Round 175

Hi Eric, I have been following you religiously for the past 10 years or so! Thanks to all your good advice and great coaching, I manage to climb up to V10/ 5.14, even without a gym to regularly train in. I spent the last week in the Red River Gorge for the first time. I thought I would do pretty good climbing 1 to 2 grades under my max, but unfortunately, I literally got spanked due to my lack of endurance on the steep routes! Even juggy 5.12 felt horrible on my forearms. I know that I am mostly a redpoint climber and that I climb on mostly vertical rock at home, but can my endurance be that bad?! Do I have to go back in the gym and seriously start training some good old pure endurance or do I stick with power endurance? –Nick

Hey Nick, Your situation is not uncommon, so don’t feel bad. You’re a super strong climber, and I’m sure a couple weeks at the Red you’d adjust and do much better. Part of doing well at the Red is technique and speed–climbing super fast between rests (not slow like you’d get away with on a vert route) and also learning to get clever rests (knee bars, etc), which takes some time to learn to see and use. Of course, getting stronger (max grip strength) and increasing aerobic (forearm) VO2 is hugely valuable too. Vert route climbers carry less weight on their fingers, since the feet are carrying more, and so there’s less “resistance” climbing volume…and often just brief boulder problems between easier climbing and rests. Thus, a climber with a large anaerobic capacity (probably you) can excel on this on-and-of cruxy/bouldery face climbs…with lots of foot rests. On a 100 foot Red River endurance route, however, high anaerobic capacity is not enough—you need a strong climbing-specific aerobic system…which demands long-term targeted training. This is a topic I’ve covered extensively in recent podcasts. Anyway, I recommend you make your long-term training focus to develop max strength/power and local aerobic power. Hope this helps!

Hi Eric, I would like to see an article or a podcast on recovery training. A friend of mine who just turned 75 and remains an active climber at a high level, just retired as a coach for the National Ski team. He strongly advocates recovery exercises (or light climbing) after a training/climbing session in order to accelerate recovery. Similarly, he advocates stretching, ice baths, etc. I look forward to hearing your take on recovery techniques. –Marek

Hey Marek! Yes, that’s a great idea and it’s on my schedule for some time next year. Active recovery is hugely important; but you need to do it right…and be sure it doesn’t escalate (a problem with some climbers/athletes!). Ice baths have limited use, IMO, except after ridiculously hard days that totally destroy you (or in a competition situation). In training, however, some inflammatory response is desirable (and shouldn’t be suppressed) because this hermetic stress leads to the positive adaptations we’re after in training. I think climbers should throw away the Advil for the same reason–again, except in situations with significant pain/swelling, etc. But again, there are some very helpful recovery techniques (especially low intensity rest day exercise) that I’ll address more in the future.

Hello Eric! I’m a big time fan of your work. I have three of your books; in fact, Training for Climbing was the first of your books that I read and really helped me in the development of my climbing. I want to thank you for the work you do. I find the things I’ve learned from you about climbing invaluable. Now my question: I have high goals and aspirations in climbing and want to know in the long run what would help me improve the most.

I am currently living near St. George, UT. As I’m sure you know, there is loads of amazing outdoor rock climbing close by that could entertain me for a while; unfortunately, there is no rock climbing gym close by. I have the opportunity to move to Orem, UT and the potential to work for Momentum Climbing gym and, thus, access to a world class climbing gym. In your opinion, am I better off stay in St. George near the great outdoor limestone or would living in Orem—and working at the gym—be better for my development? –Cole

Hi Cole! Thanks for the kind words. You’re in a pretty sweet situation—either way, you have great climbing access and you will improve steadily, barring injury or lack of motivation. Long term, however, I believe it would be better to be able to train at a great gym (during the week) and climb outside on weekends (obviously, there’s good outdoor climbing around SLC as well). Heck, you can still roadtrip St. George for outdoor climbing…but that access to the indoor gym is invaluable. So I hope you can land the job at the gym–that would be a sweet gig, as long as you are disciplined in taking adequate rest days. Crush, brother!

Hi Eric, First, thank you for all of the information that you have compiled and made available. I love your podcast and am truly grateful to have you as a resource. I’m a 27 year old female climber, student, and yoga teacher. I’m 135 lbs, 5’5″, and almost exclusively boulder. I climb up to v6/v7. My question regards running on training days. I used to run quite a lot as a teenager, and have been a cyclist since I was 15. I recently cut back on the cycling, and have got back into running. I go for short runs, maybe 25-35 minutes usually 3 times a week at a moderate pace (although I don’t walk the hills as I know you’ve mentioned you do). I find it helps me to manage my weight and boosts my mood. I wonder if running on training days or on rest days is better. I worry if I run on rest days I won’t get proper recovery, and if I run on training days I won’t be allocating energy to the number one priority which is of course climbing. As an aside, I try to have one day a week which is only a rest day and involves really minimal exertion. You’re input and wisdom would be greatly appreciated, thank you! –Gin

Hi Gin, If running makes you feel good, then it’s important and helpful. Keep running! I do NOT think the amount of running you suggest will hurt; in fact, you could even do a short run in the morning on one or two climbing days per week (easy 2 miles) if you like. As far as the long rest day runs….nutrition is the most important thing. If you do rest day running on a calorie deficit, then it will hurt your recovery for climbing. But if you are eating 3 quality meals with moderate amount of carbs and protein, then I think you’ll be just fine. In the case of the final week before an important weekend of climbing, competition, or road trip…do cut back on the running the final week. All training, climbing and non-climbing, should taper the final 5 to 7 days…as I’ve explained in my TFC book and in previous podcasts. Hope this info helps you! Let me know how it goes.

Hi Eric, I’m a fairly new climber and have been taking it seriously for the last 1 or 2 years and have managed to redpoint V6 and 5.11d. But, I’m a new father and have only been able to get outside a handful of times this last year. There is no peaking me for me at the moment and I want to get really strong over the next year or two for when these days outside ramp back up. How would you set up a structure to do a lot of strength for the next year without getting injured? I’m thinking of 8 week blocks with a deload week in between. Thoughts? FYI, I have no climbing gym – only an 8×8 home wall at 40 degrees, hangboard, gymnastic rings and free weights. –Ian

Hi Ian! First, you’re doing great…and you will get a lot better with a good plan and the discipline to follow through! I’m been in your situation (we had our two boys within 2 years of each other), so smart home training is key…so that you can climb well and have fun on the occasional day at the crags. And, if you’re disciplined, the next couple of years can build a solid foundation to really push the grades when things settle down and you begin climbing outside more often!

Anyway, I recommend using something like my 3-2-1 cycle–3 weeks of max strength and power (bouldering, weighted or minimum-edge hangboarding, weighted pull-ups, etc.), then 2 weeks of aerobic/anaerobic endurance (4x4s and 90 second to 2 minute high-intensity burns/laps on your bouldering wall), then a 1 week deload of just some easy climbing…or ideally a few rest days followed by a few days climbing outdoors! Keep repeating this cycle, and it will lead you up hill over the long run! Also, don’t forget core and antagonist training, especially rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers stuff–hugely important! Staying motivated is key, however, so schedule some firm day trips to the crags and weekend trips whenever…to keep you focused on the purpose of all of this training! Good luck, and let me know how it goes.