Maintaining a high level of overall fitness is important if you want to enjoy the mountains to the full. Your fitness will allow you the flexibility of escaping out of tricky situations should the weather close in and make you less prone to injury. It can be all too easy to over stretch yourself, push too far on a day out and set yourself back a few weeks while your body recovers. Should this happen over the summer period it can be incredibly frustrating as you miss out on the best weather and Long day light hours.
Stick to a regular fitness schedule
Most people have good intentions about keeping fit but unless you plan and keep to a set fitness routine, chances are it will quickly unravel. If you are consistent with the days and times you choose to exercise it will become easier, as the brain copes better with regular patterns of behaviour. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing the same set exercises, just taking time out of your day to make an effort to maintain your fitness.
Depending on your schedule it could be a lunch break gym class, run first thing in the morning or as simple as a long walk with the dog after dinner. The key is finding an approach that works for you and keeping to it. Remember to build in rest days so that your body has time to recover and build new muscle fibres. An example plan that I use could look like;
Monday – 5km run
Tuesday – Circuits class
Wednesday – Rest day / evening walk / swim
Thursday – Free weights session
Friday – Indoor Bouldering
Saturday – Outdoor hike
Sunday – Rest day
Struggling for motivation?
Depending on your personality it can be difficult to stay motivated to keep up the momentum with regular exercise. Its important to try to overcome this as quickly as possible before you miss a number of sessions. Days can quickly turn into weeks and before you know it you may struggle to pick it up again. Some suggestions to avoid this happening that worked for me include;
- Joining a running club – interacting with others, challenging yourself and keeping to organised times / dates will increase your chance of taking part
- Find a gym buddy – partnering up with a colleague in work or a friend will allow you to encourage each other and help prevent boredom
- Try a new exercise class – new types of workout will keep life interesting and the muscles in your body from getting to use to the same types of activity
- Buy a fitness tracker – recording how much exercise you are doing with a fitness tracker will help you monitor your daily targets
- Book a personal trainer – it may cost a little in the short term but a personal trainer could set you off in the right direction and build a customised plan to suit your fitness goals
What exercises work best?
To maintain a good level of mountain fitness I’ve found its important to try to keep a balanced exercise regime. Regular cardio is an important part of the overall plan as it will keep your heart / lungs active, legs strong and stamina high. Light jogging over a distance of around 5-10km would be an ideal distance to aim for if time is short as it can be completed in under 60 minutes.
For a long time I avoided set forms of strength training such as free weights. It can be intimidating to walk into the weights area of the gym and be confronted by an array of equipment you don’t know how to use without appearing stupid. Remember everyone has to start somewhere. If you are unsure book an appointment with an instructor to show you how to use the equipment safely and get you started.
I personally found big advantages in doing a couple of weekly sessions in the weights room. Historically I suffered from sporting injuries such as a broken wrist and shoulder that I feel could of been avoided had I begun using free weights sooner. Increasing your body’s general upper body strength if you aren’t naturally gifted is a way of building up muscle mass that will help your body cope with impacts faced outdoors. Don’t avoid it, give it a try for a few months and see the benefits it can bring.
Cross training for the win
As you can see from the earlier example exercise routine I like to mix up my training. Cross training across different disciples keeps life interesting and prevents the body from getting too use to particular movements. The more regularly you change up your pattern, the stronger improvements you will see in your fitness levels as the body adapts to cope. You don’t need to spend a fortune on equipment to try something new.
Try something new
Perhaps there’s an activity you’ve always wanted to try or one that you’ve simply given up on over the years. Two activities that I recently took up to help me maintain my mountain fitness are; indoor bouldering and swimming. Having never been overly flexible I thought climbing was something that could only be done with years of experience.
Attending a beginners bouldering class allowed me learn from experienced instructors and helped improve my confidence in free climbing and problem solving. Being challenged to think about a climbing route and finger holds has also helped to improve my scrambling ability outdoors and I highly recommend giving it a try.
Its never too late
For many years I had a real fear of swimming after bad experiences in childhood. As I got older it felt less and less likely that I would learn at all. I was inspired to try out adult 1 on 1 lessons by a friend and was amazed at how quickly I was able to pick it up. After less than 10 half hour lessons and some solo practice I was able to swim a full length for the first time. It is unlikely I will be making the olympic swim team anytime soon but created a sense of personal achievement.
My own goal aside, swimming I’ve found is a great exercise to work your whole body, improve your breathing and help you relax. Its low impact as your body is supported by the water so acts as a good recovery exercise if you take your time. If its not part of your current routine, give it a try.
Regularly working at maintaining my fitness levels keeps me ready for a break in the weather and an instant mountain escape. I’ve also found positive side affects with my mental strength and wellbeing that are just as important. Hopefully sharing my current routine might give you new ideas to try out or consider making changes to your current plan. If you have any exercise suggestions that would help with mountain fitness I would be interested to hear from you in the comments.
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