David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

How does Ueli Steck’s training look like?

Swiss climber Ueli Steck and Italian climber Simone Moro recently began their NO2 “No Limits” expedition with the goal of taking a new route to the summit of Mount Everest. The two men are currently at Camp 2, according to Moro’s blog, and will soon choose their line to the top based on the conditions of the mountains and their mental and physical fortitude after acclimatization. 

With so many miscellaneous factors and extreme conditions, how do you prepare for a climb like this? In the video above, Steck talks about his training regimen.

“It’s a serious game, so you have to prepare yourself,” he said. “You cannot go there and not be fit. There’s not much oxygen in the air.”

Steck lives and trains in Switzerland, where he has access to high alpine peaks such as the Eiger. To prepare, he does work both outside and in the gym.

“For us, as alpinists, mountain running is the best way,” he said. Steck runs up and down the mountains six days a week, lifts weights three days a week and climbs three days a week. 

As for psychological preparation, Steck’s abilities stem from his passion.

“The mental strength comes if you do what you like to do,” he said. “You just have to look for the right project.”

For more updates on the NO2 Limits Expedition 2013, visit Mountain Hardwear’s Facebook pageSteck’s blog or Moro’s blog.

Via Epic TV.

From a story in Climbing — Since 1970 (see link below):

MONDAY
1 hour running–Intensity 2 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour stabilization (core) training / slideshow
TUESDAY
2 hours running–Intensity 2 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
WEDNESDAY
4 hours climbing in the gym / 2 hours running–Intensity 1 / 1/2 hour stretching / slideshow
THURSDAY
4 hours climbing in the gym / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
FRIDAY
1.5 hours running–Intensity 1 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
SATURDAY
3.5 hours running–Intensity 4 / 1 hour…

Ueli Steck
© Robert Bosch

Climbing

just published

a story

taking a look at the fitness of alpinist Ueli Steck. As far as climbers go, it would be difficult to imagine someone with greater fitness than Ueli. I mean this is the guy who literally sprinted up the Eiger in 2 hours, 47 minutes in 2008. Only a year earlier, the Swiss Federal Institute of Sports Magglingen judged Steck ‘out of shape’. In his quest for setting the fastest speed record he could, what followed was a year of the most scientific and rigorous training Steck could devise supported by a slew of sports scientists and training specialists.

Here is just a selection of his training plan.

Get psyched!

FOCUS: ALPINE ENDURANCE (PRE-EIGER RECORD)

  • MONDAY 

    1 hour running–Intensity 2 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour stabilization (core) training / slideshow
  • TUESDAY 

    2 hours running–Intensity 2 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
  • WEDNESDAY
    4 hours climbing in the gym / 2 hours running–Intensity 1 / 1/2 hour stretching / slideshow
  • THURSDAY
    4 hours climbing in the gym / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
  • FRIDAY
    1.5 hours running–Intensity 1 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
  • SATURDAY 

    3.5 hours running–Intensity 4 / 1 hour stretching / slideshow
  • SUNDAY (REST DAY)
    Climbing with my wife 4 hours / 1 hour stretching

FOCUS: YOSEMITE CLIMBING (2010, WEEK 17)

  • MONDAY 

    Run: 12 kilometers/1,000 meters gain–Intensity 2
  • TUESDAY
    Climbing outdoors: 3 pitches of 5.13d, 2 of 5.13a, 1 of 5.11d / 1 hour weight training / 1 hour stretching
  • WEDNESDAY
    Climbing outdoors: 4 pitches of 5.14a, 2 of 5.13a / Run: easy 12 kilometers/800 meters gain–Intensity 1
  • THURSDAY 

    Run: Eiger Lauper Route, running and climbing from Grindelwald, 20 kilometers/3,075 meters gain–Intensity 3
  • FRIDAY (REST DAY)
  • SATURDAY 

    Climbing in the gym: 4 pitches of 5.13b, 3 of 5.12d, 5 of 5.12b, 6 of 5.11d / 1 hour weight training / 1 hour stretching
  • SUNDAY
    Run: 18 kilometers/1,700 meters gain–Intensity 2

FOCUS: GENERAL ENDURANCE (2010, WEEK 33)

  • MONDAY (REST DAY)
  • TUESDAY 

    3-run series, total 27 kilometers/ 5,100 meters gain–Intensity 3 / 1 hour stretching
  • WEDNESDAY
    Climbing gym: 3 pitches of 5.13b, 4 of 5.13a, 6 of 5.12c, 4 of 5.11d / 1 hour stretching
  • THURSDAY
    Climbing gym: 3 pitches 5.13b, 5 of 5.13a, 6 of 5.12b, 6 of 5.11d / 1 hour stretching
  • FRIDAY
    3-run series, total 27 kilometers/ 5,100 meters gain–Intensity 3 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training
  • SATURDAY
    Climbing outdoors: 2 pitches 5.13d, 1 of 5.12c, 3 of 5.11d
  • SUNDAY (REST DAY)
    Drive to Dolomites

FOCUS: HIMALAYA (2011, WEEK 2)

  • MONDAY
    1 hour running–Intensity 2 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour stabilization training / slideshow
  • TUESDAY
    2 hours running—Intensity 2 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
  • WEDNESDAY
    4 hours climbing in the gym / 2 hours running–Intensity 1 / 1/2 hour stretching / slideshow
  • THURSDAY
    4 hours climbing in the gym / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
  • FRIDAY (REST DAY)
    1.5 hours running–Intensity 1 / 1 hour stretching / 1 hour mental training / slideshow
  • SATURDAY
    3.5 hours running–Intensity 4 / 1 hour stretching / slideshow
  • SUNDAY (REST DAY)
    Climbing with my wife 4 hours / 1 hour stretching
The Eiger’s hardest free route, Paciencia (5.13b), a 27-pitch line on the right side of the north face.
© Robert Bosch

Photo Gallery: A Day at the Office with the Swiss Machine

Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck, 39, earned the nickname the Swiss Machine for his speed. He’s set the record for fastest time climbing the north face of the Eiger on three different occasions, in 2007, 2008, and last fall. He also holds speed records on the north face of the Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses. Last summer, he climbed all 82 peaks in Europe taller than 4,000 meters during a 62-day blitz.

READ MORE: Alex Honnold Goes Solar in Angola

Not surprisingly, Steck’s workout routine involves a lot of time training at altitude, both in the gym and on the mountain. Though soft-spoken, the man is driven, focused, and very intense about his physical fitness. Photographer Reto Sterchi (retojames on Instagram) accompanied Steck for a day while he trained in and around his home in Ringgenberg, Switzerland.

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Steck’s training day begins on skis. Before sunrise, he ascends from Grindelwald to Männlichen, climbing 4,226 feet.

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Roughly an hour and a half later, Steck reaches the top, at an elevation of 7,300 feet. His heart rate measured about 120 beats per minute. «This is baseline training,» he says.

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Steck was born 1976 in Langnau, Switzerland.

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Steck getting ready to ski down the slopes of Männlichen. Behind him looms the infamous north face of the Eiger. He reclaimed the speed record for the 5,500-foot face last fall, in two hours, 22 minutes, and 50 seconds.

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Loading weights at the gym S4Sports in Wilderswil. Steck’s routine builds coordination and strength.

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

When it comes to working hard, Steck says, «I never have problems with motivation. Quite the opposite. Sometimes it’s hard to relax and wind down.»

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Strong legs are crucial to moving fast in the mountains. Scaling the Eiger, one of the most difficult climbing locales in the Alps, is a half-day trip for Steck. «It’s really not too stressful. I leave home around 7 AM, take the train to the foot of the mountain, do the ascent and the descent. I’m back home for lunch.»

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

When he’s in the mountains—and during workouts—Steck is frugal with water. On a speed ascent, he takes very little of it with him. «One small bottle,» he says. «More slows me down. Drinking that much during a climb is just not necessary.»

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Working his upper body in the basement of his home in Ringgenberg, Switzerland.

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Steck’s collection of boots and shoes. «The pink moonboots belong to my wife,» he points out.

David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the test in the Khumbu — Uphill Athlete

Running up the mountain in his backyard, the Harder Kulm. He calls it his «home run.» He usually makes three laps, for a total distance of 14.4 miles and total elevation gain of 7,575 feet. It usually takes him about four hours to complete.

Physiological mechanisms and implications

There are several prevailing theories as to why this occurs:

  • At high elevations (and the higher that is the more pronounced the effect) the barometric pressure and thus the partial pressure of Oxygen (PO2) of the atmosphere drops. Therefore, each breath contains fewer molecules of oxygen than it does at lower altitude (which has a higher barometric pressure). If you’ve been to even moderately high elevations like 14,000ft you have no doubt noticed that your work rate/speed is greatly reduced. There just isn’t enough O2 to power sustained vigorous work.  One of the upshots of this is that a well-trained heart has much more pumping capacity than is needed at these high elevations. In fact studies have shown that on the summit of Mt. Everest, even if we had an unlimited cardiac output, our maximal work rate would remain unchanged due to the huge drop in oxygen content of the blood. The heart is a slave to the brain which gets feedback from the muscles as to how much O2 is needed to sustain the work required.  When the PO2 drops, the muscle power output necessarily drops with it and so the heart, in response to the lower power demands, cuts the cardiac output by lowering the heart rate.
  • Additionally, the brain may select to prioritize the cardiac muscle over skeletal muscle for O2 delivery.If there is not enough O2 to support a higher cardiac output then the brain will limit the heart rate to ensure that the heart’s O2 demand does not outstrip its supply. Couple this lower cardiac output with the lower PO2 and you’ve got skeletal muscles that simply don’t have enough oxygen to sustain high intensity exercise.
  • Due to the very high rate of ventilation (breaths per step) required at these very high elevations, a great deal of blood will be shunted to the respiratory muscles. This too will leave less for the skeletal muscles.
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