Author: Jesse Mattner
Facebook Group: LIGHT & FAST ALPINISM
Off the Couch Fitness. Alpinism as a discipline requires a unique kind of physical fitness and mental fortitude that typical training cannot deliver. We are not building muscles to see our mass grow and we are not training in adverse conditions so we can have a story to tell our friends at the bar. We do these things because our unique discipline requires them.
At the base level of athleticism for alpinism is what I call OFF THE COUCH (OTC) fitness. It is the level we know we are capable of at any moment given our standard level of fitness, prowess and experience. It is our benchmark or baseline. It is an important thing to understand intimately for two reasons:
- It tells us what we are a capable of, and more importantly, what we are not capable of, at any given time.
- It tells us where we are starting from so we can track our improvement or decline.
OTC fitness is a metric that we ask every climber to define when we start Light & Fast Alpinism clinics. We find that it is a difficult task for most folks because it is not a metric they have ever considered. We know what we would want to accomplish, but we do not understand what we can accomplish. The goal of this short article is to define clearly the OTC fitness metric. For many, this could be the most impactful cumulative effect you can have on your lifestyle and training in order to achieve some of your alpine objectives.
OTC fitness is defined as what you are capable of at any moment if you have been living your normal life with your normal training and normal levels of activity. At clinics, we ask participants to define their OTC fitness in two ways:
- This should be a grade or a route of a certain grade that you can climb without training. It is common to have a sport climbing or even a top roping grade for this since we are focusing on the physicality and not the technicality of the route. Because climbing can be seasonal or we shift our training for other objectives, it is also common for this metric to be something we can be capable within a few sessions and not immediately out of the gates. It can take a climb or two to get back into the unique flow of climbing.
- We ask folks to define this in two ways:
- Long Distance. This is defined differently for everyone, but it should be an objective that takes more than 1.5 hours.
- Short Distance. This should be something that takes less than 20 minutes.
Take a moment to define your own OTC metrics.
- Climbing: Off the couch, I can climb <insert grade> on most kinds of rock.
- Fitness: Off the couch, I can finish <insert route or path> in <insert number> minutes.
As an example, I will offer my own OTC metrics:
- Off the couch, I will be able to lead a 5.12 sport route within three attempts.
- Off the couch, I will be able to go car to car on Bergen Peak from the Buchanan Recreation Center parking lot in less than 2 hours. Off the couch, I will be able to run the difficult 1.5 mile loop in my neighborhood in less than 12 minutes and 30 seconds.
It is clear from my metrics that they cannot be possible without ongoing training. But my life routine has training built in so I know I can maintain the unique core strength to be capable of the climbing metric and I will maintain the cardio and endurance fitness to be able to accomplish my fitness objectives even if I have not been training specifically for them. I have defined these metrics because they keep my body and mind primed for a level of fitness that I require to keep me safe on the kinds of routes I would aspire to climb … big, hard, alpine routes.
A few more things to consider as you work to define your OTC metric.
- Make it measurable. It cannot be a certain distance anywhere, it must be a specific route.
- Make it accessible. We need to be able to have access to the objective at almost any time during the year.
- Make it technical. Technical features of routes are often a deciding factor in the mountains. Your technicality is another important OTC metric that is much more difficult to define, but you can be priming it at all times if you add technicality into your typical training. For your fitness objectives, choose trail running and make sure there are hills … as an example.
- Make it fun. Choose a beautiful place or something with an element of adventure. Especially for the fitness metrics, remember that you will be hammering out the same objective from time to time in order to make sure you are at the level you want to maintain.
Questions … just ask!