According to U.S. News, a record-breaking 112 million Americans are expected to travel for the Holidays. If you are like me, Christmas means piling presents, a suitcase, and maybe some local drafts in the car and hitting the road to head back to wherever family is.
It also means trying to figure out how to squeeze a workout in between the family functions and the consumption of one or two or ten of Aunt Jenny’s cookies.
If I am driving to whatever family/friends I am visiting and I know they don’t have any home gym options, nothing beats a portable, door frame pull-up bar. So if you have access to that, great! If not, no worries there are other ways to get strong without it. I love to get a good workout in before the holiday family mayhem starts, so if you are like me, take a look some of these workout options!
Workout #1: requires pull-up bar
I like doing what is known as a superset. You pair two exercises together, do them immediately after each other and then rest for a period after you have done both exercises. The workout below has three supersets of exercises and a bonus round.
Additionally, before getting into it any physical activity, I always to a 5 minute dynamic warmup of some sort. (jumping jacks, high knees, shoulder swings, etc. After that, you are good to get into the workout. See circuit below.
Explanations and Modifications
If you can’t quite do a pull-up/chin up (which is totally fine, you will get there!), I used to modify by either putting a foot on the back of a chair or tying resistance bands to the pull-up bar and put one or more feet in the band.
If normal pull-ups are too easy, you can always go the extra mile by bringing weights, a weight pin, a carrabiner and your climbing harness with you (I managed to squeeze in some very hungover weighted pull-ups when I was a music festival this past May. My friends on the trip were amazed at the motivation.)
Side plank can be done either on your hand or on you elbow–whatever works for you!
Yes. a Burpee pull-up is actually jumping up, doing a pull-up, coming back down, jumping your feet back into a plank, doing a push-up and jumping back up to the pull-up bar. If it sounds awful it’s because it is. Here’s a video of it
Workout #2: No equipment
Part 1: Upper body (follow the fitness blender video)
Part 2: Legs (mini leg blasters)
If you want to hit the legs as well, do some mini leg blasters. I still hold fast to my love of leg blasters as a useful way to spend 15 minutes and DESTROY YOUR LEGS without any equipment. (Especially if you are interested in ways to train for skiing.)
Try to do 10 mini leg blasters (see the circuit below) with 30 seconds of rest in-between. Credit to backcountry.com for their article on this leg workout that always has me ready to go for ski season!
So there you have it. Two workouts requiring minimal or no equipment that can help you break a sweat and feel like you’re still contributing to your overall fitness, even if you aren’t at home training on your usual wall.
In January of 2018 I found an attractively inexpensive flight: roundtrip to the island of Mallorca, Spain for $450. Without much thought, much of a plan, or anyone to go with, I booked a flight.
Ten months later I found myself waking up to the cuck-a-doodle doo of a rooster in a Mallorcan hostel. Accompanied by a familiar tour guide, some strangers, and an old friend from Ohio–I was off to my first day of deep water soloing.
What is deep water soloing?
For those unfamiliar with this genre of climbing, it is ropeless route climbing above water. Water deep enough, that is, that you are in no danger of striking the ocean floor when you eventually fall off the wall. Routes are like those you find at your typical outdoor sport crag, without bolts. The routes range in height from 30 feet (10 meters) to as high as you’d ever want to consider, really.
The Value of a Guide Service
If you’ve ever been anywhere new, the propensity to waste time getting lost, pick a restaurant that sucks, or be generally confused about how to prioritze your time can be pretty high.
Google all you want, it helps to have a savvy guide point your trip in the right direction.
That’s why, when I take international climbing trips I go with Rockbusters. Rockbusters ia a tour group headed by human guidebook, Jan Novotny. The first trip I took with them was in June 2017 to Rodellar, Spain. The climbing, the guiding, and the trip were all excellent.
Rockbusters makes planning an international trip easy. You show up to the airport with minimal gear, they pick you up, show you around, and offers some pretty stellar coaching in the process. Jan and his team have certainly earned my status as a repeat customer.
Accommodations & Food
I am accustomed to primitive camping when going on climbing trips, so I was pleasantly surprised. There were three bunk beds piled into one room Myself and the four other women on the trip fit very nicely into the room. These were simple, no-fuss accommodations where you could pay little money and rest your head after a long day of climbing. The pool was pretty nice too, although usually I was too tired and soggy to go for a dip after climbing.
Since it was the off-season for tourists in Mallorca the camp site dining area was completely empty. The ten or so of us in our tour group had free reign to enjoy this perk. One of the trip guides, Erin, owns a restaurant in DC called Mola where she cooks Spanish inspired foods. She has somehow found a way to spend a lot of her time in Europe with Rockbusters cooking delicious (and exceptionally nutritious meals) with a couple of camp stoves and some big pans.
I asked her if she had a bunch of written recipes that she used for her camp cooking. She politely responded “No, I usually just think of it and cook it as I go. I come up with new things to make all the time, otherwise I would get bored. I don’t like to repeat things too often.”
Needless to say, the food was exceptional every night and there was always plenty of wine to go around.
I had trouble sleeping every night and not because of the accommodations. I mainly enjoyed my fellow trip mates so much that I didn’t want to go to bed. When I finally did try to hit the hay, I was genuinely so excited to climb the next day that I stayed awake thinking about it.
Every morning in Mallorca felt like Christmas.
The good news is that most of the hikes into Mallorca are absolutely stunning. At least the ones that I did. Most of them are also on the beach. Even better–some of these beaches have bars.
The Daily Grind
I had never deep water soloed before and leading up to the trip I was pretty nervous that I was going to be so scared to do it that I would hardly get any climbing done.
Fortunately, I did get some climbing done–a LOT actually. Jan is an awesome coach and his high standards and hilariously excessive scrutiny are pretty effective for me. Jan is an exceptional climber and has coached me to achieve some of my best ascents. My first 11a and my first 11d, both of which occurred on separate travels to Spain.
Here’s a little run-down of how we spent each day.
We spend our time beautiful and low consequence crag to “get our feet wet”. Followed by dinner, beer and sleeping.
My and a fellow trip buddy (and fellow engineer!) found a project for the short trip–Hercules 11b. We worked it until sunset and kept getting bucked off the crux.
We took a break from DWS on day 3 to do some sport climbing. It was extremely hot. I love ropes, but wow, I could have used a little more shade and water that day–not exactly ideal conditions for pulling on vertical crimps. Still had a great time and got on some fun stuff!
Porto Colom Lighthouse.
Returned to Cala Barques and bagged the send on Hercules (11b). I laid at the top of the cliff and cried after I topped out. Sending a project as the sun sets in Mallorca was a moving experience.
Everyone split up on the last day to do what they really wanted. Some people were psyched on doing more sport climbing and the rest were on for more deep water solo. I was in the latter half of the group and I am very happy I chose how I did. Somehow, on my 6th day on, I sent my first 11d in three short tries. The route is not ridiculously long, but the moves were big and tough. Here’s some pictures of it.
Jan’s Rockbusters trips always attract really awesome people, and this trip was no exception. The gang I went with was supportive, fun, diverse in age and background and truly a remarkable group of people to go cragging with for the week. Everyone came from different backgrounds, careers, and locations. We were all different ages and from different places, but we got along famously. I don’t think that happens very often, so I definitely cherish that.
I think climbing with new people is really important. Sometimes you put yourself in a sortof mental hierarchy in your usual climbing gang and I think this can be oddly limiting. It was liberating to climb with people that had no expectations of me at all. It allowed me to throw off my usual hang-ups, and just go climbing. The unwavering support and stoke from everyone was palpable–I think that’s what made this such a successful trip.
Effective climbing trip lifestyle strategy: Be the last one on the wall, the last one at the bar. I heeded this advice from Jan and I think it was crucial. No one likes being hungover climbing overhangs.
The motivation to not fall when deep water soloing is more than the fear and failure. The motivation to keep your shoes dry and to not have to pull yourself up a godawful rope swing is almost equally powerful as the aforementioned.
Deep water soloing is horrifying and beautiful all at the same time. It makes you fight all your instincts and sending makes you feel like a superhero.
Photography credit goes out to Adam Pernikar (follow him @pernikphoto). He was our professional trip photographer for the week and boy did he do a great job. He literally sacrificed his skin to make sure we left Spain with some rad photos (he was very sunburnt after hanging out on this line all day in Porto Colom). Jan also did a great job taking photos throughout the week. Even though he sometimes got distracted started taking pictures of sexy tourist ladies.
In any case–having people around with awesome cameras taking pictures of you while you climb is a pretty cool perk and I’m super grateful to Jan and Adam for the photos they took.
Going in for round two
Needless to say it was an incredible experience. I’m psyched about my tics on this trip but boy am I motivated to go back for more.
It was also kindof a bummer to not have my main man on the trip, so he will be aventuring with me when we head back again next fall.
There’s a few routes I want to take down and these gorgeous cliffs are more than enough to keep me inspired through training this season.
I have climbed twice since Thanksgiving. Apart from a couple of training sessions the last week in November, I haven’t climbed at all in about three weeks.
Scary, huh? I assumed that when I went back to training that I’d feel weak, and fat and that I’d regret taking a break. Turns out the break was worth it–and so was tossing my generally healthy eating habits aside for a couple of weeks. You bet I slammed some pie over Thanksgiving, and I just got back from Hawaii. Lots of hiking and swimming—and drinking to celebrate our conquests. Life is to be lived. You can’t be light all the time.
But between some nagging finger twangs and life in general, a break was much needed. However, I am here to tell you that taking a big break was GREAT IDEA and very useful. I am fine, and climbing just as well as I was before. Sweet!
I hit the Moonboard today and had my best session ever—without any funny feelings in my wrist or fingers. These joints were getting to be painful after my trip to the Red and I could tell that I was on a one way street to really injuring myself if I didn’t give it a rest.
After some time for rest and reflection, I have decided to integrate the Moonboard into my training for the winter. Mostly for limit bouldering purposes since the benchmark V3 and V4 problems on it kick my butt. More on that later. Let’s start with the basics.
A Moonboard is a training tool for climbers, first and foremost. It was invented by UK-based climber Ben Moon. It is a wooden board with a bunch of holds in pre-prescribed positions, set at a 40 degree angle. The grades are stiff and the holds are mostly bad. There is an LED light above each hold and you can connect your phone to the board using the Moonboard App.
The app allows you to light your chosen problem up on the board. You can choose from thousands of problems grades V3-V-Insane that cimbers from all over the world are working and setting. Pretty sweet.
Why use a Moonboard?
I love my home gym, don’t get me wrong. However, I sense some grading inconsistencies in the gym—mostly dependent on the setter. I get it, if you’re 6’4” and climb V13 outside, your version of V4 and my version of what I think is V4 might be different. Understandable. One of the many benefits of the Moonboard is that it offers the ability to go back to the same problem session after session, year after year. As long as the board remains, the route is available. Instead of hiking out to your old project, to check your progress as a climber, you can benchmark your progress with a route inside—pretty cool.
In addition to the consistency, there are so many problems to choose from. You can tweak exactly how hard you want your limit problems to be, with the swipe of your finger on the app. This is great since finding the right limit problem from your gym’s set can really be a pain sometimes.
Warmup: (5 minutes of running, 10 minutes of dynamic stretching)
Climbing warmup: Do about 15 problems. A pyramid of 6-8 V1s, 3-5 V2s, a few V3s.
Hard climbing warmup: Spend 30-45 minutes projecting two or three V4 or V5 routes. At least one of these is on a steep overhang to prepare for the angle. I rest for 3-5 minutes between attempts on these “doable if I try it a few times” routes.
Hangboard warmup: I am terrible at pinches and slopers. These are my greatest weakness. The Moonboard has a lot of these holds which is AWESOME for training. I spend a few minutes warming up these two grips on the hangboard before embarking onto the Moonboard session since I am not so great at these types of holds. This is optional but I think it helps.
7-10s hangs, 3 reps on each hold (wide pinch and sloper). My gym has the rock prodigy hangboard, so I do bodyweight hangs on this. Note that for the pinches I alternate between hanging on my right hand and my left hand—one hand on the pinch, the other on the jug. See below.
I am not yet strong enough to bodyweight hang on the pinches on this board—I will be someday though! I also warmup briefly on the slopers.
Limit Bouldering: Two “benchmark” V3s. *Note that the hardest project I’ve sent in my gym is V6 and I can only really work V3 on the benchmark Moonboard problems. Often these V3s leave me getting chucked off the first move for a few tries. It is not easy. If you cannot climb V5-V6 in the gym, I would not recommend spending too much time on the Moonboard just yet.
I do 5-6 attempts per problem.
I rest at minimum 3 minutes between attempts. If I fell off the first move, I rest 3 minutes. If I fell after almost sending, I increase the rest to 5 minutes, sometimes I even rest for 6-7 minutes. Note that most of these routes I am not even close to sending until I have worked them for a few sessions. This makes them “limit” problems.
Once I am falling of the first or second move, even with a long recovery, I call it quits. Once my power is dissipated, the session is complete.
Is the Moonboard tough on your skin?
In short–YES. The Moonboard is definitely rough on the skin. My hands are usually in some skin-related pain by the end of the session. I am working on alleviating this, however. Sanding down your calluses is always a good idea, but here is another option/additive to your climbing skincare routine.
Today I experimented with exfoliating my hands mid-session, after warming up and before hitting the board. Sounds crazy, but it felt awesome. I went into the bathroom in the gym and used a gritty, exfoliating face scrub.
I like to use L’Oreal Paris’s Pure Sugar Scrub (FYI L’Oreal is my employer so I get to try a lot of L’Oreal products at a minimized cost to me. I like this stuff a lot, but please take my opinion with a grain of salt.) Just find something gritty and try it out. I thought it felt great and it prevented some potential flappers. The coffee smell is also pretty nice!
Rest after Moonboarding
I need at least 24 hours for my skin to recover after moonboarding. 1-2 days of rest, depending on who you are is probably a good idea if you really dissipated yourself during a moonboarding session.
Have you ever used a Moonboard? Does your gym have one? What problems have you worked on?! Leave a comment, I love to know your thoughts on this awesome (and sometimes frustrating training tool).
A couple of years back when I was still in school, a good friend who had just moved to Jackson Hole sent me a frantic text. Ahead of my upcoming trip to the world-renowned (and famously steep) resort, she warned me “Start working out your legs or you won’t be ready!”
Aware that Jackson Hole was a gnarly place and that my Ohio-based cardiovascular system was not yet prepared for the upcoming trip, I set to work finding a preseason ski training plan that would work with a climbing schedule (and still leave me free time to do my engineering homework and go to the bar with my friends).
Although this sounds pretty far-fetched, there is an effective preseason ski training plan presented by Backcountry.com that provides exactly what I describe above. Enter the leg blaster.
However if you’ve read anything about climbing training and you enjoy skiing, you can spot a pretty obvious issue. These sports demand your body to be conditioned for diverse physical outputs. The only things that overlap in these two sports are the necessity of some cardiovascular stamina, really intense core strength, and a healthy command of your mental game.
Fear not, though. For all you two sport enthusiasts, there are ways to optimize for both. I’ve been following this program for two ski seasons now. I have showed up to resorts from Jackson Hole to Revelstoke to Snowbird ready to slay without noticing significant impact to my climbing.
Geographically speaking, climbing season and ski season are not really concurrent for me. The outdoor climbing areas in the Northeast become mostly too cold, and ski season starts in Mid-November to December. After the end of the fall climbing season, I transition to indoor training for climbing and prepping my legs to hit the powder in the coming winter months.
Certainly refer to Backcountry for more details, but a leg blaster is essentially a series of eccentric body weight leg movements targeting the lower half. Below is an explanation of concentric vs. eccentric strength for skiing from Rob Shaul, who runs the Mountain Tactical Institute in Jackson, Wyoming (he is also the author of the Backcountry Article/the mastermind behind the leg blasting training protocol).
Alpine skiing demands eccentric leg strength. Think of concentric strength as “positive’ strength. This is the strength you use to stand up from the bottom of a squat, or hike up a steep hill. Eccentric strength is “negative’ strength. You use eccentric strength to lower yourself into the bottom of the squat, and hike down a steep hill. Eccentric strength absorbs force. Alpine skiing primarily demands eccentric strength.
So there you have it. Train your ability to absorb impact and get better at skiing. See below for an explanation of both “mini” and a “full” leg blaster.
Mini Leg Blaster
10 bodyweight squats
5 lunges each side (10 total)
5 jump lunges each side (10 total)
5 jump squats
Full Leg Blaster
20 bodyweight squats
10 lunges each side (20 total)
10 jump lunges each side (20 total)
10 jump squats
As you work through the program, you improve from 10 mini leg blasters to 5 full ones. The exercises should be done as quickly as possible without compromising form, 30s rest in between. I recommend keeping a stop watch on your phone and tallying on a piece of paper as you go.
Train for Skiing After Climbing
So how do you work in leg blasters on a daily/weekly basis?
It’s pretty simple actually. It takes about 15 minutes to complete your leg blasting workout and no equipment is required. I tack it onto the end of a climbing session 2-3 times a week with 1-2 days of rest in between.
Note that I don’t do leg blasters before training/climbing. I only do them at the end of a session. I love both sports, but I’m not compromising a limit bouldering session because I just wrecked myself doing 50 jump squats.
For obvious reasons, excess leg muscle is sub-optimal for high performance climbing. According to the Anderson Brothers in The Rock Climber’s Training Manual,
“[Leg] Muscles ‘in training’ can store up to 5 lbs of useless (to climbing) glucose and water alone.”
Doing the volume of low weight high rep leg exercise as prescribed for pre-season ski conditioning (and skiing itself) is likely going to lead to some hypertrophy; however, I like to think this is advantageous in the outdoor climbing off-season.
Think of this additional leg muscle is “training weight”. As you train for climbing you’ll be training with the weight of your beefy, shred-ready thighs, preparing your upper body and your fingers to climb at a heavier weight (and then you will presumably drop this excess weight at the start of climbing season.
According to the Anderson Brothers, “At the end of each season’s peak, it is acceptable (and even desirable), to relax dietary restrictions and bulk up five to ten pounds…It is very difficult to add muscle and effectively build strength with restricted caloric intake.”
So eat well, get comfortable with putting on some training weight. It takes time to completely lose muscle gained during the ski season, so don’t expect your legs to shrink overnight. Muscle will begin receding after about one month. Once three months of not skiing in the summer have passed, your legs should be nice and scrawny for fall send season. If you want to read all about the effects of detraining on your muscle, I found an extremely well-researched article on muscleforlife.com. Check out an excerpt from the article below:
Sure, in a perfect world you never have to climb with excess leg muscle weighing you down. But to be a two sport athlete, sacrifices must be made. Personally, I love skiing waist-deep powder. So let the gains begin.
Training Cardio for Ski Season
Another physical adaptation that may need to be increased for ski season is your cardiovascular capacity. As someone that does not live at a high altitude, I am not naturally prepared to be hiking uphill with skis on my back at 10,000 ft.
So cardio for ski season is necessary, for me at least.
Last year was the first year I included cardio training in my pre-season program. I am pretty cardio averse so I had to enlist the help of the good people of Orange Theory to get myself to do it. I personally do not enjoy cardio so going to a class where I was forced to run and row (all out sprints included) was a good choice for me.
This year, in order to save my sweet sweet moola for a new pair of skis, I’m forgoing the Orange Theory membership and trading it in for some quality time on the rower and the treadmill.
Although it would be nice to have the time for a long run a few times a week, I am opting to train my cardio systems with High Intensity Interval Training twice per week instead. This is a less time consuming cardio regimen and has been proven to be very effective as well.
This article on HIIT from BodyBuilding.com explains the concept pretty simply. I will either do my HIIT training on the rower or the treadmill and I won’t do HIIT more than twice a week. Leg blasters are pretty intense cardio anyway, and honestly I don’t have the time to do more than two HIIT sessions per week in addition to climbing training.
Weekly Training Overview
So what does this look like on a weekly basis?
See sample schedule below (for an explanation of the climbing portion of this training schedule, click here and here):
Monday: Limit bouldering
Tuesday: Strength, HIIT
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Power Endurance, leg blasters
Friday: Endurance, HIIT
Saturday: Climb indoors/ski outside/rest (depends on the weather/life obligations)
Sunday: Leg blasters
Things to keep in mind
1. Intense cardio can wreck your climbing recovery. If possible, it’s best to give yourself full and complete rest days instead of doing some sort of training everyday.
2. Leg blasters can and will destroy your legs, especially if you haven’t worked out the old gams in a while. When I get back to doing them each season I take it easy, starting with 7-8 mini leg blasters and working my way up (although 10 minis is the recommended starting point). As soon as my thighs start feeling “pumped” I call it quits and cool down. Being sore and walking like you have a stick up your ass for 3 days straight sucks (and it will make climbing suck too). Don’t overdo it.
3. Make sure you have good form for these exercises! Don’t hurt your knees before ski season even starts.
4. Warm up before leg blasting. You probably will be warmed up from climbing, but make sure you at least do some walking/dynamic warmups before you start your leg blasting/HIIT workouts.
With that, happy skiing and happy climbing. Shoot me an email if you have any questions!
This past fall I took on my first somewhat “long-term” project in my new crag with a new style in beautiful Rumney, NH.
I say long term because anything else that I’ve “worked” has taken a maximum of six tries—and no more than two or three working days on it.
This route however; was my own personal version of “epic-ing”. I would go to sleep at night rehearsing the beta. In my head, I was in my own documentary. Here’s a brief synopsis of how this route didn’t go down.
Tried the route on Sunday. Was able to do the crux on my first try (with ample resting and figuring out in between). Tried the route again—belay kept getting messed up.
Basically I put in one moderately acceptable burn to learn the beta and the second burn got a little mucked up because of some belay issues.
Saturday – tried it two more times. Clipped the chains with two hangs on attempt #3. First time clipping the chains a 5.12–pretty satisfying.
Sunday – tried route again. Basically the same as before. Did super poorly on Sunday and climbed the first few bolts like garbage. I was shaky and felt terrible about the whole thing.
I must have tried the route 15-20 times that weekend. I stopped counting by the end the first 4 bolts were laced up perfectly. I would fall at the crux between 4 and 5, jug up and could finish from there. I was basically doing that over and over again until my fingers were literally too bloody to go on.
So there’s the synopsis. Even though I didn’t get it, it was totally worth my time. I learned so much from the process. See below for some solid take aways that you can learn from not sending your project.
The importance of a quality beta burn.
Dialing in the beta swiftly and early in the process is critical, I have learned. Honestly, I probably could have cut my first two weekends of attempts out of this process if I had done what I did at the start of the third weekend. In one go on the rope, I rehearsed some of the sections of the route 3-4 times until I knew exactly where my feet would go. I experimented. I learned how to make certain moves WAY more efficiently than I had before. I dialed in where I was going to clip. It was HUGELY useful.
Getting to the crag early to do your beta burn can be valuable.
On popular routes, you may be uncomfortable taking a long time to learn and rehearse the beta with others waiting. It sucks for them to wait and it sucks for you to have to rush such a crucial process. No matter how cold or dewy or whatever, just go get your route rehearsal/beta dialing session done before everyone else shows up. I never got to take my time with this process until we rolled up on weekend 3 which had a sub-optimal forecast, thus thinning the crowds.
You might not need all the clips. Clips are sometimes optional—even if it’s the second clip. Some clips might be slowing you down, akward etc. Think about if there are any that you can safely and confidently bypass. Personally, by the time I had the beta dialed, I realized that clipping the second bolt was a waste of time and energy, so I just stopped clipping it. It felt good to be comfortable doing that and for this route it was generally safe to do. This may not be true for other routes, but it’s a tactic that has been used by many to conserve energy if it is safe to do so.
What foods work well when you’re trying to send.
I learned that eating a large breakfast doesn’t work for me. On the Sunday of weekend two, I ate a HUGE breakfast before going climbing—it kept me warm and it was delicious, but I was way too full to be climbing hard. The third weekend I made sure to keep it lighter—PB&J steel cut oats. That worked much better for me than a big, heavy breakfast.
How your environment effects you when you’re trying to send I learned that crowds FREAK ME OUT and that strangers watching me climb is actually really stressful for me. I know I need to work through this, but I hadn’t become aware of this until now. Not much to be done about it, but I’m glad I know now so I can consciously work through it. The difference between me climbing at an empty crag vs. a full one was pretty astounding.
Your ideal pre-climb ritual. See mine below!
Step 1: Jam out to an aggressive rap song. “Shabba” was the song of choice on this trip. I also can be found enjoying “it’s nothin”, “Switch Lanes” by Tyga and “All Gold Everything”. Tell me I have awful taste, but it’s what gets me AMPED.
Step 2: Walk up to the route, tie, in and take three big breaths.
Step 3: Pick something in the distance to focus on and zone out.
Step 4: Tell myself “You know what to do, stop thinking and climb.”
I started doing this before every attempt, and it was really nice to have a routine before starting to climb.
How much rest you need.
Resting properly and not overtraining during the week is very helpful. Before the my last epic weekend working on the proj, I gave myself two rest days and training on Wednesday was super light. This was mostly because I was exhausted from work, but still. I was very well rested for the weekend and I could totally tell. From now on, I’m giving myself two full rest days before trying to redpoint/ get sendy on anything.
The impact of an awesome climbing partner.
I have an amazing supportive boyfriend who is willing to belay me on these climbing tirades. Mike barely climbed all weekend. I kept saying we could bail and that he should go work on something, but he wouldn’t. He said all he wanted out of the weekend was for me to send this thing. Mike was on point with the beta cues, encouragement for me to try hard, and provided ample stoke and belief in me. I am so so grateful to have a climbing partner (and a boyfriend) that is so unwaveringly supportive.
All in all, yes, it is a bummer that after all of this, I still didn’t send. But I have the route down to one hang and I know that with a little more training, I will be more than ready to take this thing down in the spring for sure.
We all do it. We take a look at our favorite pro-climber’s social media and think “Well gee, if only someone was paying me to travel to some far and distant land to climb at an incredible exotic crag. I could never afford to do that.” The problem is that this really isn’t true.
That attitude sucks. You can totally travel where you want to and it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think it might. Sure, you may need to save some money, and have a trick or two up your sleeve, but I think we can all agree that strategically saving some money to go on an amazing trip to Spain is a worthwhile thing to do.
Here is how I did a trip to Mallorca for a week and saved money where I could. Truthfully I could have been even more of a dirtbag and made this trip even more frugally, but I like to ball out, even when I’m on a budget. Either way, I had the trip of a lifetime and didn’t spend a down payment on a car to do so. Read on to see how I did it.
Getting Cheap Flights
Flights are obviously a big one when it comes to keeping costs
I use a service called Scott’s Cheap Flights to get deals on flights. My flight to Mallorca was a whopping $450 round trip out of Baltimore with baggage included.*
*Yes, I know that these kind of deals may seem related to the fact that the East Coast is a little closer to Spain than California, but there are still deals to be had from all over. See below. Booking far in advance definitely helps as well.
Here is an example email from Scott’s, showing you that flight deals to Mallorca (PMI) definitely crop up every now and again.
If you want to sign up-it’s a $40/year subscription. My boyfriend and I split the subscription. Buy one flight and you more than make up the subscription cost.
Round Trip Flight Cost with 1 checked bag: $450
Travel to the Airport and Parking
I will spare you the boring details. Because of a friend with a lot of points at The Parking Spot, I only ended up having to pay $18 to park for the week. It would have been $88 without the certificate. Hopefully you can just take an Uber or have a friend drive you to the airport to avoid any of this nonsense.
Gas Round trip to the airport (1 tank): $30 Parking: $18
Airport Transit and
Accommodations, Guiding, and Transit in Mallorca
When I travel internationally for climbing trips I always go
with a guided service. Not only is this beneficial from a climbing standpoint,
it is extremely cost-effective.
Airport food is expensive, and it sucks. I had two big meals during my entire travel (mostly when I was sitting around airports when I flew out on Friday). Mainly, I subsisted off of the in-flight meals.
Total food in transit: $63.79
Once I got to Mallorca, our group was taken to a grocery
store to buy food for breakfast, lunch and crag snacks. I spent a pretty
nominal amount on groceries.
Total groceries for the week: $66.39
For dinner we were fortunate to have pro chef Erin Lingle cooking for us and making sure we had plenty of wine and desert too. The cost was 15 Euros per night. I had six delicious and nutritious meals cooked by her. Also, the benefit of not having to cook after a long day at the crag was pretty incredible.
Total cost for 6 dinners cooked by Erin: $112
The last night we went out on the town. So we only really dined out for one night and it was really good. I definitely think Erin was a better chef than the food we at on the town, however.
Dinner and some wine on the town: $45.55
Breakfast the morning of departure: $10
Beers and Cocktails for the week: $30
Total Food and Booze:
Swimsuits and Chalk
I was mortified at the thought of climbing in a bikini—just seemed like a bad idea. So I bought a couple of pairs of swim shorts from Athleta on sale. Very glad I did.
Total for bathing suits $44.99
I didn’t buy liquid chalk, but I should have. Since this is practically a necessity, so let’s add this as an invetible deep water solo expense too. Friction Labs Liquid Chalk
Total for liquid chalk $19.
So how much did this grand adventure come out to be in full?
GRAND TOTAL $1491.72
So yeah, it is no small chunk of change, but I know a lot of people spend about $1000 just flying to Europe. Not bad what it is all said and done.
Here are some more thoughts and tips to frugalize your adventures in the Mediterranean.
Avoid Currency Exchange Fees & International Charge Fees
Before you go international, I would highly recommend two
Make sure you have a credit card with no international fees. I would recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Annual fee is only $95, it has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus (AKA nearly enough points for a free round trip flight to Europe), and it has a ton of other sweet perks! This is a great card for travel–even if you’re only going on one awesome trip to Mallorca. I use this card regularly myself, if you want to apply use my affililiate link below (in full transparency, yes, I will get points if you use my link. But the card is perfect for this trip and I wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t a smart move). As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions about the CSP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I made the mistake of thinking we were camping so I brought a sleeping pad/sleeping bag, etc. Long story short I didn’t need any of that so I could have saved myself the trouble of checking a bag. So when you pack, pack light and you can avoid baggage fees too! My Gregory day pack holds an insane amount of stuff, so get yourself a nice back pack if you don’t have one already.
Buying airport food definitely sucks. I could have saved a lot of money if I had brought my own food to eat.
Travel rewards are also an awesome way to get free flights, etc. I won’t get into the weeds of travel rewards in this article here, but If you are interested in learning the ways of leveraging credit card signup bonuses to get free flights, I would highly recommend it. See below for a few resources that will give you a good start.
I first found out about Brian Suntay when his tag line on the TrainingBeta blog caught my eye–“Ohio-based engineer crushing 5.14 at the Red River Gorge and Rifle”. As an Ohio Native (and a fellow engineer) I was very psyched to find a kindred spirit in the climbing community who is climbing at such a high level.
Brian is a very accomplished climber and has an extremely impressive resume. He has completed routes up through 5.14 in the Red and many 5.13+ routes in Rifle. He started climbing in college and predominantly trains out of his basement to cut down on the commute to the gym. If you haven’t read his post on Trainingbeta, I would recommend it–it will be especially helpful to read in the context of this interview.
I had the pleasure of picking Brian’s brain on some topics I had been wondering about and I got to discuss my project at the Red with him as well. Brian has some awesome insights and I hope you all get a lot out of this. I know I did.
S: Can you take me through a brief history of your climbing and training? How long did it take you to progress through the grades? When did you start training?
B: I’ve been climbing for about 12 years so it’s hard for me to remember how long it took to break through the grades. I started when I was in college and I didn’t really train for it the first few years other than climbing in the gym and climbing outside. Fortunately for me, climbing came pretty naturally. I pretty much worked my way up the grades up to 5.13a by climbing outside, I think. I remember training for a route in the Madness cave that I really wanted to do, so I think that’s when I really started training. I followed a typical periodized training plan for quite a while. I didn’t really know any better and it worked for the most part. Probably over the last few years I switched it up a bit based on new knowledge I gained from kettlebell training and because I wanted to train a little less due to the amount of free time I had and to allow for other activities. And, since I’ve been training for a little while now, I kinda know what works and doesn’t work for me. So now I pretty much just make my own training programs.
Brian’s Thoughts on Deadlifting for Climbing
S: Do you think deadlifting has helped your climbing? Is that why it’s still in your program? I recently started doing it and I think it’s weirdly super fun, but I don’t know how to “feel out” if it’s helping my climbing or not.
B: Absolutely. It works and I keep doing it because I think it is fun. I interchange them with heavy kettlebell swings because if done correctly they both target the posterior chain, which is useful for shorties to keep their feet on when doing reachy moves and helps with steep climbing. If you’re doing it right, you should feel it the most in your glutes and hamstrings. If you feel it in your lower back, then your form might need a little tweaking. Definitely consult a strength or power lifting coach if you feel like you need someone to check on your form.
Resting and Training when Tired
S: One of the things I’m struggling with is figuring out what to do on training days when I am tired. If I feel to drained to do power endurance(PE). I’ll do a ton of moderate routes on autobelays in about 40 minutes and call it a day—do you think this is a good substitute if you’re pooped or would you still stick to your power endurance plan for the day, but scale back the difficulty?
B: If you are following the logical progression protocol, I’d prefer not to skip days. I’d like to stick to the plan as much as possible just because you are training one pathway (strength/PE/etc) only once a week. If you are feeling tired though you can add a rest day, so for example, train strength Monday, rest Tues/Wed, train PE Thursday, rest Friday, train endurance Saturday, rest Sunday, repeat. Or you can have two rest days between training days. Or you can do your easy enduro day or maybe instead practice climbing technique and push your PE training to the following day. The nice thing about logical progression is that it is very flexible. If you are tired or life happens, you can push everything back a day and carry on.
On most training days, definitely don’t overdo it and save some fuel in the tank. You will feel less wrecked, recover quicker, and your next training day will feel pretty good. 80% is a good number. If I’m cross training or lifting I usually go 80% in terms of weight and number of reps. For example let’s say my max deadlift is 325lbs. My training weight will be around 260lbs and if I’m doing sets of 5 reps I should be able to pull 6 reps each time no problem, but I stop at 5 reps. Does that make sense? Another good example more related to climbing would be 4x4s. If I picked the problems correctly, I should maybe be falling on the last problem on the last set. I think it is better to complete all problems on all sets and readjust to make it harder than to pick too hard of problems and hit failure earlier.
Projecting on a Time Budget
S: I only have three days to take down my project at the Red (life, ugh). It’s Super Best Friends, 12b in Muir Valley—what advice do you have for limited time on-location projecting? For Rifle, how did you approach your projects? Did you try to onsight and then start working sections, or did you immediately start “chunking” the route? If you could go through an example route that you took down in 1-3 days that would be very helpful!
B: Ugh. Life. I know how that feels. Limited time projecting is a tough one. Just for reference, my hard, multiple weekend, maybe multiple season projecting grade is 14a/b. I can usually knock out 13a/b in 1-3 tries. Honestly, when I was in Rifle I really wanted to project a 14. However, due to the heat and a longer learning curve than I anticipated, I had to bump my grades down a few notches. So instead of maybe projecting one 14 throughout my whole stay there, I decided to try and knock out several Rifle classics instead. Due to the cryptic nature of Rifle, I definitely did not try to onsight anything. I broke all the routes down, usually going bolt-to-bolt, trying to figure out the best sequences and just trying to become comfortable with the rock, the moves, and the clips. I’d probably go through each section a couple of times to make sure I can get through it efficiently. I want to make sure I know my hands and feet so that I’m not searching for them while redpointing. The more comfortable I am, the better and faster I move, and the less I squeeze, saving my energy for when I really need it. Once I figure out my beta I knew I had the endurance so other than that, it was just trying really effing hard to hold on and not fall.
With Super Best Friends you will be breaking into a new grade. It will be tough but very doable. The route breaks down pretty well too from what I can remember. You have a move down low before a good ledge rest, then several bolts in the steep section, followed by a hard pull over the lip to easier, but pumpy climbing. You have three days, right?
S: Yes. To give a little more detail, I goton it almost as a joke because everything else I wanted at Solarium was taken. My first attempt I made it to bolt 3, fell had to try the move a couple of times. Then I got to the nice ledge to rest. Clipped, rested a while, (long while, the ledge is so nice) then I cranked through and fell trying to clip the 2nd to last bolt before the headwall. I think like bolt 8 or 9. I planned to put in more work the next day, but then the rest of the trip got rained out. And here we are!
After clarifying a little more about the upcoming 3 day project, Brian gave me some extremely strategies to take this thing down.
If I were you (after warming up of course) hop on the route and just break it down. Figure out the bottom section to ledge rest. Then break down the steep part. Figure out your most efficient way through the steep part. Go bolt-to-bolt, repeating sections before moving on the next bolt as necessary to make sure you know what to do. Make sure you rest a lot too while figuring it out. Figure out your best option to pull over the lip (I think some bumping might be involved, but I can’t remember). Then figure out the top. After clipping the anchors, feel free to lower down to the lip and repeat that section on top-rope while pretend clipping on your way up. Rest well, eat up, then get on it once more if you aren’t feeling too tired. Sometimes you might need two beta burns to figure out all the beta and that’s okay. If you put a second beta burn, do the same as the first and call it a day afterwards. Save yourself some energy.
Have a goal of climbing the route in so many # of sections (ex. 1) to the ledge 2) steepness 3) pulling lip and to the top) but feel free to turn it into fewer sections depending on how you feel. Climb to the ledge and milk the rest. Then try your best to link the steep section. If you start redlining before the lip, then take and rest. If you were pretty close to the lip you can try linking through the lip and then to the top. Like with training, don’t redline on the route unless you know and have the confidence to take it to the top. If you are redlining at the beginning of the steep section, then take and rest. If you are redlining at the lip, then go for it and don’t let go because you know you can shake it out all the way to the top. Does that make sense?
The main idea is to break it down as if it were kind of like a “timed rest” 4×4 where you would do a problem, rest 1 min, then do another prob, rest 1 min, etc. As you progress, you can do the same problems but decrease rest time until you can do all problems back to back. If you want to train in the gym for your route then you can try to do something similar on your PE days. You can set up your 4×4 so that it is similar to the route. For problem 1 pick something bouldery. For problems 2 and 3, something steep and pumpy. And problem 4, something pumpy but easier than problems 2 and 3. Go through each problem resting 1.5 to 2 min between each problem. Rest 5-10 min between each set and repeat 4 times total. If you complete everything without falling, decrease your between problem rest time by 15 seconds.
What advice do you have for the average weekend warrior that wants to improve their climbing?
B: If you are motivated you can do a lot. Have a goal, find a plan to get you to that goal, and stick to it and follow it through before making any changes. If you train in the gym, stay focused. It’s easy to start socializing. I feel bad when I’m at the gym because I don’t really socialize. I’m sure many folks who see me at the gym might think I’m not very friendly (I’m quite the opposite though!), but for me, gym time is training time and I’m in there so that I can send my outside projects, so I tend to shut out everything else. I feel bad, but there just isn’t enough time to socialize and train. Also, keep things simple. The simplest training plans are usually the most effective. Climb a lot. Since you are breaking into the 12’s the most beneficial thing for you is to just climb. Maybe 80% of training should be climbing and the other 20% can be hangboarding or cross training. Lastly, find a partner or group of friends who are just as motivated to train and get out on the weekends. A large part of my success is due to the fact that I had an equally motivated training and climbing partner, my wife, for 12 years. It’s really nice to have someone you can rely on regularly for motivation and who is also willing and wanting to get outside
I hope this article finds you well. As a former Red River Gorge native, I am thrilled to discuss some tips for my favorite style of climbing: steep, overhanging.
I used to hate overhanging routes. They made me feel weak, uncoordinated, and a V0 on a 45 degree angle usually left me feeling pretty pathetic. However, with some targeted training and an attitude adjustment, this is usually the kind of route that makes me smile the most:
Personally, when I first started climbing (and before I knew anything about training) what I did to get better at steep routes was climbing more steep routes and doing pull-ups. When I first started climbing I literally could not do a single pull-up. To accommodate for this I modified with resistance bands and/or putting one foot on a chair. I also started doing a lot of easy, steep boulders over and over. I found this to be pretty impactful, generally.
Of course, there are always a few quick things that you can think about as you start pondering problems in the cave in your local gym, or the steep route at the crag you’ve been dying to try. You definitely do not have to be able to do even one pull-up to climb steep routes, but it does help!
Check out these tips and instructional videos to see how you can take your overhang game from V0 to hero:
Twist your body to climb overhanging routes more efficiently
In a similar vane (and you’ve probably heard this one before) you can conserve energy by climbing with straight arms, only bending them when it is absolutely necessary–same goes for overhangs. Keep that in mind the next time you’re three moves in and you’re pumping out. If you think you need to lock off to do a move, think again!
Keep your hips into the wall! Check out the video below to get a more detailed overview of why this is so critical.
Drive with your feet! Even though the route is steep, you can and you must continue to drive with your lower half. Make sure you place your feet such that you can push/pull yourself through your next move.Think about how many pull-ups you can do vs. how many flights of stairs you can climb. The more weight that you can take off your arms, the better!
New to climbing? Do overhangs bum you out? Can you barely hang on for one route?
If upper body strength and steep routes are a challenge for you, try adding 3 sets of pull-ups (5-10 reps) a twice a week and make it a point to climb a little overhang every time you hit the gym! Climbing more overhang is going to be the key to improve, but spending a small amount of time improving your strength can help too!
Everyone with useful beta and better technique than me: Lauren, just heel hook. Me: Nope. No thanks, I’d rather inefficiently stab my toe into the wall with my knee in my face instead.
It’s been a hard fought battle with my peers, but I have finally conceded: heel hooks are extremely useful, especially if done correctly. For this Technique Tip Tuesday, let’s take a second to watch this shaggy man with a fun accent tell us how to do it right!
The difference between active and passive heel hooks is something I had never considered before, but I am very happy to have learned. Here is another video that underscores the effectiveness of actively heel hooking with some more XTREME examples (also some super rad tunes in the background.)
Here’s my buddy being really dramatic about the SICK actively engaged heel hook he’s about to pull off:
Do you like heel hooks? Do you hate them? Are you a convert like me?!
Comment or shoot me an email and let me know. I’d love to chat.
Logical Progression refers to the simple progression we make in a nonlinear plan. By training strength, then power, and then endurance in sequence, you’ll see that you truly can develop all of these facets of your fitness at the same time, and perform better year-round.
With this book as your guide, I hope that you’ll embrace a different way of looking at training, and performing, in climbing.
– Steve Bechtel, Logical Progression
At the time this is being published I am halfway through Steve Bechtel’s Logical ProgressionProgram. I was a little scared to try a new program for the ever-important Fall Climbing Season, but so far I am very glad I did. In seven weeks I’ve seen a noticeable impact to my climbing. Read on to see if you think this program would be helpful for you!
To summarize the book and program, Steve Bechtel has designed a program around concurrently training strength, power/strength endurance, endurance, and power. For an explanation of non-linear periodization, click here. You rotate through training days, working a different facet of training each day (e.g. in 5-7 day time frame you would have done a strength, endurance, power endurance, and limit bouldering workouts).
Steve offers a few different options for the program orientation. I went with the “Level 1” program as it is the most entry-level option and geared toward climbers that are new (or new-ish) to training. The Level 1 program also has the most simplistic setup, which sounded good to me.
Below is a general overview of the training sessions I’ve completed over the course of 7 weeks.
6 Endurance Workouts
7 integrated strength workouts
6 Limit bouldering sessions
6 power endurance sessions
Although there were some hiccups here and there, I think I did a good job of not skipping certain training days in favor of others–something Steve warns about in the book.
Overall impression of Logical Progression Program
So far I am really enjoying the variety that the program has to offer. Training all facets of climbing concurrently has been really amusing and it’s been pretty easy to stay psyched on training.
I still have six-seven more weeks to go, so we’ll see if it gets harder to stay stoked, but I’m thinking it won’t.
The structure/flexibility of the program is great. In the past month I have moved to a new city, moved apartments twice (long story), started a new job, started this blog, and have still managed to train and avoid stressing about making training work with my schedule. So from a strategic standpoint, this program is ideal for the average weekend warrior.
I was pretty nervous to switch from the Rock Prodigy program, but Steve Bechtel is the man and I decided to give it a shot. So far, the results have been noticeable and I’m pretty psyched about it.
First of all, I like that Steve recommends that you switch up the hangboard protocol halfway through the program. I feel like there are so many protocols claiming to be “the best”, so it’s refreshing to have a trainer claim that threre is more than one way to hangboard.
So far, I have only completed the 3-6-9 ladder portion of the hangboard program, so I will speak to the results of this.
When I first read through the first part of the hangboard program, my first thought was “how the hell are my fingers going to get stronger if I’m spending only 3 minutes PER WEEK hanging on them.”
The proof is in the pudding. My finger strength improved measurably. See beginning, middle and end below.
Open hand, 20mm, Bodyweight (BW)
Half crimp, 20mm edge, BW
Full crimp, 30mm edge, BW *note that I was taking it a easy on this day because it was my first time back on a hangboard in a while
Workout #3: Open hand, 25mm, BW +15lbs
Half crimp on 25mm edge, BW+15 lbs
Full crimp, 20mm, BW Workout #6: Open hand, 15mm, BW +13lbs Half crimp on 15mm edge, BW+13 lbs
Full crimp, 15mm, BW
If you want to attribute this to “newbie gains”–you really can’t, because I’ve done 30+ hangboard workouts in the past year and a half (a la the Rock Prodigy program).
Integrated Strength Gains
Bechtel incorporates some climbing specific strength training into his program. He actually has an interesting structure for strength training called Integrated Strength. I don’t want to get too in the weeds about it, so read more about it here. Essentially you end up doing a hangboard exercise, a lift, and a mobility exercise right in a row. It is a very interesting approach.
Below I review some personal records from the integrated strength workouts:
Deadlift: 165lbs – 5 reps Hanging leg raise: 6 reps
Weighted push-ups: 25lb plate, 5 reps (I could NOT come even remotely close to doing the one arm, one leg push-up as recommended, so putting a plate on my back to up the intensity was my best option).
My deadlift increased by about 20lbs throughout the 6 workouts, push-ups didn’t go up by too much, but the hanging leg raises definitely got easier and improved in quality as I kept going. (Note that the try-hard face you see below is completely required, these BREAK ME.)
Power/Strength Endurance Results
Essentially, the power endurance workouts are 3 sets of 6 boulder problems that are right around your limit–leaving only 2 minutes or so between problems for recovery.
Bechtel recommends an interesting method of quantifying these workouts. Basically, you add up the grade of all the routes and take the average of these. He calls this your v-score or v-average.
Below I compare my average v-score from my best strength endurance circuit in my first workout to that of my final workout. Note that the rest between problems from the first workout was about 2 minutes. In my most recent PE workout I’ve reduced the rest to 1 minute.
Session 1: Average V-score = 3 Session 3: Average V-score = 3.9 Session 6: Average V-score = 4.2
Essentially, I’ve gone from doing 6 boulder problems with V3 and V4 problems, to doing sets with V4 and V5 problems with less rest in between.
Noteable Ascents – Indoors and Outdoors
First 5.12 indoors – flashed it
Regularly Flashing 11+ (in the gym)
First V6 indoors
Able to work the moves/complete the crux on Orangahang, 5.12a in Rumney (new project–very psyched about it)
Flashed Waimea, 5.10d in Rumney–I’ve onsighted 10d before, but if feels good to do it in a new crag with a style different from the Red. It also felt pretty easy which was cool.
These halfway point results are substantial from my perspective. I look forward to continue putting in work on Orangahang and other project and am very excited to see where this program takes me.
More to come, overall I’d highly recommend the program based on my half-way-there results.