MOUNTAIN SPORT FITNESS
You are going to have a great time in the Alps regardless of your fitness or skill level. There are plenty of options for everyone. But, the more fit you are for the demands of the Alps, the more options you will have. With more options and the ability to go further and higher, the more you can experience in the Alps.
Most every trip and tour we suggest on ALPSinsight requires a solid foundation of fitness. For ski tours and climbing, in addition to fitness, a solid foundation of specific knowledge is also required.
No one ever says, “I wish I was less fit for this.” So, let’s look at what kind of fitness you need.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE ALPS
Tours, whether it’s hiking, running, ski touring, or alpine climbing, all require you to be on a fixed program. In the Alps, most trips and tours are hut to hut, with a fairly consistent distance in between. And because the Alps are only so high, with a generally common amount of relief, days do seem to have an average vertical gain.
If I plug all that info into my head, and combine it with 20 years experience in the Alps, I’m going to come up with an average of 16 kilometers and 1200 meters of gain per day.
After I wrote this, I asked Janine and Kim to do the same thing. "What's an average day in the Alps?" They both gave me the exact same answer. Let’s go with 16km with 1200 meters of up!
This is what your body should be prepared to do, potentially for several days in a row. Of course for many tours it is absolutely possible to shorten days, and there's even more opportunity to increase the days.
For the running tours we did for our Run the Alps Switzerland book and Elevation : The Alps Trail & Peak Running Resource, the averages are actually higher, at 22 kilometers and 1400 meters of up for these sets of runs. We figure if you’re out in these beautiful places, why not stay out as long as possible? Hopefully, for all your time in the Alps, you have the same strategy.
What you do to increase your fitness is up to you. We suggest digging into what we know as the best possible resource, Uphill Athlete. There you will find training programs for specific mountain sports, or you can contact the team for training programs customized for your exact needs.
In addition to physical training, it also helps to understand how the Alps’ infrastructure allows you to travel as light as possible. Moving without any extra weight will also be influential for your experience. Why carry things you don’t need? This is a common thing we see, especially by Americans not familiar with the hut system and all the gear it allows you to leave behind.
How to Trail Run
If you're new to trail running, never been to the Alps, or want a peek at our tips and philosophy about trail running - we wrote an extensive piece on How to Trail Run in the Alps.
Training for the Alps
To train for the Alps, ideally, you spend a lot of time in similar mountain terrain. Time spent going up, up, up, and just as importantly, down, down, down. But we know this is not an option everyone has out their door. Our friends at Uphill Athlete have created a Big Vert Training Plan, to help prepare for the big ups and downs of the Alps, wherever you train.