I’ve entered my fourth week of base training and my fourteenth week overall of Training for the New Alpinism. The focus now is on maximum strength exercises and continuing to expand my aerobic endurance. And moving into this new territory is presenting some interesting challenges.
I live in Potsdam, Germany, which aside from a few hills here and there has a relatively flat topography. This makes maximum strength exercises for the upward propulsion system (i.e., legs and hips) all the more challenging for those like me who do not have gym memberships. I have to confess that this description of pushing around a 240 pound (109 kg) sled, and then doing five sets of squats, sounds like the kind of fun that only mountaineers can truly appreciate. But alas, the only gym here is really expensive, so I’m looking for alternatives.
Steve House and Scott Johnston recommend hill sprints in eight-second bursts as one way to build those upwardly bound leg muscles, so I’ve been out researching the hills of Potsdam over the last couple of weeks. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
What better place to find motivation than at an eighteenth-century Prussian palace? As you can see in the picture, there are six levels; each is 3 meters high, so that’s a total of about 20 meters of ascent. The tricky part is dodging tourists who weave about like drunkards on the ramparts, cameras swinging from their necks. The good news is that you feel like a badass charging past them.
This is a stealth option that I found about yesterday when buying my shoes at Ulrike’s Sport Shop. Ulrike Bruns is a world-class runner who competed internationally in the 1970s and 80s. Anyway, I asked her where to find some hills, and she recommended the Ruinenberg. I ran there today and found some great uphill sprints hidden deep in the woods. And it’s only a short bike ride away from home.
Kleiner Ravensberg / Grosser Ravensberg
The “Raven Mountains” in Potsdam are really just small hills, with one weighing in at 114.2 m and the other 108 m. The higher one has a nice incline that I’ve hiked up a few times. The trouble is that it takes about 20 minutes by bike to get there. When I get to the muscular endurance phase, I’ll probably start lugging a loaded backpack around this area.
If there are any other mountaineers out there who are imprisoned in the flatlands, please do share any innovative ideas about how to gain altitude – aside from the dreaded box step. In the meantime, though, I’ll be the guy with the heavy backpack, making my way through UNESCO world heritage sites.