I Got Gunked Up this Weekend

If you don’t know what The Gunks are, they are a group of Mountains situated in upstate New York in near the quaint and kitschy town of New Paltz.

The area is haven for hikers, trail runners, bikers, climbers, and vacationers alike. Behind the well-maintained trails and lovely resort facade; however, lies a gnarly climbing area. It is an area where 5.5 will make you pee your pants and only the trad-daddiest of crushers are putting their pieces in a 5.9.

To my chagrin as a spoiled ex-Red River Gorge sport climber, there are no bolts anywhere. However, what the Gunks lacks in bolts, it makes up for in trad routes. According to my friend who has been climbing there for 6 years the Gunks has “more than you could hope to climb in a lifetime if you went every weekend until you died”.

On my trip, we kept it casual. Due to a lack of both trad experience and gear, we did an early morning sampling of the boulders on Undercliff Road. It was exceptionally good fun and I am very grateful to our new friend from our local gym for coming up on short notice, lending us pads, and serving as an excellent tour guide.

“So what you do is walk down Undercliff Road and boulder your way back.” Our buddy explained as we walked down the well-maintained path. Undercliff Road is long. The boulders and routes are on one side and an immaculate view of the valley is on your right. We couldn’t see it for most of the morning, but the fog was really cool!

Views from Undercliff Road.

We started out on box car boulder, doing some warm up routes–VO through V1. Our friend also explained that the grades were stiff. Take your gym grade and add three. I don’t boulder outside much, but this sounded about right. Going into this trip to the Gunks, I expected this ferocious gap between indoor and outdoor grades. I had made sure when I left my apartment that morning to leave my ego at home. It was much more fun that way.

Forgot to get pictures, but here’s a picture of Andrew’s Problem off of Mountain Project.

After Box Car, we made our way down to Andrew’s boulder. I worked on it a bit. It’s  classic V4, where, if you’re tall enough, you do this crazy move where you drop your heel hook to a toe hook so you can get the last couple of inches out of your legs to reach the next hold. It was ridiculous. I’m too short to get to do that move, but I am pretty psyched to keep working on it. Apparently you can keep climbing in the Gunks until December if you’re lucky. You might see me there.

A few mini-projects later, we made it to our final route. (See some fun mini-proj pictures below– I actually remembered to take pictures of these).

 

Me working on this fun V2.

 

Mike getting after it on The Gilded Egg.

We then made it to the final route of the day, back at the beginning of Undercliff Road. It’s called the Lorax.

“It used to be fun, until they cut the trees down! It makes the whole route at least one grade easier.” Our friend reminisced about the days that there were two trees in front of the problem, making it exciting and absurd to negotiate. “It didn’t count if you touched the tree. If you even looked at the tree funny, you didn’t sent it.”

He also added “I prefer to climb without the crowds, so I like to get here around 6 or 7 a.m. By the time I’m done, everyone else is showing up.” Which was true. By the time we were ready to leave, the rectangle-backed afternoon boulderers were coming in droves. It was time to go.

A nice, shaded area.

We walked off of Undercliff Road sun-soaked, smelly, and happily exhausted. Mike and I smashed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before hitting the road. In two hours we were back at home, napping.

I’m a pretty lackluster boulderer and I don’t know anything about trad climbing, but I do know that I am very, very excited to get to know my new home crag–and maybe expand my horizons while I’m at it.

You can learn more about climbing at the Gunks at http://www.mohonkpreserve.org.

 

 

How to Make a Training Plan Part 2: The 6 elements of sending

Training for a project is like a mixing a great cocktail. A variety of ingredients, well-synthesized and carefully planned will yield great results. In this article we’re going to go over the different bases, modifiers, and huge cocktail-shaking forearms you need to make the ascent of your goal route both smooth and delicious.

Let us start with a quick exercise. Grab a beer and enjoy the short film below of Michaela Kiersch sending Golden Ticket (14c) at my [former] home crag–The Red River Gorge.

For starters, this route is 85 feet tall and has many challenging moves and holds. Note that Michaela has the endurance to deal with marginal crimps for all 85 ft. She has the power and strength to accomplish the move, recover from it, and clip the anchors. In addition, she has to have the stamina to try this route many times in one day since she is in school and is only able to make it down to the crag on the weekends.

Summarily, in order to redpoint this route, she needed to:

1. Be able to do all of the moves.
2. Be able to link all of these moves together.
3. Have the capacity to make put in multiple burns on it in one day since she is short on time.
4. Not get injured in the process

We may not all be intensely projecting 14c,  but if you are reading this blog, you probably have a goal route–or a few–in mind (if you don’t, see How to Make a Training Plan Part 1: Goals You can Point To).  It is natural then, that you would want your training program to address all of the above. After reviewing some of the most popular training regimens by a variety of authors and doing a few of them myself, it seems that training for single pitch sport climbing can be summarized by these 6 components:
strength, endurance, power, skill, power endurance, and injury prevention.*
*Note that my training and goals are primarily for single pitch sport climbs, at this time. The cruciality of these components will vary for other styles of climbing. 

Strength
The concept of strength is pretty simple–you either have the physical capacity to do something or you don’t. In climbing, a good program will focus on the following, in terms of strength:

  • Finger strength
  • Antagonist strength
    • By definition, an antagonist muscle is a muscle that directly opposes another muscle. In climbing, we use all of our muscles; however, climbers tend to overdevelop certain muscle groups. Therefore, a good program will have you develop the lesser-used muscles. Read more about antagonist muscle strength from The Climbing Doctor!
  • Selection of exercises with a focus on climbing specific movement

    My try-hard face while I engage too many different muscles in this hanging leg raise.

Endurance

Whether you are too pumped to clip at bolt 3 or at bolt 11–if you don’t have the endurance to recover from the crux and finish the route, you are never going to send. Building up your low-end endurance capacity is important.
See  Guide to Endurance Training for more details.

Power

Let’s talk physics. See equation below.

Power = Work/time

Now let’s look at a practical example from my personal life.

Bouldering at my limit to increase power.

My boyfriend, Mike, is very tall–about 6’3″. He is able to reach things that I cannot and thus, some moves work better for him when they are done statically. I am not tall, and there are some holds that I will not be reaching unless I start moving dynamically.

If Mike and I both do the same move, but he take 5 seconds to do it because he can move slowly, and I take 1 second to do it because I jumped–I have done the same amount of work in less time, and therefore I have displayed more power.*

A good training program will set you up to increase your power so that you can efficiently do those big powerful moves on your project without letting one big throw bust your whole send.

*if we are being extra nerdy, technically Mike has more mass than me, so technically he has done more work than I have. However, let’s not get too detailed. 

Power Endurance

This is where things get whacky. Experts get into debates all day about whether or not power endurance is even a real energy system–this is fine. As climbers, I think the term “power endurance” is a term that makes sense to many of us, so we are just going to take it and run with it. Let’s look at another example.

Climber A can climb v8 in the gym. Once he tries on it for a week or so, he can get warmed up, rest properly, and do the problem. If he wanted to do it again, however, he’d have to wait at least 5 minutes to rest and he may or may not have the capacity to do so when he tries again.

Climber B can also climb v8 in the gym. However, climber B has a different rest requirement to do this problem. She is able to place this problem in a circuit. Climber B can start on this v8, climb down a v3 to recover, stay on a jug for a nice, active rest and do the v8 again.

Both climbers exhibit the power to do the moves on this problem; however, Climber B has the power endurance to repeat these powerful moves without a full resting recovery. Climber A does not.

Power endurance is the ability to exhibit near-maximum power over and over again. It is the ability to maintain a prolonged display of near-maximum power. A quality training program will also focus on improving this element of a climber’s skill set.

If you want to learn more about this, give TrainingBeta Podcast Episode 101 a listen–one of my favorite trainers, Steve Bechtel, explains power/strength endurance very well.

Skill

At its core, climbing is a skill sport. If you want to get better at it, you will not do so by doing tons of pullups.  You must learn lots of moves and hone your skills to improve as a climber. I think this point is summed up very well by Eric Horst in his book, How to Climb 5.12.

The best climbers [climb at] an exceedingly high level because they have internally programmed gazillions of different moves that are on call at a moment’s notice.

Essentially, you can be great at hangboarding, campusing, and doing pull-ups, but if you never improve your technique you won’t be getting better at climbing.  A well-planned training program has plenty of on-rock time in which you can hone your skills.

Injury Prevention

If you are run-down, your shoulders feel like trash, and you slept three hours last night, you aren’t going to be performing or training optimally.

However you train, the first priority should be to avoid injury. Generally,  if you can’t climb you can’t get better at climbing.

Overall, a quality training program will focus on improving your strength, power, endurance, skill, power endurance, and preventing injury. Blend all of these

Cheers,

Senderella

How to Make Training Plan Part 1: Goals You Can Point to

Last spring, when my work was getting particularly gloomy, I decided to spend my lunch time sprucing up the cork board above my desk. I needed a reminder of why it was worth it to drive an hour from work to get to the climbing gym to train. I knew I had to stay motivated and go climb, though sometimes all I really wanted to do was smash the jelly doughnuts in the break room and take a nap.

To ward off the dreariness, I printed out whatever google images had available for the routes at the Red River Gorge that I was excited about. When my coworkers would ask me what I was up to over the weekend, I would point to one of the pictures on my desk , smile really big, and say “I’m gonna go bag this route”.

Me, super psyched, at the end of a day where I sent a project that had previously landed me with a few staples in my head the season before.

And I did. It was a blast. Each weekend getaway to the red would yield another tick–I would take the route’s picture down as soon as I sent it, and pin another on the board.

They say “never lose sight of your goals” so I made sure to put my goals where I could see them everyday (even sometimes on the weekends, unfortunately).

When making goals at the beginning of a training plan, there are three key components that should be considered:

  1. Specificity
    Choosing a route, or a handful of routes to train for is far superior to saying “I want to send an 11d outside.” When training, it is good to customize the program with the goal  in mind. With the variety of terrain that can be classified as “11d”, it is more beneficial to choose a specific 11d, be aware of the cruxes on the route, and keep the unique challenges of this route in mind as training progresses.
  2. Attainability
    Sure, I would love to climb 5.13d, but my hardest onsight is a 5.11a–so it would be pretty stupid to start trying to work a 13d, wouldn’t it? In How to Climb 5.12, renowned trainer, Eric Horst, recommends choosing projects that are approximately, 4-6 letter grades above your hardest onsight.  (Keep in mind this is in terms of single pitch sport climbs).  Additionally, training programs are a relatively short-term commitment (8-12 weeks)–it is important to choose goals that congruent to the timeline of training.
  3. Inspiration
    If the goal isn’t getting you psyched before you start training–it definitely won’t keep you motivated when you’re in the middle of a tough workout. Pick something that, when asked about it, you want to launch into a full cinematic Reel Rock interview about how stoked you are to do this thing.

In summary, goals that are specific, attainable, and inspiring  are a solid basis for a training program. Clear, stoke-inducing objectives will keep you motivated, even when the going gets tough.

Happy climbing!

 

 

Improve your Climbing Endurance: A Guide to ARC Training

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.)

Climbing Trainer Steve Bechtel aptly describes his criteria for effective ARC training in episode 110 of the TrainingBeta Podcast (episode 110 – listen/read here):

… 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.

Here’s me crawling up and down some steep V0 and V1 problems to prepare my forearms for the Red Rive Gorge!

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 fit one 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.


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Strength
ARC 20-30 min.

Bouldering
ARC 20-30 min.
Rest ARC
3×25 min
Rest Climb outside

Climb Outside

Rest Strength
ARC 20-30 min.
Rest Bouldering
ARC 20-30 min.
ARC
3×25 min
Rest

Power Endurance
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.

Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions at lauren@senderellastory.com.

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!

Here are some additional resources:

What is ARCing? An Interview with Brendan Nicholson

Spice Up Your ARC Routine

Happy ARCing!

Cheers,

Senderella

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!

You Don’t Have to Quit your Job to Get Better at Climbing

In the words of the beloved and controversial rap artist, Tyler the Creator, “I’m a f***** walkin’ paradox,” because I am. I spend most of my time attempting to be coiffed and professional in a corporate environment and when I’m off work on Friday I’m ready turn my hat backwards, head outside, and be the dirtbag I wish I was during the week.

I think a lot of outdoor enthusiasts are like this. We crave adventure and exhilaration and are maybe a even a little rebellious. Unfortunately, the jobs that sustain us (and our expensive extracurriculars) do not always provide the outlet we so desperately need.

So, enter climbing. It is a sport that satisfies my love of the outdoors, provides positive social interaction, and it is an outlet for measurably pushing myself to my absolute limit.

Admittedly, I  take myself too seriously sometimes, but at the same time I make notes in my training journal like the one you see below:

Did you know that slamming your crotch on an arete hurts really badly independent of what kind of genitals you have?

So I might be serious, but never too serious.

A Classic Weekend Warrior

I have been climbing for about four years. I started in college to stave off the summertime sadness of being an avid skier. Now, I can’t really decide which sport I like better. I really love climbing.

For me, climbing is an outlet for goofiness, getting outside with your friends, and having an excuse to train like a goddamn sled dog if I really want to.
And to be clear, I really want to.`

I work at a major company based in New York City.  My commute to work is 40-75 minutes each way depending on traffic. I train in the evenings when they gyms are crowded and I go climbing outside on the weekends. The nearest quality sport crag is about 5 hours away.  I certainly have time to train and go outside, but my time supply is limited.

Training on a Time Budget

Fortunately for all of us, climbing is a sport where focused training a few sessions a week will yield great results. I have seen substantial evidence that you can continuously improve your climbing (for a long time) even if you have a time-consuming job and you don’t start climbing until your twenties.

I started climbing about 4 years ago and began training systematically about two years in. Since then, I have increased my hardest redpoint from 5.10a to 5.11d, and increased my hardest onsight from 5.9 to 5.11a.

Each year of training I have added an average of 3.5 letter grades to my hardest redpoint.  I plan to keep training, keep getting stronger, and I’ll be keeping my job and having a social life while I do it.

Lauren Abernathy Rich Bitch Mallorca
me on my send-go of Rich Bitch, my first 5.11d in Mallorca, Spain.

 

What this Blog Will Teach You

This blog will provide information on a variety of climbing-related topics. And it will demonstrate that getting better at climbing is possible, even with a busy schedule.

I will give you the knowledge you need to set high-quality goals, construct your own training programs, select training programs based on your needs, and explore many topics in between.

Additionally, I plan to post about trips I take to different climbing areas, in case you are looking for inspiration for your next outdoor climbing adventure.

This blog will provide you with the resources you need to go from a training neophyte to someone that has an effective plan for their time in the gym and outside. I want you to become someone with goals for your climbing and I want you to have a lot of fun executing them.

Post typically come out on Sundays. Talk soon.

Happy climbing,

Senderella