18th Jun 2009

Question Part 1:

I've got a lot of questions but I'll try not to ramble. I need ideas for how to improve my training, I just want to be able to climb harder! (At both bouldering and leading.) My weaknesses are aiming for pockets, pinching, toe hooking, doing super steep walls and I find that my stamina/ endurance (not really sure of the difference) drops away quite quickly if I don't climb routes for a few days.

I'm terrible at campussing so started a campussing training programme but injured my elbow so stopped. What new things can I introduce to my training, is running really good for you and does diet make a big difference?

Answer Part 1:

Thanks for all the info you provided in your original letter, which I have edited. You seem to be working very hard at your training, good effort!

Considering the amount of training you are putting in, there should be improvements happening in your climbing. If, as it seems, you aren’t improving as much as you’d hope, I would suggest your training needs modifying.

You say you feel you lose stamina if you don’t climb for a few days; this is very unlikely. If you have a regular training regime, you won’t see a drop off until at least a week of inactivity passes by. All your training seems to be focussed towards endurance (ie. High reps, lower weight). It could be that you are tired and your body needs more rest. Finding time to fit everything into a training schedule is hard, so it is better to cycle your focus. It is wiser to do blocks of 6-8 weeks of focussed training, rather than 6 months of the same thing. The body just gets used to it and the training effect is greatly reduced.

You probably need to lower your reps and increase your weights, this will help with power and power endurance. The lower the amount of reps you can do, the more you will be working pure power. The great thing about working power is that it doesn’t take as long as endurance training and requires good rest. So always do your weights or power sessions when you are rested. It’s possible to do split sessions in a day, doing weights first, then a rest period and then an endurance climbing session for example. This type of training can’t be done too much is it’s fairly intense and the body needs a chance to recover. If overdone, injury is going to occur.

When you are bouldering, if you are trying to get stronger, you need to get on problems that a way too hard for you. IE. They will take a fair few sessions to complete. Just climbing things that you can do in a few goes is merely ticking over and not really helping you to get stronger.

This can be used instead of campussing, as it is very specific to climbing but hopefully you will have some weight on your feet, so your elbows won’t get too hammered.

Running is a great way to keep fit but personally I find it too draining to do a lot of it combined with hard climbing training. It’s something I do more when I am having a layoff from climbing just to try and keep fit. I used to do a lot of cardio vascular activities but found I was tired a lot and my climbing seemed to be plateauing. When I stepped back from the cardio stuff and focussed more on my climbing weaknesses, my climbing improved a lot.

Yes diet does make a difference. Eating good clean food that provides nutrients the body needs for repair and building is crucial. If you put a lot of refined and packaged foods into your body, it will be harder for your body to digest and assimilate these and there will be less goodness that your body needs to work efficiently. Obviously, it is important to have a good power to weight ratio but I feel a balanced diet is more important than going on an extreme dieting regime.

Question Part 2:

Hi Congrats on your recent successes! I'm trying to figure out what I need to improve on to do hard sport leads (high 7s would be good) when I go to Kalymnos in a couple of weeks and what type of route to choose. What would be the equivalent boudering grade of the hardest move on a 7b or 7c sport route? And how does it vary with the length of the route? I want to know whether it is better for me to go for long sustained climbs or shorter bouldery ones. I have bouldered up to Font 7a, when working on my stamina I have managed 9 laps on a 7a at my local 20m wall or 4 laps on a 7b (climb it then rest for a minute then try again). Any advice on what type of route to go for and what training I can do for other sport trips?

Answer Part 2:

Again, it sounds like you are doing good things with your training and should be easily red pointing at least f7c.

I’m not sure if you asking about onsighting or redpointing these routes, I will assume redpointing and answer with that in mind.

It is very hard to generalise on what you will find on a route, long or short. Obviously you will expect to find harder moves on shorter routes and more punchy cruxes but this is not always the way. Depending on the rock you could find a long f7c which is mostly f7a but has a small roof with a hard boulder problem round it, or it feels like a very long f7b+ with a tricky (but not desperate) move near the top.

You have to analyse your climbing and work out what you feel you are good at and more importantly what type of route you feel you would enjoy working on. Redpointing can be a very tough mental game and this side of it can be a stumbling block for many people, even if they are physically capable of climbing a route. The important thing is to find something that inspires you and you can imagine yourself investing time on it.

Laps are a good way to gain stamina but it’s not the type of training that necessarily helps you to recover. Because you get to know the route you are lapping, you climb quicker and quicker and hardly spend any time on the holds. Whereas for real endurance and recovery, you need to be able to stay on a hold and recover. It might be an idea to put 2-3 pauses in you lap, so you have to shake out both arms for a period of 10-20 seconds. Don’t necessarily find the biggest holds on the route, try and work out how to recover on not so good holds too. This technique will help a lot with your onsighting, as recovery becomes more important.

When redpointing, you do need to climb quickly and efficiently but if there is a rest to be found on the route, it’s important that you can stop and use it.

Hope this helps.