Training – why is it so important?

When people begin a planned expedition and discover they’re not as fit as they could be, it can be a real issue. Generally speaking, there’s no such thing as being in “too-good shape” for a long tour. The better your condition, the better the experience. You really want to be as fit as possible before you set off.
Christian Iversen Styve Adventurer, polar guide og photographer

Before you go on a longer tour, whether it’s a Greenland crossing, into the high mountains, or a cabin tour of deepest Finnmark, preparation’s everything. There’s equipment, general information about the tour itself to think about, not to mention logistics, which can be quite extensive. And last but not least there’s training.

According to several of our panel of experts, training’s often given lower priority. Maybe we blame the fact we don’t have enough time; maybe we focus on equipment and technical details at the expense of the physical aspect. Some put off training for so long that, in the end, it just gets too late, no matter how much last-minute effort they put in place.

To clarify, obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people put preposterous hours and effort into training. It’s often the case that tour leaders have to call on those who’ve trained well to take a little more than their share of the load to make up the slack of other’s lack of physical preparation. These tend to be people who’re willing to do it without dropping a beat, fortunately. And, equally fortunately, there are quite a few heroes like this!

Everyone’s different

It’s also important to note that everyone has their own capacity. There’s a big difference between a sprightly 25-year-old and a grizzled 60-year-old. In recovery time especially. There are still, however, a number who take training preparations far too lightly in general.

Priorities and commitment

The argument that you don’t have time doesn’t really wash, to be honest. You probably shouldn’t go on demanding expeditions if you don’t. If you don’t have time to train, strictly speaking, you don’t have time for the expedition part.

This is something you should be absolutely sure of when you commit to participating in, say, the Åsnes Expedition Amundsen, a guided tour party or a trip across the fjord with friends. It’s about prioritising what you commit to, out of respect for yourself and everyone else involved. This is something you have to be sure of right from the start. Do I really have time for this??

Be team player

It’s worth remembering that our decision to join an expedition or a tougher tour party affects many more than just ourselves. Be a little methodical. Get an overview and a plan. If you “don’t have time” then you have to make time. It’s a question of priorities. You’ll probably have to give something up. You’re going to be training instead. If that’s impossible, then the expedition will have to wait. Make time when can you make time.
Be a team player. Take your share of the responsibility – rise to the commitment. Foto: Christian Iversen Styve

Focus

We’ve written about priorities above. But there’s also a hierarchy of priorities. We don’t always get this right. If you’re about to embark on a tour tough enough for training to be essential, you’re likely to be somewhat gear-focused. It’s just the way it goes.

We often focus too much on having the best, or the most appropriate, equipment. And our experience suggests that, on this front, most people do pretty great – gear’s never really an issue.

What will get you over the Greenland ice cap is hard work: muscle and calories. But gear anxiety is real. It’s bad enough choosing new skis for the hills behind your house. Suddenly we’re afraid that our brand new skis might not be good enough to complete the trip. Analysis gets over-forensic. Have we got the right model? The right length? The right width? People lose sleep over this (it’s OK – no on’s immune).

But people don’t get this meticulous about exercise. When it comes to equipment, it’s pretty straightforward. There’s often, even, a very detailed equipment list of what you absolutely need to get from A to B. These are thing you need; you’ll be fines.

Mental preparations

When we talk about equipment, we talk about tangible things: packing lists and material requirements. But we’re not, perhaps, so good at imagining the sum weight of these things on a long tour on skis. Unless you’ve done it before, it’s almost impossible to understand how demanding this can be. Indeed, very few of us will ever have done anything remotely similar.

It’s not a bad tactic to present the tour as heavier than it actually is. A little fear installed with good intentions seems to be pretty productive. It’s prferable that people should be pleasantly surprised than they should hit the wall on day 4 of 27. This is hugely important for the feeling of mastery, and it lays the foundation for what you think you can complain about early in the trip.

If we go in with the attitude that the trip’s going to be more arduous than it actually is, or at least that we’re going to have to be prepared to handle full storm conditions, then there’s a greater likelihood that we’ll put in the necessary effort in training and preparation – especially mentally..

Why train?

The most important benefits of being in good shape aren’t complicated. First, you have something left in the tank when you make camp. It’s easier to be positive, to keep up your spirits, to keep up the spirits of others, if you’re actually alive. You are somewhere extraordinary. You can notice it; experience it; enjoy it. To put it another way, the more you train, the more you’ll enjoy the experience.

Our best tip is, therefore, to get set up for tyre training and get going! Look for a tyre training group near you. People meet, socialise, and train together. You don’t just get fit; you can actually make new friends, find your significant other, or just meet people as interesting as you. Anyway. Don’t put off your training!

Other productive forms of exercise

 
Go on long walks with a heavy rucksack. Start with 5kg in the pack, walk one to two hours in the mountains. Add 2.5kg to the rucksack every week until you reach around 25kg. After that, go faster and faster with 25g in the bag. Don’t run – there’s enough stress on the knees. Keep it nice and slow.
 
Running and intervals. Everyone loves intervals! A couple of runs in the mountains and on the flats over the course of the week are very useful; 4×4 and 5×5 intervals are effective.
 
Bodyweight exercises and core training. Underrated! Planks, one-armed planks, leg-raises from the hips, and other bodyweight classics. Can be done anywhere or combined with extra weight or resistance bands for increased load. These are exercises you can repeat frequently without the body suffering.
 
Squats, lunges and one-legged lunges with the free leg forward and behind target the same stabilising muscles you use on skis. Don’t forget leg day.
 
Ski, hike, hunt, play football. Have fun! The best training is training that doesn’t feel like training. Do something active that you enjoy. In the long run, a little more activity like that each week brings really noticeable returns!

Bring your friends. You’re sure to find someone to support you. You should probably start your training a year before a Greenland crossing. Then you can travel to a training session and evaluation without being afraid of your fitness and strength. You can simply enjoy the experience. The excitement of the expedition won’t be diminished by the fact you’re ready for it. On the contrary – it’s there to be enjoyed!

Admittedly, we’ve been a bit strict here and there. But we want you to enjoy your tour. We wish the best possible experience, luck, pleasure, and the rewards of completing it. If you choose to follow our advice, we’re very sure the entire experience will be hugely more memorable for the right reasons. God tur!

Tyre training

Tyre training is a fantastic form of training and an excellent way to prepare for the upcoming ski season. If you’re training for an expedition, you’ll want to bite the bullet and drag a tyre.

We show how to make your own set of tyres for the off-season. This is gear that really doesn’t have to be expensive. If you already have a harness and some cord, you’re well on your way.

If you don’t have tyres lying around, they’re not difficult to get hold of at all.

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