As I stood staring crossed eyed at the hundreds of books in the Barnes and Noble fitness/self improvement rack, I thought to myself -how many people can buy one of these books and follow the recommended training plan for the recommended time? It seems that if you were to randomly select one, say “Army Ranger Workout” and follow it to a tee, you could get some pretty solid results because any fitness program will work if you stick with it long enough, right? Of course, you would eventually reach a plateau and need to buy a new book or DVD and start over. But you have to start, or as Wolfgang Gullich said “the hardest part of training is deciding to start at all.”
Late night television (or daytime) is littered with bizarre workout devices that promise awesome results in a few minutes a week. Does anyone really believe that those fitness super-models got that ripped on that…thing? What the hell is it? All these devices have a few things in common 1. They only cost three low, low payments. 2. They fit almost anywhere and 3. There are a gazillion of them for sale on Craigslist “rarely used” and for good reason. I always imagine some dude on his couch with beer, bong, climbing mag and ice cream close at hand watching “Surviving the Cut” and deciding that the Shake Weight is the answer to his problems. O.K. that’s enough that!
Training for climbing verses “just” climbing as training is a tired debate (just read some older post on this blog!) but one that comes up frequently with the climbers training at garage gym. Almost all the climbers I know do not have enough time in their busy lives to climb as much as needed to keep improving. Therefore, supplemental training during the winter is required if you don’t want start from scratch each spring. In Truckee we usually have winter (not this year) for five or six months a year. That means if you live in Truckee and want to climb in the winter you’ll either be forced indoors or have to drive off the hill for your fix. I do remember a few winters back in the mid-90’s when we were able to climb all winter at Cave Rock and a few other spots, but it’s still a rare day in the High Sierra winter when you can line up a partner for a sunny day of local cragging.
The key element in training for climbing is to keep the training as “sport-specific” as possible. While weight training and Crossfit type workouts maybe useful for building a foundation of fitness, you will be very disappointed if you expect this type of training to improve your performance on the rock. That’s why I feel the most important training device for a climber is the indoor climbing wall. If you don’t live near a commercial climbing gym or you’re intolerant of the absolutely brutal, and relentless posing sessions that are common to these facilities, you’ll need to build your own wall. Even the most basic design in the most limited space can yield great results at a minimal cost. Bill Sinoff and I used to train together on a small climbing wall we kept in a south facing storage space near the Truckee airport. This was around the same time that we were climbing a lot at Cave Rock. The strength and technique we developed on the 4x8, forty-five degree wall directly carried over to Cave’s steep routes. The small wall also developed the back, forearm and grip strength required for all types of climbing.
I often look to elite athletes for inspiration and to cut thru the crap when it comes to training. Professional athletes need results or they’ll have to get a real job. Could there be any greater motivation? Regardless of the sport, most elite athletes need some supplemental training. The ratio of supplemental to sports specific training is obviously, sport-specific. It’s unlikely that an utrarunner would benefit from a lot of Crossfit workouts nor would an NFL linebacker train by “just” playing football. For the climbers training at garage gym this ratio naturally shifts towards the supplemental side when limited time for sports-specific training or actual climbing is a factor. Our winter plan for climbing specific training starts with building a strong foundation of fitness then increasing the sports specific training until enough actual climbing can be maintained in the spring and summer to insure continual improvement.
But this doesn’t mean that training ends. Even in summer I find it difficult to find enough time to climb. I often find that “in season training” helps because climbing sessions are often infrequent or too short to improve performance. Sometimes I prefer to use my limited free time to workout at home, ride my mountain bike or skateboard instead of rushing to the same local crag to see the same people on the same routes talking about the same shit and then rushing back home. In conclusion I’ll say it again-It’s up to you, the athlete, to constantly be evaluating the results of your training. If your not getting the results you desire, screw the dogma and try something new.