Your Questions

Round 72

Q: My question regards the 4-3-2-1 training schedule. During the 4 weeks of endurance training, I’m wondering if my fingerboard workouts should be geared toward endurance also? I have been doing weighted workout outs on my fingerboards and HIT strips during this phase I was just wondering if that is the correct approach. –Rusty (Oklahoma)

A: Hi Rusty, During the 4-week stamina phase everything should be endurance oriented….climbing routes, running/aerobics, doing long bodyweight (or less) set of exercises on fingerboard, climbing wall, etc. Save the weighted exercises, HIT, and such for the 3-week strength phase—-you’ll get better results this way.

Q: Hi Eric, One training day I went surfing in the morning for about an hour. That afternoon I went to the local gym and climbed a full bouldering grade harder I sent many problems I had been working (approx 5) all of them back to back. The next week I was climbing back at my normal ability completely unable to send any of those problems. I had not surfed in months and the time spent surfing was about half the normal session so I had nil surfing fitness. Also there was about 5 hours of relaxation between the surfing and climbing. I regularly climb at that gym once a week and climb out doors on the weekend. Some friends think I warmed up my core better – I was moving more freely and relaxed. Also my shoulders where still quite tired from the surfing. So the question is what changed and how can I climb like that normally? –David (Australia)

A: Hi David, I agree with your friends–I think you were more loose, warmed-up, and “centered” after surfing. Although I haven’t surfed, I have had a similar experience in having a brilliant session climbing a couple hours after a long run (which I thought would make me too tired to climb hard). Obviously, climbing performance is a very complex thing…and it’s nice to “discover” those rare days when things line up just right to achieve peak performance.
Really, I suspect it’s as much a mental phenomena as it is physical. That is, more than your muscles being warmed up…perhaps it was your mind and soul that were warmed into the zone by a great surfing session. I’ve spent a lot of time researching/thinking about these things in recent years…and I just finished a new book on the subject that I suspect you will enjoy. The book is called Maximum Climbing: Mental Training for Peak Performance and Optimal Experience. I delve into all the subjects alluded to above (and more)! It will be out in April 2010. Thanks for writing, and I wish you many more of those “optimal” days on the water and rock!

Q: Hi Eric! I have several of your books, and they have all been very inspiring. I am mainly a boulderer, but I have always been prone to injury in all sports (running, kayaking, mountain biking, x-country skiing). But now I have found ways to live and cope with my climbing related injuries. My climbing career have been on and off, due to family priorities and the before mentioned injuries. Now I have started to systematically train for climbing according to the principles in your books. I know how to deal with my old (38) injury-prone body, and I can find the time to climb/boulder at the gym, or train on my campus or hangboard 3-4 times a week. In the season I intend to boulder/climb outside 1-3 times a week. My questions are as follows. When comparing bouldering to climbing I often feel that there are a lot of things contributing to being unable to send a route vs. on a boulder I often feel that it comes down to being able to pull a single hold, or reaching a hold (I am 172cm tall, weight:66kg) And also I feel that I have to be stronger in my fingers than some taller people, because I have to step higher, putting more pressure on my fingers, in order to reach the next hold. Do you see the need for pure strength to be more important for a boulderer or should the training be the same as for a sport route (up to 25 meters) climb. I also wonder what it is that makes so many motivated climbers/boulderers to stay on the same plateau. They seem to train well, bouldering several nights a week, pushing it with good friends, some of them seem pretty strong (bouldering V8) but I still wonder why they don´t get even stronger, after years of hard bouldering. Is it genetics, lack of planned training, or something in between? –Jim (Norway)

A: Jim, You sound like a wise climber with a well-rounded life. I’m kind of in the same mode as you with regard to family, aging and injury. Developing the intuition to know when and what you can do in climbing, without getting injured, is key. As a rule, dynamic training and massive volume sessions are what will get you injured, especially in middle-age and beyond. Proper rest and nutrition makes a difference, too…as does luck! Yes, bouldering is more about power, whereas roped climbing requires a broader mastery of technique and the mind. Thus, I think roped climbing is the better focus for people like you and I as we move into middle age–we can leverage our skill and wisdom to climb hard despite physical constraints. Sure, bouldering is a great training mode for roped climbing…but roped climbing is a bigger puzzle to put together…so much more than just power. Bouldering is more straightforward, and we are more likely to be limited by genetics and other physical constraints (injury, etc). I hope this makes sense!

Q: I was Bouldering yesterday at Worthless Boulder in Central Park and did a V6. I have been climbing a lot recently but have been resting enough to let my muscles recover. I climb generally 2 days on and a day off, generally they are lighter days because I don’t go to the gym where I would get a more intense workout. I warmed up and finished sending a v6 and then moved to another boulder nearby, I grabbed a jug with my right hand and made a reach with my left and immediately the left inside of my wrist and up my forearm started to have a very sharp pain that immediately told me to readjust my grip, that didn’t work and the sharp pain just came back worse the more weight I put down. I was wondering if you knew what this symptom is and what to do about it. –Alex (New York)

A: Hi Alex, Hard climbing can cause some strange pains, just as you’ve experienced. Sometimes it’s something totally benign, like a compressed nerve causing a strange feeling (like you felt) or a numbness similar to hitting your funny bone. Other times you can get more serious causes of pain, such as tendon, ligament, or muscle tweaks. These can happen acutely, or develop gradually due to overtraining (under resting). When in the moment (climbing) it’s often hard to tell what’s going on…and it’s common to climb on despite the pain. Ultimately you’ll need to assess how you feel after the climb–the next day or week. If the pain continues, then there’s obviously something going on that needs attended to (or rested). If the pain subsides in a few hours or days, then it’s probably just one of those strange benign climbing tweaks. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t diagnose your situation. See a doctor if the pain doesn’t improve (or gets worse).

Q: I don’t have so much time to train (4 small kids); I go to gym 1 – 2 times per week for 2 hours each and I now have a small home wall on which I could climb 1/2 – 1 hour every day. Could you give me some tips on how to train to most effectively and what I would be best to train in order to get better. I mostly climb short trad routes. –Rolf (Denmark)

A: Hello Rolf, I have two young boys, so I know your time constraints. A home wall is a great thing! However, you do not want to climb on it daily. Instead, you should do a 2 days on, 1 day off or every other day workout schedule. You could focus on hard boulder problems on your wall for a week, then do endurance climbing (laps around your wall) for a week, and repeat. Or, you can do bouldering/power on day 1 and the next day do endurance climbing. Then take a rest day and repeat. Hope this helps. Good luck!