Thursday, September 15, 2011

Training and Fitness

I have been reading a lot of information about strength training and how it can be applied to climbing. Recently I have been discussing training routines with friends and how gains can be made in climbing.  Several schools of thought exist  in the climbing community based on training and how it quantifies as climbing improvements.  I am not out to disprove or prove anything about training and how it affects individual improvements and gains in climbing rather, this will be an attempt to explain my views on climbing and strength training, how I have improved my own climbing, what I have learned from others and good practices.  These are just my views and what I believe to have helped me get to where I am today.
Climbers are not unlike other none team athletes such as tennis players, weight lifters, golfers, pro skaters, surfers etc.  All of these sports including climbing require a great deal of skill that can be gained by experience and careful strengthening of targeted muscle groups associated to the specific sport.  It is also important to note that some of the strongest athletes also spend a great deal of time cross training opposing muscle groups not used in their sports to maintain balance, promote fitness and prevent injury. General fitness and strength gain have always been my goal.  I believe that the stronger you are as an athlete the stronger you are as an individual.  To quote a good friend of mine "If you are not strong, you are weak".  If a training routine is planned and executed correctly, the result of a systematic exercise is improvement of the athlete's physical fitness, particularly strength, as the body adapts to physical load.  In a broad sense, adaptation or the adjustment of an organism to its environment. If the environment changes the organism changes to better survive in the new conditions. "Science and Practice of Strength Training" Vladimir M Zatsiorsky, William J. Kraemer  
Climbing is a unique sport because it doesn't require you to be any particular body type and no baseline fitness level exists to be an amazing athlete.  Take for instance the following well known professional climbers Chris Sharma, Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson and Fred Nicole.  All of the climbers that I listed have entirely different body types but all are incredible athletes pushing the limits in the sport.  I am not nearly as strong as those people but I use their achievements as motivation as to what is possible.
When I train I look at several things, first what are my goals for training.  If I have a general goal such as lock off strength I warm up and then spend 10 - 20min working on that specific skill.   In the example I gave I would spend time on my fingerboard practicing lock offs until failure on several different holds on each arm.  If I have a more specific goal such as a particular route or boulder problem that I need strength for, I will find out what I need to do to train those weakness so that I can successfully complete the route or boulder problem.   Second and for me the most important... maybe this should be number one?  When do I plan on climbing and projecting? When it comes down to it thats what I love to do and why I am training in the first place.  Once I figure out what the weather is going to do for the week I make my schedule and begin my routine.  I haven't really subscribed to any set days of climbing and training but I do have good friends that do have schedules and they seem to work for them.  For example, some of my friends will climb two days on one day rest with a day of training mixed in.  Others have a one day on and one day off schedule.  I like to keep each week slightly different and really listen to how hard I am pushing myself so that I don't get a negative response, over-train and end up with an injury.  I mix up routines on rings, push exercises and lifting, sprints, climbing and body weight exercises.  I wish I had a magic equation to share but honestly my training changes every week and I try and change it as much as possible.
Nutrition is inevitably brought up at some point in conversation about training and as I have no college degree in nutrition only practical application and experience my ranting is pretty much just a look at how I plan my meals.  Several of my close friends are very health conscious and watch what they eat very carefully.  Others are exactly opposite and eat whatever whenever with no regard to basic nutrition principles that we all learned in grade school.  I fall somewhere in between these two tribes.  I am a strong believer in moderation.  Balances exist in nature all around us and are create harmony for creatures that live and thrive in them.  I try and balance my diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, meats and some dairy.  I try and stay away from sugar as much as possible but anyone who knows me and has seen me house an entire bag of swedish fish or gummy worms can attest that I am full of crap.  In any case I feel pretty good about staying aware of what I am consuming because after all, we are what we eat.
My motivation comes from multiple sources and I try to stay psyched, motivated and maintain a desire to succeed.  I have seen it first hand in my own climbing and in others, its not just enough to have a goal and develop a program to reach your goal because before you know it you will have succeeded or stopped training because some goals were to ambitious.  This is where I believe that motivation and direction from a coach can help to improve gains.  I subscribe to an overall desire to have fun and better myself and that is really what its about for me.  I am not the strongest climber on the field but I love to climb and I love seeing people get psyched about climbing.  I enjoy sharing my passion for the sport and I hope that everyone can experience the same joy I get out of it.  One thing is certain, I have a long way to go at becoming the best that I can be and I am psyched about the journey.

I have been spending the past month training with some of the strongest athletes in the country and Summit Strength has been helping me make gains in climbing and maintaining a balance so that I do not get injured.  If you are looking for additional training information or training direction check out Summit Strength Training.    Brad of Summit Strength is a training consultant for climbers all across the country and develops programs that increase strength and promote general fitness.  If you are a climber or athlete looking to make strength gains with a direction and emphasis on climbing you should talk to Brad.

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