"How to Summit": Preparing for Mt. Rainier
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Post written for the RMI FITNESS BLOG:
I summited Mt. Rainier a few years ago with RMI. I won’t lie to you: it is to date the HARDEST physical challenge I’ve ever taken on (even as a collegiate athlete, and a yoga, barre, and spin instructor). But, I can also tell you, it was COMPLETELY worth it.
And I can tell you what got me to the top: the right preparation.
First of all: STAIRS, stairs, and more stairs. Whether you find them at a local stadium, in your apartment building, or even the stair climber at the gym, stairs are a must (I lived in Seattle when I summited, but I’m in Texas now. I know that you might have to get creative depending on where). Put some weight in your pack (immediately) and just start climbing. You can increase the weight in your pack as you get stronger.
One thing that I wish I had known as I trained on all those stairs is the “Rest Step”.
The Rest Step t is exactly what it sounds like: you take a step, rest, take another step, rest. Over and over at a quick tempo-- rest, step, rest step, rest, step. If you’re not familiar, do a quick search on YouTube for “Rest Step Climb” for a visual. With just a little practice, you’ll have the Rest Step down—it’s a vital technique for conserving energy, and that’s what an endurance climb is really all about.
Which leads me into my next training tip: YOGA. Yoga helped me develop a greater awareness of my breath and lung capacity. When the air gets thin 14,000 feet up and you feel like your lungs are collapsing, you’ll be grateful for your practice breathing deeply and evenly. I was doing yoga about 3 times a week leading up to my climb, and I had very little trouble with altitude.
Speaking of altitude—that’s what breaks new climbers down the most. It shows up as shortness of breath (see above), but also as fatigue and nausea. For these last two, help yourself: pack REAL FOOD—ideally food that you LOVE, so that you’ll be willing to eat,
even when you don’t want to (trust me, at times you WON’T want to).
All those goop packs you can get at REI are great, but they’re not meant for 2-4 day adventures. I’m gluten free and vegan, so I packed dried fruit, trail mix, LARA bars (or homemade date balls! My favorite!), and pre-made quinoa. I also had some rice tortillas. Remember, this is mountain climbing, not a walk in the park—calories are your friends: get a good balance of sugar, carbs, and protein, however works for you. I’ve done quite a bit of hiking, so I had an idea of what go-to foods I’d want on the climb. If you don’t, I’d recommend taking some test-foods out with you on a few hikes or stair workouts, so you can see how your body reacts to certain foods or proportions in the middle of long workouts.
Stairs, Rest-stepping, breathing, and food prep. If you’ve been preparing with marathon runs and Olympic weight lifting, these training methods might sound like small things.
“It’s not the mountain ahead that wears you down, it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
– Muhammad Ali
For more of my fitness and health tips, follow me on Instagram at @thirty.ish_