Mountaineering is a demanding activity, both physically and mentally. Rock climbing, in particular, has become increasingly athletic, especially at the higher levels of difficulty. Climbers today accomplish what was considered impossible only a few years ago. Many serious rock climbers work out at specialized gymnasiums, and the sport features international climbing competitions. In the world of alpine climbing, the highest peaks are commonly climbed without supplementary oxygen, in record times, and by more and more diffi cult routes. Most of us, however, appreciate such world-class performance from the sidelines. It's not necessary to devote your life to mountaineering in order to enjoy the activity at a level that provides personal satisfaction.
Levels of performance are rising even among recreational climbers and mountaineers. Good physical conditioning is one of the keys and can make the difference between enjoying an outing and merely enduring it. More important, the safety of the whole party may hinge on the strength—or weakness—of one member.
Most mountaineers train regularly. Aerobic activities such as running, cycling, swimming, crosscountry skiing, snowshoeing, hiking uphill with a heavy pack, and climbing stairs are popular exercises. Many climbers lift weights to build strength and perform stretching exercises for flexibility. Specific exercises, those closest to climbing itself, are probably the best preparation. Physical fitness is the foundation for all the strenuous activities of mountaineering.
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