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Climbing / School / Training and Goal Setting

Training and Goal Setting

Starting Training and Goal Setting

by Rich Simpson

If you have decided to start training and want to improve, then you have won half the battle already, as Wolfgang Gullich was once quoted, “the hardest part of training is making the decision to start at all”. However you may be half way their but the other half is a never ending battle.

As with all things in life you get out exactly what you put in, if you are happy to be of reasonable standard and already have some natural ability then 3 or 4 training or climbing sessions a week should see you alright. However if you want to be the best, or at least get the best from yourself then you must give everything you have to climbing and then some more. Climbing training methods aren’t very advanced (due to it being a fairly new sport when compared to other sports) therefore it is possible to achieve a fairly high standard by just giving everything you have to the sport. Sounds easy doesn’t it, just try hard and you will be good, well it’s not quite that simple.

For the two years of preparation I put in for Hubble and hopefully Action Directe I was doing climbing specific training for over 25 hours per week, 5 days per week, 2 x 2.5 hour sessions per day, not to mention none climbing specific training which added up to another ten hours per week and included a lot of road running and gym work. That’s what it takes to be the best and you also need a great deal of natural talent as well. However it’s not enough to just tell yourself you’re going to start training, to get the best from yourself and the time you put into training it is very important to have set goals and plan your training.

Goal setting

When deciding to train I first recommend setting some goals, after all is their any point in training to just be good and not get any rewards? Goals will help you stay motivated as you will always see improvements with yourself which is what you need to feel the benefits of all your hard work. I have seen so many climbers get good quickly but shortly become bored and end up quitting, this is because their goal setting is either unrealistic or none existent. After all would there be much point in setting just one goal of climbing French 9a if you have yet to climb an 8a? Climbing 9a will take years and years of hard effort and if that is your only goal you will constantly feel failure, even if you were to progress to say 8a and then an 8b, you wouldn’t be happy as you’re still way off your goal. Ideally you should set several goals for several stages of your life, the types of goals you should set are:

Short term goals

Short term goals usually indicate small improvements in climbing as long as they are realistic, and should usually be set for periods of between 3 to 6 weeks, whether its just to do a route or boulder problem you have been trying at the wall lately or a route outside which you didn’t quite manage a few weeks previously, you will always feel slight benefits from your hard work which will be rewarding and keep you keen for them slightly longer midterm goals.

Mid term goals

Mid term goals should be set for a period of about 6 months to at most one year and realistically speaking should be set at about 2 grades higher than your current level, if your current level was French 7a realistically after 6 months of effort you would want to have achieved a 7a+ or maybe even a 7b, again this will keep you on track and keep you feeling rewarded by your hard work whilst training for them long term goals.

Long term

Long-term goals, should be set for about 2 years, any more than that and they will be just to far away to be worth bothering about, as you never know what will happen in 4 years time. They should realistically be set at about 3 or 4 grades harder than your current level, for example if you are currently climbing French 7a, you should set your long term goal at climbing a 7c 2 years down the line. It will obviously take a fair bit of work throughout the years but is definitely something that is possible given the right attitude.

Obviously with goal setting you would set many short terms goals, throughout a period leading up to your mid term goals and you would also have several mid term goals leading up to your long term goals. An example of good goal setting would be the following, taken from my own personal training diary 14 months ago, at that time I had climbed one French 8c and several 8b+ routes.

Example – My short term goals

December 2003

Where to achieve certain levels in the training exercises I had set, for example one was to do 1-5-9 on the campus board, I had consolidated 1-5-8 but had yet to do 1-5-9 so spent a few weeks training that, after about 6 weeks I did it for the first time, hence making my last 6 weeks hard effort rewarding and receiving a worthwhile feeling.

Mid term goals

My mid term goals were to consolidate myself within the 8c grade range, I had climbed one before, but obviously couldn’t call myself an 8c climber, I had a trip to Buoux planned in 4 months time, therefore a perfect date to set my mid term goals for. I trained hard for 4 months leading up to my trip and in the meantime set and achieved several short term goals, which included completing some project boulder problems and circuits on my board, some new distances on my campus board, and setting a new personal best for one armed pull ups. 4 months later I left for Buoux with one 8c on my tick list and returned home 3 weeks later with 5 8c routes on my tick list. A good example of setting and achieving mid term goals.

Long term goals

My long term goals as of 14 months ago where to climb French 8c+ and 9a within the next two years, 14 months down the line I have climbed my first 8c+ route and am now intending to attempt my first 9a this summer in the Frankenjura and at the same time completed several of my mid term goals, which included some 8b boulder problems and some trad routes..


Hopefully by seeing this you have realised that by good goal setting I was constantly rewarded in one way or another by completing small tasks within my training. Rather than waiting for three years to get one reward I have several small rewards leading up to a big goal for me.

The most important thing to remember when setting goals is be realistic and honest with yourself whilst setting them, and keep a note somewhere of what they are, I found the inside of my cupboard door to be a good place since every morning I was reminded of my goals whilst getting dressed. If you are always surrounded by your goals they will become easier to obtain.