10 Down and Dirty Training Tips

Posted on May 07, 2015 by Jason Haas | 2 comments

After five months of training for a trip to Yosemite, I have realized a few things due to experience, trial and error, and some reflection. First and foremost is that training takes time and to work it into an already over packed life, something’s got to give. One thing that went was my weekly blog updates. I appreciated all the people that followed it and positive comments I received, so hopefully this tidbit will re-inspire some. If you are thinking about starting a training program, the list below includes some useful things to keep in mind as you start your journey.

  1. Be Rigid. If you’ve never followed a training program before, I recommend checking out The Rock Climber’s Training Manual by the Anderson brothers and flipping to the already pre-laid out training programs in the middle of the book. Yes I published the book, but not only is it a good program, it is also “dummy proof”. It says train on Monday, you train on Monday etc. It’s very easy to follow and you can start right away without having to read the whole book first, which is nice for those with limited time.
  2. Be Flexible. Life happens and we can’t always train every third day. Try and plan ahead as much as possible, but be OK with adjusting your schedule a bit, whether that’s because of work, you’re not feeling well, or you have a hot date. Also, once you go through a cycle or two of the training program, you’ll start to identify where you need to spend more time focusing on areas of weakness or areas that are more applicable to your training goal. For instance the crux on Lurking Fear is a slab and El Cap has a lot of pitches, so I need to spend less time focused on bouldering and power and more on outdoor mileage to hone my slab technique and be ready to do a lot of pitches in a day.
  3. Get a Support System. Tell your friends you’ve started training. You don’t need to spray all over Facebook every day about how many pull-ups you just did, but it helps hold you accountable to keep working out as no one likes the New Years resolution to “get fit” that then fades away in three weeks. If you’re in a relationship, it’s also mission critical for your significant other to support your goals. In my case, I have two small children and my wife has to take on an unfair amount of the work with them so I can go train. I would have quit training long ago if she didn’t support me even though it can be hard for both of us.
  4. Have a Goal. I’ve climbed for almost half my life and yet this is the first year that I’ve actually started training with any truly legitimacy. In my experience, that has largely been because I had no real reason to. Everyone appreciates getting stronger and climbing harder, but climbing a letter grade harder in and of itself is not inspiring. For instance, would you rather climb 5.11c this year or would you rather climb Astroman? 5.11c, while tangible, means very little to me while Astroman would be a dream route, one that I would remember forever. No matter how hard you climb or how hard you’d like to climb, identifying a specific route or routes is a better way to go than chasing a grade. It will help in the long run too to avoid burnout.
  5. Train Your Weaknesses. If you have a goal, then you should have identified the style of climbing and skills needed to achieve your goal. If you don’t have a goal, or you’re between goals because you just accomplished your last one, focus on training your weaknesses. This is where the be rigid/be flexible advice from above really comes into play. Be rigid in the respect that if it’s a power phase, train power even if it’s your weakness. Does your goal have some slab on it and you’re bad at that? Spend more time ARCing before workouts to hone that specific skill. The point is to not just go through the motions. You have to break through what you can already do and the only way to do that is to consciously and specifically train what you’re bad at. For me, it’s closed crimps. I’ve always open hand crimped mostly because I was told a long time ago open hand crimping will also help your closed crimping but not vice versa. Science has shown that to not be true. Open hand crimping is good for open hand crimping and closed crimping is good for closed crimping. I have big oven mitts (ask my wife – my hands literally don’t fit into oven mitts) so I’d rather grab a sloper, do some compression moves, or pinch something but that’s not always an option. So I’ve spent a ton of time training crimps. In the strength phase it’s several of my key grips on the hang board, in the power phase, I seek out crimpy boulder problems, and when I rope up, I look for crimpy routes. I still follow my training program, but I have an added focus of what I’m bad at. Of course, train what you’re good at too as you can always improve that skill as well.
  6. Data, data, data. How do you know you’re bad at something or that you’re getting better at it? Data. Buy the Rock Climber’s Training Manual Training Log. I mean seriously, it’s only $4. I track everything in it, from the super broad calendar and plan for my climbing trip to the minute details of a hangboard workout. You will experience days when you don’t want to workout and you’ll experience days when you feel frustrated when you fail and feel like you’re going backwards in your training program. This is when it is critical to look back at your logbook. First off, you’re supposed to fail. Seriously. You can’t know your limits or push past them without failing. But when you feel like you’re doing poorly on the fourth hangboarding night of the cycle and then you look back to last cycle and see how much better you’re doing than last time, it’s very motivating. It’s also motivating to see when you break a personal best. The workouts should always feel hard because you should continue to push yourself. Data helps you know how much you can safely push yourself without risking injury and keep your psych high when you see your progress. Of course, we all have off days so don’t let the anomalous bad workout get you down. The key is to still do the workout with as much fidelity as possible and regroup for next time.
  7. Rehab. Don’t tell my wife this, but I’m not the young stud I once was. The biggest thing I’ve found with getting older is the amount of time I need to recover. With that comes the risk of injury and it takes me longer to get over injuries than it used to. So the key is to then avoid injuries altogether. Some key elements include good rest, massage, and training antagonist muscles. For massage, it’s great to go to a massage place, but more specifically, you can work on problem spots in your arms yourself with things like the ARMAid, which has really helped me with my elbows. Also, climbers focus on getting strong in pull down muscles. You should work some antagonist muscle exercises into your routine as well so you don’t get too strong on one side of your arms and the overcompensation causes chronic pain. This is essentially what golfer’s and tennis elbow are. I use some armbands etc to train those muscles as well, which has helped immensely. The last key thing that has been critical for me is a good chiropractor. There a lot of hacks out there, but good ones can be game changers, or at least that was my experience. I’m putting more stress on my body than ever before and I feel better than ever before and I notice it when I miss a couple weeks of chiropractic work for whatever reason.
  8. Eat Right. This is my biggest area of weakness in my training. I’m not a good cooker. You should tell how much I dislike cooking by my use of the word cooker. I don’t like to do it, I find it to be an inefficient use of my time, and I just don’t have patience to make a great meal. I view eating as a necessary thing to living, not as a hobby or an indulgence of flavors etc. I just need calories and don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing them. With that said, what you eat matters and so eating the right stuff is important. Clearly I’m no dietician so I can’t offer you sound advice other than eating well is important and you should do it. Do as I say, not as I do I guess…
  9. Sleep. Another area of weakness of mine and boy do I wish I could sleep more. However I have a two-and-a-half year old that is still working out the finer points of going to the bathroom in a potty at night and a four-month old. Sleep is a luxury around our house. But boy do I notice when I get an extra hour of sleep – It. Is. Amazing.
  10. Have fun! Not every workout is going to get you pumped up but overall, you need to enjoy what you’re doing for the sake of longevity. Get a training partner, track your progress, have a goal, and remind yourself why you’re doing it. It can be monotonous lifting weights in your garage by yourself or dusting off your gym’s unused campus board. It can also be de-motivating standing over in the weight area by yourself as you watch your friends laugh it up over by the lead cave. So why are you doing it? Are the end results of your effort worth it? I certainly hope so. And if you dread training, and find yourself struggling to adhere to the program after a few months, modify it so that you can still improve and find benefit from it, but can reach a balance between improvement and enjoyment.

- Jason Haas


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2 Responses

Shane Zentner
Shane Zentner

May 21, 2015

Thanks for posting as I have been considering starting a training program for quite some time now. Similar to Joe, I have always trained through climbing/bouldering and have sought out climbing objectives well above my ability, yet I’ve been stuck at the same level for years. Climbing gyms have typically bored me after several visits, although now I have a bouldering wall in my garage which allows me to create my own routes with varying difficulty and length. So long story short, I’m excited to try the Rock Prodigy method and start a structured training program.

Joe Mills
Joe Mills

May 08, 2015

Great post and resonates with me as someone who has also done very little “real” training and is looking to get into it. I “train” through climbing hard and have had reasonable success with that method and little success with focused, specific training. I line out hard projects to work on that are relevant work towards the primary goal and rely on those projects to whip me into shape. You sound like you have not done much specific training in the past but have also managed to improve your outdoor climbing. How would you say your performance gains, as measured in outdoor climbing success, compare between your now specific training versus training through climbing?

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