Valerio Massimo Everest Expedition 2009

Me on the summit of Cho Oyu with Everest in the background


I trained for 12 months to prepare for this trip.  Typically training 5-6 times per week, usually between 7-9am before work.  My training was overseen by a personal trainer – Flora Gordon Lennox – who has written the following brief outline of my training programme:

Mount Everest Training by Flora Gordon Lennox

The physical and mental preparations for a feat such as climbing Mount Everest are, as you would imagine, a long slog. Depending on your base fitness, you are looking at about a year’s worth of training and preparation. In Valerio’s case this slog was just short of 12 months.


The physical training prepares the body to deal with high levels of lactate acid over long periods while still providing muscles with enough oxygen to function. Good body strength is also required to enable gear to be carried, energy efficient movement and to prevent injury. A combination of long slow endurance work, highly intense interval training and strength work is essential but with so many goals so too is a comprehensive training plan.

Initially Valerio, due to his fitness, started endurance work at a high level and his strength work was split into three main areas, legs, chest and back. Training consisted of five to six sessions a week with one day’s rest and one ‘easy’ day.

After the initial training more intense intervals were introduced to the aerobic sessions as well as more cross training sessions. The cross training involved, cross trainers, bikes and rowing machines to give Valerio different movements to deal with; it also reduced the stress on his joints in comparison to just running.

The penultimate stages alternated between focusing on strength or aerobic capacity culminating in a final ‘peaking’ section. The ‘peaking’ involved bringing everything together to challenge the body with aerobic and strength work simultaneously.

An example of one of Valerio’s weeks during the latter stages of his training:

Monday:           Full body circuit (1 hr), incline walk (40 min)
Tuesday:          Back strength work (1 hr), cross-training (40 min)
Wednesday:    Core work (1 hr) and run (1hr)
Thursday:        Leg strength work (1 hr), cycle (40 min)
Friday:             Rest day
Saturday:         Long Hike in Alps at steep gradients (3-6hrs)
Sunday:           Long run / half marathon (c.20km)

Mental and Nutritional

Nutrition, rest and mental preparation are equally important as physical work out. The maxim that: no more than three intense days in a row; one ‘easy’ and one rest day should be built into a week was used throughout Valerio’s training. 8-10 hour sleep is also recommended to allow maximum muscle repair.

Nutrition is vital for both health and energy. Quantity, quality and the timing of meals are important. Towards the end of the training weight gain was also required to provide Valerio enough long term fuel to climb Mount Everest. This proved a challenged, solved by using high protein and carbohydrate shakes in the morning and after training as well as tapering some of the long cardio sessions.
A good mental attitude is a prerequisite. Not only is the time commitment tough but also the requirement to push to the limit in every training session. Fortunately for the both of us this is Valerio’s forte. During strength training muscles need to be reaching failure at the end of every set to maximise tissue growth. During interval sessions it is important to trigger the lactate systems, “the burn”, so the body can adapt to a less favourable chemical setup. The last few weeks also require a build up of hugely positive attitude to prepare the body for “the challenge of a lifetime”.

flora_bw_photos_007-640x480Flora Gordon Lennox BSc (Hons) – Freelance Personal Trainer, based across South West London (including Physio4life, Putney and Fitness First, South Kensington)