Monday, June 2, 2014

Training for my New... Whatever-I-Want

Before I started climbing I had spent over a decade of my life training for distance running, races ranging anywhere from 2 to more than 30 minutes. During that period I also studied human physiology at university. As a result, the method and science of how you train is more than just a passing interest for me.

When Steve House and Scott Johnston came out with their book, Training for the New Alpinism, I immediately got a copy and read it cover to cover. At this point if you're interested in such things you've probably already flicked through it yourself. There have been plenty of positive reviews so I'm not going to review it here (though it is the best book I've read on the subject, and I've read every single text that they reference and then some). Instead I'm going to briefly discuss how I used their expertise to create my own training, which is essentially why they wrote the volume. So, here after I will assume that you are familiar with Training for the New Alpinism or are at least familiar with endurance and strength training concepts.

Since starting climbing my training has definitely been a little ad hoc, though somewhat consistent. I had a list of workouts that I felt I should be doing and I tried to do each one once a week. The list included endurance laps at the gym, climbing outside, hill running, general strength maintenance exercises, etc. I would then try to get out in the mountains to tick off objectives whenever the conditions were good and I had time. I kept a training log during this time, mainly because it helped me stay consistent, but I rarely reviewed it. After reading Training I went through my log and tallied my weekly volume, something I haven't done in a few years. I immediately noticed that my random mountain adventures were making my volume very inconsistent. A weekend climb tagged on the end of a week of training would double or triple my volume. I would then be so run down the next week that I would be forced to miss a lot of training. As a result I started to plan ahead so that things evened out and my body didn't get over-stressed.

The next thing I did was to go through all the exercises in the book, I took a week to teach myself some new tricks and assess my over-all strength. I then assumed that my regular regimen was a more than sufficient Transition Period and started the Max Strength Base Period recommended in the book. I selected to use hill sprints and pullups once per week, and squat hops and pullups for my second workout. I also decided to forgo any Zone 3 (threshold) workouts and crag an extra day instead. This is against the advice of the authors but they were writing for an experienced climbing audience. I've only been climbing for two years but I've probably averaged at least one threshold workout a week for the last 13 years. Do the math, I can benefit way more from working my way through new movements on another 5.10 than I can from doing the 763rd 60 min threshold run of my life.

I did this base period for eight weeks, slowly building my volume. That just finished and now I am doing three weeks of Muscular Endurance Base (gym laps with weighted pack and boots, and ski touring with a weighted pack). My goal is a week of productive moderate alpine solo climbing in mid-late June. I will rest one week after my shortened Muscular Endurance Period before starting the trip. 

My last week of Max Strength finished with a squat/pullup workout Friday, a 20 mile run Saturday, and then Sunday I exceeded my weekly volume by hiking up to the Trout Creek cliffs and climbing Goldrush. This is a sustained 5.10- hand crack, capped with an overhang that I struggled to climb six months ago, but now feels quite easy. I guess that's progress for you.

This past week I climbed for 41 min in the gym without coming off the wall while wearing a 30+ pound pack and some Nepal Evo leather mountaineering boots. Saturday I was hoping to get in an easy two hour workout skiing up Mt. Bachelor with a pack weighted with extra water bottles. Instead I got to the summit (~2,500 ft of gain) in 68 minutes and it felt like the easiest thing I'd done all week. So instead of taking Sunday off, as planned, I went multi-pitch climbing. This week is my last week of hard training, but honestly I'm so excited for a week in the mountains that it's hard to not start packing the car already... at least I know that my patience is paying off.

Sisters and Broken Top from the summit of Bachelor.

Tumalo and Bend from the summit of Bachelor.

Myself, confused by how I got here so quickly. Obviously cotton t-shirts count as high performance apparel.

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