How To Cross Train For Your Sport

Brooks-Range ambassador Carlos Buhler is one of the leading high-altitude mountaineers in the U.S., specializing in using minimal equipment and no oxygen on his climbs. He talked to us about how he trains for his adventures using his passions.

Transitioning from winter into summer activities is not the easiest physical challenge to tackle. However, with the right attitude, the cross-training effect is phenomenal. (Take a look at this link for an introduction.) There are three training categories to cross training: strength, endurance, and flexibility. Combining all three develops a rounded fitness level, keeps motivation high and helps to avoid overuse injuries. At the same time, this training method allows injured muscles, ligaments, and tendons some time to recover without coming to an activity stand still.

Carlos Buhler on Siula Grande’s West Face (20,000 feet) during the first ascent of a new route called “Avoiding the Touch” (photo credit: Mark Price).

Fortunately, the seasonal variety of outdoor activities offers a pretty good path for physical development. In my case, I tend to concentrate on my body’s larger muscles during the fall and winter months – specifically my lower body and my back, as well as my aerobic endurance. I shift my focus during the spring and summer months to my upper body’s smaller muscles – particularly my shoulders and forearms. It’s not a complete change from season into another, but the balance or ratio changes.

My cross training makes sense due to the sports I enjoy. When spring arrives, I change from ice and mixed climbing to rock climbing. My aerobic activity changes, as well; I trade my cross-country skate skis for my road bike. Stretching is my weakest link and I know I always have to put energy into in order to maintain. However, all of this may be different depending on the sports you appreciate.

However, I cannot expect to equal the peaks of performance of the dedicated athlete in any one of these disciplines. Clearly, if you only spend a third of your training days on cross-country skiing, for example, the level you reach will be less than if you’re putting all of your training efforts towards skiing. But the cross training effect is excellent as a supplement. My overall fitness is great and I never get burned out psychologically on one activity. Plus, I rarely have to deal with overuse injuries.

While I am excited to engage in new seasonal activities, I know that when hopping on my road bike for my early season rides, I’m going to get passed by many cyclists. Likewise, when I rock climb, I will find the first month a very humbling experience.  The right approach is to not be too demanding of myself during the early season.  The first month of a new seasonal activity needs to be moderate in order to be motivating. A season offers plenty of length in order to intensify my workouts and performance level.

My long-term intent is to keep up a reasonable level of varied activity throughout the year rather than to train very hard as a transition approaches. The trick is to stay motivated over a lifetime. And I think, by accomplishing that, you have achieved success!

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Describing Clichés: On Hope and Inspiration in Nepal

Kevin Tatsugawa is an assistant professor at Westfield State University in Massachusetts and also a Brooks-Range Mountaineering product ambassador. A few months ago, he took off to Nepal for a trip that made him think about what the word “inspirational” really means.

This blog is about a trek to Nepal. Ang Tshering Lama (a Nepali guide and my friend) and I co-led eight of my students from Westfield State University on a 14-day trek to the Langtang area this past winter.

I am a university professor and springtime is also graduation time. I realize that the term “inspiration” is often used to describe awe-inspiring feats in the outdoor adventure world. But, sometimes I think that the overuse of this word leads to the perception that some sublime feats are mundane and cliché, rather than noteworthy and uplifting. How many truly inspirational feats can one person accomplish or experience in a lifetime?

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In my humble opinion, most people lead productive, constructive lives in a tough, unforgiving world. My students embodied this every day in the Himalayas – as tough and unforgiving an environment as one will experience. But, sometimes people can rise above their circumstances to reach levels they never thought possible – inspiring themselves and others along the way. Events and achievements unfolded in just such a manner in Nepal.

On our trip, no world records were set. No firsts ascents were achieved. No “last great lines” fell to our prowess as climbers. However, something deeper and more personal happened. Personal altitude records were set, since most of them had never been above 10,000 feet, and doubts and fears were overcome daily.

2014-02-07 16.39.59Did they suffer more than a world-class alpinist putting up a first ascent on an 8,000-meter peak? No. Did they face howling winds, horizontal snow, and freezing temperatures? Aside from one blustery day, no. Still many of them struggled with the high altitude, exhaustion, illness, minor injuries, and uncertainties.

They all managed to overcome these personal hardships with positive attitudes and few complaints. And at the end of each day, they managed to leave a positive impression on me and filled me with hope that they could meet the next day’s challenges in the mountains.

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Thus, in a few days when I watch the same students that I led in Nepal accept their diplomas, I will be filled with hope, not inspiration, with each step that they take across that stage. Hope for their future and the future. Hope that they will fulfill the potential that I saw in all of them as they toiled up that mountain.

I find my students inspirational when I reflect upon all of the challenges they overcame to make it to that graduation stage – much the same as when I climbed the mountains in Nepal with them a few months ago. And like school, although each step they took up the mountain was probably not inspirational, the trip was exciting and breathtaking.


Play safe out there!

Dr. Kevin


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Chris Wright: Looking Forward to an Unclimbed Wall

Chris Wright is an IFMGA mountain guide and alpinist who splits his time between obsessions with climbing, skiing, and eating. He recently received grants for his upcoming 2014 expedition and talks about his mindset around the climb. 

The norht pillar of Teng Kang Poche. CREDIT: David Gottlieb

The north pillar of Teng Kang Poche. [photo: David Gottlieb]

It’s been almost 10 years since I woke groping for my harness, ensnared in a dream where I was rolling off a ledge with nothing underneath me. But instead, I landed on the floor in the shabby doublewide I shared with at least half a dozen friends during the first summer I lived in Oregon. I was 22, fresh off my first big wall climb of The Nose, where we made every mistake imaginable and slept hanging from bolts. I’ll always remember that climb as one of the most formative I’ll ever do. In a way, it embodied the spirit of alpinism completely. We went up with no assured outcome, uncertain most of the way that we, two clueless guys, could actually climb El Cap.

I now wake up in a bed most mornings, not shaken by dreams, but haunted by Teng Kang Poche: the menacing north pillar I’ll be attempting with Scott Adamson. 6,000 feet tall, it’s two El Caps stacked on top one another, just surpassing 21,300 feet. Instead of bolted anchors and dry stone, we’ll be expecting snowy slabs, icy cracks, and ephemeral smears. The valley below will have no visitor center, no Camp Four or cheap beers, just a small Sherpa village and a few yaks.


22-year-old Chris Wright at El Cap

So now I wake up thinking about getting ready for our endeavor. Mark Twight wrote, “To attempt the impossible demands a high order explosion of confidence, sustained by the diesel-fueled physical capacity to back up that hubris.” From now until September, it’s about training mind and body, forging the climbing machine in the fire of work. I was reminded last year on Pangbuk North that when it comes down to it, the only thing you can do when it gets hard is to be as fit as possible.

I’ve heard the wall described as unclimbable. I’m aware that strong parties have tried and failed. I know it will be hard. We could probably increase our chance of success if we were willing to go with a bigger team, take bolts, and bring the mountain down to us. Instead, I’m going to continue to wake up every morning for the next five months and build myself up, so that when Scott and I stand beneath that mighty pillar, we know that we’ve done everything to rise to its challenge.

Regardless of the outcome, we can’t say how grateful we are to both the Mugs Stump Award and the Lyman Spitzer Cutting Edge Award for their support of our expedition. I hope we can live up to the incredible legacy of these grants, and it’s an honor just to be in such fine company. It should be a great opportunity to test out some new Brooks-Range ultralight down sleeping bags too!

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