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Climbing / School / Endurance Training

Endurance Training

Endurance training

Endurance: Put simply having endurance means you can climb forever without getting too pumped so that you fall off. It also means that you can do a hard section of climbing, get pumped but have the ability to recover on a big hold on steepish ground for the next section. Generally an endurance route will have many, many moves but none are particularly hard. In order to climb in this manner oxygen feeds the muscles in the forearms to produce energy. It can also be referred to as aerobic capacity.

Examples: In the UK we have few pure endurance routes. Classic endurance fests abroad are Lourdes 8a (Spain – 40m sport route) the Enduro corner on Astroman 5.11 (Yosemite 40 metres of the same lay back move), generally a lot of overhanging tufa Spanish routes. In the UK think ‘The Strand E2 (Gogarth – continuous climbing, with no definite crux), Supercool 8a+ (Gordale – 35 metres of climbing with the crux at the top, but a few good rests on the way). Note: practically nothing on the grit can really be considered as ‘endurance’ – it’s not long enough.

Having endurance is the basic conditioning required for any climber. You may feel if you are a boulderer that its not required and to some extent it isn’t. Power endurance will be required for boulderers but pure endurance may not be so much. However if you want to do a high volume of hard (for you) boulder problems in a day or over the course of a holiday you will require some endurance. Certainly for any route climber it forms a solid basis. Think of it as being the back drop to your climbing or to generally being fit such as walking, cycling, swimming.

A pure endurance phase is a good basis for conditioning your body and good to kick off any further phases of climbing. Back in September 06, whilst my long term goal was to boulder well early 07, I did a load of sport routes in Kalymnos which gave me the basis to start the bulk of my training more directly relevant to bouldering.

Back in the early 90s my husband Nic did a training programme with Ben Moon at Stoney. The idea was, in order to build aerobic capacity (endurance) they should top rope Cabbage Crack and Jasper (E4/F6c+ and E3/F6c) multiple times (bear in mind they would not get pumped on these routes – the rest of us would). The theory was by increasing their aerobic capacity they would raise the limits of what they would get pumped on i.e. if they can top rope an E4 20 times in a session without getting pumped then they shouldn’t get pumped on one E5. The trouble was, the minute they did any harder moves, their body couldn’t handle it and so they got totally pumped. This demonstrates that it is good as a background fitness but for UK routes which often have difficult cruxes it is necessary to go on and do a secondary phase of power endurance or power.

Working on endurance requires you to work between levels 1 and 3 in the following table.

Level 1 No pump Endurance = aerobic

Level 2 Slight pump Endurance = aerobic

Level 3 Moderate pump Endurance = aerobic

Level 4 Very pumped Strength/Power endurance = anaerobic

Level 5 Extremely pumped Strength/Power endurance = anaerobic

This table has been taken from Dave Binney and Steve McClure’s Climb magazine articles.

When training endurance its necessary to re-create situations like outdoors where you are often on routes from 15 minutes up to an hour. Just climbing one route after another at the climbing wall with 10 minutes rest in between routes is not sufficient to train ‘endurance’ or in other words build you aerobic capacity. British indoor routes are often only about 25 moves long, 15 metres high and take about 5 minutes to climb. This doesn’t relate to outdoor routes very well at all which are often at least double the length and take considerably longer to climb.

Endurance training requires high volume, low intensity. You are developing the slow twitch muscles. These can only be developed in low to moderate training sessions.

The following provides you with some ways to train endurance.

Level 1 – Regeneration or Active Rest Day

This type of training involves not getting pumped at all and climbing at a very, low level. A few years ago I went to Australia and on our rest days we did lots in the ‘severe’ (F4) and under range. We didn’t get pumped, our bodies were recovering yet we were still testing our movement skills. By the end of this holiday I was very fit as I was climbing all the time, but sometimes at very low intensity; it all came in useful. A regeneration day can almost act as a warm down from the day before. Doing a load of V Diffs at Stanage or 4s in the climbing wall would be appropriate for this. Clearly if you climb 8b, your active rest day might be more around E1/2.

Level 2 – Foundation Endurance

This is the basic form of endurance and would have fitted in to Ben and Nic’s Cabbage Crack training sessions (see previous article relating to the 3 different types of training). Climbing a route over and over again or doing a big circuit is the way to improve your endurance. Each climb is called an interval. So this is interval training for endurance.

This example is based on someone’s regular onsight limit being 6c.

Begin each session with one hardest regular onsight (what you can onsight 90% of the time). The ‘L’ terms relate to the levels in the above table.

Eg 1 Cascade intervals:

These routes are based on typical 25 move routes at British indoor walls

1 onsight at regular limit

F6a: up and down (L3)

F5: up and down 2 times (L2)

F4: up and down 4 times (L1)

Have 30 seconds rest between each climb. Once you have completed these 3 routes, have 30 minutes rest. Repeat this up to 3 times depending on your fitness. The first time you do this you might just do it the once.

Eg 2 L1/L3

These routes are based on typical 25 move routes at British indoor walls

1 onsight at regular limit

F6a: up and down (L3). Rest 30 seconds

F 4: up and down (L1). Rest 30 seconds

Repeat the above (so do it 2 times in total)

Rest 20 minutes

This can be repeated up to 3 or 4 times depending on your fitness. The first time you do this you might just repeat it twice.

Level 3 – On the minutes

1 onsight at regular limit then…

Pick a climb about 4 grades below your regular onsight level (half grades are a whole grade) and repeat this climb 4 times, resting one minute between each go. This is one set.

Start with 1 set for the first few sessions building up to 6 sets. Rest 30 minutes between each set.

Please note, many of these examples have been taken from Dave Binney and Steve McClure’s Training articles in Climb. See the Feb 07 issue for more details.