I get asked a lot how to get fit or get better at climbing. Most of the time my answer is the same; unless you are prepared to start a specific training plan just do more. In May last year I had a little accident where I made quite a mess of my foot. I did write a Daring Deed about it but Kenny said it was life ending and anyone reading it would stop climbing forever, so I’ll leave the gory bits out this time. So be prepared people, this is basically about how I am going to get back to fitness.
I have had almost 9 months doing nothing and I mean nothing, I start a new job February and I need to be fit. I started doing some training at the start of December which basically gives me 2 full months to get a reasonable amount of fitness. If you’re not interested then stop now, if you want a miracle then you might as well stop now, otherwise please carry on.
A little bit about my rest period
I basically fell and rearranged my foot. After 11 days in hospital and 4 months on crutches with no weight baring activity on my ankle I went through a lot of muscle wastage, gained a severe limp and honed my drinking skills! I didn’t do a single bit of exercise which I fully regret now. I used to have good core and a six pack, now I have a keg and a limp.
My plan for getting fit included 5 days in a gym and resting at the weekend, no weights just cardio exercise, mainly on the cross trainer, as this is no impact. This is a twenty minute session followed by a ten minute session on the bike, once this is finished I try my hardest not to throw up and clean the sweaty mess up from the floor.
I’m trying to climb at least twice a week; this is no bouldering funny enough, crap sport anyway! Just top roping on a tight rope (non impact again) and this session is around 1 hour including a coffee break.
One session a week is on a campus board, now whoa I hear you say, a campus board! This is very specific training, I am making it very easy, my feet are on resin holds at the bottom and I am going no higher than the third rung in case I fall off (I don’t have the best track record). I am doing one minute on, one minute off around eight times on the largest rungs. My hands walk up the rungs until rung 3 then walk back down again, with feet on big holds, this slowly builds up my finger strength and get’s me pumped out of my mind. Do it if you want, if it’s too hard make it way easier, if anything hurts don’t do it, use common sense.
So is this my magical plan to get fit? In short YES! How am I finding it? Life ending! What is my plan now? Well I’m going to do more, I’m going to do more reps of everything until I see improvement and it becomes easy and then I’m going to make it harder.
A few simple rules in training;
Extent before intent; do lots more reps before making the exercise harder.
Power, then endurance, then stamina; you can’t do a long stamina session then expect to do power moves at your limit so plan with this in mind. Think powerful stuff first, then endurance second and then stamina last.
A typical week could look thus;
- Monday nine hours campusing rungs 1 to 9 double handed (Power)
- Wednesday doing circuits around boulder problems. (Endurance)
- Friday doing easy routes but high reps on the big wall for 20 hours (Stamina)
- Start of the week power ending in stamina with two days rest at the end. Then starting again.
- Fingers, body tension, arms and don’t forget those trusty legs!
- 1 - 8 moves, 1 - 45 secs, maximum forces, isotonic or isometric
Power Endurance (high intensity endurance) circuits are good for this.
- 15 - 60 moves / 45 secs > 2 1/2 minutes
- Sustained (eg: indoor sport routes)
- Not possible to shake-out
Stamina (low intensity endurance) Long routes or just going up and down to get the required amount of moves.
- 60 moves + / 3mins +
- Sustained or fluctuating intensity
- Shaking-out essential
From here you can get a good idea of how a training plan works, all you need to do is tailor it to yourself. If you are good at bouldering but pants at routes then get on the ropes. Don’t expect to see instant results, it takes time and lots of effort. Top climbers don’t just expect it to happen, they train… or at least most of them do, some are just born mutants.
I hope this comes in useful and not too boring and good luck to anyone getting fit for the first time, (you lazy people) or those attempting to get back to fitness. I am now setting up a website to share my knowledge about climbing related injuries with climbers. In my eyes this field is still in it’s infancy stage and often doctors, physiotherapists and other practitioners do not necessarily understand what stresses we as climbers are putting onto our bodies.
If you have some time perhaps you could fill in my survey. It shouldn’t take too long and the contents of the website will revolve around the results. Hopefully people will find the content useful and aid recovery and rehabilitation.