Round 2: Training for Rock Climbing

I struggled with the clip of the auto belay for ten minutes.  This was after I had to take my harness off twice because I had managed to a) put it on upside down and b) twisted the leg loops so they were not only upside down but also backwards.

My harness, the one I had gotten for Christmas in 2006, was on the list of ‘things to give away’ but obviously it had been removed from said list for the interim.

We had just finished our move back to the East coast and the new climbing gym’s rope walls were only a bit taller than my old bouldering gym back West.   Craving those high crux holds and fearing I may lose my power endurance, I wanted to do the next best thing besides being back in the Pacific North West: 4x4s on the auto belay.

But of course, I had to get my harness on the right way and then get this stupid carabiner to open.  This is my life now.  Frustrating and unfamiliar.

The Year in Review

A year of climbing training behind me and yes, I’m climbing harder. It is the obvious outcome for training three to four days a week and up to three hours per session.

My onsight climbing jumped three or four grades.  This isn’t saying very much except for the fact that I was insanely heavy for all of my training; a whopping 157-160 lbs.

I have no doubts that I am strong but also, I learned a lot about what I’m not over the past year.  I’m not naturally confident in my climbing.  I’m not mentally tough.  And, I’m not as stubborn as I had thought.  But training gave me a space to make all of those things better and allowed me to see, I’m not even close to my maximum effort.

Unfortunately, my plan to see where I was at after a year of training was a flop.  I injured my finger (totally a dumb mistake on my part) at the end of 2017 so my move to be closer to outdoor climbing while my husband finished his training was in vain.

I spent only three days on real rock the entire southeastern bouldering season and the rest attempting to coax an A2/A3 pulley to heal.  A low for me but not as bad as being hit by a car or cutting ones finger bad enough to warrant stitches and a hand specialist.

Mirror, Mirror Tell me what the Future Holds

Now that I have recovered from the injury.  It is time to start another year of training.

As with any any process focused on improvement, you must start with what you can expect at the end of your efforts.  You must come up with goals that your training will help you acquire. This spring, for example, I’m analyzing my weaknesses.  I have three short term to intermediate goals I need to address:

Hand and Finger Strength: I’ve always wanted to crush a large Sapporo can with one hand.  If you haven’t had a chance, go ahead and give it a good college try.

Core Strength: I want to deadlift my body weight plus one half.  A strict toes to bar is also on the agenda.

Connectivity: This would also be known as body tension but I feel like it is more romantic to call it ‘connectivity’.  There are very few modern climbers who do this better than Romain or as I like to call him, Monsieur Scintiller les Orteils.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are missing out.  If you don’t know who Romain is – check out this video and also, get out from under your rock.

No Free Ride into the Sunset

After setting your goals you have one more important thing to do before beginning a training program. It is to get yourself ready for your training program. If you are coming back from an injury or a long rest, you’ll have a little bit more work to prep your body.

Now, I’m not suggesting you need to Murph it out but you do need to wake up your muscles, get your heart pumping and run at least one mile sober.  If you intend on lifting weights, take this time to lift light weights and perfect your form.  At the end, ask yourself, are you ready for the amount of climbing you will need to do over the next year? And the answer should be ‘Yes’.

Next, you have to implement your training plan and hopefully, you have one.

After my last year of training, I know that I have to take a greater part in developing my own plan as I’m no longer willing to spend up to two to three hours in the gym every other session.  Also, 6 to 8 weeks of any one cycle is a bit too long and I need more rest periods. With that in mind, I have to take better training notes so I can more closely monitor my progress.  If I find something is not working, I can make the necessary changes without feeling like I’m ‘cheating’.

Captain “My Captain” 

Working with an experienced climbing coach has really helped me over the past year and if you have not tried it out, you should.  However, you should think long and hard about what your goals are and come up with a partial training plan yourself to bring to your coach.  They will not only be delighted in you taking the initiative but it will also be a valuable learning experience.  There are loads of coaches out there who want to help you reach your goals.  I’ve worked with a few over the past few years and my advice for picking a coach is:

  1. Find someone who you don’t mind crying in front of because you WILL cry if you are doing it right.  You should expect to cry at least once but no more than five times.
  2. Determine what your coach’s underlying climbing philosophy is and make sure it is something close to what you are hoping to cultivate, if you haven’t already.
  3. Don’t expect your coach to do your work for you. You are relying them as a guide, not a mule.  You have to take accountability for your efforts.
  4. Be honest.


If you need help finding a coach, let me know.




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