In Part 1 of this series of we determined that aerobic endurance is important to our climbing ability – especially for route climbers. Make sure to go back and read part 1 before moving on to this discussion on sport specific vs. general endurance training.
Comparing Sport – Specific and General Endurance Training
When you ask “can running help my climbing?” you are drawing on the broader question of which is more beneficial: sport specific or general endurance training? Should your endurance training be completely sport specific? Or can general endurance training help your climbing as well? Let’s draw on research to answer this question.
A Study on Cross Training: Running and Swimming
In a study on the effects of cross training for runners, 30 highly trained individuals (20 men, 10 women) were randomly selected to add 10% volume to their training regimen for endurance running for 8 weeks . Half the group added swimming workouts to their training, the other half, additional running.
Summarily, those that ran more to get better at running, got better at running. Whereas those that swam and ran to get better at running, did not improve as much.
Let’s look at another similar study on running and cycling.
Cross Training for Running with Cycling
In another interesting study, eleven female distrance runners in a 5 week off-season period were given low-intensity training protocols. One group participated in a running-only training plan while the other group performed 50% of their training volume on a bike and the other 50% running. The objective was to determine the effects of the differing protocols on maintaining 3,000 meter run times as well as VO2 max.
The result? Upon returning to in-season practice, the running-only group was 14s faster in the 3,000M run than the running and cycling group. Though changes in cardiovascular indicators (VO2 max) were not significantly different between the two groups. However, the cycling group was substantially slower than the running group when returning to in-season training.
Now let’s examine a case study on the one and only, cardio God, Lance Armstrong.
Lance Armstrong is pretty OK at Running (for being Lance Armstrong)
World class cyclist, Lance Armstrong, is not above going places on foot. Though frankly, he had better not quit his day job. Despite having a VO2 Max that most long-distance runners only dream of, Lance in his prime would not have been able to hop off the bike and onto a marathon circuit without some sport-specific training. Lance’s cycling was clearly world-class, but his marathon times put him only at the cusp of being a professional athlete in the distance running world.
Lance’s New York City Marathon Time was 2:46:43 in 2006. By comparison, the fastest time in the 2018 New York City Marathon was much faster at 2:05:59. Lance is a world class cyclist, certainly. But Lance’s cardiovascular system wasn’t sufficient for him to be a celebrated international phenomena in the running circuit as well.
Perhaps if Lance had trained specifically for running he would have been out there winning long distance running events in the Olympics. However, this example is given to show that just because Lance had impeccable general endurance, it was not enough to propel him into the highest echelons of long-distance cycling and running. General endurance is not the only factor contributing to success in endurance sports.
Thanks to the Kris Hampton at the Power Company and Steve Bechtel for pointing out Lance’s running career that I was wholly unaware until listening to their podcast episode.
Conclusions from the Research
The moral of the story is that sport specificity is very important. From these studies and our discussion of Mr. Armstrong, we can conclude that having exceptional general cardiovascular capability is not sufficient to excel at specific sports. General endurance training does not translate extremely well between running and cycling (and these sports are somewhat mechanically similar – more so than running and climbing). The idea that running endurance translates well to climbing doesn’t hold much weight when you look at the research. But don’t just take it from me, the authors of the Rock Climber’s Training Manual agree as well.
“The training must be climbing specific in order to develop muscular endurance that is relevant to climbing.”
Think about the last time you climbed something hard enough where your forearms were so pumped that you fell off the wall? Were you panting like you would be in an all out sprint? My guess is no. But your forearms gave out, did they not?
Although general endurance is important to climbing, certainly, the weakest link in you climbing endurance is going to be found in your forearms.
“All climbing activites will benefit from improved capacity for aerobic respiration within the muscle fibers. However, this characteristic must be specific to the muscles used (mostly the forearms) for it to be relevant to cllimbing. The whole body’s systematic capacity for aerobic respiration is largely irrelevant in rock climbing, while the aerobic capacity of the muscle cells within the forearm is of utmost importance.”
But this is not to say that running can’t help, right? If you have a little bit of time to run, you enjoy it, and you simply can’t tax your fingers any more, then perhaps a little running can’t hurt.
Stay tuned for part 3 of this series where I go into detail on how to effectively implement running in your training routine. I’ll also address some miscellaneous topics such as running for weight loss and cardio adaptations to Alpine environments.
Make sure to subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss out on Part 3 of this series on running. And give me a follow on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date on when new posts are out!
Leave me a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know your thoughts on running and climbing. I would love to hear from you!
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My friend Shannon stumbled into the apartment dripping in sweat and red in the face. She had just finished watching Brave Heart. But unlike most people who sweat while watching television, Shannon was perspiring from running her way through a three hour Mel Gibson classic. You see, Shannon likes to run. This emotion is a complete mystery to me, though I understand that many would find my enjoyment of hanging by my fingertips on small bits of plastic equally as mystifying.
Despite my displeasure with running, I know there are many of you who find it very enjoyable. So the question I want to dig into here is how running and climbing do or do not cooperate in the pursuit of making you a better climber. I have gathered a variety of research, opinions, and angles to answer the big question: can running really help your climbing?
There is a lot to cover, so this post will be broken up into at least two parts. With that, let’s start with our first conundrum: the limitations of time.
24 Hours in a Day
The first consideration to make is that there are only so many hours in a day, days in a week, and weeks in a year. So if you are going to spend time running, but you only have a few hours per week to train, think carefully about how you spend your time. It is likely that spending more time climbing is going to make you better at climbing. (See the rule of 75/25). As Steve Bechtel so famously said:
“Running for climbing is as important as climbing is for running. You can see how ludicrous that sounds. If you want to get better at the Boston Marathon you should hit the rock gym? No.”
We’ll get into that a bit more later, but this is certainly a point of view worth considering.
You can’t be good at everything all the time
Do you ever notice that in your life, when you try to be good at your job, be a good friend, train really hard for climbing, eat healthy, manage your money responsibly, raise your kids, make regular dentist appointments, take showers – you end up with a mediocre performance in one of these areas? ( For reference, I’m super shitty at the dentist appointments and the showers – oh well). Apply the same concept to climbing. If you are trying to send your absolute hardest and do your first marathon in the same couple of months, both pursuits will end in sub-maximal performance.
We have a limited amount of adaptation potential and how hard you push in all of these different directions limits how much you can push in other directions.
Bottom Line If you want to be the best climber you can be, you can’t be the best runner you can be at the same time.
The Deal with Endurance
If you are an avid runner and you have not left this blog post yet, I have good news. There is a perspective among trainers that supports the claim that running can help improve your climbing. But before we get into that, let’s define a few terms: aerobic energy system, Adenosine triphosphate, and VO2 Max.
Aerobic Energy System
Here’s a quick and dirty definition of the aerobic energy system if you are not familiar. Aerobic literally means “with oxygen”. The aerobic energy system is the body’s energy production pathway that uses oxygen. This system is characterized by long-term energy output at relatively low intensities e.g. efforts lasting longer than 5 minutes like rowing, cycling, running over long distances. (see TeachPE.Com)
Check out the video below if you want a 2 minute explanation of the aerobic energy system.
Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP)
For the purposes of this article, all you need to know is that Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the fuel your muscles need to contract in order to produce movement. ATP is to our muscles as diesel is to a semi truck. If you want to read more about this complex organic molecule, see here.
What is VO2 Max?
VO2 Max, or Maximal Volume of oxygen is a measure of the amount of oxygen and individual can use during intense exercise. It is measured in volume of oxygen that can be consumed per mass of body weight over time. It is a general measurement used to determine aerobic fitness – or the capacity of your aerobic energy system.
Average Range of VO2 Max: 30-40 mL of oxygen per kg per minute Lance Armstrong’s VO2 Max: 85mL of oxygen per kg per minute Advanced Climbers(5.12 and Beyond): 45-50mL of oxygen per kg per minute
Phil Watts, an original gangster of climbing research, did a study to investigate the oxygen consumption of climbers.
The method: Subjects were set to climb moderate terrain (80 degree slab and 102 degree slightly overhanging). A critique of the study, as pointed out by Eric Horst in his podcast, was that the climbers were not very experienced and the routes were not very challenging.
The result: Climbers showed a VO2 max consumption of 30 mL/kg per minute – the average VO2 Max for the American Couch Potato. Form this, Watts determined that climbing is not an exceptional cardiovascular challenge. (See Training for Climbing Podcast Episode 20 )
But no so fast, Phil. We can’t toss out our running shoes yet. In a later 2003 paper, Watts provided an update. In his 2003 paper, the maximal oxygen consumption of climbers was studied again. This time, VO2 Max during difficult efforts was reported to be much higher, with climbers demonstrating maximal oxygen consumption at upwards of 43-50 ml/kg-min during efforts on difficult and steep terrain. This is a far cry from the results of the original study.
From this we can determine that during our hardest ascents, our aerobic energy system is certainly put to the test. In Eric Horst’s review of the subject, he posits that upwards of 50% of our energy production (ATP production) comes from the aerobic energy pathway. Heretofore, a well-trained aerobic energy system is critical to climbing hard. (See Phil’s 2003 research paper)
The Verdict A well-trained aerobic energy system is critical to climbing hard.
Where Everyone Agrees on Aerobic Fitness
Although the methods of how best to train the aerobic energy system as a climber are somewhat controversial, most trainers generally agree on the benefits of being an aerobically fit athlete.
“More aerobically fit climbers via generalized aerobic training recovered faster at rests on routes and between boulder problems.”
There is an accord that aerobic fitness is important to climbing and the research agrees too. Practically speaking, if the thirty minute hike to the crag with the rope on your back saps your energy for the day, you’ve got bigger problems to worry about than the sub-optimal rest hold on your project. The controversy comes in when we discuss how to obtain aerobic fitness: in a specific or generalized way.
Do you enjoy running? Do you hate it? Are you thinking about incorporating it into your training? Leave a note or shoot me an email at email@example.com, I would love to hear from you and discuss.
We’ve all felt it. Your forearms feel like a time bomb. You’ve done all the moves on your project but for some reason you can’t link it all together. You’re left one-hanging over and over and you can’t figure out why.
The solution could implicate many factors. It might be mental, it may be some sub-par beta that you need to let go of, or it might be that you don’t have enough power endurance. It’s probably a combination of these. But today, we will address one of them. So let’s get into it by answering a big question: what is power endurance?
Defining Power Endurance
In NERD TERMS (or scientific terms) this is the anaerobic lactic energy system. If you want to get deep into the biochemistry and learn literally all about it check out Eric Horst’s Energy System Podcast on this Energy System. If you don’t want to learn about ATP and Lactate and glycolysis, etc. That’s OK too. Just read on.
Let’s take a crash course in the three energy systems VERY QUICKLY before we get into the weeds on power endurance. Please note that I am intentionally oversimplifying this because I think you can get by and apply these concepts to your training without being overwhelmed by exercise science and physiology.
With, that let’s start with the alactic energy system.
Alactic Energy System (Power)
Think explosive, short term power. This energy pathway does not require oxygen. Examples include a 5 move boulder problem or a 1 rep max deadlift, a 10 second sprint interval. Short, maximal power = anaerobic energy system. This energy system will output for about 8-12 seconds before your body has to bring in another energy pathway as backup.
Aerobic Energy System (Endurance)
Think sustained, long-term efforts. Like marathons, long multi-pitch routes, or swimming long distances. Endurance sports mainly use the aerobic energy system. This energy system can be the primary source of energy production for extended periods of time
Anaerobic Lactic System (Power Endurance)
In practical terms, the Power Endurance energy system is the primary energy system that is being used when you are in a sequence of near-maximal effort for a period of time that ranges from 30s – 3 minutes. Think of it in terms of the crux of a route or how you feel on a long boulder problem – or maybe in terms of a 400 meter sprint. I like to think if it as going at 80%-90% maximum capacity for as long as I possibly can. Here is how the Anderson brothers explain it:
“When the limits of aerobic respiration are reached, the muscle increasingly (but not exclusively) relies on glycolysis, which doesn’t require oxygen. On difficult near limit rock climbs, this threshold is reached very quickly and the pump clock begins to tick.” – The Rock Climber’s Training Manual pg. 153
Summarily, if you train to increase the capacity of your power endurance, you can add time to your own proverbial pump clock. This will help you stay on the wall through crux sequences and long boulder problems.
If you really want to learn more about the energy systems and you have 7 minutes to geek out. Please do! Go ahead and watch this video.
How to Train Power Endurance
Training power endurance is done by simulating the intensity and length of crux sequences by using repeated intervals of intense work with little rest in between. Think of taking 80% of the hardest moves you can do and being able to stretch your ability to work at this level of intensity as far as it will go. Here are a couple of experts explaining this style of training:
“Unlike endurance, where you have a manageable pump, in training power endurance you will become very pumped to the point of possibly coming off the wall…” -Jackie Pettitt
“Continuous difficult bouldering or climbing — with only brief shakeouts–that produces muscular failure in approximately two to five minutes is the preferred training method.” – Eric Horst, How to Climb 5.12 pg. 62
There are tons of different ways to train power endurance. Here are a few of my favorites. Note that these are difficult sessions, so be sure to be well warmed up before performing any of these. Additionally, be prepared to take a good rest day afterwards.
This is my go-to Power/Strength Endurance session. I do this year round, except when it’s getting really close to send time in the fall – then I resort to other even more intense methods. For me, this is less intense than other forms of power endurance training. It is more about training the work capacity to do high-intensity movements for a long duration of time. E.g. working the limit moves on your project all day.
The workout goes like this: you set a timer and complete boulders 1-2 grades below your max on the minute every 3 minutes (if this does not feel intense enough, drop it down to 2 minutes).
At time 0:00 you will start climbing, then you will rest until your stopwatch says 3:00. You will then continue on at 6:00, 9:00, etc. until you complete 6 problems. After you complete your six boulder problems, rest for 10-15 minutes. Repeat the circuit (resting in between) three times.
Progressing this: You can progress this session by reducing time between boulders (going from 3 minutes to 2 minutes, etc.) or increasing the difficulty of the problems in the circuit. The idea is to make this session intense, so adding more boulders is not really the idea if you are trying to make this more difficult.
Pick a route that is 1-2 letter grades above your max onsight. For me, I would find a 5.11+ in the gym since my highest onsight is a 5.11a. Then, I would record how long it takes me to do one lap. I would start with a 1:2 work to rest ratio. I would complete 2-4 laps total. The workout would look like this.
Lap #1: 2 minutes. REST 4 minutes Lap #2: 2 minutes REST 4 Minutes Lap #3: 2 minutes Rest 4 Minutes
You get the picture.
How to progress this: The main way to progress this is to decrease the work to rest ratio. The goal would be to get this ratio from 1:2 to 1:1. You could also find a slightly harder route, but I find that it takes plenty of sessions to get from 1:2 to 1:1 – this should keep you pretty busy.
My FAVORITE way to train power endurance (and possibly the most dreadful) is the linked boulder circuit. This type of PE training is very intense and I do not participate in this year-round. This is how you do it.
Pick 2-3 boulder problems on the wall (you’re going to go down at least one of them). These should total 20-40 hand moves. The difficulty of the circuit should be such that you can complete the full circuit many times over. For example my limit as a boulderer is V6, my linked boulder circuits usually don’t include anything more difficult than V4. Here’s me performing a linked boulder circuit in the gym.
After you’ve figured out your circuit (make sure you’ve done the problems and rehearsed all the moves before you get started), get your timer ready. Complete the circuit and time how long it takes to do it. Start with a work to rest ratio of 1:2.
For a circuit of 20-40 hand move, perform it 6-8 times. For 40-60 hand moves, Perform the circuit 4-6 times.
Ground Rules: If you fall but you don’t feel too pumped, continue the circuit. If you completely pump out, end the circuit, check the time and record the number of hand moves (or just write down where you fell). Once you can’t complete 75% of the circuit, end the session.
Progressing the Circuit: Similar to the other sessions described here, you can progress by decreasing the work to rest ratio. The objective is going from 1:2 to 1:1. Additionally you can make the circuit harder by changing the order of problems in the circuit. If your circuit is Up V4-down V2- Up V3, you can increase the difficulty by doing the V3 first and putting the V4 at the end. Alternatively, you can make the circuit more difficult by increasing the difficulty of the problems in the circuit. E.g. swap out the V3 for a V4, etc
Although this is similar to the Bechtelian Power Endurance workout explained in #1, the 4×4 is a classic and must be included in this list.
The 4×4 is traditionally done with boulders. You proceed to do four slightly sub-maximal boulder problems right in a row. After completing them you rest for a time (I would say something similar to the 1:2 or 1:1 work to rest ratios we’ve discussed prior would be fine). And then you repeat the 4 boulders again. Do this until you have done 16 total routes.
It’s easy to remember and does a pretty good job for what it is.
How to progress the 4×4: Similar to the other sessions we’ve discussed, you can either make the problems more difficult OR you can shorten the rest interval. Either one should do the trick.
A Warning about 4x4s Although they are traditionally thought of as a classic power endurance workout, the rest after you come off the wall between boulders is not ideal.
“The 5 or more seconds that pass as the climber drops from as the climber drops from the end of one problem to start the next is a virtual eternity to battered forearms gasping for respite. These unrealistic rests reduce training stress and interfere with desired adaptation.” The Rock Climber’s Training Manual pg. 156
That being said, they are a simple session to implement and if simple gets you to commit to doing them consistently, then that’s great and there isn’t much else to argue about.
Power Endurance Training: Seasonal Timing
Personally, 4-8 weeks prior to fall outdoor climbing season is when I start focusing on Power Endurance Training. That is because my favorite fall climbing areas are the Red River Gorge – and more recently, Mallorca. These areas are generally steep and require one to make big, powerful moves when fatigued and “pumped out” if you will.
Essentially, for a relatively short period of time, your body makes adaptations so that you can “extend the pump clock” (in very simple non-biological terms). However, this type of training can be very stressful on the muscles and nervous system and these adaptations DO NOT last forever.
“Anaerobic endurance training places high levels of stress on the nervous system and muscles. Beyond a certain point, the body cannot recover from these workouts.” – Eric Horst, How to Climb 5.12 pg. 63
For most of these periodized programs, it is not recommended that you solely train this energy system (PE workouts 3-4 times per week) for more than 2-4 weeks.
Which brings me to non-linear periodization.
Programming Power Endurance for Non-Linear Periodization
I have been following a non-linear program for about a year now and it has been working well for me. My trips this fall are spread out and I basically need to have 3 spikes of solid power endurance for a trip to the Red River Gorge for Labor Day, a trip to Mallorca in October and another trip to the Red in November.
I am navigating this by emphasizing power endurance in my time leading up to these trips, but I continuing to train strength and endurance throughout the rest of the fall.
My tactic is pretty simple: overall, I am making sure to have one linked boulder circuit session per week and one route interval (lower intensity PE) per week. Then my other 1-2 sessions are used to maintain strength and low-end endurance.
Between the trips I am going to take complete rest weeks. My goal is to train up power endurance more as I get close to my ventures outdoors, but not to the point of overload.
A Word from the Experts
I took a lot of these queues from Steve Bechtel’s interview in Episode 110 of the TrainingBeta Podcast:
“If I was looking at my year, I’m going to spend probably two months trying to develop strength and power. I’m going to be working primarily on bouldering, on explosiveness, on the hangboard, all those sorts of things. We need to always be developing strength and power because there’s really good correlations between someone being stronger and their ability to endure submaximal loads. I can spend a lot of time working strength and power.
I’m going to take about a month after that. I’ve spent about eight weeks working strength and power and I’m going to take about four weeks and I can combine in some of this low intensity interval stuff at the end of sessions and stuff like that. Then, we go into a glycolytic peak. That’s when Mike and Mark [the brothers behind the Rock Climber’s training manual] would reduce rest periods and that’s when we can put in all of these basic things like boulder problem 4×4’s, linked problems, all those sorts of things but understanding that that’s this last little thing. It’s the frosting on the cake. If you’re a Mad Max fan, that’s the nitrous. The last little boost you give your engine but you can’t run the nitrous all the time or you’re going to burn the engine out.” –
Firstly, I hope you have learned about the different energy systems that contribute to your climbing. Having a basic understanding of the systems that get you up the wall is critical to becoming a better climber.
Secondly, I hope you’ve learned a few interesting sessions to incorporate into your time at the gym to help you improve on your projects this season.
And thirdly, I hope you’ve learned that you should strategically train power endurance so that you sustainably improve without wearing yourself out.
How do you like to train power endurance? Is this your first time hearing about energy systems in climbing? What has your experience been with power endurance training? Leave a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
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It was fall in the Red River Gorge. For those that have never been, it is famous (and infamous) for its overhanging walls of wonderful sandstone jugs, pockets, and plates. I was working on a 10d in Miller Fork–an overhanging jug haul. Great fun with wonderful movement. All of my friends absolutely cruised it. Then me, pumped out and scared, bit it by bolt #3. I couldn’t finish the route at all. I was pumped out of my mind in a very short span of time and I felt like garbage.
Fast forward a little over year and a couple of 6 week cycles of focused endurance training later, I sidled up to Tesseract, once more. Armed with slightly bigger forearms, more confidence, and a veracious fear of failure, I SLAYED IT. I sent it with shocking ease and felt like a different climber.
There are many facets of training that go into this, but I can definitely attribute much of my improvement to focused endurance training–more specifically, ARC Training.
What is ARC Training?
ARC Training is a form of endurance training for climbers in which the focus is to increase the number of capillarization in the forearms. This thereby raises your maximum steady-state (MSS) when you are climbing. Essentially, if you raise your MSS (e.g. ” I used to be able to climb 5.10 forever, then I ARC trained, and now I can climb 5.11 forever.”), it means that you will be able to climb longer on more difficult terrain without getting pumped as quickly. See equation below:
MORE FOREARM CAPILLARIZATION = HIGHER MSS =
LESS FOREARM PUMP = MORE SENDING AND LESS FALLING
The main idea behind ARC training is that you want to maintain a slight pump for 20-45 minutes. In general you will want to stay on the wall for this amount of time. As stated by the Anderson Brothers: “This is best performed by climbing on vertical to slightly overhanging terrain that places a steady load on the forearms so that a moderate, but sustainable pump ensues for upwards of 30 minutes.” (Mark and Mike Anderson, Link here: Base Fitness )
If you would like to read more about ARC training, head on over to the Base Fitness page of the Anderson Brothers website. You can also read all about ARC training and other topics in their book, The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. The book is a holy grail of training information and I highly recommend it.
High Skill, Moderate intensity
An important thing to note is that ARCing should still involve high-skill climbing and it should simulate the outdoors as much as possible (e.g. you want to climb with good technique and ideally you are using small footholds that simulate features in outdoor climbing.)
… I’m a huge advocate of keeping it high-skill climbing. ARCing, aerobic restoration capillary training, some people will just traverse along or climb open feet on the treadwall and we dumb down our skills there.
So, ARC all you want. But don’t spend your time climbing like garbage on a 5.6. ARCing should increase your endurance and your skills.
How to ARC.
Method 1: ARCing on a bouldering wall
This method works well if you can go to the gym when it is quiet.
What I like to do when ARCing on a boulder is half traversing and half up-climbing and down-climbing routes 1-2 grades below my limit.
I traverse to the start of a problem, usually sticking with v0-v3 routes so as not to get too pumped, then I’ll climb up and back down and then crawl over to the next problem (grade that serves the proper pump will vary from person to person)
Generally this method is nice because bouldering walls have tons of holds. With this, you can optimize your ARCing and temper the “pump” by simply decreasing/increasing the difficulty of the holds as needed.
Method 2: Autobelays
The use of autobelays is my typical method for ARC training. I try to find an auto-belay with a 5.9 and 5.10. I keep the routes generally 1-2 grades below my onsight limit (5.11). Anything slightly overhanging is ideal. I then climb up and climb down for 20-30 minutes (duration is discussed later). I usually climb something easier first, and then toss in a more difficult route at about 5 minutes. This helps me get a good pump going. By about 7 minutes, I am a little pumped and sweating lightly.
For etiquette reasons, I do my best to keep an eye out for someone waiting around to use the autobelay. Or I will typically warn people that I am about to be on the routes for 20+ minutes and let people go in front of me. It is ideal to stay on the autobelay for 10-15 minutes. You can then leave the first autobelay and go to another one. Climb something hard before departing for the next autobelay and get there quickly. The goal is to keep the pump going!
The method of swapping autobelays usually works pretty well in a crowded gym and is usually what I do after work.
Method 3: Get into a training belay-tionship
Get a buddy and have them belay you for each arc set. This might be a little time consuming since your rest periods between sets will be 20+ minutes, but this method is nice because having friends is good and the same four routes on the same two autobelays will get extremely boring after a while.
How Much and How Often?
If I am going to make a day of it, I will ARC for a total of 60-90 minutes.
I try to fitone day of ARCing each week, currently. You can also toss it into other days of climbing/training/goofing around. A sample schedule of what I am currently doing is below.
ARC 20-30 min.
ARC 20-30 min.
ARC 20-30 min.
ARC 20-30 min.
ARC 20-30 min.
In general, I will tack 20-30 minutes of ARC training at the end of a session, depending on if time allows. Additionally, I like to dedicate one day a week to it if I have the time, which I do right now. Note that when doing multiple sets, I rest about 10 minutes between each set.
Also please note that I do not stick to a rigid schedule in terms of days on/rest days–I rest as much as I feel is needed. I will touch on this in a later post.
General ARCing Advice
PUMP UP THE JAMS! Music is everything. Get some wireless headphones, put on your favorite spotify playlist, set a timer, and get going!*
*DIRTBAG TIP: Before I owned wireless headphones, I had earbuds with a wire and the pants I wore usually didn’t have pockets. Keeping my jams attached to me while I climb proved to be challenging. BUT I have found that a pair of earbuds combined with a Velcro arm band phone case does just the trick. I would strap the phone case to my harness and rock out!
**Other dirtbag tip: If you have the funds, pull the trigger and spend $27 on these wireless headphones– Bluetooth Earbuds – TaoTronics They work very well and for a good price, too!
STARTING OUT. Work your way up if 20 minutes is too long! If you need to break your ARC sets up into 10 minute segments for the first few sessions, it is alright. However, it is better to try to climb for the the full 20 minutes instead of shorter sets. If you need to start on 5.6/5.7 to get up to 20 minutes when you are just starting out, do it, but climb with good technique–and use small feet. If your fingers are not up to it, climb the route that has larger holds for your hands and use open feet, carefully selecting the chips on the wall as opposed to big knobs. This will be better for outdoor training. In my experience, when I was a 5.9/5.10a redpoint climber, I started out on 5.6-5.8 to be able to get myself to 20 minutes, but I did my best to use small feet if they were available.
DOWNCLIMBING. I know that when I started ARCing one of the things that I found very challenging was downclimbing, especially on autobelays. In general, if I find it too awkward to climb down a specific route, I usually use open hands and feet, trying to keep myself in a good zone aerobically.
Another note about downclimbing is that it is useful from a technique perspective (Read more about this in The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. ). Generally speaking, most of climbing is upward-centric. You look up and focus on where to put your hands. If you look down, you focus on where to put your feet–which is helpful in terms of developing your footwork. Don’t skip the downclimbing–it’s important!
TEMPERING THE PUMP. You want the pump to be manageable. At no point should you be about to pop off the wall. If you find yourself getting too pumped, rest a bit and scale back the difficulty until the pump feels manageable again. It takes a bit to figure out, but after a few sessions, you will have a feel for it. If you find that it has been 10 minutes and you are not yet sweating or feeling pumped, you can use smaller holds, try to move faster, or get on a harder route.
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Additionally, please note that in order to keep this site up and running, I do receive affiliate income through purchases made with links listed above. However, all the products I recommend I have used myself. I’ve had my $25 headphones for more than a year now, and they are still working brilliantly!