Moon Climbing

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Are you pushing it when you go training?

Flashback to 8:19 pm, March 12, 2011, the Junior Indoor Bouldering Series finals. Specifically, to Final #4 and this dreadful rose move off a nasty crimper, which I’m pretty sure isn’t even intended to be a handhold. I understand exactly how you’re supposed to do the move—rose moves are the basis of American setting, after all—yet my elbow is refusing to cooperate and lock-off long enough for me to reach the next hold. Which happens to be a jug. Ugh.


Needless to say, I did not place very well, and ended up in a disappointing 7th. However, this one move made me reassess my entire training regimen (or lack thereof). As far as climbing is concerned, I was on a youth team for about two years until our coach quit to become a bartender. Before that, I took a year of karate classes led by a relentless sensei. Even before that, I was on a competitive gymnastics team full of coaches, coaching assistants, and scheduled practices. Yet suddenly, I found myself on my own, free to do whatever I wanted. It was a strange sensation, knowing there would be no one to tell me which climb to work on and no one to yell at me if I was slacking. And while the teenager in me was psyched about the lack of adult supervision, another part was utterly dreading having to take on the responsibility.

Still, I’d always been into working out, which eased the transition at least somewhat. In sixth grade, I made a massive chart of about 100 exercises that I would try to do each day. After I started climbing, anything not arm- or core-related went out the window. I mean, the only thing I would ever need leg muscles for were dynos, and those weren’t part of my climbing repertoire anyways. Instead, I started doing pull-ups, frenchies, traverses, pyramids, and more pull-ups. I didn’t have any real schedule; it was more on a how-sore-I-was-feeling-that-day basis. Accordingly, I got fantastic at doing pull-ups. Climbing, not so much.

That summer (after reading every word of Eric Horst’s Conditioning for Climbing), I decided to make a progressive training schedule. The idea was to alternate endurance weeks with power weeks, for six straight weeks. I’d climb or train five times a week, with one rest day and one antagonistic day in between. And while the schedule seemed good on paper, it wasn’t practical, and the farthest I ever got was four weeks. There was just too much going on, even in the summer, and vacations, weekend getaways, and violin concerts got in the way of such a strict routine.

Which is why, a year later, following the disaster otherwise known as Final #4, I decided to try yet another method. It was actually pretty simple: a small chart with exercise categories (pull-ups, deadhangs, running, gym climbing) as rows and weekdays as columns. Each day, I would pick at least two (up to four on a good day!), trying to get everything in at least once each week. This way, I was still organized, but not conflicted when it came to school and other obligations. As I grew used to the chart, I added a 50-, then a 100-pull-up workout. Then a 50 normal/50 weighted pull-up workout. Then a 100 weighted pull-up workout. And, for the first time in my (though somewhat short) climbing life, I got stronger. And not just at pull-ups. I went from struggling on V6s to sending outdoor 9s. I placed 2nd at bouldering Divisionals and qualified for Nationals.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is training matters. You don’t have to be the most talented climbed and you don’t have to have a coach. Yes, it helps. But the lack of either is by no means an excuse for not sending your projects or placing at comps.