Six Tips For Mountain Training in the Flatlands


Not all climbers and moun­taineers have the advan­tage of back­yard moun­tains. We look west, envy­ing those who get to climb every week­end and ben­e­fit from life at alti­tude but there’s some­thing to be said for liv­ing in the flat­lands. Not only are we fueled by a desire to get fit for our annu­al migra­tion to the moun­tains, but we’re also forced to think cre­ative­ly about train­ing and prepa­ra­tion for those alpine excursions.

Get Cre­ative
Build­ing strength requires resis­tance. Whether you run in water or high wind, employ train­ing aids such as bands or para­chutes, or sim­ply spend your time on a tread­mill with the incline cranked, the best way to make up for ele­va­tion is to be cre­ative in your training.

Go the Dis­tance
With lit­tle to no ele­va­tion changes and an abun­dant sup­ply of oxy­gen, flat­land run­ners can go fur­ther with less dif­fi­cul­ty. Use this. Dis­tance run­ning opens up your lungs and increas­es your abil­i­ty to glean oxy­gen from each breath. At ele­va­tion, this abil­i­ty makes a huge dif­fer­ence. With less oxy­gen packed into each breath, hav­ing your lungs’ top-notch shape will make every step easier.

Pack It Up
Fol­low your nor­mal, pre-trip routine—load your pack, adjust the straps, then head out. Regard­less of the alti­tude or incline, car­ry­ing a back­pack adds resis­tance and builds mus­cle mem­o­ry for your next trip. Try to build up to car­ry­ing a lit­tle more than you nor­mal­ly would take up the moun­tain to help your back, shoul­ders, and legs com­pen­sate for the dif­fer­ence in terrain.

Work Your Mind
Men­tal prepa­ra­tion in moun­tain sports is just as impor­tant as the phys­i­cal. A calm and focused mind, steady breath­ing, and good judg­ment are make-or-break fac­tors. Use your train­ing time to prac­tice main­tain­ing focus. Enter a state of mov­ing med­i­ta­tion while you have enough oxy­gen to build bet­ter men­tal con­trol for when you don’t. 

Get High
While there may be few nat­ur­al fea­tures around, flat­land moun­taineers have to find ways to sim­u­late ele­va­tion changes. Run sta­di­um steps and bleach­ers, take a few stair laps at work,or climb the down esca­la­tor at Macy’s (bonus points for bring­ing your pack). Look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to climb and nev­er give in to the ele­va­tor urge.

Stay Moti­vat­ed
Regard­less of where you live, moti­va­tion is a con­stant bat­tle. With infre­quent trips to the moun­tains, it’s even eas­i­er to choose a burg­er over a ses­sion pulling plas­tic but those aren’t real­ly inter­change­able. Watch videos, car­ry a pic­ture of your next project, talk about climb­ing to any­one will­ing to listen—that stoke lev­el will help you past a lot of obstacles.

Ulti­mate­ly though, you have to win this fight on your own. There’s no faster way to become an ex-climber than to give in to lazi­ness so get ready and make that next trip happen.