Saturday, March 28, 2020

First Steps in Training during the Pandemic

In my last post, I cautioned climbers against rushing into training. It's a lot like the way shoppers have been rushing into buying toilet paper. The truth is that training is a bit like toilet paper, there's only so much of it you can use at one time and there's not likely to be a shortage of opportunities to acquire more in the future. I have seen so many posts on social media inquiring about hangboards, how to build climbing walls, what routines to use and so on along with dozens of examples of interactive online workouts, videos, and FAQs. Again the healthy instinct here is to step away from the firehose of information and think clearly about where you are, what you have and what you need. The first step to becoming self-sufficient is understanding these things clearly.

If you're a beginning or truly recreational climber, as I have mentioned before, you don't really need to train anything except climbing, which is unfortunately unavailable for obvious reasons. So don't worry about it. Don't waste time and money on a lousy climbing wall or get bored or frustrated on a hangboard. Go for simple home-based exercises based on the use of your bodyweight and freeweights such as dumbbells. Push-ups are amazing. Running is an excellent option for general fitness especially for those desiring longer objectives outdoors and running with a bit of weight uphill is even better. Put some full water bottles in a pack for the uphill and empty them for the downhill. When the climbing areas or gyms re-open you'll have  no problem getting right back into it.

For the more advanced climbers, onsighting easy 5.11 and up to maybe 12a or b, things get complicated. A lot of climbers at this level haven't needed to personally invest in equipment thanks to the proliferation of gyms but consistently use it. Now it's unavailable and options are limited so what to do? As above general fitness is very helpful and worth pursuing but at this level so is sport-specific training. For this level, I would primarily recommend investing in or making a good hangboard. A hangboard will do more, ounce for ounce, than any other training modality. Building a good climbing wall would be awesome but hardly necessary and demands free space, time, tools, and quite a lot of money for materials and holds, along with the judgment to use them all well. I have seen enough pictures of extraordinarily bad climbing walls recently to now consider buying stock in lumber companies. A hangboard is a simple and very effective low-cost option that will definitely help. More on how to use them shortly. If you can't wait there are literal hundreds, if not thousands, of videos out there. This one is probably the best:

Great video as is all of Dave's content

What kind of hangboard? Buy or make a board that is made of wood and has options for full pad and half pad edges. The other many features that some makers tout are mostly bells and whistles and of very limited utility. Plastic is a material of last resort for hangboards and something I strongly recommend against. I personally own a Beastmaker 2000 and would strongly recommend this company's products. Tension Climbing also makes good hangboards from wood. Metolius campus rungs are another great option as well as this board. Full disclosure: I am not sponsored or supported in any way by these companies.

Another "option" for picking a hangboard is looking at ads in Craigslist. Anything that is still available for sale right now you should firmly socially distance yourself from. Chances are they will be old-school slippery plastic designs that will be neither comfortable nor easy to use. Don't waste your money; purchase (support your local climbing store) or order something that works.

12+ and up? You should include all the above plus a proper climbing wall. This is an investment you should definitely make should you be so lucky as to be employed full-time and have a family, even if there are good climbing gyms close by. If you own your own home and have the free space, this is a great investment in your climbing future. You need never miss a workout for lack of time and you can dial in your equipment to suit your needs and plans, something that even the best gyms don't necessarily provide. Especially important is hold selection, a vital component to any home training plan.

Next post I'll start getting into training specifics but suffice to say, basic is better than elaborate, consistent is better than erratic, and self-awareness beats having to be told what to do. How to get there? We'll get started shortly!

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