 years – so I know what it is like to be at a desk all day and feel out of shape. I can empathize with the workloads, the trouble to find time as well as motivation to exercise. If I can do it, so can you! Actually, this is my core group of clients – busy professionals who need expert help, accountability and some “me” time to take care of themselves and then get back to taking care of business (and family!).”
Ok lets jump right in with questions. But first be sure to check out the links to Sean’s programs, social feeds, and a link to a free digital download of his Splitboarding book at the bottom of the post.
1 – Can you give us a background on where you live, work, and what mountain sports you pursue?
A) I live in Denver CO and operate my fitness business here and in the mountains of the Front Range. Winter is splitboarding, snow shoeing, camping and hiking. Summer is for hiking, biking, camping, rafting and anything outside.
2 – Did you grow up in a mountain town? If not where?
A) I was actually born and raised in Omaha NE, believe it or not! 🙂 I loved being outside and enjoyed the rivers and forests of Nebraska and Iowa. It was always a dream to visit CO, but we never did. Then my mother was transferred to Denver for work. I fell in love and awe of the mountains since day one of living here. Still am!
3 – What are some of your goals for the upcoming spring off season from Snowboarding?
A) Great question. The way I train is to be ready for action any day and any moment. So I don’t really have “off season” or “peaking”. I suppose I do hit it a bit harder in the non winter months as I am not pushing myself as much with backcountry mountain activities in deep snow. That being said, here are my 2019 goals for fitness, health and growth:
- Mobility – maintain and/or improve mobility
- Recover – allow for maximum recovery after training. I think we can all be better at this.
- Strength – Spend some time getting comfortable with heavier kettlebells, weighted tactical pull-ups, weighted pistols and explosive push ups.
- Redo the StrongFirst SFG in the fall. Never can learn enough!
- Update the Splitboarding book I wrote to reflect recent AIARE education updates and new gear.
- Start formally teaching the Mountain Fitness School in the mountains of Colorado. Get as many people prepped for the following winter!
4 – How did you get into (whatever your favorite mountain sports are)?
A) I always loved snowboarding. Been doing it for 25 years of so. I also love hiking and exploring. When I learned that there were some people who took a snowboard and split in half to make a mountain accession tool. At first, it was a major challenge to figure out how things work, best practices and all that. So, after learning from some mentors, I figured it would be a good opportunity to help others get into this sport. It is such a rewarding outdoor experience – trekking up a mountain, the views and magic of the area, the fitness component of the tour and then you get to snowboard back to the trail head. Its perfect! I also love the gear that goes along with splitboarding and outdoor adventures. I created a site that goes over the latest gear for splitboarding and other outdoor activities, check it out – Engeament
5 – How do you train yourself and others for these sports?
A) I use as few fitness tools as possible in the most simple and effective way that I can think of. The tools are bodyweight, kettlebells and TRX. First, I make sure that the student (or myself) is moving correctly. Using FMS and other screens to see if I can spot imbalances. Chances are high that we all have opportunity in this area, I know I do! Once moment is addressed, we go over the basic movement patterns – pull, push, hinge, squat, lunge, rotation, anti-rotation. It is really simple, but I think the body should be trained as a unit of components all working together. A training program I create will make sure to cover all those patterns. Some of my go-to exercises are kettlebell swings, push ups, goblet squats, rows or pull ups, Turkish get ups, hollow holds and cossacks. After training professional for over 10 years, I have seen several training methods come and go, but these tried and true tools never let the you down. I make sure each rep is a good rep, that we rest adequately between sets to get the most out of each session. I combine ballistics with presses, pulls, anti-rotation and mobility in every session. All about the KISS idea. Keep it simple and safe ( I don’t like calling things stupid :P) I created the Mountain Fitness School to help others get in shape for mountain sports. It goes over all this in much greater detail and shows the user how to perform exercises correctly and use the program to improve endurance and strength in the mountains.
6 – Can you give us some background on Colorado Personal Fitness?
A) Colorado Personal Fitness is my training business that I created to help others improve their health and fitness to better enjoy their life and outdoor activities. Using the fitness tools above (bodyweight, kettlebells and TRX) we work on improving their quality of life so they can enjoy more time with loved ones doing what they love. From playing with their kids and grandkids, to climbing mountains. To me, it is all about treating each person with respect and kindness, finding their sticking points and teaching them how to move better. Progressing them towards their individual goals and rewarding them with encouragement and genuine stoke. Many of them graduate onto doing new activities. Some even join me for backcountry hikes, snow shoeing and even splitboarding!
B) Its a dream job and I am fortunate to be able to do it. I spent 15 years working in an office setting, so I know that that is like. I left the corporate world do what I truly love doing – helping others improve their health and get outside!
7 – What advice do you have for flatlanders who often travel to the mountains to Ski or snowboard and want to be prepared?
A) Great question! 1) Hydrate 2) ease into the elevation 3) Hydrate! 4) eat some good food 5) rest and recover! 6) leave a run on the mountain. This last one is very important. I am a firm believer in doing an activity with as much safe effort as possible. Meaning, stop when form degrades. On the mountain, if you are getting fatigued and your body starts to give out, this could easily lead to an injury. In the training room, we always stop at the first signs of degraded form. No need to train to fatigue in the gym or in the mountains. Save that run for the next day! Save that rep for the next session. 7) hydrate! 🙂
8 – Same question but focused on uphill winter travel like splitboarding?
A) Hydrate for sure. If your urine is dark color, you are dehydrated and behind the 8 ball. Get some salts in you. EAT! You are going to burn more calories skiing uphill than just about anything else you can do in the gym. Plus, it is probably cold and your body needs extra calories to stay warm and functioning. So, no diets in the backcountry! I don’t care if you diet at home, don’t do it on the mountain and jeopardize yourself and others. Stretch after tour. Chances are good that you will be driving for a while after the adventure and it is no bueno to be tight and bound up. Just get some simple stretches in and eat some good food before you head back to civilization. One trick I do is to do a 5-10 minute mobility / stretching session when I get home. This really aids in the recovery process.
9 – When do you start training for the snowboard season?
A) I train for snowboarding year round. I find that this keeps me primed for most any activity that pops up. Snowboard season can go from October – June for me, so there really is not much time off between beginning and end. And that “time off” is “time on” for other fun outdoor activities 🙂
10 – What are some of the biggest mistakes you see clients make when training specifically for mountain sports like climbing, snowboarding, or running?
A) Easy – overtraining. I think people believe that they need to crush themselves in the gym. I was one of those people, so I can relate. I can also relate to all the injuries and frustration that went along with this kind of training. Training in the gym is meant to improve life outside of it. Not take away from it. By listening to your body (or using HRV and heart rate monitors to track data) you can find out when to hit it hard, and when to back off. In fact, I wrote a paper on this topic for StrongFirst and how it relates to mountain fitness. Link here – https://www.strongfirst.com/how-strongfirst-endurance-protocols-improve-ski-season/
11 – What off season activities do you recommend to stay in shape for ski season?
A) I am all for whatever activities you love doing, that makes you break a sweat. Some of my personal favorites are hiking and biking. Backpacking is really good as you have a weight on your back that is at least as heavy as a well equipped backcountry winter backpack. Plus you get to study the terrain that you may latter be skiing down. Swimming is great for fitness and recovery. Rafting is a heck of a lot of fun too. Plus, there is a sense of awe as you are enjoying the river, that is made of the snow that you enjoyed skiing on a few months before. SUP is great too. Talk about a fun challenge to proprioception and balance! I have not done SUP as much as I would like, but look forward to doing that more. Basically, just get outside, have fun, break a sweat and share a smile with loved ones. As long as you are consistent with training and outdoor activities, ski season will not be such a shock to the system.
Colorado Personal Fitness website – https://www.coloradopersonalfitness.com
Mountain Fitness School website – https://mountainfitnessschool.com
Engearment website – https://engearment.com
How to Splitboard – https://issuu.com/coloradopersonalfitness/docs/splitbaording_-_the_first_steps
It was a beautiful bluebird day at the famed Jackson Hole Ski Resort and Scott and I had just got done doing seemingly endless tree runs on the Northeast Side of the mountain. We regrouped with Laura at the top of a long steep run that went down the center of the mountain. Scott dropped in first and made tight turns down the beautifully vertical slope. Laura went next and made it look easy as she effortlessly carved down the slope. Scott and Laura have long been my go to ski buddies and we were all stoked to be skiing in Jackson Hole. We had spent the previous day slamming in as many runs as possible and my legs were already paying for it. I dropped in and was instantly greeted with a strong burning sensation in my front foot and ankle. I tried hard to carve the packed powder but ended up having a fall laden run with a lot of ass sliding. We got to the bottom and I was already making excuses. I blamed it on my boots, then my board, then my bindings. I skipped the next run and went back to the lodge to make some “adjustments”, which meant a lengthy stop at the bar. Here I was sitting by myself nursing a PBR in one of the most beautiful places on earth, while my friends shredded the steeps. While I made lots of excuses the reality was that I was not physically prepared for two days of steep WY riding.
Prior to the trip I had been running, climbing, and lifting a lot and I felt like I was in good physical shape. So why was I struggling so bad when my Ski partners seemed to be just fine? The answer is simple. I had only gotten out snowboarding two prior time that season, while both Scott and Laura had each been out a bunch including a couple days in Colorado. I was ticked at myself for not getting out more but after some reflection I realized that I did not have an opportunity to get out anymore then I did. Life happens, I was particularly busy that winter with work, family outings, and home renovations and had zero time to ski more than I did prior to this trip. I fought through the pain and fatigue and managed to still have a blast. The rest of the season came and went and then a few more seasons passed with similar results. Now fast forward to early fall 2019, I had just come off a pretty stellar but strenuous climbing season and decided that I would change things up a bit and focus a lot of time towards snowboarding this winter. Additionally, we had a few pretty poor winters for ice climbing and snowboarding felt like a worthy option. I ended up purchasing a splitboard, booking a 4 day avy class, 2 NH trips, 1 ADK trip, 1 Pocono day, 4 Catskill Ski days, and the crown jewel of my winter: 3 days of riding in Taos NM. I had a lot planned and really wanted to do my best to be prepared.
I had long treated snowboarding as just something fun to do when the weather was poor or the ice climbing sucked. I would start my season completely unprepared physically and not be anywhere near my best until the end of the season. I would get a little better each day out but with short Pennsylvania season and limited time I was not really improving. I started thinking about some ways that I could better prepare myself prior to snow ever hitting the ground. I came up with three areas that I would focus on to prepare: Foot comfort, snowboard specific leg muscles, and core. Keep in mind that my focus here is on the muscles associated with snowboarding, not the cardio. If you are doing a lot of hiking, skinning, or playing in altitude you might want to add some cardio training to this. I do a ton of mountain specific cardio and would be happy to share more at some point. Below are ways that I prepared for this season.
Foot strength and comfort:
I run all year round and like to think that I have relatively strong throughout the year however once I am in the stiff and bulky snowboard boots things tend to go down hill (get it). The first thing that flairs up for me when riding is a painful burning sensation in arch and toe areas. I used to think this was caused by my boots but found that I had the same issue with a much more expensive and customizable boots (Jones 32 MTB). This is not to undersell the importance of getting a boot that fits well as that is nonnegotiable. However, I found that I can reduce the pain and burning by getting my feet used to wearing the boots and strengthen my muscles to fatigue slower. Each season I would have to scramble to find my boots the night before my first day out and always put them on for the first time in 6+ months in the parking lot. This seemed silly to me, you would not run a 5k race in shoes you have not worn before would you? Think about it, you might be wearing the shoes in the 5k for a half hour or so but you will be in the snow boots for upwards of 7 or 8 hours. This did not make a lot of sense of me so I forced my self to change this. I started wearing my snowboard boots a few times a week while walking my dog. I also started wearing them while going through my strength training routine. By no means was this comfortable at first but after a few weeks I could really notice the difference. I coupled this with a series of different stretchs and yoga to keep everything loose while training.
Snowboard Leg Exercises:
To avoid fatiguing fast I focused on conditioning snowboard specific muscles to be ready for the season. In snowboarding we put a lot of stress on our calves, quads, hamstrings so I focused on finding a few exercises that would build these. I started out by wearing my snowboard boots for all of these work outs. I feel that this helps to make the training as real as possible and for me worked muscles in ways that wearing a running shoe would not. I also focused on balance, while weight machines are great for isolating certain muscles, I wanted to do workouts that forced all of the muscles to fire together like they would while snowboarding. The first and I think most important exercise for me was the sled work out. Pushing a weighted sled works the calves, quads, hamstrings and core. However, neither me or my gym has a sled and I was certainly not shelling out the money for one. Instead I found a few ways to improvise. I used the base of an old punching bag as my sled, it holds about 30 gallons of water and slide pretty easy on my basement floor. For the first couple weeks this was enough resistance but as I progressed, I had to add weight by having my wife sit on the sled as I pushed it. If you’re not married, I would imagine that a close friend would also work. Also if you have the space pushing a car up your driveway (make sure someone is in the car to hit the brakes) would also work great. You could also likely push a heavy trash can or maybe the base to a basketball net. Get creative
Another great workout that I used was lunge walks across my basement. Basically you do a lunge with some sort of weight. Start with one leg forward then switch to the other as you make your way across the room. If you don’t have access to weight, fill ups some water jugs. I picked up a 20 gallon water container from Walmart for 8 bucks and used that. I also did a ton of box steps and calf raises with the boots on. The box steps helped me to get ready for uphill walking in the heavy snowboard boots. I had goals to do a bunch of backcountry riding and these helped me to get used to walking uphill. The calf raises helped me to build muscle and strengthen my lower legs. I used a gym type box for both the steps and the raises but your home steps would work just fine. This ones easy and goes without saying but do squats.
In terms of repetition I did this series of work outs twice a week for 6 weeks leading up to the first rideable snow storm. My guess is that even 2 weeks of this would help to get you ready. My favorite part about any of these workouts is that they can be done anytime at home for a low cost. There is very little barrier to success outside of having the will power to put the time in. All things considered I felt that these routines really helped me to be much more physically ready for the season. Right out of the gate I have been able to keep up better with my most skilled ski buddies. At this point I have already been out for 10 full days and have felt consistently good. Not only do I feel less tired or pain but I feel that I am have better control while going fast or navigating steep terrain. My turns feel like they take less effort and I am more comfortable and relaxed throughout the day. However, as I sit here on a crowded plane to Houston in route to Taos NM I am already getting cramped and have 3 full days of steep Rockies riding ahead of me. Well see how it goes. Hope they have PBR.