Pull-ups Aren’t Intimidating (Anymore)

Since I started climbing, my yearly new year’s resolution has been to do an unassisted pull-up. Sadly, it took me 3 years to make my resolution a reality. Here are 3 mistakes I made in my training which, when corrected, allowed me to complete my goal of doing a for-real unassisted pull-up!

Mistake #1: Non-Specific Training

For the first two years, I was using climbing as my main source of upper-body training. I reasoned that since I was making progress in my climbing by climbing harder, I was getting stronger. In fact, most of my gains during this time were probably coming from learning technique.

Moral #1: Climbing is only good training for climbing. If you have a specific fitness goal, add some training specific to that goal.

The Goal!

Mistake #2: All or Nothing

When I set the goal of doing a pull-up, I didn’t know about the fitness concept of progressions. It didn’t occur to me to research easier exercises which worked the same muscles I would need to be able to do a pull-up. I would try pull-ups sometimes, always with the same embarrassing failure to pull my body up even a little bit. This was disheartening, and it didn’t get me any closer to my goal.

My (successful) progression of intermediate exercises went like this:

Eccentric Only Lowering -> Flexed Arm Hangs -> Band-Assisted Pull-Ups -> Awesome!

Okay, maybe not that last one. For a really great description of technique and options for intermediate exercises and for a thorough debunking of all your excuses for not being able to do a pull-up, check out Tony Gentilcore’s 3 part opus on the subject of pull-up progressions.

Moral #2: Don’t expect to magically wake up and do a pull-up. Find a progression you like and start following it. 

Mistake #3: Once-a-day Workouts

When I started eccentric only pull-ups, my max was about 3 in a set, and I could usually only do 2-3 sets. You can get in a lot more training volume if you train multiple times a day, while still allowing your body to recover. A friend of mine had an over-the-door frame pull-up bar, so I borrowed his for a while and started doing my intermediate exercises in the morning and at night. Tony explains this better than I can in his post, but I’ll give it a shot. Basically–since a pull-up is max effort when you can almost or barely do one, sometimes you can’t do enough in one training session to get better as fast as you want. Doubling up lets you recover to do more volume.

Moral #3: Train more than once a day for faster results .

And that’s it! Before you know it, you’ll be banging out more reps than I can. It won’t be too hard–I’ve been on the road all summer and haven’t been training, so my max is still stuck right at 1 rep.

Climber ladies–can you do a pull-up? How many? Spray about your buff biceps in the comments!

Maple Canyon Dirtbag Beta

Unfortunately folks, my road trip has reached its end. As I get re-acclimated to civilized life, I’ve finished up the last installment (for now) of the dirtbag beta series. You can see my posts on Ten Sleep and Smith here and here.

Where are you going to sleep?

There are two options for camping in Maple Canyon, lettered and numbered sites. Lettered sites are better for dirt bags–unlike numbered sites, they can’t be reserved. If you occupy a lettered site, you can be assured that you won’t have to move camp. Lettered sites cost $3 per night. The other option is to stay in an un-reserved or un-occupied numbered site. There are some perks, like proximity to the right fork and left fork trailheads, and a shorter walk to the bathroom. The numbered sites cost $8 a night, and can be reserved online at www.reserveamerica.com

Rest Day Essentials: Snow College

Snow College in Ephraim, UT, can hook you up with showers and internet on your rest day. Showers, in the Rec Center at 350 East Street, are $2 a person. The ladies’ shower has stalls, the mens’ is locker-room style. An extra $1 gets you access to the pool, gym, and courts at the rec center, in case you feel the need to get your blood moving on a rest day.

The library, located nearby, has free wifi. The study rooms on the 3rd floor have big screens that can be hooked up to your computer for watching movies or tv. If you’re a mac person, you might have to bring your own adapter. As a bonus, the latest issue of Climbing Magazine can be found in the magazine racks on the first floor.

Try not to rest on Sunday! Everything will be closed, and there will be nothing for you to do.

Getting Beer

Due to Utah’s 3.2% Law, getting decent beer can be a bit complicated.

Option 1: Bring it with you. This is the best option.

If Option 1 doesn’t work out, because you didn’t plan ahead, or because you drank all your beer too fast, there’s always…

Option 2: Go to a state liquor store. If you are really a beer snob, you might have to go all the way to Provo to find microbrews that pass muster.  I have been to the state liquor store in Ephraim, and was not impressed with the selection, but the selection in Mt. Pleasant or Nephi might be better.

Rest Day Paradise: RV Park in Manti

I have heard that for $4, you can get a shower, sit in a hot tub, surf the internet, and swim in the pool! Laundry machines are also available.

Projecting in Maple

Projecting can be a rocky road, especially if the project in question is close to your limit. I’ve been working lately on 49, a 5.12a on the Minimum Wall here in Maple Canyon. It’s a challenging project for me for a number of reasons–it’s long and sustained, it overhangs, and the bolts are well-spaced. I only have a few days left here in the Canyon and on this trip in general–I really want to pull off a win and send before I leave!

On Ground Work, 5.11c at the Minimum. Erik Jenson photo.

It seems like every time I’m on the route, I make a different mistake. I’ve one-hung it four times now, once even while hanging draws. At the end of my last day working the route, with three one-hangs in a day, I felt tired and beaten. I went back to camp and slept for 11 hours straight, and stayed away from the route on my next day climbing.

I’ve noticed a trend in my first go of the day of a route I’ve been working on–I tend to rush my climbing. By the time I pull on, I’ve been thinking about the route since I woke up, sometimes for the whole day before too. I go over key beta in my head, vizualise a successful send, think about why I failed the last few times, and plan how I’m going to do better. This anticipation creates a sense of urgency that causes me to rush my climbing–more than once, it’s caused me to fail on ‘easy’ or ‘wired’ moves. In my hurry to get the crux and do it right, finally, I’ll skip adjusting a foot lower down, or fail to hold enough tension in my body to execute a move.

My goal for tomorrow is to hop on my project relaxed and unhurried. To be patient with myself and with my body, and to give it all I’ve got. Wish me luck! :)

Hello, Chobblestone

I made it to Maple Canyon! The cobblestone rock here is unlike anything else I’ve ever climbed. It can be incredibly tricky to read–sometimes you wail on a sloper only to realize that there’s a jug six inches to the right.

Lauren on a 5.8 at the Orangutan Wall

I came to Maple to work on a climbing weakness–climbing on overhanging, or steep, rock. I am afraid of climbing on overhangs. This translates to poor climbing–I lose confidence, I overgrip, I make panic clips, and I use ineffective technique. I’ve been working on this weakness lately, first in Ten Sleep, and now here in Maple. I’m trying to get more milage on overhanging routes, and to be more relaxed while climbing them.

On Excavation, 5.11b, at the Pipe Dream.

I’m super stoked to be here, and to be attacking this climbing weakness head-on. It can be scary and nerve-wracking, but it’s ultimately rewarding.

Confidence in your belayer helps too. Thanks, Meg! :D

Credit where credit is due: the title of this post comes from Marshall and Karyn of Georgia, who call the rock at Maple chobblestone: choss + cobblestone = chobblestone. :)