Track It!

Today’s post is all about training logs! Many people think that training logs are only for people with training plans, or only for people who are ‘serious’ about their climbing and never play in the gym. Nothing could be further from the truth! Tracking what you’re doing with your time in the gym is valuable for climbers of all skill levels and ages, even raw beginners.

Some examples of what your training log can do:

  • Allow you to see progression and improvement 
  • Document and prevent over training, keep track of ‘tweaks’ and injuries
  • Prevent you from rewriting history with overly-rosy or overly-critical lenses
  • Help you set goals and hold yourself accountable to them
  • See how your motivation and interests change over time
  • Inspire confidence, as a record of commitment and effort
  • Allow you to reflect on past training and plan for the future

In the gallery below, I pulled a couple examples from my winter training log, to illustrate how I’ve been tracking my 1+1 training wheels workouts. In a more commercial gym (1st picture) everything is graded, and I’ll sometimes keep track of grades/colors in detail. In the bouldering gym where I normally train, I just keep track of the angle. For the second hour, when I’m working on harder climbs, I sometimes take more detailed notes, but usually not.

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What should you write? I think there are three things that every training log should capture in some way–status of injuries, difficulty, and training volume.

The first two items are fairly straightforward. All climbers are prone to injury, but you’re at extra risk if you’ve recently increased the difficulty or volume of your training, or both at the same time. If you do get injured, your training log can be an invaluable tool to help you figure out why.

In my logs, I always keep careful track of training volume–how many routes I’ve done or attempted in a particular session in the gym. The original inspiration for this post was my realization that when the gym is crowded, I don’t get much done and I’m overly negative about my own climbing. Your training log can help you see what affects your training volume, and adjust it according to your own goals.

For some, the climbing gym is a place to see and be seen, and a great place to socialize. If you don’t have a training plan, it can be easy to get distracted and climb a very small number of routes or problems during your time at the gym. For new and intermediate climbers the most important thing to do is get lots of volume to develop and refine your technique. You don’t have to stop being social–but be aware of how it affects what you’re able to get done in the gym!

If you do have a training plan, it can be difficult to stick to among all the opportunities and distractions in the gym. Instead of finishing your planned warm-up sequence, you get sucked into trying the new sloper problem with a crowd of your friends. I use my training log to see how well I’m sticking to my training goals and plans. I try to find a dynamic equilibrium between doing planned and structured training and seeking variety and inspiration.

Below the cut, check out some thoughts from climbers @Senderhq and @drglasner on tracking training, as well as a couple do’s and dont’s for your training log.

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Begin Again

I need to buy a plane ticket. After a few months of Chicago winter, with ever mounting stresses and pressures at work, I should be jumping at the chance to escape on a climbing trip. Instead, I’m afraid.

I wrote before about a scary fall that happened while I was climbing in the Red this autumn. Since then, I’ve been working to regain and improve my leading confidence, but it hasn’t been an easy road. I need this trip, I need this time in the outdoors because daily life leaves me tired, stressed, and depleted. But I’m afraid, because I’m worried that I’ll want confidence and mastery that I probably won’t have on my first outdoor trip in over 3 months. I’m wanting climbing to be easy and restorative, but I’m not sure that it will be.

I’ve recently started practicing yoga. It’s been more challenging and rewarding than I thought. One of the things I’m learning in yoga is to accept what my body can do on a particular day, to not force poses I’m ready for.

Great blog post from Heidi Wirtz over at the North Face website, and some beautiful photos. Click through for the post.

I want to try to take what I’m learning in yoga and apply it to my climbing. When I get back out again, I want to be present in my body and my mind–accept what I’m ready to do and try not to force the rest. Though it’s not in my nature, I want to trick myself into becoming a beginner again.

Everyone takes time off, from the most earnest beginner ripping off skin on huge jugs, to the seasoned climbers who suffer injury or accident. Sometimes it’s work that gets in the way, sometimes it’s family, or travel.

To get started again: Let go of what was, what you used to be able to do. Accept where you are right now and be present. Do what you can one day at a time, listen to your body. Breathe in and begin again. 

Training Wheels for Training: A Review

Climbers are endless consumers of information about climbing. There’s always one more blog to discover, one more video to watch, and one more slideshow to click through. We’re also inundated with information about how to train. As our sport matures, we’re discovering more and more about how to achieve peak performance.

When it comes to training advice, it’s important to find the voices you trust among the growing cacophony. For me, one of those voices is Kris Hampton, who writes the blog Power Company Climbing. His training content is consistently high-quality and relevant.  After a 3 week break from climbing in mid-December, I re-discovered this post by Kris: How to Climb Harder than Other Newbs. The guidelines Kris lays out have been the foundation of my training for the last two months. They’re simple, and they work.

My sessions are almost all structured the same way–in two hour-long blocks.

I spend the first hour warming up by climbing new (to me) easy problems, or repeating moderate problems perfectly. No flailing feet, no muscling up the wall. Focus on feeling and improving the quality of your movement, not whether or not you get to the top.

The next hour I spend working problems that are hard, but achievable. Kris recommends something you think you can send in 5-6 goes. I try to carry the smoothness and precision of movement from the easy problems through to the second half of my session. If I’m too tired to climb well on the harder stuff, I either end the session or climb a bit more on easier problems.

That’s it. Simple.

Even better, it works. I am having tons of fun during the first hour, and feeling more solid on problems closer to my limit. Some suggestions and tweaks for tailoring the ‘newbie’ workout are below. Remember–it’s never to early or too late to be beginner again!

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Climbing-Related Things I Have Bookmarked In The Last Year [An Exhaustive List]

In case you’ve already read all the books you got for the holidays….

Climbing Community/Culture/Meta

  1. Women, First Ascents, and Competition, Article by Thomasina Pidgeon [Gripped] 
  2. LT11’s Jordan Shipman on Vision and the Lack Therof in the Climbing Industry [LT11]
  3. Ten Top Tips for Staying Alive [UKClimbing]
  4. Collette McInerney on Women Sending Hard [Five Ten]
  5. Sonnie Trotter on Dave Graham’s Secret and Hard Climbing [Sonnie Trotter]
  6. NYT Profile of Ashima Shiraishi [New York Times]
  7. It’s Not Cool to Care [The Stone Mind]
  8. Spiral of Death [Rock and Ice]
  9. Women and Development [B3 Bouldering]
  10. Climbing is (Not) the Best [The Stone Mind]
  11. Exorcising Dirtbags: Let the Right One In [Climbing Magazine]
  12. Return To Sender: Writeup of Sender Films [NatGeo]

Long Term Road Trips

  1. Getting Out of the Midwest, Trip Budgeting [MP]
  2. Western U.S. Road Trip, Planning Details and Destination Recommendations [MP]
  3. How To Budget for a Climbing Road Trip [Roll Global]
  4. Guide to Safely Sleeping In Your Vehicle for Free [Roll Global]
  5. 9 Traits of the Ideal Road Trip Companion [semi-rad]
  6. Hobobo Guide to Free Wifi [Roll Global]
  7. Steph Davis on Living in Your Car, Safety Issues [High Infatuation]
  8. Steph Davis on Food on the Road [High Infatuation]
  9. Steph Davis on Where to Sleep While Dirtbagging [High Infatuation]
  10. Steph Davis on How to Set Up Your Truck i.e. the Shelf! [High Infatuation]
  11. Simple Living Manifesto [72 Days Project]
  12. Making Your Road Trip 40% Better [semi-rad]
  13. The Ultimate Road Trip [semi-rad]
  14. Interactive Map: Breweries of the United States [Pop Chart Lab]
  15. Active Fire Mapping Program [US Forest Service]

Lifestyle/Road Trip Blogs 

  1. Mike D’s Climbing Roadtrip Blog
  2. Furgonetten
  3. Peder and Jess
  4. Dirtbag Life

Interviews 

  1. Really Great Interview with Alex Johnson [DPM]
  2. Interview with Collette McInerney on Bolting and Climbing Hard [Climb Find]
  3. Zen Quotes from Chris Sharma [Climb and More]
  4. Interview with Chris Sharma in Ceuse [Petzl]
  5. Chris Sharma Interview [UKClimbing]

Mental Aspects of Climbing

  1. Fear of Falling – Article Explaining Clip Drop Training Technique [UKClimbing]
  2. Attitude and Climbing [MP]
  3. The Rotpunkt Method [The Stone Mind]
  4. Escaping Climbing Grades [Alli Rainey]
  5. Escaping Grade Imprisonment [Alli Rainey]
  6. Mental States, Peak Performance, and Big Dreams [Alli Rainey]

Training for Climbing

  1. Climbing and Training for a Half-Marathon [MP]
  2. Exhaustive Collection of Mostly Horst-Authored Training Articles [Nicros]
  3. Upper Body Strength+Power in Climbing & Training [Alli Rainey]
  4. Hangboard Training with Ryan Palo [Metolius]
  5. Sport Climbing Training Plan, Discussion [MP]
  6. How Do I Get Better Faster? [Power Company Climbing]
  7. How to Climb Harder than Other Newbs [Power Company Climbing]
  8. Relationship Between Lock-Off Ability and Performance [Eva Lopez]
  9. Training Tuesdays: Training Program [Climb On, Sister!]
  10. Training for the Red River Gorge [MP]
  11. Pushing Through Plateaus [Alli Rainey]
  12. How I Broke Through My Biggest Climbing Plateau [The Morning Fresh]
  13. One Workout Every Climber Should Do [DPM]
  14. Training Wonks Discuss Training [MP]
  15. Spice Up Your ARC Training [Lazy H Climbing Club]
  16. Training Obsession [Will Gadd]
  17. H.I.T. Training [Cragmama]
  18. Article about Professional Climbing Coaching for Adults [Climber Magazine]

Climbing Videos 

  1. Tomorrow I Will Be Gone, Bouldering in Rocklands [Outcrop Films]   
  2. Zombie Roof Solo [Will Stanhope, filmed by Dave Pearson]
  3. Red River Gorge: Gray’s Branch [Colin Delhanty]
  4. Cell Block Six [Sean Stewart]
  5. Protips 3 Jason Kehl [Climb X Media]
  6. Protips 6 Lauren Lee [Climb X Media] 
  7. Protips Slopers [Climb X Media]
  8. Climb Like Sharma [Rock and Ice]
  9. Demon Seed [Sean Stewart]

Destination Specific Links 

  1. Ten Sleep, Wyoming [Roll Global]
  2. Ten Sleep Canyon Camping Options [MP]
  3. Climbing on Cayman Brac [JB]
  4. Fired For Sandbagging route page [MP]

Gear

  1. Blank Slate Page Where You Can Buy the Ten  Sleep Guidebook [Blank Slate]
  2. What to Put in the Ultimate Back Country First Aid Kit [Roll Global]
  3. 12 Reasons the iPhone is an Awesome Piece of Climbing Gear [Adventure Journal]
  4. 10 Cheap Substitutes for Expensive Camping Gear [Adventure Journal]
  5. Bliss Wrap [Icebreaker]
  6. Foam Mattress Topper [Walmart]

Miscellaneous

  1. Pretty Nice Climbing Photo Which I Bookmarked For Unknown Reasons [tumblr]
  2. Elvis Leg of The Climbing Soul [Tara Reynvaan]
  3. A Zen Story [Stone Mind]
  4. Making a Crimp Mug [?]
  5. Excellent RouteSetting Blog [RouteCrafting] 
  6. Dream World [The Ascent Blog]
  7. Finding the Power of the Unplugged Mind [Proactive Outside]
  8. Physiological Responses to Rock Climbing in Young Climbers [British Journal of Sports Medicine]

Have more links or better links? Did I forget to bookmark something good? Post up in the comments and let us know!

Performance Paradigms

What happens when you don’t live up to your own past performance?

What happens when you get worse instead of getting better or staying the same?

I wrote earlier this year about some of the transition blues I was having after my move to Chicago. I made my goal of 20 days climbing outside this fall, but if you asked me, I would tell you that I had a mediocre season.

I’ve written before about the negative impacts grade-chasing has had on my climbing experience. In July, I was dreaming big and getting disappointed when my expectations didn’t meet reality. This fall, I expected the numbers I was climbing to stay the same, despite drastically reduced training and outdoor time, and the added stress of a move to a new city and a job.

Smith Rock, May 2012, when life was a bit simpler.

Grades are a measure of performance. One measure. The easiest measure, not the only measure, and not the best measure.

I have always had high self-expectations. My analytical self loves grades, precisely because they’re an easy measure of performance. Did I send the grade I wanted to? Am I meeting the expectation I set for myself? These questions become easy to answer when your metric is whether or not you sent a particular grade. A simple metric is attractive, but it causes you to lose sight of the incredible richness of the climbing experience.

To let grades and sending define performance as a climber is to narrow the whole spectrum of climbing experiences to a single binary measure, a black and white vision of success or failure. 

As the season wraps, I’m trying to appreciate how I’m growing as a person and as a climber as the result of my experiences, not worry about what grades I’m climbing. Since it seems (to me) to be related, I’ll close this post with this great quote by Alan Watts:

Also, when we are dancing we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor as in a journey. When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point.

Rest to Send

It’s almost Thanksgiving! As the race to finish up projects before the season ends begins, check out these tips for resting on routes and then go out and crush!

Rest When You Don’t Feel Tired

Some routes have a relatively easy section of climbing, followed by a bomber rest, followed by the ‘real’ business. These routes can be hard to rest on–you’re not tired yet, you’re anxious about the rest of the route, and it feels silly to be sitting around. I have two strategies for these sort of rests. Sometimes I’ll visualize climbing the rest of the route, reviewing beta, creating a positive vision for how the rest of the climb is going to go. Sometimes this will just make me nervous and shaky, so I’ll just focus on breathing and slowing my heart down. Do what works for you, but always take full advantage of any rest you get.

Shake the Kneebar!

Often when you’re resting, you’re recovering in your forearms at the expense of pumping out some random part of your body, like your calves. While I was working 49 in Maple, a friend of mine sent the route. When he got to the kneebar rest before the tough (for me) clip, he set the kneebar, rested, came back onto his arms, shook his calf, and stuck the kneebar right back in to rest some more. It had never occurred to me to shake anything but my arms at a rest until that day! With the shake-the-kneebar beta, I was able to get something back before the tough clip.

I met Wendy in Maple Canyon, land of the kneebars. I learned a lot about resting from this quiet crusher. Here she is cruising 49.

Be Patient

I habitually wear a watch, and I’ve started using it to time my rests. Sometimes it will feel like I’ve rested forever and I’ll look down to see that only 15 seconds have passed. At a no-hands rest, I will hang out as long as 2 or 3 minutes to make sure that I’ve completely recovered. At less-awesome rests, I still try to stay at least a minute. Note: this tip probably won’t work for crack climbers, unless you can find somewhere else to put the watch! ;)

Communicate

Let your belayer know you’ll be resting. Also make sure to communicate clearly and confidently that you are climbing when you exit the rest. You won’t take your belayer by surprise, and you can climb on with confidence, knowing that your belayer is with you.

Listen to Your Heart

Sometimes, a rest is not as good as you want it to be. It feels like you’re not getting anything back, you’re stressing out about the moves above you, and all of the sudden it feels like it would be better to just GO already. Don’t give into temptation! If a rest is only slightly decreasing or even just maintaining your pump, it’s still worth it to rest, because you can drop your heart rate back down and establish a good breathing rhythm. This will help you move better after the rest, even if it doesn’t feel like it while you’re resting.

Practice It!

Incorporate resting into your practice or training in the gym. If you do endurance training like ARCing, you are probably taking a few seconds to shake on jugs every once in a while. Challenge yourself to make good use of less-good rests. If you’re on a good jug, try smearing one or both feet. Use a higher foot than is really comfortable, or use a sideways facing jug instead of an upwards facing one. Teach yourself to relax and get something back even in slightly uncomfortable positions.
What are you trying to send this fall? Let us know in the comments and tell us how it goes!!

Ups and Downs

As climbers, we spend a lot of time going up and down. We go up and down the trail, up and down routes at the crag, and up and down the road that gets us there.

I haven’t written here in a while because I’ve been having some ups and downs with my relationship to climbing. Mostly downs, actually.

I had a scary fall two weeks ago. I was climbing an easy (for me) route which I had climbed once before that day. The next bolt was at my waist, as-yet un-clipped, when I made a move for the clipping jug and missed.

I fell.

As I was falling, I felt the rope come behind my leg mid-air. I reacted instinctively, throwing my head and shoulders away from the wall. When I came to a stop, upside down, just the tip of my left toe touched the wall. I ended up with a small rope burn and seriously shaken confidence, but no other ill effects.

At the same time, I had just started graduate classes and was really struggling. It felt like I wasn’t good at anything I was trying to do–not classes, not climbing. I was definitely feeling down.

For me, a weekend trip to the Red entails 15 hours of driving for two days of climbing. It’s seriously tiring, and it’s hard to get any work done over the weekend. I began to question my decision to come climb–was it even worth it if I was going to suck so badly? The scary fall triggered a whole slew of questions about my commitment to climbing, my commitment to my career, and worries about my ability to have climbing in my life while learning and living in Chicago.

The Red is magic–always worth the trip.
Photo by Flickr user jcschu07, click through for more of his photos.

I don’t have answers to many of these deeper questions yet, but I am feeling much more positive now, mostly thanks to amazing friends in the climbing community.

I made a number of truly special friends on my trip, who remain friends even though they are now very far away. Talking to them helped me to process the aftermath of the bad fall and figure out how to move forward with my climbing.

I am making new friends in the climbing community here. They have encouraged me to get back on the sharp end, been patient and understanding when I get scared, and their psyche has kept me motivated. Last weekend, I went back down to the Red, took some practice falls, sent a few routes, and tried some hard stuff. The fear is still there, but I’m not letting it rule me.

Grad school is hard. Making it outside to climb when you live in Chicago is hard. Figuring out how to balance climbing and a demanding work schedule is hard, but this week, for the first time since I started classes, it feels like I’ll be able to pull it off. :)