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.
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.
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.
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.