So, you’ve been around the block. You’ve summited a couple of peaks, rode a little gnar, taken some epic selfies, and maybe even been to a splitfest or two. You’re a self-identified splitboarder, heck, you might even have two splitboards now. So, where do you improve? Whether you’re looking to move up into that expert category or just become more proficient in the types of missions you’re doing, we’ve got a few tips below we think could help.
Sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up. This may be one of the most challenging parts of training for backcountry fitness - the fact that you can’t get around the time component if you want to really improve your endurance and aerobic capacity. People have jobs, families, and a host of other obligations so long training sessions are not always appealing. Short intense workouts are not all bad, but you may not be building your overall endurance if that is your goal, in fact, you may be tearing it down.
The general rule of thumb for improving your aerobic fitness is that you’re spending somewhere around 80% of your training time and energy doing things that keep you around your VT1.
What is VT1?
Basically, you have a VT1 - Ventilatory Threshold. This is the point where your breathing starts to increase and lactate begins to build-up in your blood.
You can get some fancy tests to measure your current VT1, VT2, and even VO2 max levels by working with an exercise physiologist, but for the purposes of keeping it simple, we’ll use the talk test. If you can speak easily you’re below your VT1, if you’re needing to stop talking and catch your breath every few sentences you are either right at your threshold or above it.
From a simple and strictly splitboard-centric point of view, if you want to go farther and be more efficient on long tours you should not continuously crush yourself with high-intensity workouts, you need to raise your VT1 level. And that means extended exercise at or just below your threshold. It may take some time, and it may not be the more lively routines you’re used to, but it will pay dividends on the skin track. Working on your aerobic foundation by raising your VT1 is time-consuming, but it is the best way to prepare to go longer and ultimately faster in the backcountry.
Most people focus on their legs in preparation for snowboarding and splitboarding. They’re not wrong to do so, leg strength is extremely important to touring and riding. But, one area of strength training that sometimes gets left behind is core work.
Core strength is extremely relevant to touring and riding. As the center of your body, the core functions to stabilize the trunk while the arms and legs are moving. A strong core helps us in a couple of key ways:
- Core strength spares the spine from excessive strain and load. As splitboarders, we’re trying to keep our packs at a reasonable weight, but we still have to carry quite a bit of gear around all day. Strengthening the core will improve your overall back health and help prevent injuries by keeping you nice and stable.
- Core strength also helps us transfer force back and forth from our lower to upper body. The more efficiently we can do this, the more in control we are, and the more energy we conserve. Reaching the top with more energy means a stronger more controlled descent, plus more energy for a second lap!
There are a lot of ways to improve your core strength beyond doing sit-ups. Plank variations, surfing, or a regular yoga practice can go a long way to having a stronger and more stable core.