Training for hiking
The Vertical Resistance Method by Susanna Testi
Those who love to walk in the mountains and, alas, can no longer rely on the seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of energy bestowed by youth, have undoubtedly realized that there is always a lot of effort involved: the arrival at the summit always repays all efforts, but how great would it be if one could get there by struggling less? The point is that I don’t like running or going to the gym, so to maintain some sort of workout I could do nothing but go to the mountains as frequently as possible! In September 2022, I stumbled upon a Facebook group by chance whose name intrigued me (“Montagna, non ti temo”, “Mountain you’re not scaring me”), and I discovered exactly what I needed: a training program focused on increasing fatigue endurance for mountain walkers.
The program is called “Resistenza Verticale” (Vertical Endurance),” and the author is Susanna Testi, an athletic trainer and great mountain enthusiast.
I started following his program, which consists of a series of daily exercises lasting about half an hour, alternating between cardio and “core” muscle training. Unfortunately, the hiking season ended when I had not yet just finished the first cycle, but already on my first ski outings I noticed that my muscles were definitely better trained: no “stabbing pains” after the first ski run of the season, zero! The next morning I got out of bed without believing that my muscles were torn, as invariably happened to me in past years, the day after the first ski day.
I confidently continued training, and it was at the resumption of the 2023 hiking season that I was able to appreciate the efficacy of her method. I began to repeat the same trails I had walked the year before, and I found that each time I completed the trail much faster than the year before, and without ever going into a slump even once.
Below is one example among many, showing the time I reached the summit recorded by my smartwatch. On the left is the time it took me to reach the summit in July 2023, 3 hours 40.On the right is how long it took me the year before: June 2022, 5 hours 20.
For me, results like that were hard to imagine, all the more so considering the fact that, thanks to Susanna’s method, you learn to do something you find hard to believe when you first hear her mention it:you breathe only with your nose. Yes, I now close my mouth at the first step and only open it again when I get to the end of the trail, unbelievable but true.
It may seem like a limitation, but instead it is an essential weapon: thanks to nose breathing, you are able to dose your efforts and never go into breathlessness! Indeed, one learns to use and appreciate the objects depicted below, which help so much to increase oxygen intake.
The program is followed entirely online: all exercises are available in an app that can be used at any time, Susanna assiduously monitors participants, checks results and suggests changes or modifications, even upon request. Those who are enrolled in the course can participate in the many live seminars he often organizes inviting nutrition experts, mountain guides, sports doctors, and so on. She is also very good at “group building”: participants who wish to do so can join a Facebook group dedicated to the “current course” where they exchange experiences and results, in a friendly, easygoing atmosphere that encourages them to stick it out and be consistent in their workouts (and consistency is perhaps the most important thing if you want to achieve the desired results).