Since ages, humans had endeavored to conquer the mountains. From Sir Edmund Hillary to Stacey Allison (First American Woman to climb Mount Everest), to various other gallant warriors who conquered altitude, pushing the normal limits of the body has, in fact, become a challenging game.
Whether it’s running a marathon or climbing the highest peak, humans derive an undefined pleasure from doing something that our body is not meant for. However, nature has provided an amazing sense of the acclimatization power to the body that lets people realize their “high” dreams.
Talk of altitude and our mind conjures up images of freezing temperatures, avalanches, hidden crevasses, and people gasping for breath. But, all is not that bad. Whether it’s Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet) or Aconcagua (22,841 feet) in your mind, the right physical training helps your body adjust to the new environment.
Components Of Physical Training
Physical training comprises of three things:
- Training your body
- Arranging for the right equipment
- Creating a daily routine – it includes food and fluid intake, supplements, pulse oximeter readings, and learning about the symptoms of altitude sickness and the ways to handle them.
When you start your physical training for any high altitude sport, you should have only one thing in mind – to maximize your success rate. The training program has various stages. These are:
- Building the foundation
- Power training – e.g: step ups, squats, lunges
- Increasing your anaerobic threshold level or aerobic capacity
- Cardiovascular power endurance – e.g: climbing hills with pack weight, mountain biking, hypoxic swims.
- Cardiovascular as well as muscular endurance extensive training – this includes increasing maximum endurance power with moderate physical output, peaking, tapering and rest. E.g: 10+ mile hikes, distance running, cycling.
Diet At Altitude
One good news here – you’re gonna lose weight at altitude! Almost everyone loses body fat as well as lean tissue due to 15-50 percent increase in energy requirements. This is accompanied with appetite loss. It’s recommended to take up to 6,000 calories (this comprises 400 grams of carbs) daily to combat high altitude.
There’s also loss of water from the lungs because of exposure to cold, dry air, body exertion, and diuretic effects of height.
No matter how well you’ve trained your body for altitude, if you’re without proper equipment and gear, you won’t live to see the day. Warmth is imperative here. Therefore, you must bring along hand and feet warmers, even though you may have the warmest garments. Your physical trainer teaches you to prepare your kit. He or she will tell you everything about the right equipment and gear, the right pack weight, and the importance of spare necessities like batteries, laces, sunscreen, patch kit, lip balm, and others.
5 Things You MUST Do At Altitude
- Gulp 4-6 liters of water daily. Drink one liter of water every 3 hours.
- Take a carbohydrate rich diet, as your body derives about 70 percent calories from carbs. Snack on raisins, yogurt dipped raisins, dried fruits, banana chips, jellybeans, fruit chews, red and black licorice, gummy bears, bagels, granola bars, fig bars, and toaster pastries.
- Take at least one hot meal daily – it’s easier to digest potatoes, couscous, noodles, and rice.
- Avoid drinking melted snow or unpurified water. Treat the water to ward off any bacterial infections. Remember, water boils at a temperature LESS THAN 100 degrees Celsius at altitude.
The objective of physical training is to develop strength as well as stamina in the body so that it can endure physical activity for a longer period at altitude. Get all your doubts cleared up before climbing. At high altitude, even a single doubt or lack of understanding can cost you your life!