I love destination climbing, and since my finger injury, I have been determined to get in all around climbing shape. To be a safe, happy, and successful destination climber, I came up with the following areas that I think will help me reach these goals.
Climb most styles, most kinds of rock – I used to be picky and only climbed ‘my style’, crimpy, slightly less than vertical or vertical, and very technical….no power, no overhung, no slopers, and the list went on…wow, I cannot believe I was so narrow minded as a climber. As the years have passed, I realized that there is beauty in climbing in all styles, even crack climbing. Now to be honest, I do not plan at the moment to do splitter or straight up cracks, because that alone requires major skills I just do not have the time to focus only on. But in my training, I do add crack training because if I see a line with crack moves here and there, I want to be able to do that portion efficiently. Nevertheless, recently, the most beautiful climbs I have gotten on have many features like slopers, ledges, bulges, tiny roofs, slab, smearing, etc. And being able to climb most stuff means I will improve my climbing all the way around. This is obvious stuff most folks know, even I do, but in the past I never really focused my training to become a consistent, all around climber.
Continue improving my system knowledge – Traveling around the world means I cannot control what is out there. In the US, we are lucky to have so many organizations like Access Fund and local groups to help keep the bolting and anchors in decent shape. I observed climbing in other countries, the same exists, but at a lower scale. Destination climbing means you are exposed much more to all kinds of situations, and so in order to be a responsible and smart climber, I need to have the necessary skills and knowledge to safely get out of situations that are unexpected. No I don’t plan on climbing in epic places, but I want to continue growing as a responsible climber who is always thinking about the well being of my partner and myself too.
- Improve my weight to strength ratio either by losing weight or getting stronger – I used to be a twig, and well I allowed my divorce to get to me and I am not so tiny anymore. Yet, I learned how to climb after my weight gain. Could I seriously crush amazing grades given my gymnastic background and athletic spirit if I lost weight? Hell yes! Am I happy with who I am now and healthy? Yes. So for me there is a fine balance. I am not in the mission to be a 5.14 climber, but I do want to avoid injuries and want to be able to go anywhere in the world and have climbing options. So I have come to the conclusion if I don’t lose weight, then I need to become stronger.
Don’t chase grades, but rather chase beautiful climbs and views – When I first started climbing, I valued my climbing by the grade I climbed. But now I am finding that the most beautiful lines come in all grades. So I am determined to live in the moment of my climbing, experience the views, love the aesthetics of a beautiful climb and also mix it up with getting on a challenging line from time to time. In order to do this, I cannot just come into the gym with no plan. Right before my Spain 2013 April trip, I started a strict climbing workout with one of my best friends and we promised each other to be accountable and have a workout planned before we walked into the gym. I swear that is the only thing that helped me survived Spain coming out of a finger injury and not climbing very hard for 6 months. So another obvious, but I have shifted from doing whatever to planning out my climbing workouts based on qualities I want to build (e.g., endurance, technique, etc.).
Improve my ‘straggling’ hiking abilities – I would consider myself the straggler when I go on strenuous, steep approaches. One major reason is since I was young, elite athlete, my blood just does not oxygenate fast enough. I had special training during competition season to make it through those floor routines, which require big bursts of energy and cardio. I had less than 10% body fat, worked out 6 days per week at about 7 hours, and in the best shape in the world, even then I struggled hiking when it was steep.
There are several areas I have been working at to help me reach my goals from nutrition, cross training, climbing workouts and so on. In a series of numerous blog posts, I will share what I am doing to make it happen. The hope is to inspire and share information. There is so much out there, and my journey is just one of many. I figure there has to be something one can read and be inspired or may help change up what they are already doing.
To start, I decided to regain my cross training routine I did in the past, but modified it to one that molds to my busy life now and to my ‘older body’ (haha) and also gives me lots of options to avoid the boredom I had with just running long distance every single day.
“Research shows you can achieve more progress in a mere 15 minutes of interval training (done three times a week) than the girl jogging on the treadmill for an hour.”1
After a long career as an elite gymnast, I feared gaining weight, so I ran my heart out, and I did keep the weight down with no issues. But then I got bored, my knees started bothering me and I just wanted to get stronger. So I hired a trainer and he asked me if I aspired to run a marathon or a long race? He said it was a great goal, but was asking if that is what I wanted to figure out how to focus on my training. I said no, I just wanted a healthier way of life, be strong, not get so bored, and save my knees. So he recommended High Intensity Interval Workouts (HIIT) and mixes it up with a small list of other options to avoid boredom.
I loved HIIT workouts and was in amazing shape for many years. Then I suffered a divorce, got busy traveling enjoying life, and allowed myself to get slowly out of shape. Then I was introduced to climbing, and yes, out of shape I have been able to climb. In my journey, I have suffered some nagging injuries along the way and have been that straggling hiker I once used to be. See my blood does not oxygenate fast enough and can hike faster than the Road Runner if it is flat, but hilly or steep, I am an official turtle! So below is the workout I have been slowly easing back into my life to improve my hiking in steep terrain, my overall fitness level, strength and climbing. If I am traveling, I make sure the hotel has a decent gym and if possible, in good locations, I try to research hiking trails nearby (to take advantage of summer months that offer longer daylight!). Bottom line, if I am not traveling, I am hitting that local YMCA in addition to my climbing gym.
My routine as of late and I tone it down one week before a major climbing trip like Spain.
- 2 days per week – HIIT
- 2 days per week – climbing or bouldering workout
- 1 day per week – hike, steps, or interval running/walking
- Every workout – Abs and Calves
- Every morning for 5-10 minutes – yoga
Here is a description detailing what I am doing.
High Intensity Interval Workouts (HIIT) – Legs, Triceps, Biceps, Chest, Back and Shoulders – Yes I think we all know the major muscle groups. So far I pair my muscles as such: Triceps/Chest, Shoulder/Biceps, and Legs/Back. Then I do the following: major muscle exercise high rep, abs, major muscle high rep, calves, and so on and so on. A perfect example: 25 inclined chest press, 25 crunches, 25 dips, 25 calve raises toes facing forward, 25 chest flies, plank hold for 45-60 seconds (3X), 25 tricep extensions, 15 calve raises toes pointed out, 15 calve raises toes pointed in and so on. I take about 15-30 second rests for recovery in between each exercise and try to stretch as I recover. I try to use a weight that allows me to use good form, but makes me struggle those last 5 reps. I favor higher reps because as a gymnast, that is how we developed long, lean muscles. I do pull ups once per week in one of my workouts and push-ups in the other, just because, they do a climber body good, or at least mine!
Stretch, Abs and Calves – Abs and Calves can be worked out more often, so I make sure to get this in every workout. As a gymnast, how we avoided injuries was by stretching. Stretch every workout!
- Yoga – I try to do soft yoga and stretching as part of my morning routine. While I make my coffee, I go to my family room and do yoga for 5-10 minutes. I know this is not nearly enough, but in my busy schedule, this is better than nothing.
- Treadmill, elliptical, stair stepper, or bike – I do 20-30 minutes each of two types of cardio workouts or 45-60 minutes of one type. Use the rolling hills, interval, or similar workout that provide gradual and challenging peaks, and recovery periods. Use a speed and level that keeps your heart rate up and on your toes, but if you have to grab the treadmill with your hands to keep up, take it down a notch or two. In other words, make sure you can carry your own workout without the aid of grabbing on the handles! If you can carry a good conversation, chances are its too easy. You want a challenge, but want to avoid injury and over pushing it. Only you can figure out that balance, be accountable and make sure you are challenged and don’t cheat!
Step it Up – To mix it up from time to time, find out where the closest school is, make sure it is ok (off time) and do the bleachers, you don’t have to run, but make sure you get a workout. Years ago, in my prime, I started out doing only 3-5 laps up and down and in 3-6 months, it became a warm up. I have a school only 1 mile from my house, so guess what I will also start trying to get this fun workout in once a month. I figure that is a goal that is realistic to keep with my busy schedule, yet allow me to mix it up.
Hike – Unfortunately, where I live, there are few, or not many options that offer steep hiking. If you do, take full advantage of training hikes. I on the other hand, have been trying to fit in twice per month a training hike of 5-10 miles. I try to keep a fast pace and use weights in my daypack. Now with sunlight lasting longer, I will try to increase that frequency when I can.
- Interval Running or Power Walking – I don’t run anywhere like I used to just to avoid any knee problems. I will do running workouts that are power run/walk recovery. There so many out there, but I do a warm up, walk at a fast pace for 2 minutes, run fast for 1 minute, walk slower for 1 minute and then repeat. This is a workout that helped me as a gymnast to improve my breathing, and train my muscles through those up and down cardio spikes. Not everyone can run, so you can do the same power walking, get creative. This can be done indoors on a treadmill, but a great way to do around your neighborhood and get fresh air.
Bottom line, I am trying my best to get into overall shape and my cross training is a critical area. Hope you are inspired or pick out something that will mix up your current already awesome workout!