How do I train for a 8,000 m peak ascent: program & timeline?

Reaching an 8,000 m peak is not something one can achieve without proper training, and as I was asked about my training for the upcoming expeditions, I put together some notes describing this.

The type of training I am doing needs to be started 6 to 9 months in advance of the expedition, as you need to prepare your body from a strength and cardio point of view, as well as nutrition-wise. My training program has 4 main types of exercises, done 6 days a week, with one recovery day.

The 4 types of exercises are:

  1. Cardio: trail running while keeping the pulse under the personal aerobic level (my aerobic level is now 168 bpm);
  2. Strength building, with two main components:
  • General strength: working out the whole muscular system, particularly the big muscle groups, such as legs, back, shoulders and chest;
  • Core strength: building the central muscles, on which our body relies for its push: abs, upper legs and lumber back;
  1. Anaerobic training: short but high intensity runs, 2-3 minutes sprint with a pulse as high as 180 bmp. Uphill or stairs run can be a good choice;
  2. Hiking: once a week I try to hike for 2-3 hours on a route with 800-1000 m altitude level difference.

The recovery day should still be active, but with lights sports such as biking, swimming or something similar, and stretching and relaxing your muscles.

I was mentioning the nutrition side as well. A training program is only effective if it is combined with proper nutrition, and an efficient sleeping program of 7-8 hours every night.

Nutrition-wise things are not at all complicated, I eat almost every type of carbohydrates and proteins except the fried ones. I avoid combining them though, so no meat and potatoes together, only separately. I eat a lot of meat with salad for example. I gave up 95% of the processed sugar, replacing it with fruits. I say 95% because in expeditions or long exercises such a semi marathon, I eat chocolate for an energy boost.

My weekly exercise schedule looks more or less like this:

  • Tuesday: cardio running, 10-15 km, with a pulse under the aerobic level;
  • Wednesday: 30 min treadmill run with a very low pulse (130 bpm) for recovery, then 1,5 hours of general strength exercises;
  • Thursday: anaerobic exercises, 1 – 1,5 hours sprints, going upstairs;
  • Friday: 1,5 hours of core strength exercises;
  • Saturday: 1 – 1,5 hours cardio running, keeping the pulse under the aerobic level;
  • Sunday: 2 – 3 hours hike, with 1000 m altitude level difference;
  • Monday: recovery day, when I bike for 30 min, go for a swim or something similar.

After 7 months of training the way I just described, the improvements are great. I lost approximately 10 kg, my body fat improved significantly being now around 9.5%, while my aerobic level increased from 147 to 168. During all this time, I did some altitude training as well, while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mont Blanc.

It was an intense period, but I feel my body transformed and is ready now to endure the challenge of the upcoming expeditions above 8,000 m.