Round 4

How to lose weight and enhance performance?

Q: As a 44-year-old, I’ve acquired some extra baggage that I’d like to lose. Climbing has helped me take off about 20 pounds, however, I need to lose about another 25 pounds. My weight loss has recently reached a plateau, so I’d appreciate some advice for producing further weight loss. — Jim (Richmond, VA)

A: Hey Jim, Your desire is a common one among climbers, since weight loss is an obvious way to enhance performance. Given that your limit is 5.9, however, I think you can also improve (at your current weight) with an increased focus on training technique and the mind. Don’t overlook these vital skill areas. That said, your body has likely reached a “set point”, so you need to introduce a new training strategy to drop more weight. One of the best “tricks” is to do your aerobic training first thing in the morning and before eating breakfast (a cup of coffee and a glass of water is OK). This takes discipline to execute, but if you can do this three mornings per week I guarantee you’ll break your plateau! Of course, watching your diet is the other side of the weight-loss equation–avoid calorie-dense foods such as pastries, burgers, pizza with meat toppings, fast food, and everything fried. Drink lots of water and eat little or anything within three hours of bedtime. Do all of the above and you’ll be feeling better and climbing harder this Fall!

When to do antagonist muscle training?

Q:Is it okay to do antagonist training on non-climbing days? — Jason (New York, NY)

A: Yes, you could to the antagonist (“push muscle”) training on non-climbing days as long as you keep it “light”. You could also do this training at the end of your climbing days, so that your non-climbing days provide complete rest (my preference).

How to effectively train around a difficult work schedule?

Q: Hi Eric! I have just read Training For Climbing and am excited to apply the principles I learned from reading the book. However, I have a very unusual work situation which makes it difficult to schedule workouts. I work an on-call schedule for 8 days, followed by 4 days off. During the 8 days on call, I average between 10 and 14 hours of work per day, and may work up to 35 hours straight! This makes it difficult to plan my climbing workouts and to ensure adequate rest. Do you think it is possible to adapt the training principles you outline in your book to accommodate my unusual lifestyle? Is it possible to make consistent gains in climbing even though I do not have the ability to establish a consistent training schedule? — Jill (Grand Junction, CO)

A: Hey Jill, First of all, it sounds like you are doing great (11b/V5) given your work schedule….and I trust you will be able to improve given a thoughtful approach to dovetailing your training and work. First and foremost, you must consider you quantity and quality of rest, then train in proportion to this. For instance, if you work a 35-hour shift (ugh!), don’t even think about training on top of that–get a couple days of rest, then get out climbing and have fun for a couple days. However, on days or weeks that your schedule is more sane, try to work in some workouts that target your weaknesses–TFC should help you identify them. You may never be able to get on a formal 4-3-2-1 cycle, but you can engage in quality workouts when your schedule allows.

It seems to me that you have good natural talent and lots of passion for climbing, so I wouldn’t waste any time worrying about how your job might limit you. Just focus on making the most of your available time and energy, and I trust you’ll continue to make gains!

Powerballs for hand pronator training?

Q: What do you think of Power Balls as device for training hand pronator. — Paul (Berlin, Germany)

A: Using a Powerball would be better than doing nothing at all. That said, I’m not impressed with the workout they provide for the important pronator muscles. Something more targeted and with more resistance is ideal…as shown in my books, there are a couple options. Of course, forearm stretching is also vital for preventing elbow injuries.

Whether to perform complimentary exercises during “Endurance Phase”?

Q: In the endurance phase of the 4-3-2-1 cycle, I understand the concept of lots of climbing at a submaximal level. However, are there any sport specific exercises to compliment this 4-week endurance phase apart from, say, core strengthening. For example, should I be doing assisted pull-ups or other such exercises at a greater volume but a lower intensity. — Dave (New Zealand)

A: Dave, It really depends on your climbing volume on the endurance days and, of course, how fatigued you become. For example, if you are able to climb 200 to 400 meters of total distance (or 45 to 90 minutes of actual climbing time), then you probably don’t want to do any further training. You’d only be digging yourself a deeper hole from which to recover (and risk overtraining). If your endurance day features less volume–say, less than 45 minutes of total climbing time–then you may want to engage in some targeted training of the climbing muscles. Keep the resistance light and the reps high, however; strive for 25 to 50 lat pulldowns with roughly half of your body weight. Frenchies are another excellent endurance training exercise for climbers…doing 2 or 3 sets to failure will certainly light you up!

How to deal with finger pain in a 40-something climber?

Q: I’m a forty-something climber and started gym climbing just 5 months ago. I did fine until I started getting on some 5.10’s–then my fingers started to hurt. They still hurt, even though I’ve been careful. Some people say that at my age I am doomed to pain if I continue climbing. Others say there are specific things I can do or take–like glucosamine, warm water soaks, etc.–that will help out. What do you say? — Kristin (Berkeley, CA)

A: Hello Kristin, I wouldn’t worry too much about your finger pangs as long as it is not intense sharp pain (stop climbing immediately in this case). Yes, climbing is hard on your fingers regardless of age. The finger tendons are very slow to adapt to the stress of climbing, and you’ve advanced very quickly (5.10s in 5 months is fantastic!). I suspect that you’ll find your fingers slowly adjusting to the stress of climbing, and you’ll have a little less pain, say, a year from now.

Glucosamine may be beneficial, but you need to take it every day long-term to gain any benefit, as in the clinical studies. I’m 40 years old and have climbed (and run and trained hard for the last 25 years), so I do take the glucosamine to–hopefully–help my beaten joints. If cost isn’t an issue, I’d suggest you use this supplement daily as well.

One final comment: you should not climb more than 3 or 4 days per week. You are climbing at a high level for a novice and you need plenty of rest to avoid other more serious injuries. You could learn a lot by reading my book Training For Climbing.
2004 Eric J. Horst. All Rights Reserved