Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul


The Simple 7 Buckets That Build My Buffer: Suppleness-Stability, Speed (Gait), Skills, Strength, Stamina, Specificity, Spirit

“It’s never too late to start, but it’s better to never stop!” Like brushing and flossing our teeth, showering, and basic hygiene, maintenance of our strength bucket IS prep and prehab for Act III, that third stage where we re-WIRE with energy and enthusiasm, and a revamped sense of purpose and relevance. Already in Act III, with more control over your schedule? Aha … more time to beef up our buckets!

Strength nurtures health, mobility and freedom to move automatically, with confidence and competence. It melds the Simple 7 Buckets, consolidates the skills bucket and buttresses our performance to thrive in the mountains. Neglect, not an option, insidiously and slowly erodes our buffer.

I made the case for Strength in Motion in the last Mountain Grit column. Now, let’s explore the question of ‘how strong do I need to be?’

Bucket #4b is: How strong is strong enough?

How robust should my strength bucket be? It DEPENDS on ….

what I want to be able to DO, now, and for decades to come.

ALL the buckets are equally important, but based on our physical labor and choice of activities, our strength bucket may need to be more robust, sturdy, hardy and rugged.

Strength cannot solely be measured in the weight room. Total body strength is measured by my abilities to move my body against gravity with or without loads, like carrying groceries, hauling stone, getting up from a fall on foot or skis, or transplanting a tree. “Everything IS easier when I’m stronger.”

Some of the all-around strongest people that I have ever met, have never set foot in a gym. My father was the epitome of this, physical in every sense of the word from labor, recreation, adventure, hobbies and competition.

So, remove any pre-conceived notions as to who looks strong in a photo, and shift towards people who MOVE strong in real life. Strength IS the best prophylactic out there in the battle against frailty, mobility-disability, bone loss, and age-related hormonal changes that zap muscle and metabolic health.

This column will guide you in ‘prep and prehab’ for your GO.

4 Tiers of Robustness for the Adult Gritter: Prep and Prehab to GO+++!

Preservation of health and well-being is at the heart of each tier, not to be compromised by taking ridiculous risks with an unprepared vehicle. We do gain wisdom with experience, I hope.

A ‘heads-up’ to all the guys and gals who work in the physical realm … manual labor makes and keeps us strong. Trades, construction, ranching, firefighting, and a multitude of other physical jobs require strength. A full bucket, however, may still need some tweaks to balance things out. And without question, do nurture the other 6 buckets. On the other end of work, is the screen-dependent desk jockey, who needs to seek out manual tasks or training, to purposefully get and stay strong.

Regardless of your Tier, these DAILY DOs are non-negotiable:

• Be posture-aware throughout the day; sit, stand and walk tall; break up sitting every 30:00.

• Walk often. Walk barefoot at home. Always use available stairs.

• Stay limber and supple; find ways to reach, bend, hinge, lunge, lean, squat, push, pull, rotate, lift and carry, and get down and up from the floor.

Now, on to your GO….

Tier 1: GO for … competent and confident movement in low-risk activities and environments.

I hike, bike, walk daily, XC ski, fish, and DH ski ‘greens’ at least 1-2X/week in fairly predictable environments, at slow to moderate speeds on fairly even terrain, with light or no load.

“Load it or lose it!”

Train to build a reserve, and to fight frailty with a vengeance, especially you ladies out there. Deny the slide, and KEEP strength and power in the BASICS, the squat, lunge, hinge, carry, pull and press patterns. Shoot for a minimum of TWO total body sessions/week, at home, outdoors, or at a gym. Body weight, calisthenics, bells, bars, sandbags, elastic bands are all effective.

Tier 2: GO-GO for … competent and confident movement in medium-risk activities and environments.

I DH ski blues & occasional blacks, XC/skate ski some moderate slopes, hike, backpack, mountain bike, and fly fish, at least 1-2X/week, in some unpredictable environments, at moderate to faster speeds on mixed terrain, with light to medium loads. I also run and TRAIL run for stamina and heart health 2-3X/week.

“Load it to KEEP it!”

Train to expand a reserve; to OWN and KEEP strength and power in all the BASIC patterns. Shoot for a minimum of TWO total body sessions/week, at home, outdoors, or at a gym. Any form of resistance works. Consider challenging the complexity, load, and/or speed of the movement to bolster your buffer. Runners, train to absorb the forces of your body weight upon impact.

Tier 3: GO-GO-GO & not BLOW for … competent and confident performance in higher-risk environments.

My skill level is pretty decent so I tend to ski, run, bike and hike at faster speeds, often in unpredictable environments on mixed terrain, with light to heavier loads at least 2-4X/week. I also trail-run for stamina and heart health 2-3X/week, depending on the season. I DH ski blacks & bumps, backcountry ski, hike, backpack, mountain bike, on-off trail, and thrive on the new and different.

“Load to explode, not implode!”

Train to build and maintain a reservoir; to OWN, KEEP and TWEAK strength and power in all the basic patterns. Shoot for a minimum of TWO total body sessions/ week, possibly THREE between seasons, at home, outdoors, or at a gym. TWEAK complexity, load, and speed of movement to further bolster your buffer; faster speeds in unpredictable environments require a more robust strength bucket.

Tier 4: GO-GO-GO-GO & not BLOW for … competent and confident performance in high-risk and competitive activities, events, and environments.

I PLAY HARD and like to COMPETE. I am in adult ice hockey and soccer leagues, run the occasional NASTAR race plus I skate-ski, hike, bike and run the trails. My skill level is holding steady, so I tend to push my limits, including my speed and agility. Depending on the season, I ‘get after it’ about 2-4X/week.

“Play hard and fast, train smart and fast!”

Train to fortify a reservoir aka ‘build a beast’; KEEP and TWEAK strength and power in the basic patterns. Shoot for a minimum of TWO total body sessions/ week, possibly THREE between seasons, at home, outdoors, or at a gym. TWEAK complexity, load, and speed of movement to fortify a very robust beast; faster speeds in competitive and unpredictable environments require greater resilience, durability and robustness.

As for the ‘SHOW’ piece of aesthetics and ‘looks’….

• Fat loss allows us to see muscle definition and curves in physique.

• Getting lean takes place in the kitchen, at the table, in the grocery store, at the restaurant, bar or take-out.

• Sure, size can make a difference in the performance arena, when it is put into motion, movement that has health, function, fitness, injury-resistance and performance value.

• The buffest and biggest are not typically the healthiest or best movers; nor are the leanest who show, but got no GO.

• We can train to build mass, but we MUST train to keep strength.




Go 1 ---> Go 2

GROUND Get down-up w/ as few points of contact as possible

SQUAT to 90o 10X fast or 1-leg ‘pop’ out of a chair 5Xea

LUNGE lateral or curtsy 5Xea

Push-up – 1 full & locked-in


LIFT [pick up] heavy stuff using buttock & leg muscles with a stiff spine

CARRY groceries, kids, pets, mulch

Bar HANG – 15 secs

Incline Row – BW 10X

Chin Up Hold [any grip] 15 secs

Go 3 ---> Go 4

Turkish Get-Up [TGU] 25% BW X 3

Goblet Squat 50% BW X 10

Goblet lateral or curtsy 30% BW X 8

Push ups 10++


KB DL 52 kg [115 lbs] X 10 &/or KB Swing @ 35% BW X 12

Farmer CARRY: 100% BW for 30 secs

Row [feet on 12” box] X 10

BW Chin-up X 5 / Rope Climb / SA

DB Row 40% BW X 8 ea


Not sure where to start, see for the Pat Factor on Thursday at 0930 or contact her through for personal training.

In closing, ponder this:

“If my sports are carrying groceries & walking my dog, I need to train for them, and then some. If my sport is DH skiing, I need to DH ski and do those things that fortify my DH skiing.”

Next up on GRIT: Bucket #5: Stamina


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