Looking out the window at the drizzle means one thing, no two. Firstly, no excuse not to go down the wall for some training and secondly no excuse not to write a blog about something… Normally my blogs are super easy to write, this one’s a bit more complicated, requiring more thought, but here we go, just bear in mind this is a massive subject, so this is really just an overview – the internet is full of great articles, and some utter rubbish as well.
For years I was kidding myself “off down the wall to get strong” I’d say, rubbish. Is going down the wall with a mate and doing a few routes training? No. I’m not saying it’s pointless, it’s great fun and you’ll get some benefit, as you will from any climbing, but don’t kid yourself it’s training. Sorry about that.
Do you need to train, and more importantly do you want to train? If you’re happily climbing a grade and going to a climbing wall is just your way of ticking over when you can’t get to a crag then great, keep doing what you’re doing! If, however, you’re trying to improve your grade, think about what’s stopping you succeeding.
It’s important to understand a few key words when giving the above points some thought.
How do we train our weaknesses? With hard work! Remember you’ve got to want to do the training, so have a think about what motivates you. It could be a particular route or grade, it could be to burn off your mates, or to make the most of that upcoming trip to the Costa Blanca – whatever it is, use it.
Before anything, warm up! You need to prepare your body to perform, get the heart rate up with some jogging, star jumps etc, do a bit of mobility stuff to get your muscles and joints moving and do a bit of co-ordination work as well. Then move on to some EASY climbing or bouldering.
This is such a complicated subject. You’ll want to train all these different elements in phases, but we have to keep on top of them all. If we focus entirely on endurance, you’ll be stumped when you come to a crux section on a sport route, if you focus solely on power you’ll run out of gas hanging around placing gear on a trad route.
Don’t forget to rest. All this training requires your body to rest and rebuild to get stronger & fitter.
Remember I asked why you’re failing on routes? We also need to consider what we are looking to achieve from our training, maybe that’s linked to what’s motivating us. If you’re aim is to onsight The Strand, E2 at Gogarth then you’ll need endurance just to keep on trucking, if it’s to redpoint your a cruxey 7a somewhere then it’s probably power endurance you’ll need.
Well done for making it through that lot! Hopefully it’s useful and gives you something to think about. I get such a buzz from succeeding on routes that I’ve had to work hard to achieve that it’s easy to stay motivated to train and I enjoy the training itself, and that’s super important I think. If you don’t enjoy the training, even if it’s type two fun, it’ll be hard to keep doing it, week in week out.
Lastly, remember this blog is just a bit of an overview, this is, as I’ve already said, a massive subject… If you’re going to get training, get as much knowledge as you can, whether that’s reading stuff or seeking advice from a climbing coach.
Get training and smash those goals!
Grades are just arbitrary numbers and yet we get so hung up on them. I’ll happily admit I’m motivated by them and they provide goals and targets for me to work towards.
Type “how to climb 7a” in to Google and you’ll get plenty of results, the top one being by Steve McClure, the man who’s just climbed 9b, read it, it’s good.
Unlike Steve, I don’t have many grades in hand when I climb a 7a! My best onsight is only a grade harder at 7a+ and my best redpoint is 7b+, this year is the first year I’ve put some proper effort in to trying to push my grade and I’m about to start working my first 8a (nb. working is a long way from succeeding..!)
Here’s my take on it anyway!
Train. I spent years going to the climbing wall thinking I was training, I wasn’t! If you go to the wall and just mince around doing a few routes, that isn’t training. It’s still useful, it’s mileage isn’t it, but think about what you’re trying to achieve. Training is a massive subject, about which there’s shed loads written (even how many moves you should be climbing per week to climb a particular grade, or how much weight you should be able to hold hanging on a finger board), but have a think about why you’re failing on routes, lack of endurance, lack of power, lack of strength, lack of power endurance, these will dictate what areas you need to work on. Consider getting some outside advice on this, personally I needed to be told by someone else what I needed to work on, despite having a reasonable amount of knowledge on the subject.
Fall off, again and again and again. The head game is massive and falling off lots will help it. If you slap for that final hold you might hold it, if you don’t try you’ll never know, if you’re scared of falling you won’t slap… Fear of falling saps energy, makes you climb poorly and will hold you back. When I’m climbing laps indoors I never clip the top lower off, just jumping off once I’ve got the top hold, so I’m falling off a minimum of 16 time during my laps session. I used to practice random falling to build up the belayer trust but I don’t need to now, I just climb hard (for me) stuff until I fall off. Go for that next move, that one more move, every time! Bear in mind I’m talking about training here, not redpointing a route, we need to conserve our energy sometimes. Remember though, poor falling off practice could make things worse, so give it some thought and don’t do what I saw the other day – people taking their first ever lead falls on a vertical arete (hard to land well, you’ll bang your shins etc) and then not high enough up the wall so the belayer was almost kicked in the head and the climber getting quite close to the ground.
Performance Preparation. Mine used to consist of an espresso and an easy climb or two and that just doesn’t cut it. I remember chuckling to myself seeing people running around, doing star jumps, getting a theraband out and so on, now that’s me, every time. Again this is a massive subject but think about getting the cardio going, mobilising the joints and muscles and getting your co-ordination kick started, then get on some easy stuff for a bit to recruit your muscles. This happens at the beginning of the session and also before each climb when I’m outdoors. Part of the performance prep is route reading, spotting the rests, clipping positions, particular moves, where you’ll need to move fast and visualise yourself doing it and succeeding.
Don’t be afraid of failing and always take the positives. You want to push your grade? It sucks but sometimes you won’t get it. Take the positives though, it’s so important! Many years ago I threw my sport ‘draws on the floor and shouted “sport is sh*t, I’m never climbing sport again”! These days, to be honest I’m usually smiling when I fail, something will certainly have gone well or I’ll have learnt something about my climbing or the route itself and it motivates me to try harder!
Reading that won’t make you climb 7a, sorry. Reading that and giving each point some more thought might do… Each point could be an article in its own right and you might need to do some further reading or even get some outside help, but maybe it’ll be worth it. There are also other things to think about, such as nutrition, self discovery is all part of the journey, and there’s a lot that’s applicable to pushing your trad grade too.
One day I might write a how to climb 8a blog, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one!
So what’s stopping you climbing 7a?
I’m really looking forward to my Alps trip this summer, it’s always one of the highlights of my year and I’m also looking forward to running a few Alpine Preparation Courses here in Wales to help other people get themselves ready.
It’s prompted me to write this very tongue in cheek blog about how to spot a Brit abroad in the Alps!
Here’s my top 5 tips for spotting us lot in the Alps.
TTTTTAAAAKKKKIINNNNGGG IIIIINNNN, TTTTHHHHAAAATTTTSSSS MEEEEEEEEE, WWWWWHHHHHAAAAATTTTTT IIIIIISSSSS TTTTTHHHHHAAAAATTTTT YYYYOOOUUUUU…. You get the idea. Build up that solid climbing partnership and you’ll minimise the unnecessary shouting, you won’t destroy the peace and the French won’t be doubled up laughing at you (maybe).
Be efficient, be fast, have fun and pretend you’re French.
Our Alpine Prep Courses are slightly more serious, but we still make sure we have a laugh, as well as covering loads of stuff to make you slick and safe.
I shouldn’t get so excited by rock shoes but… well the whites are just flippin brilliant! When Five Ten discontinued these, there were some pretty unhappy people, there was even a Facebook group called “Five Ten – Bring back the Anasazi Whites!”. I loved them, they fitted my feet perfectly so that even fitting them quite tight I found them comfortable (I took size 11, compared to my street shoe size of 12).
Imagine my excitement when I heard that Five Ten were bringing them back! They were coming back last year, but the release date seemed to slip, I think partly due to a change or two that they made not being met with enthusiasm by their sponsored climbers. I’ve been delaying buying a new pair of shoes until they were re-released and so I was very happy to see my local store, V12 in Llanberis put a Facebook post up yesterday with a new delivery of Whites, boom! Perfect timing with a few slate routes on my to do list.
With a day on the slate planned, this morning’s first port of call was V12 to pick myself up a pair, turns out I wasn’t the first person to buy a pair either! They are pretty expensive, the RRP is £130, I think V12 are going to sell them for £115… Yesterday I’d been working on Slug Club Special E4 6a on the Seamstress Slab, so I thought this could be the perfect test for them.
The new Whites seem to fit exactly the same as the old ones and again I’ve gone for an 11. They are fairly narrow, very stiff (new design means they should stay stiff for longer) and the heel is pretty precise but like the old one, does pull into my Achilles tendon a bit – this softened up nicely on the last one so I expect these will do the same.
These shoes really do edge well, like amazingly well. My old ones are fairly rounded now and are a bit rounded on the edges these days, but I still love them on limestone sport and anything I want to be really precise on. But for now the new pair are going to be slate only shoes. I tried Slug Club in the older ones and the newer ones and was pleasantly surprised that the new pair were sticking really well to a couple of quite smeary holds that I thought they struggle with fresh out the box, as expected their edging performance was superb.
The only of differences seem to be the eyelet rail construction, gone is the orange piping, they say the rail is welded on, whatever that means, the tongue seems to be made out of a really stretchy material and is nice and comfy and the laces are different (sad as this sounds that is a shame because the old ones were kind of ribbed(!) which made them stay done up well.
Did Slug Club go down? Well sort of. The moves are steady enough, but the first bit of gear – the spike at about 6 metres feels pretty high! So I, like many people I guess, did it with the spike of metal preclipped, I decided the risk of broken ankles wasn’t worth it and I don’t expect I’ll be rushing back, great fun all the same.
I always buy Five Ten shoes, they fit me well and the rubber is ace. Currently, as in the photo, I have:
Whites x 2
Velcros x 2, one for wall, one for trad
Hi Angles for bouldering and steep sport
Greens, quite knackered but great for smearing
Vertical Miles, old but comfy for work
Old Whites, virtually the same
Velcros (10.5), Whites much more precise fit, stiffer
Greens (11.5), similar fit, Whites have a far better heel, stiffer.
Whites then, they’re brilliant, buy some if you want a really precise, stiff shoe and you have a relatively narrow foot. They never seem to have held Steve McClure back…
A chilly day in North Wales for an SPA refresher course!
We started off at Lion Rock, before heading over to Union Rock, then running away to the Beacon climbing wall!
Carol was with us refreshing her skills and we covered loads!
I had a tired training session at the wall after, just about struggled up a 7a which I’m pretty happy with considered my energy levels were low 🙂