“How many pull-ups can you do?” Myths dispelled and real training for the heights.

We were working out a complex, new boulder problem at the base of Redgarden Wall in Eldorado Springs, Colorado, outside of Boulder.

David Breashears was there, Clay Sanford, Mark Wilford and a few others, all of us going up and down to work on the moves. It was more short climb than a Boulder problem, not a height you would want to fall from.

David Breashears in the Western CWM, Everest, with a photo comparing snow and terrain in 1953 to the present day.

It was hard, up until about 30 feet up, and then it got very hard and and the holds a whole lot smaller.

I’d done some previous climbs with David and he had this amazing ability to hang onto anything, finger holds that at times it was hard to even see. David would go on to much higher things, guiding Dick Bass up Everest and directing the Everest IMAX movie, Mark Wilford would go to the Alps and solo up the North Face of the Eiger, the first American to do so. But in our youth it was all about he rock, and our arms, or at least so I thought.

“How many pull-ups can you do?” I asked David as we stood about on the ground gazing up at the rock.

David replied quickly, “I don’t do pull-ups. Better to do yoga,” and went back to climbing.

“No pull-ups?” How could he climb, I wondered. I was all about pull-ups, fingertips, attempts at one-arms, hanging off bridges, dangling from monkey bars, whatever we could do to get stronger. And here one of the best climbers in the country was telling me to go do yoga? But I bought a book and started yoga. And on and off for years I continued, with the postures, the movement and the breathing.

At 8300 metres above Everest South Col after completing the new Kangshung Face route. No pack, no rope and no oxygen on the way to the South Summit of Everest. Photo: Ed Webster

Fast forward to Everest’s Kangshung Face – more breathing, heavy, deep breathing and then higher up where there is certainly not enough air, gasping, as I moved step by step up to the South Summit of Everest without oxygen. High altitude climbing is all about the breathing.

Training, like climbing needs to be fun as well. Trail races to get out and about on, like running through the forests breathing the thick air from the pine trees around the Kathmandu valley, then circling Bodanath Temple at the end of the 54 km Stupa-to-Stupa race.

Or triathlons, because running across a beach at dawn and plunging into the ocean with a few hundred other people is crazy and mad fun all at the same time. And yet here is yet another place where it is all about breath, with 1,500 meters to go before you even get out of the water. I’m not really a swimmer as much as I would like to be, and at least getting the breathing right is a very good start.

I first saw Airofit online and immediately thought how interesting – basically lung training from the inside out.

And it was training the lungs in a way that can effect them directly. It was new and novel, seemed so simple, and the development, originally for singers, not athlete’s, was almost discovered by accident.

So I got an Airofit and started using it. Easy, a session or two, 15 minutes a day. And just while sitting around, not while being active.

First, it was a moment in time, like yoga, where you focus on your breathing. A break in the day and a moment where you do something for yourself.

The app was easy and intuitive, provided lots of options: breathing in circles, in diamonds, and even ‘elevation,’ naturally my favorite. There was plenty to train with. And ways to make it more challenging.

Then I was three weeks in and took a lung test, breathing in deeply, and out deeply. My lung capacity had gone from 5.5 liters on 11 February, to 8.1 liters on 9 March. That was a lot more air to put it simply.

More importantly, I could feel it, strong inhalations, faster exhalations and more powerful breathing. I went from one underwater length of our pool to two, just to test it. Something was certainly working.

Logic says that training our lungs like this can only be a good thing. And as a high-altitude climber, more relevant than ever. I’m looking forward to wandering up the slopes of Kilimanjaro soon to see how I fare. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the ability to take in more air and go up a grade or two at the climbing wall.

Pre triathlon, a quick last breath or two the evening before a dawn start.

If you want the back story on how Airofit went from helping professional singers to helping professional athletes, a short video from the founder is here.

And if you are into the science, you can find that here.

And if like me, you just want to try it out, you can buy one here.

You will get 10% off with the link and if you get up Everest without oxygen after using it, I can buy you a beverage with the small commission I earn.