Running and Climbing Part 1: Can Running Help your Climbing?

girl running

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.”

Steve Bechtel – Training Beta Episode 7

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.

Steve Bechtel – Power Company Climbing Podcast Episode 6

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.

running and climbing meme
An actual quote from my buddy Shannon, turned into a meme, of course!

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

The Research

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.”

Eric Horst Training for Climbing Podcast Episode 20

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.

Click here for Part 2 of the Running and Climbing Series:
General vs. Sport Specific Endurance

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 lauren@senderellastory.com, I would love to hear from you and discuss.

Make sure to follow me on Instagram, or Facebook, or even subscribe to my newsletter to be notified when the next post comes out!

Resources

Teach PE: Aerobic Energy System

Study of VO2 Max in Various Populations

Performance Analysis of Adam Ondra on Silence (5.15d/8c)

Top End Sports: VO2 Max Norms

Sports Med: The Physiology of Sport Rock Climbing

Super, Sure, but not More than Human: NY Times on Lance Armstrong

VO2 Max Measurements from Virginia.edu

Physiology of Difficult Rock Climbing by Phil Watts

Three Mistakes You are Making in Your Pre-Climbing Warm-up

lauren abernathy gravity vault

The massage therapist clapped her hands together and smiled wide. Her client had just handed her a lovely bit of information: that she warms up her shoulders with theraband exercises before she begins any strenuous physical activity.

Well, that client is me. I have a religious pre-climbing ritual and I follow it wherever I plan to climb. In the interest of continuing to climb injury-free for an extensive career, you may want to do the same.

With that, here are three mistakes you are probably making in your pre-climbing warmup.

Mistake #1: You do not warm up before you get on the wall

This is one that I see all the time. Someone walks into the gym, climbs three V0s and decides that this is sufficient to start working on their V5 project. Then they wonder why they aren’t very flexible and why their shoulders and elbows and fingers are tweaked. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.

According to a review of many studies published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the following conclusion regarding warming up prior to exercise can be drawn.

 A warm-up and stretching protocol should be implemented prior to physical activity. The routine should allow the stretching protocol to occur within the 15 minutes immediately prior to the activity in order to receive the most benefit. 

Warm-Up and Stretching in the Prevention of Muscular Injury – K. Woods, P. Bishop, E. Jones

But you knew this already. You know you should warm up before you get on the wall. So don’t wait until you have your first real injury or first bad tweak.

You might think you don’t have time to warm-up.
The truth is you don’t have time NOT to.

lauren abernathy gravity vault
Me warming up to boulder using resistance bands Full cheese because I’m psyched on preventing shoulder injuries.
Photo by Teagan Maddux

Mistake #2: You’re not Stretching Dynamically

Does it feel great to lean down, touch your toes, and hang out there for a while? For some, maybe. But for all, this modality of static stretching is not ideal for warming up to climb. Static stretching is defined as holding a challenging position for 30 seconds or more.

Similarly, ballistic stretching (“bouncing” in and out of a stretching position beyond normal range of motion) is not ideal either.

Here’s is an excerpt from an article written by Dr. Jared Vagy (the climbing doctor) on the subject.

“Static stretching is a poor choice: The research shows that statically stretching a muscle before activity impairs muscle strength and leads to decreased performance. There is also evidence that shows that it can actually increase injury rate.

Ballistic stretching is a poor choice: It has been shown in numerous research studies that ballistic stretching is hazardous when used as a warm-up. The rapid nature of the movement activates a reflex in the muscle causing it to contract to protect itself from harm. This can cause micro-tearing of the muscle.”

Dynamic Climbing Warmup by Dr. Jared Vagy (aka The Climbing Doctor)

According to research, the stretching you want to be doing prior to physical activity is dynamic stretching. Vagy goes on to recommend the following:

Dynamic stretching is the best choice: Research supports that a sport specific dynamic warm-up is the best way to increase blood flow to the muscles and tendons in the body.

Dynamic stretching is defined as movements that take you “gently to the ends of your range of motion” in a controlled manor. They are usually performed in sets of 8-12 reps. ( source: mit.edu).

Summarily, dynamic stretching before you climb is the way to go.

Mistake #3: You do not take your warm-up outside

So you’ve figured out how to warm-up. You do it every time you hit the gym. Your sessions feel better and you have your routine down. Then the first time the weather breaks and you head outside, you throw the whole thing out the window. You pull onto one easy route then immediately start projecting.

flashboard rumney
Mike warming up his fingers with our flashboard before hopping on Flesh For Lulu in Rumney, NH.

Warming up is not only for your indoor training days, you need to take your off-the-wall warm-up outside as well (especially as a matter of fact). Here’s a word from Eric Horst in a section of How to Climb 5.12 regarding preparing for an onsight outdoors.

What’s the best way to warm up for a serious on-sight attempt? Some mild full-body stretching and sports massage of the fingers and forearms is a good start.

How to Climb 5.12 – Eric Horst pg. 102

This is a simple concept but it’s very easy to mess up. Personally, my off-the-wall warm-up involves resistance bands (and some stuff with my hands on the ground). I bring my theraband to the crag with me every time I go outside to climb and I use it to get warm before hopping on the wall.

Resources and Further Reading

If you’re looking to get yourself a pre-climbing warm-up here are a few resources I would highly recommend.

Dynamic Climbing Warm-Up with Dr. Jared Vagy

Logical Progression – the first book that convinced of the importance of a good warm-up and taught me how to do it.

Preventing Climbing Injury pt. 1 – Power Company Interview with Dr. Jared Vagy

Injury Free Bouldering with Neil Gresham – Rock and Ice Magazine (see point 1)

I’ll be posting my own article on how to warm up in the next month. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter to stay in the loop when it gets published!

So what about you? Do you warm-up before you get on the wall? What do you like to do to warm-up? Leave a comment or shoot me an email at lauren@senderellastory.com. As always, if you don’t already, give me a follow on Instagram or a like on Facebook to stay up to date when new posts come out.

Please note that this blog post contains affiliate links for products that I have personally used and enjoyed. If you are interested in purchasing any of these products, kindly consider using the links in the post above. This helps keep SenderellaStory.com in existence and keeps it ad-free!

A Comprehensive Guide to Tracking Your Climbing and Training

lauren abernathy gravity vault hoboken

My pile of graph paper notebooks are among my favorite possessions. And that is because months of hard work and valuable data are contained within them. If you have read Part One of this series of posts, then you understand the value of tracking your climbing training.

In this post I will explore how I personally track my climbing for different types of training sessions and over trips outside. Again, make sure to read Part One if you haven’t already.

Ground Rules

  1. Get a notebook and bring it with you always. First and foremost, your rule and your mission is to get a notebook that you like that fits conveniently in your climbing pack. I like graph paper notebooks with a hard back. I use a minimalism art classic notebook. It’s durable, I like the graph paper, and it works well.
  2. No phones for tracking your training. Personally, my phone serves as a timer and a source of music during climbing sessions. That is all. I try to put it on airplane mode while I climb because I don’t need texts and notifications and bullshits to be distracting me when I need to be present for the task at hand. Yes there are probably apps that you can use, but at least give the notebook a chance for a month. Besides, phones die – notebooks don’t.
  3. Always write down the date. Sounds simple, but it’s important.
  4. Reflect on Your Training Each Month. Dedicate half an hour each month or so to taking a look at what you’ve done over the past month. I usually make a monthly summary page in my notebook, put it in a spreadsheet, or at least take stock of what I’ve done and make tweaks if needed for the coming month.

With that taken care of, let’s get into how you can track each session.

Bouldering

Before I start any sort of bouldering session, I warm up. I don’t usually take excessive notes during the warmup. I write down what movement drill I’m using and what grade the route was. See example below.

lauren abernathy - senderella story notebook
Please excuse my disgusting handwriting. Hopefully if you had any sexist preconceptions about female handwriting, I have successfully destroyed them.

How to Track your Limit Boulders

For a session of bouldering at my absolute limit, I take notes for each attempt on the limit boulder (check out this article/video if you don’t know what limit bouldering is).

Here is an example of this transcribed from my notebook. I have typed it up for your viewing pleasure.

Note that “Quality” is how I felt I did on a scale of 1 to 5. It is not necessarily how far I make it, but a score of how well I think I did. Note that I stole this method of writing down bouldering sessions from Steve Bechtel in his book Logical Progression.

The notes section is to keep track of beta. Especially because I usually work the same limit boulders over many weeks. If I figure out any key beta, I write it down in the notes section.

lauren abernathy gravity vault hoboken
Me taking notes during a bouldering session at my local gym with my notebook. Photo by Teagan Maddux.

Volume Bouldering Session

In addition to limit boulder sessions, I also participate in strength endurance sessions. You might call them high volume bouldering sessions or even power endurance sessions.

Whatever you want to call them, I pick six boulders that are just below my max (usually 1-2 grades below) and do them on the minute every two minutes. (FYI this is another awesome session that I got from Logical Progression).

This is is an example of one of these sets of 6 problems. I perform a circuit like this three times in one session.

I think I meant large, comfortable crimps when I wrote the phrase ‘crimp jug’.

As you can see, I take care to have a mix of holds and angles in my sessions to stay well rounded. A majority of the walls are slightly overhanging at my gym – which you can see by the angles. I find that writing down angles and types of holds helps me to ensure that I’m not only climbing one type of problem all the time.

Routes

Endurance Days

Since the main goal of endurance climbing days is to climb a high volume and practice movement skills, my notation is pretty simple. I make sure to record what movement drills I did, the duration of the drill, and the grade of the routes I did for each drill. Here’s an example.

Lauren Abernathy Gravity Vault Hoboken
Me performing some low-end endurance training at the end of a session. Photo by Teagan Maddux.

Indoor Projecting Days

Though I personally don’t do very much projecting on routes indoors (I’d rather work limit moves on the bouldering wall and I get outside a decent amount), if you want to keep track of an indoor project, do it the same way you would for a limit boulder, but maybe add how much rest you take between attempts indoors.

Outside

Personally I treat my days outside as more of journal entries. At the end of the day I write down what routes I did. if I was going for a big redpoint, I’d write down how the attempts went, the amount of time between attempts, sometimes what I ate. I like having journal entries from days outside because they’re pretty fun to look back on and writing them is a quick way to pass the time around the campfire or on the way home from the crag in the car.

Redpointing: Mapping Your Beta

For routes that have particularly long cruxes, or for routes that are on-location that I may have to come back for later, I sometimes draw out the route and write down the beta to memorize it.

If you’ve seen Reel Rock 12 – you saw a glimpse of Margo Hayes with her big beta map that showed La Rambla while she was working on it. When I feel it is necessary, I do the same thing. This tactic really helped me when I did my first 5.12, Starry in the New River Gorge. If you are really having trouble with a crux sequence and you want to give it some quality mental rehearsal on a rest day – try drawing it out next time.

Other Training Activities

Hopefully if you are engaging in a hangboard protocol or some kind of strength training program you are keeping track to ensure that you are progressively increasing the load of these workouts. If you are not, then you had better start.

Here is how I keep track of my integrated strength and hangboarding sessions.

Tracking this is pretty self-explanatory. You need to track your reps, your resistance, and your rest between sets. If you don’t know, the way integrated strength works is that during your rest between hangboard sets, you perform a resistance exercise followed by a stretch or mobility exercise. Again, thank you Steve Bechtel for this wisdom from Logical Progression – resting during hangboarding is now so much more effective and significantly less boring.

However, if you don’t track your supplemental workouts you really should. If you do not put effort into planning and track your resistance training, you likely won’t systematically increase the load or change up your workouts frequently enough – or stick with an exercise long enough to see results for that matter. You can only get out what you put in. A little plan and tracking goes a long way – especially in the weight room.

The Verdict

Summarily, there is a lot to be gained by keeping track of indoor and outdoor climbing sessions. If you aren’t already keeping track of what you’re doing, it is never too late to start. Even if you don’t subscribe to a “training plan” per se, even the act of mindfully logging your climbing sessions will help you notice patterns in your climbing. This can lead to significant improvement.

I hope this article answered any questions you have about logging your climbing. Drop a comment below or shoot me an email at lauren@senderellastory.com – I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Also, for your own benefit, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Each month you’ll get training tips, cool videos, and other interesting and inspiring tidbits summed up in just 5 bullet points. So please do check it out!

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Three Reasons Why You Should Track Your Climbing Training

senderella story - track your training

It’s a normal day in my local climbing gym. Between each boulder problem, I’m resting making notes, rinse repeat.

Then a teenage kid makes eye contact with me. He starts wondering over.

Oh God.

I pull out my headphones and brace for impact.

“Excuse me. Can you tell me what you’re writing in your notebook?” He ingests some air and proceeds. “Do you write something about every route you do? Why are you doing that? Does it even help?”

I stared down at his rental shoes.
He had a lot of questions.

The answers to them are described below.

What’s in a notebook?

I have been training for a while now, but it wasn’t until August 2018 that I started religiously writing everything down. I now have a stack of two notebooks full of training data, and I’m about to start in on my third notebook.

climbing notebook
My handy dandy notebook

So what on earth is filling up these pages? A lot of useful information, that’s what.

Examples of Past Data Used to Improve the Future

Before I tell you how to track your training and days of climbing, I want to give you some examples of how I use the past data that I’ve recorded to impact my training and days at the crag.

Everything went perfectly when I sent my first 5.12 on a short trip to the New River Gorge. And I wrote down tons of notes about the week leading up to the send, day of the send, etc. We aren’t talking pages and pages here, but I am now taking those notes and applying them to my next trips.

EXAMPLE A: The week before a trip

Leading up to my trip to the New, I went ahead and got a massage the day before we left. It felt amazing and the usual sore spots under my shoulder blades (my left Rhomboid in particular) disappeared completely. I know I’m going to be tight from lots of power endurance training when I leave for the Red in September and guess what – I scheduled a massage a couple of days before that trip too! The massage obviously didn’t send the route for me, but it felt great and it sure didn’t hurt anything.

EXAMPLE B: The day of a send

Again, the day of send at the New went super well. I wasn’t hungry, but I had energy and felt like really good. So when I went to tackle Groovin’ (5.11d in Birdsboro, PA) I knew I needed to be feeling just as good. The day of, I took cues from my recent send at the New. Half a PB&J right after my warmup routes. Stretched the exact same way I had at the New. Went up after my warmup and sent the thing. Went down almost the same as my first 5.12.

Maybe it’s all just a placebo effect. Maybe it’s not what I’m doing that matters, perhaps it’s just that I’m creating constants in variable situations. Placebo or not, I’m happy I that I have recorded what is working well for me.

New River Gorge Beta
Mike writing down beta and notes during our campaign on Starry in the New River Gorge

These examples aside, why else should we track our training and climbing? You can’t just transcribe your sour patch kid consumption the day of a good performance and expect to send all the time. So let’s dig into the top three reasons why you should track your training and climbing.

Reason 1: Staying Motivated

Sometimes in our training we think we are not getting better. This can be very demotivating.

But how good is your memory? Do you remember how many V3s you could do in a 45 minute session at this time last year? Do you have any idea how many tries it would typically take you to climb V6 five months ago? Or better yet, what did you eat for breakfast six days ago? Do you remember any of this exactly? I don’t. You probably don’t either.

So this year you might be thinking “wow, I haven’t gotten any better.” And maybe you’re right, maybe you haven’t. But maybe you have gotten better, but you don’t have the data to back it up. Your memory is not a trustworthy resource. Get a notebook.

Example: Finger Strength Data

I was curious about how much stronger my fingers have become since starting to train back in May of 2017. Unfortunately, my training log from then is not great, but this is a screenshot of what I recorded. I was doing 10:5 repeaters a la the beginner hangboard workout in the Rock Climber’s Training Manual. My method of measuring resistance was which color theraband I had strapped onto my hilariously sketchy door frame pull-up bar hangboard setup (college apartments don’t allow holes drilled into the wall – Or beer spilled on the carpet…. But I digress).

In those days, I had to remove weight from my body to use the hangboard and I hadn’t climbed anything harder than 5.10c (probably didn’t need to be using a hangboard yet, but you can’t change the past).

Fast forward to July 2019. Two 5.12 ascents under my belt, four 5.11+ ascents, and plenty of 5.11a/b. My fingers have changed quite a bit since then. I’m actually shocked and amazed. This is what my repeater workout looks like now.

Please note that I was originally using the edges on the Rock Prodigy Board, so I don’t have exact measurements of edge depth. I now use a Tension hangboard at my gym that labels the hold depths.

Where I could barely hang on my bodyweight on a large edge two years ago, I can now add 18 pounds on a smaller edge and perform a higher volume of training. In 2017 I could not do repeaters on a sloper with my full weight. Two years later, I can add 25lbs to my frame and do a higher volume of training on the same hold.

Moral of the story: Two years of consistent hangboard training has been very successful and this is very motivating to me.

Lauren Abernathy hangboard
Hanging on my fingers with weight added in Spring 2019 at my local gym.

Measuring Progress is Motivating

From the data I have gathered on myself the past two years, I can now see that using a fingerboard regularly has significantly impacted my finger strength. Now, when training my fingers feels like a painful chore, I can latch onto this progress and stay motivated.

And the same goes for climbing. I can look back at a power endurance session from August 2018. I can see that in a session of 6×3 boulder problems (3 sets of 6 boulders near your limit. Similar to 4x4s.), I was able to do maybe 50% V3 and 50% V4.

Now, I look at my progress since then, I am doing 90% V4 and 10% V5. The progress was slow, but I can measure it and I’m motivated to keep going.

Staying motivated to stick with a training regime is half the battle. Help yourself to be consistent by tracking your progress.

Reason 2: Knowing What’s Working

What was your most recent accomplishment? If you had to describe the top three things that got you there, could you do it? Could you tell me what you did 3 months before, 6 weeks before, the night before? Do you have the details to help you perform well in the future? If you don’t that kindof sucks, doesn’t it?

What if life gets in the way and you can’t climb for a few years? What if you want to get back to where you were before but you have no idea what you did to improve because you don’t remember what you were doing in the gym?

Bottom line is that if you write down what you’re doing and it works really well, you might be able to use that knowledge to perform well in the future.

Example: Prepping for Wild Iris

In July 2019, I took my first trip to Wild Iris. I knew there would be pockets and I knew the routes were short and somewhat bouldery. With that, I made sure to do two things:

  1. I had a limit boulder session each week for the twelve weeks leading up to the trip
  2. I incorporated 2 finger pockets into my hangboard workout (which was miserable, by the way) 8 weeks prior to the trip for a total of 8 sessions.

The trip went super well. I was able to send a 5.12a out there, I topped my first 5.12b, and almost bagged a second 5.12a on the last day. Trip goals were accomplished and the training did it’s job. I’ll probably go back next year, and I will use this year as a guideline.

Having the details of what worked and what didn’t will help you produce quality performances in the future.

Reason 3: Knowing When to Change it Up (and when not to)

The best training program is the one you’re not doing.

Eric Horst – Training for Climbing Podcast

Sometimes I feel like I have been doing a certain training protocol, be it on the hangboard, a movement drill, or whatever for a really long time. Then I look back and realize that I haven’t even done 5 sessions of it. But sometimes, I realize I’ve been doing the same lift or the same route difficulty/amount for 10 weeks and I know then that I need to change up the stimulus to keep getting better.

Keeping Track to Be Consistent

Let’s dive into some interesting research brought up by trainer Steve Bechtel on episode 110 of the TrainingBeta Podcast

Consistency is the thing. One of the really important factors in any training is being consistent with doing the training over the long period.

I’m going to quickly delve into a little bit of research which is really interesting…

They had a group of athletes doing 20 sessions of training and then they stopped training. It was about three days a week so this was maybe six weeks of training. They stopped training and after six months they were back to a total loss of strength. They went back to their baseline values. Makes sense. We train hard for six days a week then we stop training completely and have a total loss of strength.

But they had another group that did 40 sessions so we can assume that’s about 12 or 13 weeks. The total loss of strength didn’t occur for those people even after a year.

So yeah. Sticking with something for four weeks, getting bored and changing the stimulus mindlessly is going to destroy the progress you’re making.

You have to keep tracking of what you’re doing so that long-term improvement to be made. Don’t quit after three weeks and don’t be dumb enough to lose track of how long you’ve been doing something either.

Consistency is key. Don’t miscalculate your consistency because you don’t keep track of what you’re doing.

Gravity Vault
My notebook is as critical as my chalk when I go climbing in the gym.

The Verdict

Logging your training is arguable as important as training itself. If you don’t keep track of what you’re doing, how can you see progress, figure out what’s working, and plan for the future? I think this quote sums this up nicely.

“…you’re going to refer back to your log frequently. This is not an optional aside to your training, but rather a guide. A few seasons into your training career, and it will be the most valuable piece of gear you own. “

Steve Bechtel – Logical Progression pg. 15
backpack and outdoor packing
Packing my bag for the crag. Hand salve, skin care kit, Pabst and training notebook are critical ingredients to a good weekend outside.

This post is part one in a series. Stay tuned for part two where I’ll give a detailed how-to guide for tracking your training and climbing. If you want to know when it’s out, go ahead and subscribe to my monthly newsletter! In addition to keeping up with my most recent posts, you’ll get five quick tips, tricks and tidbits to help make you a better climber.

And as always, if you don’t already, give me a follow on Instagram or a like on Facebook to stay up to date when new posts come out.

Do you keep track of your training? Any progress that you’ve looked at that you find surprising? Leave a comment or shoot me an email at lauren@senderellastory.com
I’d love to discuss!

Happy Climbing,

Senderella

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How to train with a Moonboard

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. 

What is a Moonboard?

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.

What the app looks like on your phone.

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.

Climbing Magazine has a sweet article about how to train with a Moonboard and I agree with just about 100% of it. Give it a read. A lot of that article is echoed in what I have laid out here as well.

This is how I limit boulder on the Moonboard:

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.

Learn more about the Rock Prodigy hangboard and its inventors on the Anderson Brother’s Website.

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.

Lauren Abernathy Moonboarding fall
Me falling off the first move of a “benchmark V3”–repeatedly, I might add.

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. 

If the moonboard doesn’t bring out your ugliest try-hard face then I don’t know what will.

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). 

Cheers,

Senderella

Review of Steve Bechtel’s Logical Progression: Halfway there

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 Progression Program. 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!

General Overview

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).

A problem from a limit bouldering session at the Triangle Rock Club  when I was visiting family in North Carolina.

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.

Adventures of moving into a new apartment!

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.

Hangboard Results

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.

Workout #1*:
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

Putting in my first attempt on Orangahang, 5.12a

  • 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.

Flashing Waimea, 5.10d (also peep the guy a couple routes over about to send his project, graded 14c!)

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.

Cheers,

Senderella

Two classic, effective ways to improve footwork for climbing

The worst whip I’ve ever taken resulted in two staples in the back of my head. Why did I fall? My foot blew!

Footwork is very important in climbing–debatably the most important aspect of your technique. Practicing good footwork can make or break your ascents (and maybe even your head).

So what can be done to specifically target footwork improvement? Let’s find out!

I went scouring the internet and my climbing reference books to find some groundbreaking drill that is fun, exciting, convenient, and will cure inefficient footwork for life. I found no such thing.

What I did find (and have my own experience with) are the two drills below. They are widely recommended because they are simple and effective. If you haven’t heard of them, try them out this week and see what you think!

  1. Silent feet – When climbing practice silent foot placement. Ensure that the feet are placed carefully and quietly. When feet are placed silently, they are placed accurately. If the toe gently lands on the chip, and sticks, that one movement is all you need and then you move on. It is meticulous. It is efficient.
  2. Downclimbing – most of climbing is done looking up,  leading with your hands. When you downclimb, your feet lead and the weight is on the toes. Make sure that when you do it, you climb as carefully down as you do up. It can be strange at first, but you get used to it.

The best way to practice these drills is to do so when you warm up. Hop on some easy boulders to warm up for your day of climbing, climb carefully with silent feet and climb down the routes as well.

Here’s a video that I think illustrates this super well (skip about a minute in if you don’t care about what literature pro climbers are reading–feel free to watch if you do!)

I hope you enjoyed your weekly dose of climbing technique. For the betterment of myself and others I’ll be bringing you a technique tip every Tuesday for Technique Tip Tuesday! I’m a sucker for alliterations.

See you next time!

Senderella