Getting fit for the mountain
By Fredrik Ölmqvist
Peak fitness is paramount to succeed, and there are no shortcuts. Time spent at the gym or in action in the outdoors will take you closer to your goal, wheather it’s finishing your first ultra-trail, setting an FKT or pulling off your dream expedition.
The North Face Mountain Athletics is a concept with extra durable training clothes and a training app that helps you to evolve in the right direction, according to the time plan. The North Face product development team realised that their outdoor athletes not only needed outstanding performance outerwear for physical activities, in all kinds of mountain conditions. They also needed extra durable training clothes that could stand extraordinary wear and tear in crossfit exercises like pulling car tyres, sliding up and down climbing ropes, or carrying rocks – like ultra runner Jez Bragg does to strenghten core and upper body.
The design team went to the Mountain Athletics gym in Jackson Hole, where mountain guides, alpine climbers and professional free-skiiers workout to get in peak shape during pre-season. The training methods were much rougher on the clothes than the ’normal’ city-gym session. Thus, new, stronger materials with re-inforced seams was developed and eventually tested by TNF’s own athletes.
The new clothing line Mountain Athletics is very functional and basic. There is no rocket science. Basics fabrics. Flash Dry has been around for some years now. But they have just been well thought out. All the stitching is nicely flat-locked to avoid rubbing, if you’re let’s say carrying sandbags. And they have been moved to an area where they aren’t going to bother you. Generally the T-shirts, especially for the girls, are cut slightly longer, so you’re not going to show off you belly doing pull-ups.
With The North Face gear your more than well equipped to go into the mountains. What TNF is doing with Mountain Athletics is ticking the box of the necessary preparations.
– The exercises we do in the gym are very different than going in the fitness gym. Normal training clothes will eventually fall apart. So you need strong, well fitting clothes, explained renowned British climber James Pearson at the European launch event of Mountain Athletics in London earlier this spring. According to Pearson TNF’s new line of clothing, focusing on the training side of the outdoor achievements, is telling a human and true side of the story that has been forgotten.
– It’s been designed for climbers and skiers and runners, and for all the exercises we do all the time. For me personally, simply by going in this direction, I feel like it’s one of the most pure and hones moves that TNF has done in recent times, because training is boring, and ultimately when you’re on your own, in the gym. No one r e a l l y likes training. But you have to, because you want to be able to go out there, into the outdoors and realise your dreams. Before, the training side of our life, was forgotten about. It was like, ’look here are these fantastic athletes. They are superpeople. They just go and do these amazing things all the time’, except there was 50-60 % of our life took place in gyms, where we were sweating, suffering.
After having enjoyed the natural progression James Pearson reached a plateau where he didn’t really develop as a climber, no matter if he increased his training. He realised that he had to change something. So in recent years he has started to do more cross-training style training, mainly indoor. To be able to perform the difficult climbs he was dreaming about his only option was working on his weaknesses.
– As you get older, the body doesn’t react as well as it used to, and you’ll need to work extra. Another option is trying new training methods, learning to train in a way to make the whole body, stronger, stabilizing the whole body. For me as a climber it has generally meant working more on the antagonistic systems, the ones that climbing forgets, like stretching out the fingers with therabands in the opposite direction. Doing it 15-20 minutes a day really helps avoiding finger injuries.
James Pearson’s top training tips:
“Always start your training session with a warm up. This is especially important for those who carry an injury.”
“Plan the session and stick to the program. It’s important to have clear goals in order to make every training session effective.”
“Hydration is vital and training sessions can get intense, so make sure you are ready in advance.”
Nowadays James travel the world with his girlfriend searching for new cutting edge traditional climbing routes, like the one he found in South Africa, one that defied both belief and gravity, and one that he had to go back home and work for. Long time. Hard work.
– As outdoor athletes we’re obliged to train because the world of an outdoor athlete is advancing soo fast that nowadays if you’re not training, if you’re not spending the majority of your time physically preparing yourself you’re getting left behind.
Brasilian ultratrail-runner Fernanada Maciel is another TNF athlete that has been working out with the Mountain Athletics garments the past year and using the Mountain Atletics App, a training tool designed to help reaching your goals. In Fernanda’s case the primary focus the past winter was her speed record attempt of ascending and descending Aconcagua 6962m in February, when she set a new speed record: 22h52min. Getting prepared for the objective meant very hard work: walking and running up and down in a technical terrrain with lots of snow, rivers, rocks, muddy and strong wind.
– This experience was completely different for me. I had to learn how go up slowly for my body assimilate the high altitute and pression without oxygen.
Her training also included carrying some weight (10kg) until 6.000m (19.800 ft) from base camp and back. She also ran up and down long stairs and performed various indoor and outdoor exercises to keep the whole body strong.
– For confidence on exposed trails it was necessary to get strong quadriceps, ankles and to have a good proprioception. In high altitude we loose lots of muscles, so my objective with the indoor training was to keep my back, arms and legs strong, to endure long days in the high mountains.
In order to get a balanced and strong body Fernanda performed various exercises: squats, stretching, carrying weight while running a few meters, carrying ropes, working the abs, the human flag, dragon fly movements, etc. As an ultra runner she has become aware of the many benefits of an overall fitness in terms of performance, avoiding injury and recovery.
– Two years ago I twisted my ankle and had to learn the right exercises to get a good balance, which meant doing proprioception exercises to strenghten my ankles. So I learned to value these simple exercises. to be able to practice sports outdoor they are in fact they the most important.