Category Archives: Fitness

How to train for high altitude mountain climbing

Want to know what it takes to get to the top?

The top of the mountain, that is. If you’re interested in taking your mountain climbing to the next level, you may have considered a trek up one of the world’s most famous 8000+ meter summits. From North America’s Denali to Mount Everest in the Himalayas, the globe is filled with challenges for you to explore.

However, high altitude mountain climbing is unlike any other sport in that it demands a great level of basic fitness – and preparation – before you can begin. There is no “couch to Denali” plan and you aren’t going to be able to summit Annapurna without some serious preparation.

Knowing how to train for high altitude mountain climbing will not only equip you with the skills necessary to have an enjoyable trip – but to survive the trek, too.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Understand the Basics and the Risks 

If you’ve never hiked beyond 6000 feet, know that high altitude hiking is a different beast altogether. For every inch you creep higher above the surface of the ocean, the air has less and less oxygen. These changes appear incrementally as you hike upwards, but they have a compounding and significant effect on your aerobic functioning. 

Although you may have been a medaling marathoner when you were exercising at sea level, you’re likely to struggle walking up a slight incline once you reach 10000 feet. Add to that the fact that you’re probably going to be carrying a heavy backpack, and you’re definitely going to feel the burn in both your legs and lungs. 

High altitude mountain climbing is not for the faint of heart. You probably already know this, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the very specific risks of the hike before you get out on the trails. Remember, Dr. Google probably isn’t going to be able to help you when you’re at 9,000 feet and suffering from severe symptoms. 

Know what a sick person at altitude looks like and familiarize yourself with the steps you should take if you or a member of your group becomes ill. 

The most common type of altitude sickness is acute mountain sickness. It feels a lot like a hangover and may cause symptoms like exhaustion, nausea, or headaches. While this is not a severe condition, it needs to be treated and addressed with haste because it can precede a more serious condition, like high altitude pulmonary edema or high altitude cerebral edema.

High altitude pulmonary edema is when liquid seeps into the lungs and causes severe exhaustion and trouble breathing. The most telltale sign of this sickness is a cough that produces frothy foam. If you or a member of your group develop this condition, it is not the time to push through it and soldier on – it’s time to turn around and head home as quickly as possible.

Another condition that warrants an immediate descent is high altitude cerebral edema. This sickness can be more difficult to diagnose, but it causes incoordination and confusion. Usually, you’ll notice it if one of your group members begins to exhibit slurred speech or starts stumbling as he walks. 

This is a very severe condition and indicates that death is near, so again, immediate descent and seeking emergency medical attention are imperative. 

Now, remember, these conditions don’t strike everyone, and these guidelines aren’t meant to scare you. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks of high altitude hiking so that you can take the appropriate steps to prevent and treat any issues that arise. 

Start Hitting the Gym…A Lot

High altitude mountain climbing is not for the faint of heart – nor is it for couch potatoes. Now is the time to get in the best shape of your life. You are going to need to balance mental preparation with physical training. A combination of strength training, conditioning hikes, cardiovascular workouts, stretching, and circuit training are what you need to be successful. 

When we say hit the gym, that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – mean that your exercises should be limited to an indoor setting, either. There are all kinds of ways you can improve your physical fitness and some of the best will happen outside. The very best way to prepare your body for high altitude hiking is to improve your VO2 max.

VO2 max is the very top level of oxygen that your body can consume. The better your VO2 max, the more oxygen your body can absorb and the more efficient you will be when hiking at high altitudes. 

Boost your fitness by running, swimming, or cycling. Maintain a solid pace and minimize rest breaks, which will help improve your cardiopulmonary system. Remember – it’s supposed to be hard. 

Do Some Trial Runs and Simulations

One of the best ways to train for high altitude mountain climbing is to put yourself in your future shoes…or pack. Remember, carrying 40 lbs at sea level might feel like a cinch, but once you get to 10,000 feet, it’s going to feel like you’re carrying twice as much weight. 

While you can do your best to minimize the gear you take with you on the trails, the reality is that the necessities need to stay with you. So you’ll be carrying a pack that is going to get significantly heavier as you ascend the mountain. The best way to train for this heft is to start training with some weight while you’re at home. 

Add some weights or even some gallon jugs of water to your backpack. Do your workouts wearing the backpack. Again, it’s going to be a challenge, but you’ll feel much more prepared once you hit the trails. 

Find Some Hills

The best way to prepare for high altitude hiking is to start hiking mountains. The reality, however, is that most people aren’t lucky enough to live close enough to a mountain range where 6000 feet hikes are possible every weekend. 

Unless you live in the Rockies,  it’s probably going to be tough for you to find large mountains to hike on a regular basis to prepare for your high-altitude hike. However, even the littlest bump in elevation can help improve your aerobic fitness. Try to add 1000 feet each training weekend and remember that even small mountains count. Doing aerobic workouts even above just 3000 feet can help train your body at becoming more efficient with less oxygen in the blood. 

The higher the better, but any hill will do. Find a steep hill land run, bike, or hike up it regularly. Try to incorporate hill workouts into your training at least three times a week. 

If you live in the city or a total flatland environment, work with what the urban gods have given you – run up a tall set of stairs! You can even frequent the Stairmaster at the gym – ideally set at the highest setting. 

The key is to work yourself to exhaustion, however, to better prepare your lungs and muscles for the high altitude hike. 

Fuel Properly 

Any kind of exercise demands the proper fuel, but it’s especially true when you are mountain climbing. You’re going to be eating and drinking a lot more than usual, so now is not the time to cut calories. Not only will your body be burning energy more quickly, but you’re going to need more water, calories, and nutrients just in order to function. 

That’s compounded if you’re hiking in a very cold environment, too. Fill up your pack with plenty of carbohydrate-, protein-, and sugar-loaded snacks. Candy bars, jerky, and nuts are great choices. The average person burns around 2500 calories on a normal day. Add a pack of 50 pounds when hiking over level terrain, and you’re going to burn 4000 to 5000 calories. 

Throw in some elevation, and that total is going to nearly double. You may not be used to eating that many calories, so it’s smart to acquaint your body with the bump up in nutrition during your training. This can prevent digestive upsets when you get out on the trail. 

Prepare for the Elements

Do some research into the climate of the area in which you will be hiking. Although there are some similarities between the most popular peaks, not all high altitude ranges are the same. Mount Everest, for example, is known for being windy and cold. 

While summer is considered the best time to hike some peaks, like Mount Denali, it’s not ideal when it comes to Everest, as humidity is nearly 100% during the summer monsoon season. Other mountains, like K2, are almost impossible to climb without being caught at least once in life-threatening weather. 

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Make sure you have plenty of SPF, even if it seems cloudy. The sun’s rays will be much more potent when you’re at a higher altitude. All conditions, from wind to precipitation to temperature, will reach their extremes when you’re up that high.

Make sure you have enough gear to protect your entire body, including clothing that is both wind- and waterproof, along with extra hand warmers, wool socks, and thermal gloves. 

Don’t Forget Hydration

Once you start hiking into a high alpine zone, you may not think about hydration quite as often. Just because you’re not sweating buckets, though, doesn’t mean you should ignore your hydration. 

On the contrary, in fact. Once you start reaching higher altitudes, you will need to urinate more often. This is a natural biological response to being high in the air. As the air gets drier, the moisture will leave your body more quickly. 

Therefore, it’s important that you not only hydrate well during your hike, but also during your training. This will get you in the habit of hydrating so it’s easier when you’re focused on that summit. Consider investing in some hiking gear that’s designed specifically for hydration to make the task more convenient when you’re on the trail. 

Learn Basic First Aid 

In addition to recognizing the signs of altitude sickness that we mentioned above, it’s also important that you familiarize yourself with the basics of first aid – especially as first aid applies to high altitude mountain climbing.

You have no way to predict how your body will be impacted by the change in altitude. Bring an altitude aid like Diamox, which is a medication meant to be taken when you are hiking above 8000 feet. This can help reduce symptoms and make the hike a little bit easier on your body. 

You should also bring along first aid staples like cough drops, digestive aids, bandages, and ibuprofen. Before you head out on your trip, make sure you’ve brushed up on all basic first aid procedures, including treating and dressing a wound, CPR, and even splinting, if possible. There is no such thing as being too prepared when it comes to high latitude treks.

Recognize Your Limits 

The reality is that high altitude mountain climbing is not for everyone. You have no way of knowing whether you will make it to the summit – and back home – alive unless you have already succeeded in doing so. There are too many variables that can come into play. 

However, you can improve your odds by making sure your body is physically prepared for the challenge. Visit your doctor before you begin your hike and make sure you don’t have any conditions or illnesses that could interfere with your trip. Once you head out on the trails, don’t be afraid of turning around if you don’t feel well.

Sure, it can be disappointing to not make it all the way to the top. However, being able to make that decision is one that could save your life. Something as simple as a lingering headache could be your body’s way of trying to tell you that continuing on is a fatal mistake. 

Start Slow and Breathe in Deep

You’ve spent so long preparing for the hike – so why rush it? Instead of pushing yourself to get to the top as quickly as you can, take things slowly. You’re probably only going to do this once, so try to enjoy it. Not only are you going to feel slower when you’re hiking at high altitude, but there’s no benefit to pushing your body more when it’s already maxed out. 

Don’t rush things. Take frequent breaks, take deep breaths, and stop to enjoy the scenery. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and you’ve worked hard for the right to enjoy it – so make sure you do.

Get rid of Arm Pump: Foods that reduce lactic acid buildup

In the physically demanding sport of motocross, Arm pump can be a riders biggest enemy. The foods listed in this article will reduce lactic acid buildup in your muscles during heavy exercise and help eliminate arm pump.

Whether you’re a motocross rider or another type of athlete, understanding lactic acid and its role in athletic performance is vital. Not only can lactic acid cause a painful condition known as “arm pump” in motocross riders, but it can also lead to debilitating soreness for other athletes (including runners, cyclists, and swimmers), too. 

Luckily, lactic acid buildup is easy to prevent by following a few simple steps. One of the easiest solutions is to eat a healthy diet composed of foods that reduce lactic acid buildup. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know. 

What Are Lactic Acid and Lactic Acid Buildup?

Lactic acid isn’t inherently harmful. It’s the result of normal metabolism. The basics are simple – your blood needs oxygen in order to convert glucose into energy. When there is insufficient oxygen, however, the body begins to break down glucose in its absence. This results in lactic acid.

Also known as lactate, lactic acid can build up in many tissues of your body (most notably, in your muscles) before entering the bloodstream. While the body can use small amounts of energy, a buildup can make your muscles feel tired, sore, and worn-out. 

There are certain health conditions that lead to increased lactic acid production or can make it harder for your liver to clear excess lactate from your blood. We don’t talk about those conditions (which can include heart failure, a severe infection, or poorly controlled diabetes) in this article, because those are serious medical problems that require the attention of a medical team.

What we are referring to here is, instead, exercise-induced lactic acid buildup, or “hyperlactatemia.” 

Keep in mind that the buildup of small amounts of lactic acid is not harmful, and in fact, can be beneficial. It can increase your endurance, help you burn calories, and teach your body to absorb energy more effectively. On the flip side, though, lactic acid can lead to debilitating cramps and muscle pain – and it can lead to arm pump, too. 

Why is Lactic Acid Buildup an Issue for Motocross Riders? 

If you are an avid motocross rider, you’re probably already familiar with the dread condition known as “arm pump.” 

Humor me for a minute, and let’s pretend this is a new term for clarity’s sake.

Arm pump is essentially when blood pools in the forearm, preventing it from flowing effectively back to the heart and to your hands. It not only creates intense pressure in your forearms, but it can also make it more difficult for you to hold onto the bike and to control essential components like the brakes, throttle, and clutch.

Without a doubt, arm pump is one of the most debilitating conditions you can suffer from as a motocross rider. 

While this condition can be caused by other factors, including age, issues with your blood pressure, or scar tissue in your wrists, hands, fingers, or forearms, poor nutrition is one of the most common causes of arm pump. While stretching and warming up your forearms can help decrease the symptoms of this condition, watching what you eat to control the buildup of lactic acid is one of the smartest decisions you can make. 

What Are the Symptoms of Lactic Acid Buildup?

The most obvious sign that lactic acid is accumulating is that you’re going to feel it. You will experience fatigue and an overall feeling of tiredness along with soreness in the affected muscles specifically. 

If you notice symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, severe muscle cramps, headaches, diarrhea, yellowing of the skin or eyes, or shallow breathing, you’ll want to contact a doctor. This can signify a more severe buildup of lactic acid. 

Top 15 Foods That Reduce Lactic Acid Buildup 

1. Cherries

When it comes to fighting inflammation and reducing lactic acid buildup, you can’t go wrong with a bowlful of cherries. The tart kind of cherries are the best – in fact, some studies have found that they are better than aspirin when it comes to reducing muscle pain and soreness. 

2. Ginger

Ginger has an active ingredient known as gingerol that has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It has the same ability as ibuprofen to fight pain, yet won’t cause any harmful side-effects when it comes to removing lactic acid from your body. You can take a ginger supplement or add a few teaspoons of ginger to your favorite coffee or tea. 

3. Blueberries

Often considered a superfood, the humble blueberry can help decrease inflammation and reduce muscle soreness. Multiple studies have found that eating blueberries on a regular basis can speed up muscle recovery and improve muscle strength, too. 

4. Whole Grains

There’s not a ton of scientific evidence pointing to the efficacy of whole grains in reducing lactic acid specifically, but scientists know for sure that high-quality carbohydrates are essential for helping your body repair damages, especially in the muscles. 

Eat carbohydrates after a long ride – not only to restore lost calories and nutrients but also to help reduce lactic acid buildup. Good choices include brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, and oats.

5. Spinach

You don’t have to be in a Popeye cartoon in order to reap the benefits of spinach! Spinach, along with other leafy greens (like kale and chard) can significantly improve the ability of your body to remove and reduce lactic acid buildup. Spinach is jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants, both of which help reduce soreness and recovery. This vegetable also contains nitrate, which can help boost your muscle strength, too.

6. Brazil nuts

Magnesium is a vital nutrient when it comes to reducing lactic acid buildup. It’s a mineral that’s found naturally in the human body, but you also need to eat a fair amount of magnesium in order to maintain proper health.

Magnesium helps improve nerve function and muscle contraction (including the beating of your heart). It also builds proteins. Adding magnesium boosts energy production so that your muscles receive ample amounts of oxygen while you are working out.

There are all kinds of foods that are rich in magnesium, including legumes, leafy greens, and most nuts. Brazil nuts are some of the best, however, especially if you eat them on a regular basis. 

7. Pomegranates

Pomegranates taste wonderful in a juice, smoothie, or even when eaten fresh. They contain helpful antioxidants that can reduce soreness and fight inflammation after a tough ride. 

8. Oranges

Citrus fruit of all kinds is believed to be effective at reducing lactate levels and enhancing your overall athletic performance. That’s why you might see aid stations at major road marathons passing out orange slices to participants. 

Oranges are a great source of vitamin C, which not only helps your body uptake nutrients more effectively but can help prevent macular damage, too. These citrus fruits are believed to be particularly effective because they contain folate, which can reduce muscle fatigue and boost overall wellness, too.

The best part is that you can get the benefit of this fruit both when consumed whole as well as in a juice form, making it accessible and easy to take with you on the trails. 

9. Sunflower seeds

Like Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds are also rich in magnesium. They can be eaten as a healthy snack or even tossed on a salad for an occasional welcomed crunch. Either way, they’ll do the trick to help your muscles recover faster. 

10. Fish

While any kind of fish is a healthy choice when it comes to lactic acid buildup, your best bet will be fish that is wild-caught. Farm-raised fish tend to be lower in nutrients and higher in pollutants than their wild-caught counterparts. Good options include tuna, salmon, and mackerel, all of which have a high level of essential omega-3 fatty acids. 

11. Lean meats

Any kind of lean meat, from grass-fed beef to free-range poultry, will be effective at building back broken muscle tissue and flushing lactic acid from your muscles. Protein is a great nutrient at repairing damages, and lean protein will provide you with all the benefits you need and want without adding unnecessary cholesterol and fat to your diet. 

12. Turmeric

Turmeric, like ginger, is also known to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Its active ingredient, curcumin, helps with muscle repair and to flush lactic acid from the body post-ride. Like ginger, it can be taken as a supplement or added as a spice to your favorite meal. It has a strong flavor though, so you might want to start off using it in small doses!

13. Black currants

Black currants sound exotic, but they can be particularly effective at removing lactic acid from your muscles and enhancing your muscles’ ability to recover.

Any kind of black currant will work, but studies show that the New Zealand Sujon black currant is one of the most effective. This dark purple berry has the highest concentration of flavonoids and antioxidants and can quicken the removal of lactic acid from your muscles. 

14. Chocolate milk

You might be surprised to see chocolate milk on our list of superfoods for lactic acid buildup, but don’t be. Chocolate milk does a great job of replacing the essential sugars that it loses through exercise. If you’re riding frequently, chocolate milk can help provide the protein and carbohydrates your body needs to flush out the lactic acid. Plus, it contains essential minerals and vitamins for an added boost of nutrition, too. 

15. Red peppers

Like oranges, red peppers are packed with vitamin C.  In fact, just one red pepper has more vitamin C than an orange! While they might not taste as great (fresh-squeezed red pepper juice, anyone?) red peppers have tons of vitamins and antioxidants to help your body remove lactic acid more efficiently. 

Other Ways to Reduce Lactic Acid Buildup 

Following a smart diet is a good way to reduce lactic acid buildup, but it’s certainly not the only way. There are other tips you can incorporate into your daily lifestyle to reduce the impact that lactic acid has on your performance, too.

For starters, make sure you are well-hydrated before, during, and after a riding session. Keeping your body hydrated will help it break down excess lactic acid. Water is the best choice, but certain sports drinks with added electrolytes can be beneficial, too. Steer clear of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for best results.

You can also try taking deep breaths once the initial soreness sets in. breathing deeply will help deliver oxygen to your muscles and slow the production of lactic acid. Make sure you stretch gently before and after a ride, too, which can alleviate the cramps caused by lactic acid buildup.

Finally, if lactic acid and arm pump remain your mortal enemies, consider decreasing your intensity. You might want to try riding a little less often – or for shorter durations or intensities – to let the oxygen levels recover in your blood. 

Improve Your Performance by Following a Smart Diet

At some point, just about every motocross rider is destined to suffer from arm pump or a similar issue related to lactic acid buildup. That doesn’t mean you can’t take smart steps now to prevent it!

Not only will eating the right foods prevent lactic acid buildup, but it will give you the energy and stamina you need for continued performance, too. So toss that stale bag of chips to the side and start filling up on these nutritional powerhouses – your arms (and the rest of your body!) will thank you.