/ Idiot's guide to training

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Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
Has anyone got an easy guide to training for climbing that doesn't make my eyes glaze over after five seconds. I would like to get a training regime going for the next three months for my summer holidays. I have already got a lot of the available going literature, but I feel I can't even understand half of it and a lot of the training regimes are totally impractical if you have a life (i.e. a job and family) Anyone got anything straightforward to look at. Basically I am trying to improve my trad climbing and slim down (which will improve my trad climbing no end as a stone in my experience will make about two grades!)

So, basically I am looking for some easy to follow training guide. Any ideas?
jon on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

I can't help, I'm afraid, but it's really good to know that I'm not the only person who struggles to understand training articles and books!
Offwidth - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

Go climbing more and do more aerobic exercise preferably killing 'two birds with one stone' by climbing more in the mountains.
mattrm - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

This is sport climbing focused, but might be handy for some extra understanding and it's quite a short article:


Also the endurance part of this article (your grade range right?) might be handy:


Basically, what are you weakest at? Once you know what that is (finger strength, fear of falling, endurance etc) you can figure out what to do.
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to jon:

Great, glad I am not alone,too. I have been trying to digest these things for many years!!!
willoates - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

from a quick look at your profile, it looks like your climbing around the VS/HVS area pretty consistently. Basically, just go climbing as much as possible. It is unlikely that strength and fitness are your main limiting factors at the moment. You will get a lot better by simply going climbing.

I have found that as a rule of thumb...
if you want to climb hard trad - go sport climbing,
if you want to climb hard sport - go bouldering,
if you want to boulder hard - go bouldering and train.

However, if you are psyched and you do want to train, then it sounds like upping your general fitness will help a lot. Running, walking, core strengthening, pressups, eat healthily, watch climbing videos, try slacklining with the family. Basically, just up your activity, you dont need specificity at the moment, just keep the psych high and enjoy it

Kevin Woods - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

I know exactly what you mean!

It occurs to me that what they all get at before spiralling off into lists of exercises, is to be aware of your weaknesses, then act upon them. Start with the end goal in mind, become self-aware, be your own coach.

Self analysis seems to be step 1.

I think?
Shani - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

All training can be distilled down to a single word; specificity.
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

Thanks for that, I climb a lot already without much progress recently and yes more aerobic exercise is a must.
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Kevin Woods:

Hi Kevin, I know I am weak at loads of things, hasn't helped me much in the past....
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to willoates:

Hey Will,
I go climbing several times a week...., I don't log much on UKC (no time) so this doesn't show.
I know all the basic stuff you mention- I am just looking for a easy to follow actual training schedule. Upping the activity is a nice idea, but I haven't got as much time as I used to so I am looking for a more focused approach that maximises the time available.
girlymonkey - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

Ami right in thinking you live in Stirling? Do fancy joining me for some running? I don't have regular times I go out, just when I can, and don't do huge distances, but I find it helps me a bit. I'm about to go out shortly, if you want to go now!!
Jon Stewart - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

For trad, I do

a) bouldering (indoors or out), so I can do hard moves


b) laps down the wall, so I can hang on for hours placing gear/working out moves/dithering. I don't find doing hard routes down the wall/redpointing very helpful because in onsight trad, you very rarely spend 3 minutes climbing hard move after hard move after hard move as fast as you can.

This works great for steep, pumpy trad in the low E-grades. However, you might/will find, as has been suggested, that if you're climbing VS/HVS and f6c then physical training isn't the issue. Becoming able to use your physical resources in a demanding trad situation is done through experience on trad, there isn't really a shortcut and increasing an already enormous margin between your physical ability and what you're prepared to do on trad sounds like a bit of a waste of effort to me.

That said, outdoor bouldering can do wonders for confidence - you get to know what really bad holds are like so when you're on a trad route the holds should seem much bigger.
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to mattrm:

Hi Matt, thanks for that. I am the weakest at finger strength and slopers and fear of falling. I am good at endurance, slogging away and I am quite determined to not give up. Grades I am aiming are bit higher than suggested in the articles. The training for sport climbing article is interesting, but again, it only summarises training principles, but doesn't actually tell you anything specific, no?
CMcBain - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to willoates:

>if you want to climb hard trad - go sport climbing

If you want to climb hard trad then climb hard trad would be what I say!

More seriously, I reckon sport climbing is good for trad climbing but it's most useful if your trad grade is roughly equal to your sport grade. Ie

You can O/S 6a sport and you O/S E1/2 ish trad.

I think most people (well me anyway) have a disparity between trad and sport grade (I can climb 6cish sport but only E1/E2 ish trad). So for me going trad climbing as training for trad climbing is better than using sports climbing as training for trad climbing. If the OP is anything like me in this regard, then the time may be better spent focusing on trad tactics/technique rather than getting stronger, where in my case that aspect clearly isn't holding me back on harder trad.

That's my own personal opinion anyway, i'm sure someone more knowledgeable will be along shortly. To the OP i'd recommend Dave Macleod's book if you've not already read it, it's got some good ideas for implementing into your training rather than giving you a fixed format to follow.
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Cheers Jon and others, I was aiming at the lower E grades really, that's what I have been doing in the past. VS/HVS is fine. I have been climbing for a long time and E2 has been my lead max and VII in winter, at the moment I feel in need for some shaping up, but I actually would like to improve on that. I am good at long alpine routes which require stamina.

For me it's all about maximising the time I have available. I can't go climbing everyday, but I will go a few times a week. So what I am looking for is to make the most out of this. I have a garage wall as well, I just never see to be able to make the most of it, that's why I am looking for a sort of schedule or something like that.

Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to CMcBain:

I have read the book, some great points in it, but hasn't helped me much!
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to girlymonkey:

Hi that sounds great! Can't go out just now, though, got to do some more work....
Some other day, yes please! I am in Dunblane, some nice running routes around here, too
Robert Durran - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

Do loads of stamina at the wall (ie whatever gets you pumped, but try to vary things) and climb outdoors as much as possible.
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Robert Durran:

Thanks Robert, but I think that's what I have been doing for years! I was looking for a new impetus....I am probably just crap ;-)
Jon Stewart - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

Cheers that makes sense. What I did a couple of years back was had a coaching session with a lad who knew all about training, and he gave me advice on how to train to achieve what I wanted (which was big trad E3s, of which I've now done loads).

I'd recommend doing this, if you pay someone to come up with a plan, you trust it and feel quite strongly compelled to stick with it (well I did). Whether or not the actual content of the plan makes any difference is perhaps questionable, but the increased structure I found very helpful. More difficult I would say to come up with a plan yourself from articles/internet punter advice, because you probably won't really believe in it or feel much compulsion to stick to it.

Particularly good if you can find someone who'll do an analysis/plan setting session and then a review session a couple of months later, so you'll feel completely ashamed if you have to go to that having been really lazy and inefficient with the evidence to prove it!
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Thanks for that! A bit of embarrassment and shame can go a long way...!
mattrm - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

It sounds to me like a little bit of cash on a coach would go a long way:


If you can commit to say 3 sessions a week (not with the coach, 3 training sessions) then I'm sure he'll be able to sort you out with something.

If fear of falling is an issue (and I suspect for most people it is) then train that. If I summarised 9 out of 10 climbers it would be:

Climb more, train falling off, get light, train finger strength.

So in your case, do some specific falling practice when you're at the wall and do a session a week on a steep board with lots of small fingery holds. Also in your case, if you don't like slopers, set a load of boulder problems with lots of slopers on them and do laps on them. As a rough example:

Routes session to maintain endurance - aim to get pumped towards the end of the session - at the end of each route, don't clip the chains, take a fall.
Bouldering session to build finger strength x 2 (and laps on slopers)

Combine that with a bit of weight loss (as you say it's an issue). Might work (but bear in mind I'm a fat 6a/VS punter, so feel free to ignore me). I'd also concur with the 1/2 stone weight loss equating to a grade increase, very roughly.
Jon Stewart - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to mattrm:

The fear of falling thing is an interesting one. It's obviously essential to address it to improve at sport climbing or really hard, safe trad where you go at it with a "I might get this, if I don't I'll try again" mentality.

But in lots of trad climbing, falling off is deeply undesirable and risky so there isn't much to be gained by not being scared falling off in a safe environment - you're going climbing in a dangerous one where falling off is not on the menu! This applies to probably 80% of the routes I aspire to, other people very few of the routes, so it's a very personal thing.

CMcBain - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

What is it you feel hold's you back when climbing at E2 and above? If you can identify what it is I think that will help you a lot. (I think Jon's idea of a paying for a coach sounds really good in this regard)

From my own experience, I found seconding someone up some E3's and E4's a really great help. I realised that physically the routes felt achievable for me but I just lacked the trad tactics/technique (spending too long placing gear etc). If you've not climbed much above E2 then it might be worthwhile to try and toprope some harder routes before leading them or even better go out with someone who does lead the grades you want to climb.

If you've done the above and it's a case of struggling on the moves then going back to sport/indoor training may be the most worthwhile approach rather than trad climbing. (I realise this may be the point you're at and why you are here asking for advice!).

I don't climb E3/4 yet(!) but some stuff I find quite useful to do indoors as training for trad;

Bouldering - Particularly bouldering at your limit (problems that take you multiple attempts), good training for hard cruxes on trad routes.

Routes - Doing 2 routes just below your max O/S grade back to back (if you O/S 7a, then doing x2 6c/6c+). Good training for pumpy sections of climbing/placing gear you find on harder trad.

I don't particularly train stamina as I dont feel like it holds me back, however I imagine doing circuits with loads of moves on a bouldering wall would be ideal (saves you boring your indoor partner to death by doing it on the route wall as well).

There was a good, easy to follow series of articles on here by Robbie Philips if you havn't seen them before and also a good set of videos by James Pearson on youtube.

If you combine all this with a few running sessions every week I reckon you'll start to feel a difference. All of the above is really my own experiences of training, so not a professional opinion. Finally, I think having a really motivated partner with similar goals is really critical. That way you are both pushing each other all the time and a bit of friendly rivalry is good for motivation.
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to mattrm:
The falling off bit sounds like a good plan for sports, but I don't think this IMHO equates to trad climbing. Falling off on bolts is a very different thing to falling off on trad...

I think toning up a bit and doing some practice will get me back to my high points, but beyond, I don't know. I need something...I don't think I would pay for somebody, really, I am stingy climber and an MIA myself /;-). I know all the principles, I need some plan I can follow, I think I need to make one up myself. I was trying to read up on all the principles, but it gets so technical....hence my question. The only training schedules available seem to be made up by people who have all week to train with no other commitments...

Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to CMcBain:

I think (when I am at the top of my fitness) what holds me back is not being brave enough. I much braver in winter strangely enough, but in trad climbing I am less so.
Ramblin dave - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:
> I know all the principles, I need some plan I can follow, I think I need to make one up myself. I was trying to read up on all the principles, but it gets so technical....

Well, I guess it is kind of a technical subject!

> The only training schedules available seem to be made up by people who have all week to train with no other commitments...

Actually, I think quite a good UKC training article would basically consist of a bunch of hypothetical (or even real) climbers and sample training schedules for them with a few comments about how they could be adapted if they were able to (eg) get another wall session in or get out cragging in the evening or whatever. There's quite a lot of info about specific exercises but very little that's specific about how to fit them into a real-world schedule...
Post edited at 15:03
Ander on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to Heike)
> Go climbing more and do more aerobic exercise preferably killing 'two birds with one stone' by climbing more in the mountains.

Seconded, with the only qualification "Go climbing more [easier routes] and do more...."

I supppose (since you say you're not too much into the sport science) I would clarify things a bit by saying that aerobic exercise means 'easy, low exertion' exercise.

The reason you'll benefit is that climbing lots of easy routes will improve your technique more than struggling on a smaller amount of harder routes, and a lower overall level of exertion in exercise allows you to exercise greater volumes (think you exert yourself less to do a marathon than you do to run 100m sprint) and this is a more effective way to build your physical capacity (and lose weight).

If you think you need more explaination on why this is the correct approach to get what you want, then you're into the terriory of understanding all that sports science, so if you want to know more, then I'm afraid you'll have to read those books.
The Ex-Engineer - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike: I'm no expert but I have done various courses on training for climbing including 4 days with Neil Gresham several years ago. I can distill most of it down to three paragraphs of advice, but it may not be what you want to hear, given your comment about job/family getting in the way:

Volume of training - at your level of experience you ideally need to climb around 12-14 times per month (3+ times per week). If you can't get close to that amount, then I'm afraid you will really struggle to get any major physical training gain. Unfortunately, two amazing training sessions per week, will never beat four average ones, even if you do other stuff like run or go to the gym.

In short, go and climb somewhere, anywhere, trad, sport or bouldering FORTY times before your summer holidays.

Intensity - don't worry about trying to train 'hard'. 90% of people don't do nearly enough endurance. Just focus on getting out and climbing something at ever opportunity. If you are short of time, repeat easy lines/problems to keep the volume of climbing high. The best rule of injury prevention is - DO NOT try any move more than three times. As long as it doesn't detract from the volume of climbing, make as much of an effort as possible to do some or all of:
- a warm up/warm down
- some stretching
- core strength exercises (plank, leg raises etc.)
- antagonistic muscle work (e.g. 3x sets of push-ups)

Variation - Vary what you do. It is good to have hard weeks (climbing 4,5 or 6 days) and easy weeks. However, not be disappointed if you perform poorly after several hard sessions, just lower the intensity and keep climbing. However, above all keep enthusiastic and enjoy the climbing. Your goal is to maintain the total number of climbing sessions over the month but you won't manage that if the training is overly arduous, tedious and not enjoyable.

Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:
Oh, that's not too bad then... I can climb lots (once at least at the weekend and a few times during the week. It's just that i can't dedicate all day to it. I have a garage wall and a good bouldering venue nearby. Maybe i just try one additional session each week....
This sounds like a very good scheme you are suggesting. and I totally agree about the stretching and antagonistic stuff, had my elbow tendonitis in both arms in the past!! Here is to 2014 - might just be my year of breaking into a new grade.
Post edited at 21:08
Mark Kemball - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

Climbing is so very much a "head game". How much do you trust your protection? Do you often fall (on good gear of course). Have you done "falling practise" at your wall? On sports routes? On well protected trad routes? Unless your trad climbing at a technical grade close to your sport grade and on sight bouldering grade, it is likely that your progress is limited more by your mind than your physical ability, and it is probably worth looking at this.

I used to think that if I hadn't taken a fall or two in a weekend's climbing I wasn't trying hard enough. (Now, I reckon I'm probably not trying hard enough!)
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:

Very true. It's a headgame. So, what's your suggestion?
switch - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

Some more ideas here re specificity - let's say you add a grade (or two) to your max trad onsight level, what would be your top 3 most inspiring, must do routes within reach? Writing down and committing to these as targets, combined with some objective analysis of where your performance is at the moment, will make setting a training plan much easier. So, you're based in Scotland...what are the top 3 mega-classic E3s that you would want to do, if you thought you could? eg Titan's Wall? Edgehog? something on Pabbay? What floats your boat? If you can't write down a hit list, then you probably aren't ready to start training with any real commitment.

Another point re experience of falling on lead on trad. When you fail on trad routes at the moment, how do you fail? Do you fail by resting on gear, by down-climbing first, or by climbing until you actually fall? If you never fall while leading, even on routes with good gear, then you aren't fulfilling your potential. Basically, to reach anywhere near your potential trad-wise, you have to enjoy (somewhat) the feeling of being on the brink of falling and to learn to keep going until you actually fall (when your judgement tells you the gear is good enough). A lot of people either can't find it within themselves to commit fully, or just don't enjoy the uncertainty and inevitable fear of committing to a possible fall, even if on to nearby solid gear. The choice is yours to make, and it depends how much you want it. If you're just as happy climbing E1s, as E3s, then you won't progress to E3s.
Mark Kemball - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Heike:

Falling practice - take a gently overhanging route and deliberately let go just before your next clip (obviously at least 4 clips up so you won't hurt yourself). Repeat often - include some falling practice every time you go to the wall. Pick suitable sports routes and do the same thing. When pushing your grade make a rule never to lower off or shout take - climb until you either fall off or get up the route. Choose your routes carefully though, there's no point in hurting yourself - avoid ledges that you might hit or routes with poorly positioned bolts, the idea is to get to the point where the thought of falling does not bother you (providing your protection is good). Once you're happy falling indoors and on sports routes, do the same thing on suitable well protected trad routes. This time, you are training your mind to trust the gear.
Even when you think you are OK with the whole falling off thing, it's worth doing some more falling practice every so often to keep your mind fit.
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to Mark Kemball:
Right, that'd be a challenge!! I am crap, but not that crap, but never to say take even on trad ...eeeeK!

Well, I am looking forward to my summer holidays, and I am sure we will do great climbs up to VII+ (E3) I have got a few lined up there), but I would really like to do my fair share at leading....so that's why I want to train up. I am not that crap (never said so, but people clearly assume that if you ask about training on here), so I can drag myself up lots ofstuff, but I would like to feel smooth and actually leading the stuff proper without too much french free;-). So, I think, the mental training you are suggesting is a great idea, I must do that.

Any more ideas, let me know.
Post edited at 23:29
Heike - on 30 Apr 2014
In reply to switch:
Probably Sumo, Uhuru and it used to be Cougar til last year when I was just about to do it and then it fell down - gutted!!!
Post edited at 23:29
The Ex-Engineer - on 01 May 2014
In reply to Heike:
> It's just that i can't dedicate all day to it.

That is no problem at all.

In terms of physical training there is actually a good argument that shorter well structured sessions are better. Basically you want to warm up, climb lots, warm down and then eat and drink within the hour to aid the recovery process. Doing that effectively and climbing for 2 hours, 4 times per week will be far better physical training than having one massive 12-hour day out mountain cragging each weekend. (Not that I'm suggesting you stop having big days out when you have the chance!)

> This sounds like a very good scheme you are suggesting.

Thanks. I try...

It does sound like the first stage is adding an extra session per week and maximising the volume of climbing in each session. At the same time, make an effort to include all the sensible stuff we know we should, but often omit; stretching, core strength, antagonists, decent nutrition & rest.

Getting the mundane logistics sorted of exactly how you will climb more and getting into some sort of routine is initially more important than the exact details of route lengths or intensity levels.

If you set an initial goal of perhaps 20 climbing sessions over the next six weeks that will provide something to focus on and establish a good baseline to build on. Once you're consistently achieving a target volume of climbing, you are then in a position to consider how your fitness is developing and the type and intensity of climbing you are doing in each session. Books, online training articles and advice from here may make more sense at that stage than they do now.
Post edited at 00:06

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