Mountaineering Training – Week 1

A few weeks ago I asked myself, “How do I get ready to summit mountains ranging from 1,651m – 5,956m?” Then I asked the Internet.
Most trainers will tell you that the best way to train for any sport is to do that sport. By that logic, the best way to train for mountaineering is to go up mountains. The problem is that I live in Toronto and there aren’t any mountains close by. Sure, I can drive for 7 hours and be in the Adirondacks. But realistically, I need a daily training plan that will get me alpine-ready.

Enter Fit Climb, a website with tons of FREE training plans to get you mountain ready. I just started following their 8 Month Mountaineering Training Plan. This plan is designed to get someone ready for elevevations below 7,000 metres – which is perfect for me.

I’ll run you through how the first week has gone and what I expect going forward, but first I’d like to give you the basics…

The Basics

The main goals of any mountain fitnes plan is to increase your endurance, strength, balance and agility. Here is why each of these elements is important:

Endurance

As most people know, the higher the elevation of the mountain, the less oxygen is available. What this means is that as you climb, your body has to work harder to get the same amount of oxygen. So, if you can raise your endurance level, your body becomes more efficient. This level of efficiecny is measure by something called your V02 max – the ratio of how much work your body can do in relation to oxygen intake.

Strength

As the height of a summit increases, or as the technical difficulty increases, there is an increase in the amount of gear to carry. Mountaineers can easily be carrying packs of over 40lbs and dragging sleds of over 200lbs, so strength is a key factor. The focus is on abdominal, back, and leg strength. Strength in these aresas also increases your efficiency of movement and help with your endurance levels.

Balance and Agility

Things like carrying a pack, moving up steep elevations, and crossing unstable terrain all are tests on your balance and agility. The more comfortable you are standing on one foot or balancing on one hand, the more comfortable you’ll be when your body starts to get tired, or the terrain shifts, or you have to move around various obstacles.


Here is what I did for Week 1 of the new fitness plan I am following and my notes on how it all went down:

Monday

  • 10 min dynamic warm up
  • 30 min run
  • 1 set of 10 reps of the following:
    • Step ups front
    • Step ups side
    • Step downs
    • Push Ups
    • Crunches
    • Plank (60 seconds)
    • Mountain climbers

This day felt great. I always start with a dynamic warmup instead of a stretch. Stetching before a workout can cause injury, while a dynamic warm-up (like leg-swings, air-squats, a light jog) can prepare your muscles. I’ve been running for the past few weeks and so the run went well. I ran 5.04km at an average pace of 5:58/km. The workout afterward went smoothly; the hardest part being the 60 second plank.

Tuesday

  • Rest Day

Wednesday

  • 10 min dynamic warm up
  • 20 min cardio @ 70% MHR
  • 3 sets of following:
    • Squats (15)
    • Step ups front (40)
    • Step ups side Left and right (40)
    • Step downs (40)
    • Push Ups (10)
    • Crunches (50)
    • Plank (60 seconds)
    • Mountain climbers (50)

Because I biked for over 20 minutes this day I went right to the workout. During the workout it felt great and I kept an even pace. Total time was 36 minutes. Almost immediately after, however, my adobinal muscles began to really ache.

Thursday

  • 10 min stretch and warm up
  • 40 min stairs @ 70% MHR
  • 20 min walking

For this I focused on keeping an even pace, keeping my head up, and breathing consistently. I completed 2,061 steps up and 1,976 steps down.

Friday

  • 10 min stretch and warm up
  • 30 min cardio @ 70% MHR
  • 3 sets of following:
    • Squats (15)
    • Step ups front (40)
    • Step ups side Left and right (40)
    • Step downs (40)
    • Push Ups (10)
    • Crunches (50)
    • Plank (60 seconds)
    • Mountain climbers (50)

My calf muscles were quite sore from Thursday and I skipped this workout.

Saturday

  • 10 min stretch and warm up
  • 2-3 hr walk or hike with 15-20 lb pack

I skipped this wokrout as well and went for a longer bike ride. However, I wish I hadn’t skipped this.

Sunday

  • Rest Day

Final thoughts

This week went relatively well and I’m excited to move forward. I’ve been doing CrossFit for 3 years and this plan really showed me where there are still some weaknesses. My cardiovascular system is already improving drastically with a few runs a week. My abdominal strength still needs work.


I’m curious about what you do to prepare for mountains or other similar acitivies. What are you doing? How are you staying motivated? Let me know in the comments below. Also, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.


How I’m Dealing With My Fear of Going Outside

I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. The windows are open, the sun is streaming in, I can hear the city traffic go by and the birds chirping. I know it is a beautiful day out. “I could go for a run,” I think. “Or I could sit here, where it is safe.” I choose the latter and feel guilty until the sun goes down and it is dark.

This is the first time I’m admitting this fear… to myself and to everyone else. I don’t know when these feelings started creeping up in my life and I don’t know why. What I do know is that almost every time I think of going outside, a wave of anxiety hits me. Sometimes it is small, sometimes it is large. I hesitate and think of a variety of reasons not to go outside.

You don’t know what’s out there.”

It’s too much effort.”

It’s safer in here.”

Agoraphobia is defined as “an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives certain environments as dangerous or uncomfortable, often due to the environment’s vast openness or crowdedness” (Wikipedia). Maybe this is what I have. I’m not sure. Everyone feels anxious at certain points in their life. If you recognize that your anxiety has become more severe or has begun to impede certain actions, then it is time to speak with a doctor.

A lot of people I talk to speak about a fear of trying something new or “starting out.” It may be going to a new gym, starting a new activity, going to a new place… Because they are new, all of these possible actions bring up a variety of uncertainties. Seth Godin often talks about The Lizzard Brain or  The Resistance – the cause of most irrational human behaviour and compromise. Seth says that “the resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.” I take comfort in knowing that everyone has some form of fear to deal with; that I’m not the only one. The people who are out running races, climbing mountains, and embarking on new adventures all have their own fears too.

But how do they deal with theirs and how do I learn from them so I can deal with mine?

Steven-Pressfield-The-Peakbaggers

In her TED Talk, Karen Thompson Walker suggests I think about what my fear means to me. She says, “Our fears focus our attention on a question that is as important in life as it is in literature: What will happen next?” This actually sounds terrifying. I mean, isn’t thinking about the all possibilities exactly the idea that is weighing me down? But it may actually be my avoidance of these fears that prevents me from breaking them down. Many sports psychologists suggest athletes embrace fear and use it as a way to fuel their adrenaline. In the book Great By Choice, Jim Collins suggests using fears to develop a plan for “what if?”

Based on this, other readings, and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a plan for embracing and confronting my fear of going outside:

  • Acknowledge my feelings without judgement. I use the mediation app Headspace to help me do this.
  • Break it down in to steps and focus on the first step. So, if I’m going running, I focus on putting on my running clothes and nothing else.
  • Put on a great, pump-up playlist… like this one.
  • Follow some blogs filled with motivational photos, like Vega’s #BestLifeProject – I suggest you pick a number, like 5 motivation photos, and then get moving right after.
  • Join a community of like-minded individuals. Matt recently wrote about joining a running crew.
  • Focus on something you love. Tara Sophia Mohr states that love and fear cannot coexist.
  • Work through the fear like a story, as Karen Thompson suggests.

Wow, I already feel better admitting this fear to myself and to you. Hopefully this posts helps motivate you in some way. I know it has motivated me. I also know that if my fears and anxiety become to overwhelming, I’ll reach out to a mental-health professional. If that is your case, help is out there. Here is a good list of helplines worldwide.


Let me know how you’re dealing with fear, watch Karen Thompson Walker’s TED Talk and Seth Godin’s speech about the Lizzard Brain below, then make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.


Everything Makes Sense Looking Back

If you asked me just over two years ago what I wanted my life to look like I would have told you something very different. Two years ago I would have given you a list of aspects of a life in the city, with a job or steady contracts in the media field. I would have mentioned healthy relationships with my partner, family and friends. What I wouldn’t have mentioned was a life filled exploring, travelling the country and  an almost insatiable desire to be outside.

Now, that’s all changed… and it totally makes sense.

Today I live with this confident knowledge that I am meant to travel this country and share that journey with others. I have no idea where it will lead and yet I do have an idea where it came from. The late Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Steve-Jobs-Quote-The-PeakbaggersWhen I look back, I can see how I got here. When I look forward, I have no precise way of telling you where I’m going. That feeling used to terrify me. Now, I focus on core values and make decisions based on those values. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel terrified, but far less than I used to.

Two years ago I valued friendship, honesty, love and a desire to invoke positive change in myself and others. I was invited on the CBC Beetle Roadtrip Sessions and I travelled the country helping to share stories about Canada and Canadian Music. There, meeting people from across Canada, something started to click. I searched out similar opportunities and a year later Andrea and I toured around Ontario all summer for Autoshare. Through these campaigns, so many of our friends were inspired to get outside and go on their own adventures!

I knew I wanted to keep doing similar work but I had no idea how. Then, a few months ago, Matt approached me with this project. He asked if I wanted to summit the highest peak in every Province and Territory and share that journey with the world. Without hesitation I said, “Yes.”

Shortly after deciding to join Matt on this journey, I reflected on the project and it terrified me – it still does – but in a different way than I mentioned before. It’s a more confident fear and I know where my values and ambitions lie. It’s a massive project that I know will only get more difficult. My desire to reach these peaks is stronger than most of the things I’ve felt thus far in my life. I want to be out in the Canadian wilderness exploring. Constantly. While I know little else, I know that, and I know that the decision to be a Peakbbager will lead me forward.


VIDEO: Running Our First 10K Race

We completed our first 10K race! We love trying new things so on April 12, 2015 we all entered our first organized run put on by MEC. Our friend Krista joined in. She’d only run 1-2 km before and managed to complete the 10K as well!
We love inspiring others and are encouraging people to try things for the first time. Please let us know about your first race, adventure, or other milestone. Also, stay-tuned as we’ll be inviting others to join us on our upcoming adventures.

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How I Know I Will Succeed

The title of this post is a big claim. A BIG claim about this massive and massively challenging project. And honestly, I had trouble writing it down. I asked myself, “Do I really know I will succeed?” “Do I know I will summit these 13 peaks in Canada?”

And then I struggled with the concept of success and this project for a bit.

What I realized is that I can confidently say “Yes! I will succeed.” And I believe Matt and Andrea will succeed too. I know this because we all have something called “grit.” As Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth puts it in her TED talk:

Angela-Lee-Duckworth-Quote-The-Peakbaggers

When I was seven I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour in my lower cerebellum. I was sick and in pain and most-of-all uncoordinated. The lower cerebellum is where the spine connects with the brain and so a tumour there has a severe effect on motor control and a variety of other things. I’ve grown up my entire life facing massive difficulties and I’ve never quit.

When I was young I loved track and field. I joined my grade school team and would practise every morning. Every day I would get to school early to run laps with the team. As others finished they would go to play before class, while I was always left running even after the bell rang. My height of achievement was in my fourth and final year when I came in second last, it was the best I’d ever done. The experience almost broke my heart. I stopped running for a bit and explained to my Mom, “I’m tired of being in last place.”

But then I joined my high school’s rugby team and got right back in to running. Later I would run long-distances for fun and now I compete in CrossFit and am entering my first organized run since grade school.

When this project first started all I could focus on was the experience I didn’t have and the things I didn’t know. People would remark on the difficulty of the project and the dangers and I would listen and almost believe that those were key determinants in whether or not I and this team would succeed (read what my Mom said). Yes, this is a VERY difficult project. Yes, it is dangerous and will take us time.

A very knowledgable and wise person we met on our trip to Northern Ontario to summit Ishpatina Ridge reminded me that we have something that will carry us through this project – spirit. We have grit, the “disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance.”

I know there will be moments where I want to quit. I know that this project will push me harder than anything else in my life. I also know that I want this more than anything. I believe that I will find myself in this process and I believe that is what you call “grit.”


Watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED Talk and make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.


What My Mom Thinks About This Life-Risking Project

The fist time I told my parents I was going to summit the tallest peak in every Canadian province and territory my Mom shook her head with concerned worry. “You’re not really, are you?!? You have NO experience. It’s Dangerous!” is what I heard.

Yes, this project is dangerous. And yes, I have no experience climbing mountains. These and similar sentiments are thoughts I’ve had, realities I’ve accepted early on in the project.

It’s hard though, hearing my doubts echoed back to me by my mother –  someone super-close to me whose acceptance and support I eagerly desire. When I tell her about the project and her first reactions are ones of worry, I worry… and I get angry. I feel frustrated that she isn’t standing up saying, “That’s amazing, Brian! You can do it!!”

But I can’t look to others for that kind of encouragement and support, even if that person I am looking to is my mother. She won’t be on the mountain-side with me when things get tough. Really, the person who needs to be cheering me on is me. The person saying the hard truths and still holding faith needs to be me. I need to be able to look myself in the mirror and say, “You could die on these mountains, but I have faith that you will prepare adequately and you will summit those 13 peaks.”

It’s interesting the way we hold parents and parental-figures on a pedestal elevated with expectation. When they react differently or fail to meet our expectations we are let down, sad, or even frustrated. Yet, the hope is that their reaction is honest and filled with love and our best interests at heart. In my case, the expectation and desire to hear words of support was simply my desire to hear my own words of encouragement repeated. But it’s not their or anyone else’s responsibility to lift me up.

Sure, it’s nice when someone says, “Come on Brian, you can do this!” It’s great and feels awesome. I would love to hear those words all the time! Who wouldn’t? However, if I walked around searching for that in every encounter, I would miss out on or fail to appreciate the extra bits of support I do receive. And, more importantly, in the moments where others aren’t supporting me – in the metaphorical moments where I’m alone on a mountain – I wouldn’t have that ability to tell myself to keep going – to reach the summit.

I’m sure one day my mother will tell me she’s super proud and believes in me… (probably after reading this blog post). For now, however, I’ll just look in the mirror and smile with the satisfaction found in knowing that I can.


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Hiking for the First Time in High Park

I’ve been living with a terrible guilt for the past few years. While often touting the benefits of visiting Toronto’s largest public park, I had to hide the reality that I’d never been to High Park. I felt awful. Here was this amazing sanctuary and escape from urban sprawl a few kilometres from my home and I’d never taken advantage.

That all changed yesterday. We met up to shoot a promo video for this adventure and do some training. I backed my bag with some gear, hoped on my bike, and rode fifteen minutes to the park.

While strolling on and off snow-covered paths I forgot I was in the city. The sounds of cars and construction faded into the background. People on foot and cross-country skis passed by, many dogs ran around, and birds chirped in the air. It was sunny and breathtaking.

As the sounds of my feet crunched in the snow, I reflected upon my my lack of visiting. I thought about how I often feel no impetus to explore the places that are accessible to me, and how that course of action is what kept me away from High Park – it was always there and thus possessed no need to “go right now!” Really, that was the exact reason to go.

Being in Canada there are so many great outdoor experience right in our own backyard. For me, it’s parks in the middle of a city. For you it may be boulders to climb or waterfalls to swim in. Either way, if it is close I believe it demands immediate and frequent exploration.


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