Sunday, 18 October 2015

Time for change

Possibly not quite as dramatic as it may sound, but I have decided I am too sedentary and started on a road to improved fitness. Or, possibly more accurate, a trail to improved fitness. From 1991 for almost twenty years I studied and trained in the martial art of Taekwondo, including 3-4 workouts at the gym every week. I was as fit as the proverbial ‘butchers dog’. After the ‘almost twenty years’ I had to give it up due to other priorities having, by then, reached the grade of 5th Dan Master. Although I have done a fair amount of walking since my accident back in 2010, I haven’t been as fit as I had liked. I have found the hills harder work than I should have. So several months ago I began a plan to improve my hill fitness.

My first decision was to purchase a book called ‘Training for the New Alpinism’ authored by Steve House and Scott Johnston. I am aware of Steve House having read articles on his blog and mention of him in many books. He is renowned as being one of the top guides in the world with a lengthy career. (

I’ve been reading quite a few guides books lately; Martin Moran’s ‘Higher Ground’ and Kenton Cool’s ‘One Man’s Everest’. So based on what seems to be one of the best sources of information I decided to but a fitness book co authored by a top guide.
I started regular walks, three times a week, with a goal time that I steadily brought down. This has been interspersed with core strength training and a few free weights. I reached a point, five weeks ago, where those three times a week walks have become trail runs. I’m currently running around 4 miles in just over three quarters of an hour with an aim to bring this time down to below forty minutes before extending the distance further. Having run section on the road I can guarantee Trail Running is a lot harder work and better for the muscles. In the next couple of weeks, these trail runs will be supplemented with a couple of walks incorporating a weighted pack to build leg and back strength.
In a few months I plan to incorporate at least one HIIT session per week. HIIT is High Intensity Interval Training and is basically what I used to do as a warm up for martial arts, but for 30 minutes rather than 15-20 minutes I used to do. This will also possibly include an increase on free weight training.
All this is for several reasons. Firstly, just like everyone else, I’m not getting any younger and want to improve my baseline fitness. Secondly, I want my walks to be more fun and do more ‘off piste’ challenges. Thirdly, I plan to head to the Alps in the next couple of years with new challenges there to confront. Since I plan to do some courses next year, including a scrambling course and a winter skills course, I don’t want fitness, or lack of it, to be an issue.
My increased walks and the then trail runs have already paid dividends. In March of this year I went up Ram’s Clough over at Dovestone Reservoir taking a total time of 40 minutes to do the 500 foot hike from the Oldham Way path to the top of the Clough just by Wimberry Stones. When I got to the top I had to sit down for 5-10 minutes to recover. Last weekend I did the same walk and only took 25 minutes with no need for a rest at the top. Hopefully this will come down further, in fact quite considerably, because I plan to make it a Trail Run at some point in the future.
So quite a bit of my blog for the foreseeable future will be including a lot of new content, from trail running to rock climbing. I’ll be looking at a few of the books I am reading, courses I do and new equipment I am using. Plus the new places the training takes me.
So to kick things off, I am toying with the idea of doing some minimalist, barefoot style, trail running. What are people’s thoughts and experiences on this style of running? I currently have standard cushion trail shoes, La Sportiva Mutants, and know of the minimalist vs maximal cushioning. I can see benefits and issues with all three, but want to make a more practical decision. Maybe covering all three is best?

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