Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Personal Trainer's guide: Preparing to climb Mount Everest, 4 weeks out

If someone was to offer you a place on a 'bucket list, once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity to trek to Everest base camp, you'd snap their hand off right?  Well I what if you only had four weeks to prepare?  That's exactly how it happened for me.  I've always been a kinda 'jump and build a plane on the way down', sometimes it's turned out well and other times, well...doesn't matter.  Anyway, there was no chance I was going to turn this down. Currently four weeks out from my venture, thus sharing my method of preperation for other likeminded people who want to embark on something similar. 

Physical Prep

I've got some experience in racing in extreme conditions, from the Arctic Ultra marathon I did in 2017.  For that, I physically prepared for seven months to get to a certain level of fitness, which even then I didn't think I was ready enough (you never do).  For Everest base camp (EBC) there's obviously a certain level of fitness required for this trek, but this is more of a 'tactical one', because of the altitude.  I've not dealt with altitude issues before, so this should be interesting to say the very least!

EBC is 5380m (17,600ft) above sea level, which means the air gets thin and there is the the high risk of altitude sickness. Major symptoms of altitude sickness (so I've researched) are severe headache, loss of appetite, shortness in breath, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, nausea, rapid pulse and extreme dehydration, all of which could get me pulled from the trek.  So this isn't a race, it's got to be slow and steady.

I'm fortunate I've got a fairly good base level of fitness, my only possibly limiting factor is a recent neck injury, but I'm going to work around that.   My training up until now composed of doing x3 CrossFit® sessions per week, 3 other cross training sessions, x3 weight sessions and 2-3 'cardio' sessions per week.

Breakdown of my training now, based on work commitments, lifestyle and preferences:


  • AM: Treadmill/running (treadmill running because of pollution), 60 minutes. 
  • PM: Strength training - Arms and rehab


  • AM: Watt bike intervals, 30/30 sprint/recover 50 mins 60 mins total.
  • PM: Strength training - Back and legs


  • AM:  Running intervals 60:30 50 mins 60 mins total.
  • PM:  Strength - Chest and rehab
  • AM: Bike - Variable Intensity Interval Training
  • PM:  Strength training - Shoulders
  • AM Running: 60 mins Steady state, long slow duration
  • PM:  Strength training - Legs and compound lifts ie deadlifts, clean & jerks and snatches
  • Chill and rehab
  • Swim/run and rehab


I'm currently sitting at 90kg and and 12-13% body fat, so I don't really intend (or need) to lose too much weight, so I'm not going to cut to many calories either.  I'm also not going to be carb loading, just because I have some endurance to do.  More evidence shows that higher fat diets when endurance training, can get better performance results, as well as keep body fat down (as long as I don't eat too much).  
I tend to only eat around 2000-2500 calories per day.  I know this because I pretty much eat the same thing every day (for convenience more than anything) and have tracked it in the past. My diet's based around whole foods at a reasonable price.  My diet fits in with my lifestyle and the goals I want to maintain. I'm not always looking to be sub 10% body fat.  

Typical days food for  is:

Breakfast: x1 grapefruit, x5 whole eggs, scrambled cooked in a teaspoon of coconut oil. A fist size of frat rye bread and an Americano with milk.
Snack: Fruit
Lunch: Half a small chicken.  Big bunch of kale or spinach, a cupped handful of cucumber, curried cauliflower rice and sweet potato. Maybe a coffee
Dinner: The other half of the above. 

Friday night a curry.  Saturday whatever I fancy. Sunday back to normal, or if I'm out, a reasonably balanced meal.

At the end of the day, I only have four weeks to prep.  As long as I don't go and eat loads of junk food, get drunk every weekend and put on a load of weight, I should be ok.

Equipment for the trek

The temperatures when climbing EBC can drop to -20 celsius and can have up to 18 inches of rainfall. I'm definitely going to need layers and breathable materials, so I can add and remove according to body temperature when moving and weather conditions.  The trick is to pay attention to self administration.  You can easily get carried away and keep too many layers on, because the body's comfortable with it's own temperature with layers on (ie you sweet more to keep cool, when really all you have to do is remove one layer).  This could lead to dehydration and an unnecessary decline in condition.  The other thing about sweating when you're moving is, when you stop the wet material gets cold quickly in turn can make the body cold. 

I'm actually lucky because I've actually got most of the clothing I need, from the Arctic marathon.  However, it's all in the UK and I'm in Singapore.  When I packed for Singapore I never imagined I'd need thermals ever again.  Hopefully though, I can get it flown over in time and save a small fortune.

Trek essentials
  • Baby wipes and foot powder (yes first on the list)
  • Trail shoes (I'm just going for some heavy duty trainers)
  • Leggings
  • (Front) wind proof leggings
  • Hiking poles
  • High, tight fitting sport socks and compression stockings
  • T shirt (base layer), breathable long sleeve top, fleece and puffer jacket, Gortex jacket
  • Running gloves and thicker ski gloves
  • Wooly hat 
  • Sun glasses

"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out.  It's the stone in your shoe." - Muhammad Ali

Mental prep

I've done a bit of digging and asked other people that have done it before for any tips.  I actually have an old client I've asked for advice and she said the trick is to stop and sip water regularly, as the stopping will force you slow and acclimatise - and she got that advice from a sherpa. 

I'm going to be attending a seminar by Grant Rawlinson, a motivational speaker who has completed over 50 expeditions across the globe, walked across countries, cycled across continents and has summited Everest.  His current undertaking, is to row from Singapore to New Zealand - thats 12,000km folks!  Just to put that into perspective, I plan to row the Atlantic and that's only 5000km.  I'll also be taking advice from Brooks Entwistle, the oldest American to climb and ski a 8000m peak in 2016 and summit Everest in a record 27 days in 2017.

My main motivation for this, is to experience that view from the top and to be able to look down and see the bottom where I started.  
If you transfer that over to any 'metaphorical mountain' we climb, ie any challenge we have in life, we always focus on the end and aim to get it done as quickly as possible.  It's easy to forget about the 'journey' itself, the graft it's taken to get to 'the top', forgetting how far we've come when we want to get there faster, or are finding something tough and want to quit.

This is the first part of my Everest adventure, stay tuned for the next instalment 'On the road to the top' soon...

Keep it real guys



Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The only scales you'll ever need


Saturday, September 21, 2019

'IIT' is what it is

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Effective high-intensity intervals are exercises that you typically perform at 80-95% of your maximum heart rate, from anywhere from five seconds to eight minutes, and a rest period that can vary from 10 seconds upwards, or to allow your heart rate to settle down to 40-50% of it's max.

The great thing about HIIT is:
  1. Improves cardiovascular health
  2.  improves cholesterol profiles and blood glucose or sugar levels, which is important for diabetics
  3. Reduces fat
  4. Maintain/increase muscle mass
  5. Halts ageing at the cellular level
  6. Improves cognitive (brain) function 
But even after all that, the best thing about HIIT is it's 'bang for buck'.  HIIT beats an hours+ workout on the treadmill, as it can be completed in 20 minutes or less-great the the busy individual.

Low Intensity Inteval Training (LIIT)

Still interval training, just at a very lighter pace and intensity.  Probably best if your new to training to do this first.  The modalities are the same, but this is not necessarily going to get you fitter, I would maybe program this in as 'light' training or recovery session.


Made famous by the Japaneae research team of the Dept. of Physiology and Biomechanics, Tabata is a quick way to increase aerobic and anaeorbic fitness...providing you're working hard enough!  The lay out is simple, 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest, eight times. 20:10 x8 = just under four minutes.  I see lot's of people doing 'Tabata' but not really doing 'Tabata'.  Meaning they're following the times, but not following the intensity.  Most of the time, because the choice of exercise doesn't match the intensity required, ie an exercise that'll only allow you to do x3 reps in the 20 seconds.  Not good enough!  The best exercises in my opinion are:

  • Sprints/hills
  • Speed ladder
  • Assault bike
  • Rower
  • Ski erg
  • Prowler
  • Kicks/punches
I wouldn't even use the kettlebell, the exercises need to be 'get in, get out'.  You're looking to get up to 170% of your VO2 max.  How do you now what that it?  Well that's tricky to be completely accurate, without a lab.  I'd recommend getting yourself a heart rate monitor (I use the Polar OH1 personally), or easiest, a scale of 1-10.  You're aiming to feel about 8-9/10 in effort.  Just imagine you've run your hard race against Usain Bolt for 20 seconds straight.

Fartlek Training

Swedish for 'speed play', I first came across this in the army, getting beasted by the Physical Training Instructor (PTI) at variable intervals we had no control over.  It would spread out the squad and separate the weak from the strong.  The great thing about fartlek is, it's completely random and you can also use it with any means of cardio.  It's normally better done with someone leading,  as it's easier to slack off when you're doing it by yourself.  I used to use the TVs in the gym to act as interval times. For example, every time we'd see the colour yellow appear on screen, we'd increase the pace two notches and keep doing so until, every time we saw the colour green and then decrease it again by two notches.  If I'm outside, I'd use lamp posts, or different car models that drove past me. (Note: pick common colours and common models, a pink Lamborgini is going to be a rare sight!)

They are various ways of measuring the intervals, commonly using a work:rest ratio of 0.5:1 (ie 30 seconds work: 60 seconds rest), 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 and so on.  Though it doesn't have to be so strict, as you can see from the Farlek intervals.   The reason I would recommend recording times, is because it's more easily programable and you're more like to see progression.  You're effectively forced in counting something tangible, for instance how many sets, the distance covered, the speed you ran etc.

Ultimately, if you're short for  time, tight for space, looking to burn fat, or generally wanting to improve your health, then HIIT isn't the only form of training you 'need' to do, but like all training variables, it's a tool that will still help you get results.

Have fun and keep it real folks.



Fat loss and 'socials': Dealing with peer pressure

© Phil Snowden | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig