Train to Crush It in the Mountains

Alpine Training Center
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I’m halfway through my third set of sandbag jumps, sweat pouring down my forehead, and all I can think of is moguls. “Just 10 more seconds. Imagine you’re skiing down a perfect line of bumps and you don’t want to stop,” I tell myself. Finally the clock’s second hand signals it’s time to switch, and I settle into a 30-second squat hold. I glance over at my workout buddy, Laura, and we smile at each other with encouragement. “You know you’re working hard when this feels like rest,” I pant.

Welcome to the Alpine Training Center, a no-frills gym in Boulder, Colo., where outdoor-lovers come to build legs and lungs of steel so they can charge hard in the mountains. In a small-group setting, everyone from weekend warriors to elite athletes pound it out side-by-side in training sessions that pack aerobic, anaerobic, and strength work into an efficient one-hour burn. Athletes choose between general fitness or sport-specific training options, which include climbing, skiing, skimo, or cycling, depending on the time of year.

Rob Coppolillo, an AMGA- and IFMGA-certified mountain guide, says Alpine Training Center workouts help him stay strong for his work for Vetta Mountain Guides
Rob Coppolillo, an AMGA- and IFMGA-certified mountain guide, says Alpine Training Center workouts help him stay strong for his work for Vetta Mountain Guides Avery Stonich

Alpine Training Center is the brainchild of Connie Sciolino, a mother, coach, skier, runner, and climber who holds a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She started the gym in 2009 to help athletes build strength and endurance so they can boost their performance pursuing the outdoor activities they love. “No matter what you do in here, it’s not important unless you’re doing better outside,” she says.

It’s the perfect recipe for active Boulderites, who like to work hard so they can play hard in the mountains.

According to Sciolino, it’s very time-efficient. “For people who are looking for a good general fitness, but don’t want to spend their whole life trying to get there, three hours a week here is going to get them there. And over the course of time, it’s going to improve them,” she says.

With names like “King of Pain,” “What Doesn’t Kill You,” “Battle Scars,” and “Outcome Oriented,” workouts are tough but doable—designed for maximum benefit in a short time. Each session starts with a warm-up, then makes athletes grunt through a series of three to five workout circuits that include a handful of exercises each. Think dead lifts, squats, jumping lunges, box jumps, push-ups, weighted sit-ups, and other movements that build muscles needed for outdoor adventures. Throw in sprints on the rowing, SkiErg, and Airdyne (bike) machines, and you’re guaranteed to be gasping. The routine is different every day, and can be modified for varying abilities.

Laura Mayo, 42, has been training at Alpine Training Center for almost a year. “For me, it’s the best use of a weekday hour-long training session,” she says. “I get the maximum amount of benefit for my time, keep up my fitness so I can be a strong outdoor athlete, and improve myself in some measurable way on a routine basis.”

Laura Mayo works out at Alpine Training Center so she can stay strong enough to tackle new adventures with physical confidence
Laura Mayo works out at Alpine Training Center so she can stay strong enough to tackle new adventures with physical confidence Avery Stonich

There’s little doubt the group environment pushes people to work harder than they would on their own. The pace is quick, leaving no time to dwell on the pain or slip into boredom. Workouts follow a progression over time, incorporating strength, power, and endurance to maximize athletic performance. Results come quickly. Most people see marked improvements within four to six weeks.

If my experience is any indication, then Alpine Training Center’s program works. On my first day skiing this season—which came after eight weeks of Alpine Training Center workouts—I was top-to-bottoming runs that ordinarily require multiple rest stops in early season. It just goes to show, the pain is worth the gain. I’ll be back for more.

Alpine Training Center
1840 Commerce Street
Boulder, Colorado

Training Calendar
Skimo: January-March
Cycling: February-March
Climbing: Year-round
Skiing: October-November
Total body strength: April-May, December
Maintenance: Summer

Signed up for a skimo race in 2015? Now is a great time to start at Alpine Training Center. The skimo track starts January 5.

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