My Top Training Tips
Having not written in a blog post in a long time I felt it was time to resurrect what I started with a few tips which I think could be helpful for a lot of people! I get asked all the time about my training and though there’s no secret key to inevitable success, I do have some advice which can be used whether you’re a complete newbie looking to start a hobby for the new year, or an experienced climber who has hit a plateau.
Train in the right environment
Probably the most important element of training is that you want to do it. There is no point in setting out goals which you aren’t motivated to achieve because you won’t be enjoying the process of achieving them. If possible, try and find a training partner-I always climb better when working with someone of a similar ability to me or better. This way you can learn from each other and take it in turns to train and rest, making the process more sociable. Everyone’s bodies are programmed to work best at different times, so try varying when you train to find what works best for your body-maybe you feel freshest first thing in the morning or maybe you need time to fully wake up and prefer evening sessions. Finally, if you can afford it (and if it’s not too inconvenient) try and visit multiple centres to train at. You will be varying the holds, setters and angles, making training more interesting and helping you learn much more quickly.
Make a training plan
If you can’t afford to purchase a tailor-made plan from a coach, experiment making one for yourself. Books such as Training for Climbing by Eric J. Hörst can help you with this, but the idea is to work different energy systems, thereby ensuring that your body is well balanced and fit to achieve your personal goals. Start by writing down specific goals you want to achieve (e.g. a competition you want to perform well in; a route outdoors you want to project; a trip you’ve got planned and want to climb well for; or maybe you want to have climbed a certain grade by a certain time) as this will help you figure out when you want to peak for. This will tell you when you need rest weeks and when you need to change phases in your plan. If you have a clear idea of what you are doing for every session, you are much more likely to actually do it and you will make consistent progress.
Sometimes it isn’t always possible to climb on new problems all the time or problems which fit the exercise/style you want to work. Get used to making up your own problems as this will not only be more specific and thus more effective for your needs, but it will always develop the creative side of your climbing brain, helping you with problem-solving and it will keep your sessions fun. Always start sessions working your weaknesses as this is when you will be physically and mentally freshest, and thus able to learn more. For example, my biggest weakness is dynamic climbing, so I always like to try a few dynamic blocks before I get stuck into the rest of my session.
Combine climbing specific strength training with gym work and technique drills
Make sure that you are not letting aspects of your climbing fall behind. I was once told to ‘train my weaknesses until they became my strengths’. It’s good to do some work in the gym to gain power and strength but you can also work these on the wall, making more climbing specific gains. These exercises (e.g. doing pull-ups on climbs rather than just on a bar) can be more fun and make your strength more specific to the sport. Never forget to train technique along the side as you will reach a point where simply ‘powering through’ won’t cut it!
One of the main causes of feeling unmotivated to train is simply not feeling energised. It’s really important to never go to a training session feeling hungry and to refuel after (if not during) your session. While you don’t want to feel bloated and heavy on the wall, you do need the energy to focus on what you are doing and to be able to perform to your potential. A personal favourite snack of mine is banana with peanut butter. Super simple to make, nutritious and filling, this combo gets me through training and it tastes great! Obviously everyone has their own food preferences and needs but try and find something which works for you. Never forget to bring a water bottle to the wall-dehydration effects your precision!