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Q&A: Prepare Your Body for Altitude

Q: I would like to conquer Yosemite's Halfdome in a couple months. How can I train for altitude climbing if I live near sea level?

A: The best way to prepare would be to train and sleep at altitude, but the next best thing is to increase your endurance and “cardio strength.” Building “cardio strength” means raising your peak VO2—an indicator of how efficiently your body utilizes oxygen. The higher your VO2, the better shape you’ll be in to handle the altitude. Here’s how to train:

Step 1: Improve your endurance by training at approximately 75 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate (about 6-7 on a scale of 1-10 effort for those who don’t use a heart rate monitor) twice a week for at least an hour.

Step 2: To improve cardio strength, try intervals twice a week. For instance, you can do 1- and 2-minute repeats. You would warm up, then do 1 minute of “work” at 90-95% intensity (an 8-9 level effort on a 1-10 scale) and then 1 minute walk. Do this five times, recover for 3-5 minutes, and then repeat. Continue for a total of 30-45 minutes.

Step 3: Finally, take long walks another two days a week. Go for an hour or two just to get your body used to walking for long periods.

Based on the steps above, here's a sample training schedule.

Monday: Cardio Strength

Tuesday: Endurance

Wednesday: Long Walk

Thursday: Cardio Strength

Friday: Endurance

Saturday: Long Walk

Sunday: Rest

Tags: Q&A, Energy System Development, Training, Outdoor Recreation, Cardio, Heart Rate Monitor