In this article, husband, father of two, owner of two business and AMI Chairman, John Kettle looks into how time-starved climbers can still get the most out of their climbing through using their time efficiently.
In reply to UKC Articles: Hi, thanks, this a very interesting article and I can relate to many of the things you said being in a very similar position clearly.
You didn't tell us though what your goals were and whether you achieved them in this timeframe etc, would be interesting to know, otherwise it remains quite generic / theoretical. It's the concepts I teach my students, but there are always obstacles in implementing plans. Just curious about what you set out to achieve , i.e. your smart goals and whether you achieved them? Be very nice to know,
Ps your injury list puts mine to shame! You are probably trying a lot harder than me.....
I also found the article interesting (as a father to a newborn I'm finding free time thin on the ground).
I have a couple of minor things to add, based on my experience with training in the past. The first is regarding injury. I've noticed that as I get older (and I still consider myself pretty young!) I am capable of injuring my fingers much more easily than I used to, especially indoors. So despite the fact that short, intensive session are appealing, the importance of warming up properly cannot be overstated. I personally would find 9 finger tweaks in one year to be 8 too many.
The second is regarding diet and weight. Since becoming a father I have not really looked after myself as well as I should and I am a good three or four kilos over my fighting weight. Losing weight is something that doesn't require time, just discipline, but it can make a big difference to your climbing. So I'm planning to cut out the cakes (although maybe after christmas!)
In reply to UKC Articles: Generally a good article but a couple of points:
After a year on my 6 hours a week schedule I’d gone from a five month lay-off to eating three pies and bouldering V10/font 7c+.
A bit of context would be useful. If your previous best prior to the layoff was Font 8A+ then this isn't very impressive but if it was Font 7b+ then it is.
Also: Climbing is fundamentally a skill based activity so fingerboards, campus boards, weights and core workouts only work as a supplement to a high volume of quality climbing movement,
This observation is regularly trotted out but I don't think it applies to everyone. For the time poor stale lifer with good technique who is relatively weak for the grade then targeting fundamental strength gains via isolation training may be the only realistic place left to go
I also liked it. I'd be interested in tips / tricks on fitting work/life together. I work in a fairly flexible company, often from home and am beginning to think I might try and use my wall cafe as an office using their wifi. I can then get to the wall on a lunchtime, work there in the afternoon and then climb straight away. little tips/tricks for this would be interesting to see.
In reply to Nick Russell: I think other context is still important. He might have bouldered much harder in the past and have great technique. A bit of fitness/strength is regained, and there might be easy progression.
> He might have improved a bit but 5 full days climbing in a year (and 3 of them sport) doesn't sound like a success to me!
This is rather the point of the article, which clearly you have missed. Climbing is obviously just one facet of his life (family and cycling being just two others which he mentions specifically, then there is work, socialising etc).
When full climbing days are few and far between, making the most of them becomes a priority. Some people enjoy pushing their grade when climbing (this is especially true with sport climbing) and the article discusses ways of ensuring that you can be in the best possible shape to take advantage of those precious days.
So while you may not judge his success as something you would proud of, perhaps you might consider that other people have different priorities in life, at different times of their lives.
I thought this was quite inspiring; it made me get out a piece of paper and jot down goals for next year. I'm not sure about the pies though. The few times my wife and I break into a new grade we have a bottle of cheap cava. My only champagne (cheap cava) route last year was the Weedkiller Traverse at Raven Tor.
Thanks for the comments, glad to see it's provoked some thought. To answer some questions:
My previous best ever was font 7b
My goal was to boulder font 7c (2 pies!)
Shark: "I don't think it applies to everyone. For the time poor stale lifer with good technique who is relatively weak for the grade then targeting fundamental strength gains via isolation training may be the only realistic place left to go"
You could be right, AFAIK there's no solid evidence on either side, anecdotally I've never met or coached anyone for whom that's been the case, so it's my default starting position.
Presumably you are aware of Eva Lopez ? and the success she has personally had from deadhanging which is very much evidence based. This can only be a complementary (or even dominant)as opposed to supplementary activity as you have to factor in prior rest to achieve the intensity required in the sessions to reap the training response.
Etak12 Dec 2013
In reply to John Kettle:
What john doesnt mention cos he is too modest is the power of a bit of coaching. I had some last year ( from john) took some of his training advice and climbed harder than i ever have, actually got technically better for the first time in ten years, and fell in love with bouldering
In reply to shark: From Eva's own paper: "These methods were not intended to substitute conventional climbing training but rather to serve as an additional resource for strength training. Afterwards, the other technical and physical training for that session was carried out."
Shark - "as you have to factor in prior rest to achieve the intensity required in the sessions to reap the training response."
Fair assumption perhaps, but this is not 'very much evidence based' if you're basing this on her MAW/MED paper since she doesn't test alternatives. Also, given the high variety of other training involved in that paper, I'd be careful about drawing any strong conclusions from the paper at all. Personally I think you've taken from it exactly what you wanted to take from it, irrespective of whether it's actually valid or not, and that this is holding back your training.
Since her original paper she has subsequently done a lot of coaching, blogging, written a deadhanging programme to accompany her fingerboard and broken new grades.
Yes I've taken from it what I want - an efficient and effective method of improving max finger strength which I perceive is my main weakness and therefore worth focussing on alongside bouldering as I can get endurance back fairly easily.
I would quite like to chat with you about this at some stage but not here.
Thanks for a great article John.
I'm inspired again to put more effort in. A combination of pretty stressful job, a 4 month old and a series of months climbing badly had left me wondering whether or not to just cut my losses and jack it in.
Particularly good to see that you've manged to make some progress despite not managing to make it out much at all.
John, I was pretty inspired by this and started writing a plan for next year (7 month old, new role at work struggling with work/life/climbing balance) so thanks. Having a current best of 7B and a goal of 7C/7C+ makes it all the more pretinent!
However, having checked your website, you appear to be a climbing coach/MIC. Wouldn't you say that the fact that your job includes so much climbing (not at 7C+ levels but all good movement training and sport specific active rest) gives you somewhat of a head start compared with us desk bound weekend warriors?
In a word, yes. I would say that the learning I've gained from studying climbing made a much greater difference than the physiological gains from regular walking/scrambling and doing countless moves of uk 4b on slabby terrain. The knowledge is out there and yours for the taking if you are motivated enough. I may be wrong, but you'll only know if you try it!
In reply to John Kettle: Thanks for this. I'm very much your target audience. Some useful points and some I would take issue with. Perhaps just you do the A in SMART better than I do but it might be worth mentioning that there are two major factors in your favour.
Firstly, you live and work close to real rock and therefore "a high volume of quality climbing movement, and mostly at an elite level.." is relatively easy to timetable in work and family-friendly chunks. Secondly, bouldering is much more amenable to being trained in short, sharp bursts of activity than on-sighting stamina-fests and, especially, trad*. Show me a time-poor E6* on-sighter who lives in London and I'll pay attention to what they do. 7B to 7C+ certainly attracts my attention, but is not really what I'm interested in.
*not pseudo-highballs for the purpose of this exercise.
Hi flaneur, I agree with all your points (although you have misquoted me). The point of the article is to challenge peoples preconceptions about what can be acheived with little time. Geographical location is one of many factors that will affect your progress, as is the climbing discipline you choose.
In reply to John Kettle: Great stuff. Hopefully more pies for you next year, I think I' d go for sausages instead, never really got the pies! As I said great article, very applicable to all those timescarce, keen parent etc climbers.
I think its a bit more subtle than that. If you've just got an hour down the wall, then you can either spend it bouldering and doing deadhangs, or you can traverse endlessly on overhanging jugs. Doing the former improves my bouldering grade, doing the latter improves my route grade (especially for the long limestone sport routes out here).
The main difficulty for the time restricted climber is day-long stamina. If you are used to climbing in hour long chunks, then a day out is exhausting! Thats why i think the OP's approach is interesting, as its basically focusing on the aspect of the sport which most rewards short bursts - but thats not to say that training stamina is impossible.
Thanks for this, John. I fit in your target audience. I get out on rock about once every two weeks for half a day and train at most once a week for about 2 hours. I totally agree that it is still possible to improve even with time as limited as mine is, if you are focussed. I have gone from E2 to E4 (max grade) since being in this position and it is down to strategy. I took up sport climbing in the summer (despite not really enjoying it that much) instead of bumbling around in poor conditions on grit. I choose problems at the bouldering wall that were at my limit as soon as I was warmed up, etc..
I have found I am stronger and technique is still improving. This is probably due in part to the intensive sessions at the bouldering wall. My question is this: How do I do intensive sessions if I want to improve stamina? At the bouldering wall at 45 degrees back, on indoor routes doing 4 by 4s or single routes at my limit at the wall? Ideas anyone?
As I have implied, I am pretty happy with my current progress, but I just know that I would get shut down by a steep E1 more than 10m high.
In reply to Cake: Firstly well done on your continued improvement! In terms of training stamina in intensive sessions, 4x4s are a good starting point, which I would fine-tune to suit your specific stamina needs (no. of moves, time on a route etc). this booklet of interval training for climbers is a good place to begin: http://www.climbstrong.com/store/products/12
In reply to UKC Articles: Hi John and I'm afraid I've bad news for you mate, I speak from experience in that I'm 75 and though I'm still climbing (low grades that is) I did suffer like you from what you listed as minor injuries from years back, they have now come back to haunt me through Arthur... arthritis that is but keep active my friend that's the answer.
You'll still get it though not as bad, Happy Climbing Zigzag
Great article John, thanks for sharing your experiences.
Spending a shed load of time training hard is fun when your performance on outside improves rapidly, but when it slows down it offten is enough to stop us in our tracks and forces us to re-evaluate our commitments to training... rather than re-evaluate our training content!