Training for Denali – Planting the Seed

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The holiday season has officially come to an end. Days spent battling with traffic for last minute gifts, resisting temptational hoards of leftover food and smiling through hectic days serving customers in the retail industry are over. It’s reassuring to know that I’m on the other side of this time of year having kept my sanity and training a priority. Routine is a hard practice, especially for a natural procrastinator like myself. And more of a struggle from November to January when even the ‘norm’ seem to adopt the overwhelming chaos as a way of life. I, on the other hand, am not so fortunate to this unaccountable comfort. There is much to be accomplished; long days in the gym to endure, a regiment to remember, cardio workouts to complete and diets to uphold in the face of distractions. With certain goals within reach, it is imperative that I continue down the straight and narrow, with progress and regularity in mind. In a mere two weeks, I will be setting off for a trip to Colorado and Mexico. My sights set on many different tasks from job searches in lieu of an upcoming relocation to playful exploration in the Rocky Mountains. Colorado would allow for a workout at higher altitude than my current residence at sea level and a re-establishment on my skis after a hiatus the past couple of years. My main objective though, rested high in the skies of central Mexico. At 5600 meters (18,490ft), Pico de Orizaba would be my first true test at high altitude climbing in preparation for Denali. The Rockies nor Orizaba are anywhere near the challenge of summitting Denali, nevertheless, I needed to test my strength and keep my physical stamina and cardio endurance up to par. So, why not spend a little time in the mountains to ensure the work I’ve put forth over the past few months is worthy of a successful trip. Dragging my feet or simply letting up at this point was not an option.

Since, ‘Tilling New Ground’, my primary focus has followed personal growth, built on the new foundation I’ve constructed. Without dedication and more importantly, hard work my program would fail. For me above all, that’s meant consistency over pure progress. Continuing workouts week after week regardless of a change in weight, repetitions, distance and time is what I believe to be paramount at this point in my training for Denali. Inevitably with a structured, goal-oriented regiment and constant intensity, progression will and has been a natural occurrence. But it hasn’t dominated all of my attention. There are still many months ahead of me, many days to skip a workout or weeks to forget about my diet. So rather than making this a grueling and unbearable burden, my philosophy has navigated me towards a soul-crushing, yet fun and engaging workout with commitment in mind. As November ended and December began, proper scheduling became imperative to fit everything into the day. The holiday season was in full force, and my job in outdoor retail called for more responsibilities, longer hours and tiring days. This all factored into my training and what I believe to be a fundamental part of life on Denali. Even during the common storms huddled in your tent, the mountain never really gives you a day off. With that in mind, running or working out a couple hours a day only to retire to the relaxation of a couch, mid-day nap or distraction of a tv wasn’t acceptable. Take, for instance your 9th day on Denali, just after carrying half of your gear up Motorcycle hill and around Windy Corner the day before, only to repeat this 2000+ foot elevation gain today with the other half. As you continue on, past your previous day’s cache to 14,000 feet and Camp IV, you realize your body is nearing it’s failing point from the blue-collar overtime shift you’ve clocked shuttling loads. Reaching your peak desire to throw the towel in and collapse in the snow, you realize this can’t be an option, survival is at stake. Responsibilities allow for basic existence on the mountain. Whether cutting blocks, digging into camp, setting up tent, cooking meals or boiling water, one cannot withstand, let alone prevail without being capable of executing these daily tasks at pure fatigue. Yes, the physical labor of these mountain chores is extremely light relative to the climbing, no matter, they are still engaging, requiring mental fortitude when you’re exhausted from the day’s toil.

So, where does one start and how should one prepare for such daily stamina? At the moment, it’s simple! By constantly staying on the go. There’s no time for rest, and for me that’s meant continually keeping my body and mind in motion. I’ve shifted my workouts to the mornings finding a fresh start to the day and less crowds to keep my pace in the gym. This sets the stage for my daily endurance. My theory goes, “If I can make it through a nonstop, relentless strength training session in the morning, into an 8 hour work day on my feet positively interacting with customers, topped off with an evening of aerobic exercise, then I believe I can handle the long days of mountain life.” Given I still have my work cut out for me to get to this point, I remind myself, it’s progress not perfection, and what would training be without targets to aspire after. Along with this fresh, ensuing lifestyle, I’m implementing new exercises to each of my 3 workouts every 10 weeks in an effort to prevent adaptation or muscle memory and demand the most out of my body. In turn, reaping the most out of my time. In November, I switched facilities from a private gym to a Gold’s gym allowing for greater access to free weights and a wide variety of equipment. So here I am, a 145 pound [sopping wet] guy amongst the competitive body builders lifting four times my weight. Nevertheless, I’m on the go, geared towards the development of lean muscle and a crossfit style workout, than the max lifts and mass building I’m surrounded by. Three days a week – chest and back, legs, shoulders and arms – intertwined with core exercises and a slew of cardio including running, cycling and rowing. An illustration of some significant headway in my training, the advancement from two strength training days to three days a week, along with a reconstruction of brand new workouts.

Besides being constant throughout, my cardio routine has seen little advancement in comparison to my strength training. 40 to 50 mile bike rides once or twice a week, several 1 to 6 mile runs a week, 2000 meter rows to begin my leg workouts and the institution of a stairmaster one day a week are the staple points of my current aerobic training program. My goals are to shine a light and really strive to intensify this area the closer I get to climbing. I believe beyond all, mastery encircling my heart’s health and endurance will be the centerpiece of all other forms of physical fitness. So, as we move along, I’ll be directing a lot of my attention on new workouts, sled pulls and step ups, and staying profoundly ambitious, so that growth and development have no other choice but to hop along for the ride.



Since September, I’ve made the intention each day to record my diet. From breakfast, lunch and dinner to what vitamins and medication I took, all in an effort to better understand my body. Though my weight is not an issue, I believe it’s particularly important to be aware of what you’re consuming, the fuel that’s propelling your physical activity. Allowing you to better answer questions like, why did I perform to my max this day, but was totally drained another day. Cheeseburgers and soft drinks may get you by temporarily, but are they allowing you to tap into your full potential? By recording my diet, it forces me to speculate and become conscious to what I’m ingesting. Accountability is key. Early on in my training, I debated whether I should use a protein supplement. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues; it is the vital building block of your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.  It’s an essential part of maintaining energy and physical fitness, yet in the end I decided I wanted my protein to come in the proper  amounts from whole foods. On Denali or any other mountain, a climber is restricted as to the amount of gear, clothing and food he/she may carry. This means you cannot allow yourself the luxuries of steak dinners, 3 course meals or late night snacks you have at home. One must be able to perform and recover on a limited diet. If I began a supplemental diet between now and June, it would be necessary for me to wean myself off of it before departing; therefore, forcing my body and my entire training process to adapt to a brand new diet nearing my objective. Why not instead, formulate a diet to fit life on the mountain right now? In doing so, causing my body to grow with a similar nutrition and ration amount of that on Denali. My future goals surrounding my diet are to steer towards healthy proteins and carbs, like quinoa, eggs or pasta for dinner And recognize the need to stop eating even though I may not feel full, along with restricting my sugar intake.

As stated in a previous post, my intention for this series is to further explain my training, however unique it may be in comparison to others, in an effort to influence aspiring climbers and contribute to their dreams in the mountains. I’ve laid the groundwork and planted a seed, as each month passes growth will undoubtedly occur, but not without investing time and energy. It is steadfast devotion and hard work that will allow me to progress in my training. And it’s consistency encompassing preparation that will make dreams a reality. Until the next installment of the ‘Growth’ series, keep reaching for more and doing what you love!

Joseph Hobby 1/16/16

Brave Explorations. Soulful Discoveries.


Many thanks to David Hobby and Casey Ferguson for sacrificing their time to put several photos together for me.

Also, be sure to check out The North Face new training line, Mountain Athletics. I’ve become a huge fan due to it’s durable fabric, breathability and ultimate comfort. I’ve cherished several of their pieces for my long workouts in the gym. You can find Mountain Athletics clothing, videos, a training app and much more at:


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