When it’s time to ask for help from the experts

I started to train regularly when I was preparing from my first high altitude expedition in Nepal, Island Peak. Two years after that I have to look retrospectively and say I learnt a lot about training and health. I used to train at the climbing wall, combined with many long and fast running sessions, elliptical machine, and some gymnastics at home. Very little stretching and a self-designed diet aimed to loose fat, combined with a completely random training plan and not observing results or listening to my body, took me to the point where I was not able to train at all since I had a lot of pain on lower back and knees…

At that point I visited a fantastic doctor specialized in sports medicine. Dr. William D. Murrell, Orthopedic Sports Medicine Surgeon, was the doctor who was taking care of my injured shoulder after I crashed my motorbike and had surgery done on 2010. He did a good job with my shoulder and so I asked him to assess the problem in my knees. He started the investigation by analyzing x-rays and MRI from the knee more prone to develop pain. To my surprise and happiness, the doctor concluded I had a perfect knee and therefore the reason for the pain should be hidden in my regular training habits. He asked me to visit a personal trainer to do a functional assessment. I was a bit disappointed with the outcome of the investigation, since I was expecting the doctor to use a magic stick to pull a solution out of a hat. I love outdoors and I’ve been always against gyms and personal trainers. Then Dr. Murrell offered me a deal. He would write a referral letter for the insurance to cover the cost of the functional assessment and I’d be able to get reimbursed for it. I contacted my medical insurance and they approved it. That was a smart decision since it saved them a lot of money from medical consultancy, physiotherapy sessions and other costs that otherwise I would have been incurred as result of the pain I was suffering in back and knees. The personal trainer did a fantastic job assessing my training and dietary habits, and in very few session he helped me identifying mistakes that at the end of the day are quite simple but make a huge difference when you try to train extremely hard to perform well at the highest mountains on Earth. He did not have a magic stick, he just helped to open my eyes and realize how ignorant I was. Running 10k fast pace, and finishing with a shower, grilled vegetables and plain water, is the perfect example of what to do if you want to visit the doctor with pain everywhere every week. Insurance companies are also quite ignorant since they are reluctant to invest on things like that functional assessment, food intolerance or allergy tests, which will save them lots of money on the long term.

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My left shoulder after surgery and 9 months recovery

 

After that brief experience with the personal trainer, I decided to investigate on my own and improve many aspects of my training and lifestyle, focusing on cross training, diet and rest. I have improved and learned a lot by myself, but once I decided to go my first eight-thousander I had to recognize I’m just an IT Geek and seeking for advice from the very best experts will definitely improve my chances to summit.

At that point I was following my good friend Ismael Blanco. Ismael is one of these guys who make his passion for sports and fitness a way of living, but he is not the standard one. I know too many people in the sports business that is as knowledgeable as I was when I injured my knees. Ismael is a certified Master Trainer on Functional Training, and he holds many years of experience working as personal trainer in Dubai and Spain. But most important, Ismael is one of this endurance guys who is able to break all physiological limits, setting records that you don’t even know could ever be set. I still remember when I first met him and he told me that story about how he totally changed the fitness level of his main customer before they went together for a long run up to the Annapurna Basecamp in Nepal. They looked for the stronger guide in Nepal that could follow and lead them on the trail, but they almost killed the poor guy who could not keep up with their pace after few days… and you know these Sherpa people are made of a different paste! Ismael has been very active in the competition world last year, having an outstanding performance on the Duatlón 101km de Ronda, VII Triatlón Ciudad de Almería, Emotion Extreme, AXtrail® series UTAX, I Duatlón Ciudad de Almería and the Duatlón Desafio Almería… all of that in only one year! He seem to have no limit, he is like Forrest Gump but he does not eat chocolates because he also knows what it takes to build a body able to cope with the 166km of a mountain ultra-marathon!

 

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Ismael on the VII Triatlón Ciudad de Almería

 

Together with Ismael I have developed a training plan that is extraordinarily hard, but it will help me to be physically and mentally prepared for my extreme challenge in April this year. Ismael has been incredible helpful and he suggested to focus the training in quality rather than quantity and setting goals and checkpoints. I will share more details on the training plan in a different post but to summarize these are the main points of the plan as whole:

The plan is divided in blocks of 5 weeks with the last one being a regenerative week. Total length is 14 weeks starting from Dec 30th.

It’s a follow up on the standard plan I had for my preparation for Khan Tengri last year, but it incorporates a progression on the positive gradient during my training sessions in the stair case. Less weight in the backpack and more series of same gradient in each training session, increasing either the gradient or series in a very smart way. Before I was more focused on accumulating gradient and weight than any other thing…. Now I work on building up endurance gradually for 4 weeks to finish on the 6th week with a long hike of a minimum ascent equivalent to the cumulative gradient of the last week. The plan is very ambitious, and on the final week, around March 30th, I should be able to cope with a positive slope of 2000m in one day.

Cross training sessions include bicycle or elliptical machine as well as gymnastics. Work on the climbing wall is kept as usual, since we both believe on the benefits of this.

In the second block we incorporate hypoxic training sessions in a high altitude chamber in Dubai. Two training sessions followed by brief work on the climbing wall.

Core endurance and stabilization are included in almost every training session.

1h stretching and foam roller workouts are performed regularly with the exception of the rest days.

 

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Training at the climbing wall with 15kg backpack

 

As for the diet, I will write a dedicated article on this, where I’ll include specific details on the menus and supplements used during these 14 weeks.

I want to finish with a GIGANTIC THANK YOU to my good friend and outstanding athlete Ismael. I strongly suggest you to follow him on his astronomic progression in the world of Trail Running and Triathlon.

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