Graham Zimmerman pushes the limits on expeditions—here’s how he prepares beforehand.
This summer, I’m headed back out to the big mountains of the world, excited to step away from my inbox to push my body on steep alpine terrain. With just over a month until departure, I’m looking at clothing, planning my equipment and refining my training. That last item, training, has been the component of this expedition that has taken the most time—and I’m keen to share some things I’ve learned along the way.
Train smarter, not harder.
When I was younger, I would just go to the gym or to a local hill and simply do lots of things that made my body hurt. But as I’ve learned more about training and my own body, I’ve realized this is not enough. Or, more precisely, it may be too much. In order to get the most from our bodies, we need to understand our goal and our path toward it. Set a specific goal, and then through resources like Training Peaks or Uphill Athlete, research the best way to prepare your body for that particular objective.
I’ve found immense in from having a singular physical goal on which I focus. Sometimes this is a peak in the Karakoram, at other times it has been rehabilitating my knee to do a pistol squat. Not only does this increase my probability of achieving something I’m proud of, it also makes sure I’m not wasting time. It provides me more hours in the day to focus on the other—often times higher—priorities in my life, like family and work.
Hard training needs to be balanced with hard rest. It’s during this time that our muscles rebuild and our training translates into strength. Take it seriously. Get into baths and reading books. It feels great and it's good for your mind and body.
Eat right for you.
I’ve found that diet is one of my most powerful tools while training. By getting enough protein and dialing in the fuels on which my body runs best, I can dramatically increase my performance. There are many different diets athletes can take on—I encourage you to try different programs and listen to your body. What feels best? What reduces inflammation and drives recovery? What tastes good? Diet is ultra personal and you should treat it as such.
When you’re training, your body is working hard. Working hard requires energy. We acquire energy by eating. Sounds simple, right? But it’s easy to forget that high performance and being thin are not the same thing.
Do yourself a favor and read the book "Why We Sleep." Getting enough deep sleep has immense health and cognitive benefits that extend far beyond training and athletic performance. You should do everything you can to get a good night's sleep every night. It will make you a better athlete and a healthier person.