The Training Corner

Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul

Q: Hi Pat! I am utterly confused about training for health and fitness. I was a three-sport athlete throughout high school, and did plenty of programs designed by coaches. Now I am 35, a wife and mother of two kids under 5, with an entirely different schedule and set of responsibilities.

I have always exercised, but to be honest, program and equipment options are daunting, almost as confusing as nutrition nowadays. Options abound ranging from yoga to HIIT, bands to barbells, CrossFit to Peloton. Then there is training for sport and endurance events, along with an array of tools and wearables. Throw in the fat loss-bikini body barrage, and we have a conglomerated fitness salad.

I just want to get and stay healthy and fit so that I can have the energy to live life to the fullest until I drop. I do not want to join three gyms, nor chase around for niche coaches, and spend a bundle of $$$.

I WANT to train. I have carved out 1-hour blocks on M-W-F for formal training, locally or online. On at least two other days, I walk, run, hike, bike, ski and/ or do some physical chores.

At 5’8” 140 lbs, and in excellent health to date, my husband and I are avid mountain sport enthusiasts, and very excited to share all that the outdoors offers with our kids I plan to compete in an Obstacle Course Race [OCR] before I hit 40. Volunteer coaching youth sports is definitely in my future, too.

I am a self-employed artisan, working from my home studio. My husband reports to his job site, and on the way, drops the kids off at pre-school M-F mornings. That 2½ hour block is my window to TRAIN, come hell or high water, followed by errands, shopping and phone calls, all before 1145 pick-up.

Pat, how can I get the biggest bang for my time? I realize that my schedule will evolve as I pass through the stages of life, but is there some kind of a template that I could rely on to check off the health boxes, the fitness boxes and the sport boxes along the way?

Jessie , 35

A: Jessie. I love your spirit, your buy-in to training for decades to come. Training is a life-long practice, rooted in daily habits and weekly patterns. And to be frank, it is no longer a negotiable, unless you are living off the land through hard physical labor. “Programs with a start and an end date will fail [like diets]; systems with a lifespan approach will prevail.”

So, you want to bolster your overall health and fitness, and develop a reserve to enjoy your mountain sports, and train for an OCR down the road? Got it!

Like a Master Chef who carefully measures and mixes ingredients with the goal of creating an optimal meal experience, the Master Coach delivers a system based on a set of principles that govern components, doses and personalization.* NO, you will not need a coach forever, but consider keeping one on your well-care team, right alongside your OB/GYN and dentist.

Based on the life you plan to lead, and the time you have allocated, this template works.

There are 7S Buckets, necessary elements of lifelong efficient-effective training. Within each bucket, there are ROCKS, pebbles and sand.** Learn, earn, OWN and KEEP the ROCKS, the BASICS, within each bucket; you can always add pebbles [tweaks] and granules [micro-tweaks] to add robustness to the buckets, as you pursue new benchmarks, like competing in an OCR.

We TRAIN to get and stay …

Spirited, Supple & Stable, Skilled, Speedy & Sprint-like, Strong & Powerful, Stamina-stoked, and Specialized. I know, lots of Ss.

The #1 Bucket, your Spirit Bucket is full, Jessie. Keep it that way.

A great coach designs programs** that restore, re-fill and fortify Buckets #2-7. You need them all.

#2. Suppleness + Stability, posture, breath and soft tissue work [foam rolling], stretching, deep core work, etc.

#3. Dynamic Skills that address agility, balance and coordination.

#4. Gait Speed, sprint-like mechanics, and total body reactive speed and agility.

#5. Power in the form of jumps, leaps, swings and throws, and Strength through resistance; the squat, hinge, push, pull & carry set the foundation for more complex movements; load, tools, tempo, will vary.

#6. Stamina through HIIT [High Intensity Interval Training]; steady-state training can be done on your own.

#7. Specificity based on the upcoming season, event, illness, injury or Murphy-strikes.

Yes, this can be done in a 1-hour session, over 4-6 week blocks, over a year, for decades. Progression is criterion-based. No same-old routines. You may ask, where do all those other options fit in? It depends. They all have their benefits, and a great Coach often integrates principles from many disciplines.

But if you want a solid foundation for health and movement longevity in work, play and competition, restore and fill ALL of the Buckets with the ROCKS first. Reclaim and own the BASICS in each, then layer on tweaks and micro-tweaks for added robustness. If we bypass the rocks, we may have some SHOW, but a lousy GO.

So Jessie, striving to restore and fill each Bucket is a lifelong journey rife with peaks and valleys. “Ramp up or dampen down, just don’t stop. All Buckets matter!“

*adapted from

** from Stephan Covey

Just don’t know where to start, contact Pat through or For more on Pillars, Buckets and training tips from Pat, see previous editions of Mountain Grit.

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