Living in a flat country, I have no hills anywhere nearby. However, when it comes to getting fit for the mountains, that doesn't pose serious problems at all.General fitness
For general fitness, I find all sorts of cardio exercises suitable, including running, cycling and various machines like steppers or inclined treadmills. Different people simply like different things. My main goal is to keep my heart strong and fit. Over the years I've varied, but I haven't found much of a difference in the effects. First of all, it's just that I like some ways of exercising a bit more than others - but my preferences are not set in stone, and change over time. Secondly, I don't always have access to lots of different machines, so I have to adapt.
These days, I do mix of running and using the cross trainer. The latter is supposed to be easier on the joints, but the resistance I'm using makes it harder than running because my leg muscles have to work harder. On the cross trainer, I exercise with a higher heart rate and sweat a lot, but I can't keep it up for as long as when I go running.Preparing to go uphill
However, all that is not specifically aimed at mountaineering or even hill walking. To be ready for that, I have found one particular exercise most useful: the calf raise
. To be precise, I use a variation on this, but this example shows the exercise very well, and it's good too - but don't stop for a rest when your heels touch the ground. Mostly I do just one set three times a week, using quite a heavy weight. A typical set is 25 repetitions, giving me a bit of a burn in my calves, and it takes just a few minutes!
This is the
exercise that means that, normally, I don't have any muscle ache in my calves when I head into the mountains. Only front pointing on steep ice for a long time will still make me feel something.
In fact, this exercise is so effective, that when I get back home from an extended visit to the mountains, I can't even do it with the same weight as before! I have to build it up again, starting with a lower weight.Carrying a pack
Although I'm tall, I'm not big, so I really need to have very strong back muscles to be able to carry a pack. And so, as with the calf muscles, I do weight training exercises targeting my back as well as my shoulders. There are lots of good exercises available. Some that I use regularly are the dumbbell row
, the pull up and chin up.In the mountains
Unless I expect a shower at the end of the day, I try not to sweat too much when I'm in the mountains. Especially when it's cold outside, I don't want to get all wet, in order to avoid hypothermia when I pause or get tired and have to slow down. At the same time, the cold air itself helps to keep me cool without having to sweat, so I can keep up a good pace. Nevertheless, my heart rate is decidedly lower on such a day than when I'm running or using the cross trainer, and provided I eat and drink enough (which I'll admit, I do forget sometimes), I can keep going all day.
However, if I do
expect a shower, or if it's warm enough outside that there is no hypothermia risk, I regularly decide to go faster for an hour or more, pushing myself and working up a good sweat. If I do that, I know I will feel the effects later in the day though, as I'll be more tired.
I try to avoid having to carry a big pack - in the Alps I usually stay in Alpine huts, in other areas I sometimes hire porters or mules. But sometimes I carry everything, and then I'm glad that my back is strong. It tends to get a bit sore, but I don't get back trouble; the main effect is that I'm a whole lot slower when I have to drag a lot of weight up a mountain.