Climbing near Mount Matier Joffe
Credit: Sean Kerrigan

What you need to do and eat to get in peak shape

If your New Year's resolution included bagging a mountain summit, congratulations and good choice! The trip is probably months away, but get busy now to increase your odds of success and enjoyment. Whether your goal is a Canadian Rockies classic, Mount Logan, or something more exotic (maybe Mount Everest?), approach it as you would any other fitness goal.


Consider what your summit attempt will entail. You should train differently for 30 kilometres of hiking versus a 25-pitch rock route. Likewise, you should train differently for a one-day epic versus a three-week expedition. Build your training plan around the length and difficulty of your adventure and what you'll encounter en route. No matter what you're planning, get in peak shape.

  • Find activities that you like and fit your schedule. Ideally, you should commit to a mix of leg-centric cardio, full body workouts, and one day a week of rest—but anything that gets you breathing hard helps.

  • Log cardio sessions three times a week with at least one session lasting longer than an hour. And do as much uphill training as you can—it builds a different level of fitness than flatland. If you live in vertically-challenged parts of the country, hike stairwells or crank up the treadmill's angle. Get outside and climb hills and mountains as much as you can with a pack on your back.

  • Work on your core, a major muscle group used in everything you do outside—especially with a pack on. Every day, do three sets of ten reps of the following: planks, push ups, V-sits, and burpees.

  • When you lift weights, focus on exercises that require multiple muscle groups to work together, just like they will be when you're scrambling over rocks. (Think: deadlifts, Olympic lifts, bench presses, and squats.) Aim for low weights and lots of reps for endurance.

  • Proper form is key to staying injury-free. If you're not sure you're doing something properly, hire a trainer to help build a program and work on your technique.

  • If you'll be climbing rock, add the climbing gym to your workout routine. When you get to the top of a route, don't get lowered back down: Down-climbing builds skill and endurance.

  • Push a little further and work a little harder every week. Occasionally ease off to let your body recover.

  • Don't forget to stretch.


Athletes in any sport consider nutrition a pillar of performance and an integral part of training, but it's often overlooked by mountaineers. Proper nutrition will make you stronger and fitter and help you recover faster.

  • Eat three healthy meals a day with a good balance of carbohydrates and proteins. You'll need lots of good food to power you through your workouts.

  • Follow every workout with hydration, protein, and simple sugars—chocolate milk is ideal—to kick-start the muscle-building and recovery processes.

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