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7 Summits – Aconcagua 2, It’s all about the mental preparation

‘’It’s 80% mental and 20% physical’’ he replied … ‘’as easy as THAT’’!

In 2010, I was invited to attend a presentation in Belfast called ‘’7 Summits to 7 Seas’’ hosted by my now very good friends Noel and Lynne Hanna.

I was enthralled throughout the presentation and later having introduced myself to Noel I asked, ‘’what does it take to succeed on the mountains?’’. Noel replied, ‘’it’s 80% mental and 20% physical, as easy as that!’’… I was taken back with the simplicity of his response, but it does ring true. It is ‘’life’’ applicable. I mean, when we, or I am presented with a task or challenge to complete I mentally visualise the end, breaking the stages down and working out what’s required. I determine the physical demands and the plan is complete! As Noel said, ‘’It is as easy as that’’, and ‘’it is’’ …

Train your brain!

In his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey urges the reader to “begin with the end in mind”, and over time I feel I have improved this process to support my mental approach and preparation. Some of you may have seen this previously and heard me talk about my approach in my talks and presentations.

By mentally visualising the objective and then working your way back, you will clearly be able to identify the stages required in order to achieve your ultimate goal. Try it, use it, modify it, and tweak it to suit you. Believe me, it works!

Begin with the End in Mind

My initial mental mountain preparation begins by reading summit reports, reviews, and by looking at images from the location. I research the dangers, the weather patterns, the threats, the expedition companies, the camps and conditions previous medical notes, articles, books, and speak to fellow climbers and view, on YouTube, the routes to and from the summit to home. ‘’Begin with the End in Mind’’. This phrase is both inspirational and motivational. Without getting too deep into this subject I summarise saying that I prepare meticulously what will be the mental challenges, visualise my summit, my reactions, my feelings, my wellbeing, and my absolute determination to descend safely and return home. The physical preparations are concentrated which I’ll explain. With my participation through the year in triathlons, spotifs, trekking, and adventure racing my training is always on. As the season ends my training becomes more mountain focused, no better place to train for the mountains than in the mountains! Best advice ever!

A usual training week now ahead of my return to Aconcagua is … Monday – rest day. Tuesday, morning run 10km, evening gym, Wednesday morning spin session or open bike ride, evening 5km run, Thursday, morning gym, evening swim, and Friday, morning slow 5km run and rest, Saturday morning bike and rest, and Sunday trekking in The Mournes and rest.

With all this activity it is vital for me to eat well, hydrate well and sleep better. Eating well, I mean plenty of carbs, protein, and calories, fruits and meats. Hydration is also key. I drink minimum 2 litres of water daily and adding to that will be some tea, diuretic, unfortunately, and natural hydration from fruits etc. Very little alcohol when I’m training for the big mountains. Sleep for me is imperative. I need 8 hours minimum but can work on less but do try to work on the 8-hour rule during my training.

With such a schedule how do I fit all of this in around family life and work? The early morning sessions do not impact as I try and get them started before 6.30a.m. which gives me time to recover and have breakfast with my family. A normal day’s work is done and as dinner is being prepared I’ll fit in a session again allowing us all to sit for dinner. I also monitor heart rate levels during and after training and I’m always conscious of how I physically feel which is vital, I don’t overtrain.

This all works as a result of support, understanding, and encouragement I receive from all of my family and of course my work colleagues at Tara Financial Partners. A huge thank you to you all!!

So it’s now all about staying injury free and stabilising my fitness levels. God willing, Mother Nature’s help and the Mountain God’s with me I am determined, focused and very hopeful of getting summit this January. Expect summit push late January. Wish me well.

The entrance to the National Park with Aconcagua in the foreground and Plaza de Mulas Base Camp at 3,780m

Chilling and taking in the incredible views above 5,000m en route to mid-camp at 5,500m

Bring It On! Derek

DBA my friends …. Dream, Believe, and you will Achieve.