September has on the whole been a pretty wet, blustery and cold month so far….or at least it has been whenever I've had a chance to get on the hill. As a result my hill-mileage has been fairly low for the last few weeks.
But September is not a month to be idle with the winter just around the corner. One of the most important lessons I've learnt about winter climbing is that no matter how fit you are, being just that little bit fitter would always make things easier and more enjoyable….so September is for me the month when I always try and step things up a gear or two.
I've made an important discovery recently - that although I don't particularly enjoy hillwalking or climbing in bad weather, I seem to enjoy running all the more when it's raining. So I've been doing a lot of running in the hills, and enjoying it far more than I have previously. There's a simple reason for that…I'm just fitter than I was this time a year ago.
Fitness, training, and weight loss seems to have been a common theme with a lot of my friends recently so I thought I'd give some of my thoughts on it here. Nearly everyone I know (including myself in the past) who has made a big effort to change their lifestyle, fitness or weight has found it extremely hard work, requiring a lot of determination and willpower. This is fair enough, as you are you repeatedly putting your body through stresses and strains that it isn't used to, you have to learn to say "NO" to that packet of crisps or that pint of beer, and most importantly you have to be able to keep on doing it.
Yet I have managed to significantly increase my fitness year on year since coming to Glencoe, and it isn't very often it has seemed much effort. And this increase in fitness has been very deliberate, as when it comes to mountaineering greater fitness is the key to open so many doors of opportunity.
So how have I done it, yet managed to rarely see this hard work as effort? It has been very simple…it just comes down to variety. I've deliberately stopped the monotonous "training regimes" I used to try when I was a teenager, I rarely weigh myself and it's not very often I measure my times or speed when I'm out running or walking. I just vary what I do. Take this week's runs for example - Coire nam Beithach on monday, the Lairig Eilde yesterday, Coire nan Lochan today. Next time I go out I might go hillwalking instead, and the time after that I might go climbing. Or whatever I fancy.
The basic key for me when it comes to increasing fitness is to try and *feel* it rather than measure it, vary what I do and where I do it, and to keep a constant eye on the prize. For me that prize is greater likelihood of being able to achieve long term winter climbing goals or long-distance mountain challenges, for others it will be different.
Not everyone has the privilege of being able to run, walk and climb in the type of surroundings that I live in, but I think it's something you can probably apply to wherever you live. It won't work for everyone, many people will prefer to see results in terms of numbers - but the key is to find what works for you.