Monday, 05 October 2015 17:01

The Mountain Foundry - Preparing for the Mountains with Charley Radcliffe

Written by James MacKeddie

Specific training for the mountains. We know we should, but how many of us take the time to research it, let alone commit to a training plan or schedule. 


© Neil Irwin / @stingers_cam

Charley Radcliffe, founder of The Mountain Foundry is set up a strength and conditioning company in the outdoor mecca that is Chamonix. Boy am I jealous! With trails surrounding the alpine town, who else is better placed to give us some advice on preparing to take on the mountains.

Chamonix, the home of the Mountain Foundry. What led you to setting up base in this iconic outdoor capital?

Initially it was the stunning and magnetic mountains of the Mont Blanc Massif that convinced me to up sticks and move from London. Once here, I realised the benefits to structured strength and conditioning training for all the sports I participate in. Friends started asking to join in my sessions and, very naturally, it became apparent that I should take this more seriously and train people officially, thus The Mountain Foundry was born. 


© Neil Irwin / @stingers_cam

Strength and conditioning in running. There's been a lot of talk for the last few years about bolstering your running preparation. What role does strength and conditioning play in improving running performance and injury prevention?

I feel that strength and conditioning training in running is almost cheating! The benefits and gains you can make in performance are huge - the improvement in my own running strength and endurance from including kettlebell swings and deadlifts - both targeting the glutes and hamstrings is ridiculous. Add to that the prehad benefits of building strong and prepare muslces around key joints like knees and hips and I have been able to run further and harder than ever before. This was demonstrated last year when I ran 100km from London to Brighton with my training runs never getting longer than 25km while my strength training took care of the rest.


© Neil Irwin / @stingers_cam

We've all seen people benching and curling down the gym, but what are the areas which runners should focus on, rather than build t-shirt bodies?

I don't believe we should be training 'leg day' or 'back day' etc as our bodies never actually work in isolation - every exercise we perform is a full body exercise and, if it isn't then you are probably not doing it correctly. I like to focus on movements with my programmes consisting of 6 fundamental movements, no matter what your sport; a press, such as military press or bench press; a pull, such as pull ups or rows; a hinge, such as deadlifts or kettlebell swings; a squat, such as goblet squats or back squats; a loaded carry, such as picking up and moving with anything heavy; and ground movements, such as Turkish Get Ups or burpees. 

All of these movements are important to building a balanced and strong body that is able to perform at the highest standard in any sport. 


© Neil Irwin / @stingers_cam

If you were to name three key exercises for trail and ultra runners that don't require equipment, besides getting out on the trails what would they be?

Body weight single leg deadlifts - this is a superb exercise as, by being asymmetric, it will help balance out any differences between left and right. It also fires the glutes and hamstrings perfectly - the two main muscles in propelling runners forward.
Prying squats - body weight squats, going deep so that your  bum goes below your knees without compromising your back then allows you to push your knees apart, opening up your hips. This mobility exercise will increase range of motion and stability in your hips and lower body.
Burpees - love them or hate them, burpees are a brilliant exercise that conditions the body perfectly for running and exercise in general.
Speedwork an overlooked area which we all should take another look at?
Speed, and especially tempo, work is crucial to reaching and beating PBs. Sprint training, intervals, tempo sessions, they will all help increase your race pace.
Charley hitting the trails - © Neil Irwin / @stingers_cam
I, like many people, have the flexibility of a iron girder. Should we focus on increasing out range of movement? 
Mobility and flexibility should be an integral part of everyone's training programme, from beginner to expert. It's not about being able to perform the splits but about having the necessary range of motion to safely perform the actions we need. We spend so much of our time hunched over desks and sitting in chairs that key muscles rarely, if ever, see what range of motion they are possible of.
© Neil Irwin / @stingers_cam
Through your twitter feed I've seen the likes of Robbie Britton and Simon from Like the Wind Magazine training at your Chamonix base. Do your clients vary in goals and the time they can commit to training?
Absolutely, even the training goals between Robbie and Majell, who train regularly together, varied. Everyone is built in a different way, has had different experience leading up to today, and has different goals. It is important to remember this when comparing yourself to others in the gym or out on the track - everyone has their own story, you need to focus on yours. 
© Neil Irwin / @stingers_cam
As important as being physically fit is, being mentally fit can be make or break many challenges or runs. What importance do you put on mental preparation and do you find the reinforcement provided through successful sessions is a building block to this?
The mind is primary, especially in long runs where you need to maintain concentration and focus for long periods of time. This can be reinforced in your gym training too -  I am a big fan of completing (and setting for clients) 100 Turkish Get Ups and I use this for my active recovery on rest days. The process of performing this movement at that volume has great recovery benefits but more importantly is a great test of mental strength. 
© Neil Irwin / @stingers_cam
Given you are working with elites and people taking on personal challenges, what does the future hold for you? Do you have a challenge or goal of your own in mind?
It is truly inspiring to train with such successful and driven athletes - their motivation and projects most certainly inspire me to push harder. I've recently started climbing the 6 Great North Face routes of the alps, so these are most definitely up there on my list. Also, last spring I went to Nepal to attempt running the Annapurna Circuit, this is very much a goal I would love to complete.. maybe next spring?! 
Thank you Charley! Good luck on your 6 Great North Face project. I am sureboth myself  and our mountaineering editor will be watching closely! When you're next headed to the playground that is Chamonix, make sure you check in with Charley, a little groundwork can signficiantly boost your experience in the high country. 
To find out more about Charley and The Mountain Foundry check out http://www.themountainfoundry.comand @mountainfoundry / @digitalsteak on twitter.