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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how to be a dirtbag climber girl

Someone found my blog by searching the title of this post. I can’t seem to replicate it (maybe the all-knowing google knows that I know where my blog is?), but I thought I’d answer the question anyway.

My most important advice is to be confident, and do it your way.

This is also known as the fake-it-till-you-make-it principle. If you’re a girl considering a dirtbag lifestyle and hesitating, don’t! Just go do it! Before my trip this summer I worried a lot about not climbing hard enough to make it on the road, not knowing enough climbers to make it work, and a lot of other silly things. None of these worries are important. I have never talked to anyone who regretted living on the road for a while.

I know so many people who hit the road, found community, and never looked back. It will work for you too. Sell your shit. Quit your job. End your lease. Hit the road! Or don’t listen to me and do it your way. That’s even better.

Go find the wild places, because they’re there. Mt. Fitz Roy in Argentina by flickr user StuckInCustoms

A bunch of my practical advice for dirtbag livin’ is on this blog. Check out my post about living in a truck, or the dirtbag beta series for some tips. Steph Davis has a lot of great tips on her blog as well. Wherever you go, you will need to find out where to sleep, where to do laundry/get wifi/get food, and where to get beer. Sometimes this info is easy to find on the internet, sometimes it’s easier to find by word of mouth.

There is only one bit of ‘how to be a dirtbag’ advice that is female-specific (that I can think of).

All climbers should be able to pee standing up without taking off their harnesses. It makes life so much easier! If you weren’t born with the right equipment, you should look into getting a PStyle. They are cheap, easy to clean, and don’t look like funnels. I will never go climbing/camping without mine!

What’s your advice for aspiring dirtbags? Sound off in the comments?

City Love, City Hate

Last week, while I was writing this post about living in my truck, I was in the process of moving into my apartment in Chicago. It was a bit weird to be writing down all my tips for living in a small space while I was in the process of acquiring all the stuff required to live in a much larger space. While I’m excited about starting a new phase in my career, and I think I made the right choice professionally, I’m not sure I’m sold on living in Chicago.

I loved the minimalism and simplicity of living in a small space on four wheels. I loved being completely (or mostly) independent, free to go wherever my whims took me. I loved being outdoors all day every day. I loved meeting new people every week, and learning from other climbers.

I wasn’t ready to give up life on the road. I miss it. I’ve definitely had some post-move blues here in Chicago, and I’m weathering them as well as I can.

I’ve been trying to keep myself sane and positive. I take it one day at a time. During the move, I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to train enough to keep getting stronger or better. Instead, I focused on keeping good movement quality while I climbed indoors, and on getting out enough to maintain the gains I made over the summer. This approach–maintain what you have, don’t try to force improvement–is a tip I picked up from 9/10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes. It gave me a coach-approved excuse to let go of my perfectionist self and just be grateful that I got to climb at all.

Finally, I made plans to get outside! It took three long weeks in Chicago for the stars to align, but I’m headed down to the Red this weekend. If you’ll be around, feel free to send me an email or shoot me a tweet to let me know! :)

Living in a Truck: A Manifesto

Meet my tiny universe.

This is where I lived for the summer. Below are 10 of my best tips for living in the back of a truck (or any small space)

#1: Stay Clean(ish)

This applies to your person and to your truck. I make a point of cleaning up the cab a bit every time I refill, and getting my bedroll out requires a certain amount of open space. The entire red mat on the left in the photo must be clear for the bed to unroll. When you’re living in a small space, a small mess can become a big mess quickly. On the upside, even large messes rarely take more than 15 minutes to clean up. Also, these are a great idea, and a good deal.

#2  Have Bins

Or drawers. Or crates. Or shelves. You need something to keep everything in your small space organized and out of the way. In the same token, you don’t want stuff you need every day (like clothes) to be hard to access. If I were going to set up the truck again, I would find somewhere else to store less-used clothes so that the green drawers could be a set of two, and fit standing up.

The organization system I had for the truck worked well. I mostly cooked using the cooler as a counter, and all my food and kitchen related items were easily accessible in the open top crates. The blue bin in the back stored re-fill items, like extra rolls of toilet paper, cans of camp fuel, or packages of baby wipes.

#3 Get Indoors

You might notice that I don’t have the traditional dirtbag truck build. Instead, I use a shelf, an idea I picked up from Steph Davis. The great thing about this for me is that it avoids creating the tunnel like space that most people end up with after building storage underneath a deck. I can even sit up straight inside my truck (with a regular-height Leer cap) because I am so short. It’s win-win.

Taller folks (like my friend Tom, who is 6’4″) would probably need to get a van instead to get sittable-space. I strongly encourage having it if you’re going to live in your vehicle. It means that your vehicle can be a home on four wheels, somewhere you can hang out when you need to, instead of just a bed on four wheels. It also means that if the weather is bad for some reason, you can cook inside your vehicle. In windy conditions, this saves time and fuel, because your food will cook faster. If it’s raining, it means that you don’t have to put up a tarp to stay dry while you cook.

Home on 4 wheels

#4 Actively Avoid Accumulating More Stuff

See #1. Depending on your financial situation and the amount of spending money you have, it can be tempting to buy more stuff. This makes it harder to keep your space clean, and it also makes it harder to stick to your budget. The fewer possessions you have, the better.

#5 Bring Something Homey 

This was important for me, because I was on the road by myself. Most of the time it’s awesome, but sometimes, it’s lonely. I brought my favorite, most comfy, best-blanket-in-the-world and slept with it most nights. Bring something that will make your feel connected and loved, because at some point on the road, you might need it.

#6 Bring Entertainment

You’ll want to be able to entertain yourself, but also other people. If you like reading, a Kindle is a great idea, because it will save you a ton of space in books. If you read all your books, you can explore the large number of books Amazon will sell you for free. Be warned: some are scarily bad! A deck of cards or an easily packable board game are also great to have, in case the weather’s bad or you have to kill time until your climbs come into the shade.

#7 Bring Extra 

… of important but small and easily misplaced items, like head lamps or lighters. In fact, for lighters, you probably want something on the order of 3, not counting the one in your pack. Tie one to the stove, so you won’t lose it. Get a cheap light up key chain and keep it somewhere you can find it easily in the dark, like your glove compartment. Your back-up light can then be used to find your real head lamp.

#8 Get an Inverter

This makes charging your phone, ipod, kindle, etc easy to do if you’re driving around. If you don’t already own them, buy jumper cables at the same time, just in case. I know more than a few folks that have drained their batteries by powering things using their car.

#9 Be Comfy When You Sleep

If this means putting up screening so you can crack a window, do it. My bedding was very simple–the ridged plastic bed liner that came with the truck, covered by the red yoga mat you can see in the picture, on top on top of a 2 inch thick foam pad I got for free from a friend. I sleep deeply and well no matter where I am, so I didn’t need much in the way of creature comforts for my bed. I met people who sleep on mattresses though. Know yourself–you’ll want to be able to get a good night’s sleep.

#10 Be Safe 

Don’t park in sketchy areas. If you have a bad feeling about something, listen to it! I slept in a few rest stops along the way (generally not advisable) and more than a few Wal Marts. My rule was always to never sleep anywhere I didn’t feel safe, and only sleep in places where someone else was already sleeping. This worked out quite well for me, and I never felt threatened by anyone while I was on the road.

Anything I missed? Sound off in the comments!