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Returning to training after lockdown

After a good couple of weeks of 'early-season' climbing, longer runs and some much needed days in the hills. It's very tempting to start trying to make up for the lost time in the mountains by going out for really big hill days or ambitious routes. Doing too much too soon is a great way to get injured, or bite off more than you can chew when your hill skills are a bit rusty.

I'm going to go through some things to bear in mind as you start to adopt your normal training habits and some tips on putting a plan together.

So to get started, I want you to ask yourself two questions:

How much training were you doing *consistently* before the lockdown?

How much training have you been doing throughout lockdown?

How fit you were pre-lockdown gives you an idea of how much fitness you might have lost, as generally, fitter people hold onto their gains better than people new to training.

The amount of training you've been able to do over the past few months will vary a lot between different people. Maybe you've done very little or had weeks totally off, perhaps you've got a reasonable amount in with all that spare time, and I bet some people are fitter now than they were before lockdown, possibly fitter than ever.

There's no one size fits all for this. There are plenty of studies looking at what happens when people stop training altogether, complete bed-rest, and no it's not great with big drops in both aerobic fitness and strength after a couple of weeks. But 2020's special circumstances have meant lots of us are simply not training optimally with closed gyms, climbing walls and worst of all, mountains. And that is a lot harder to put into numbers.

So as a rule of thumb, if you have been training consistently and relatively well over the last few weeks you can slowly pick up your original plan, reducing volume as necessary to reflect your current level of fitness.

If your training has taken a bigger hit, it may be better to repeat some earlier training blocks to make up for lost fitness.

Alternatively, use the steps we're going to look at in a minute to put together a new plan for your post-lockdown goals. With lots of events and races cancelled this year and travel to distant peaks not possible or limited, wiping the slate clean could be the best option. Don't be disheartened, there's plenty of other adventures you can prepare for.

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So now we know where you are, let's look at some tips for your return to training and the mountains.

A key principle of training methodology is 'progressive overload', basically giving your body a little bit more every session. For hill goers, this means increasing the time you spend out/ distance/ total elevation gain/ pace in small increments.

It's also important to plan 'deload' weeks into your program, to allow your body to recover from the previous weeks. I like having one every 4th week, as it packages training into neat four-week blocks.

Even if you've been training well given the circumstances, one area all of you will have noticed some losses are your 'hill legs'. Even if you've been tramping up and down your staircase hundreds of times, it's not the same as long days spent going up and down on rough mountain terrain.

The answer is a no brainer, take it steady. For hill walks and runs, plan amenable routes than can be extended or shortened easily depending on how you feel, emphasis on easily. Runners, be especially aware of not overdoing it on total volume, remember the 10 per cent rule!

(Don't increase weekly mileage by more than 10 per cent to avoid injury).

And climbers, some easy routes well within your grade on single pitch or short crags is key to get you back into the swing of things without feeling beaten up the next day (it's also key to not being a numpty, getting into an accident and dragging out mountain rescue)

The important thing is that your body recovers from and adapts to the stimulus you give it. After every day out walking, running or climbing, take note of how you feel. Tired is ok, but if you're completely wiped out you probably overdid it. The trend should be up, persistent fatigue or days to recover from one day or session is a red flag something isn't right and you need to take a step back.

This is why you should keep a training record!

A quick segue on logging training. Can I suggest you lose the pen and paper or, heaven forbid, excel spreadsheet. If these systems work for you great, but it's 2020 and there is a better way!

I'm currently using the Training Peaks app, for my training and when working with clients. I could write a whole post about how ace it is, but some highlights include auto-sync from your favourite GPS tracking toy, heart rate and pace analytics, weekly totals and you can plan out your whole year into phases. The phone app will give you reminders to get off your bum and what you have planned for the day. Go and have a nosey if you're interested.

And to wrap things up, remember we aren't just about the fitness side of things here, mountain sports are skills sports. For those of you who don't dabble in winter mountain adventures, it'll have been months and months since you were last in the thick of it. Don't wait till your on the hill to realise your rusty at nav or rope work.

Run through basic navigation points at home or in your locale.

For climbers, run through rope skills at home first. I would highly recommend checking out the JB mountain skills youtube channel, he's put a mind-boggling amount of content in the past two months with lots of food for thought and techniques to practice on your staircase. I guarantee you'll learn something new.

And that's about it for the fundamentals. To recap the key points:

  • Be honest about how fit you were and how well you've maintained that throughout lockdown.

  • Acknowledge that you will have a degree of jelly legs after time away from mountain terrain. Ease your self back slowly.

  • Sit down, pick a goal, and make a plan!

  • Monitor your recovery carefully. A good training record to log how much you're doing and how you feel after each session is a great way to look at your recovery objectively. When planning, build in deload weeks and make sure you rest well.

  • Don't neglect your hard skills like ropework and navigation, brush up at home.

Thanks for reading folks. If you liked this, pop your email in the box below to read out latest posts.

Happy adventuring.


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