After a long day of climbing, you're resting peacefully in your tent, curled up in your 30 degree down bag and eagerly awaiting another day of crisp, beautiful temperatures. However, in the middle of the night you jolt awake, dreaming of water and soaked in sweat as you roast inside your toasty sleeping bag. WHERE DID THE SPRING TEMPS GO??? As summer sets in, and April draws to a close the clock is ticking to get out there and send your Spring time projects. While ECC can't speak for everyone, many have spent the first few tentative trips getting flash pumped, numbing out, flailing our way up walls, and trying to find the elusive fitness and endurance of the previous fall. Well, the time for excuses is over. The time to send is now.
What is going to be the difference between success and failure? Between jubilation and humiliation? Between victory beers and crying in your beer? Nine times out of ten as the season draws to a close, your endurance will be the deciding factor. Are you tired of falling at the last move? Are you pitching from the chains? Elemental presents a few tips to maximize your training time in the gym and push through that last hurdle.
Rock Climbing Training for Endurance
This type of training can be exceedingly uncomfortable both mentally and physically. The best way to push yourself further outside is to create a deep, burning (nearly excruciating!) pump indoors. You know the pump of which we speak. The one that sets in as your hands open up on even the most comfy Red River jugs. The pump that causes you to send guess clips and has you screaming at your partner to take! How do you recreate that type of exhaustion inside?
Four by Four Boulder problems
Strictly from a personal point of view, top-roping is not my thing. There are benefits to this type of training that will be outlined later on, but 4x4s are an extremely efficient way to train endurance (nay I say power-endurance?) without having to run laps up a wall. Simply find four boulder problems of increasing difficulty, and begin with the easiest boulder. Make sure these are boulders you have climbed before and that are two number grades below your hardest climb (within your onsight range). Climb the first boulder problem to the finish, and if possible down climb to the next problem. If there is no easy way to down climb, drop off the top and RUN TO THE START HOLD OF THE NEXT BOULDER. Proceed through the series you have chosen, and by the end you should find yourself falling off of the last boulder problem with a pump that will leave you laying on the mats in pain! If you succeeded in all four, eliminate the problems that felt easy, and choose harder climbs. If you fell at the second or third climb, bump your difficulty down a notch to some slightly easier boulder problems.
Hangboard Programs for Isolated Forearm Endurance
If you've never done a timed hangboard workout, you are in for a forearm altering experience. They are designed to push your forearms and fingers to the point of exhaustion, and there are workouts out there for climbers of every level! Ethan Pringle has a great set of workouts which you can download here, and there are many good workouts on 8a.nu which range from beginner to EXTREME. Those aren't available for download, but you can view and print them off here. The basic idea is simple. One minute per exercise, whatever time you don't spend on the wall you spend resting. They become progressively harder with the hangs coming closer and closer together until a burnout at the end. If you're a Rocksport climber, there are two hangboard workouts behind the campus board which are available to anyone!
Running Laps on Lead or Top Rope
Probably the most conventional method of gaining endurance is to run laps up (and possible down) routes in the gym. Select your routes carefully, however, to avoid injury or making it too easy on yourself. You should select a route that is several letter grades below your hardest on-sight outside. For example, if you've onsighted 5.11a you should try to run laps on a 5.10a/b etc...
Running laps on lead is much more mentally challenging and will prepare you to deal with being pumped on lead outdoors. It will also teach you to recover on lead, work on your breathing and relaxation, etc... For this reason, it is much more beneficial than simply top-roping, but it is not always easily accessible for all climbers. If you don't feel comfortable leading safely, be sure to top rope until you gain that level of comfort. As always, if you feel extremely pumped, try to recover or fall before clipping. There's no sense in decking or taking a bad lead fall (even in the gym) just for the sake of training.
Traversing the Boulder or Top Rope Walls
This method is easily accessible, but doesn't replicate the actual movement of climbing as accurately as running laps or 4x4s on boulder problems. While it does have its benefits, a lot of times it can lead to hurting shoulders rather than extremely pumped forearms. If you are going to traverse, make sure you don't give yourself a no hands or nearly no hands rest in between features, as this defeats the purpose of the exercise! Traversing an overhanging wall will present you with less opportunities for such a rest, and will be more efficient overall in terms of time that you have to spend on the wall. There is no specific guidelines for this type of training, just hold on as long as possible!
With these techniques in mind, go forth and send your projects. The only way to improve your climbing, however, is to mentally commit to something that is extremely uncomfortable both mentally and physically. These sessions can leave you drained, dejected, and extremely sore. To maintain your psyche climb with a partner in the gym, and make a commitment to do regimented exercises for training. Your partner will help you stay honest, climb harder, and make those last few moves when you want to let go. If you see anyone in an Elemental Climbing Club shirt, we will be more than happy to pair up with you in the gym and train to send our projects. Go forth and crush, Elemental climbers. Have fun, and be safe!