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



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