A few months back I wrote an article about shiny object syndrome and how it’s one of the biggest killers of climbing improvement. To quickly recap SOS (as I referred to it), is the mindset whereby novel training tactics constantly grab our attention, divert us away from our current plan thus preventing us from building any kind of consistency with our training.

I was really touched with the response to this article. Knowing that it helped a few of you make a few changes to the way you approached your climbing made me feel awesome. As a result I thought this 2 part article on how to simplify your climbing training would be a great follow on from “Shiny Object Syndrome” (click here for the initial article. N.B – It’s by no means mandatory reading in order to understand this one by the way!).

SOS is in essence one way in which climbers often over complicate their training. It’s in this over complication we become confused, frustrated and aimless. The “f*** it” mentality returns and the belief that we can get better takes a hit for a while. Not good.

A resounding message from us as coaches is “Keep it simple” but again like I’ve said before, this advice on it’s own is arbitrary and kind of useless. So what is simple climbing training? What things do we actually need to do to get better.

So if you get down to the wall and find yourself a bit lost, and are close to buying into the idea of, “Screw this I’m just gonna hop on the wall and hope for the best,” – Hold that thought, try to notice it and realise that climbing like this isn’t going to push you forwards.

“Ironically, Level 1 (i.e. where anything goes training wise) is where most of us stay for our entire climbing career. Go to the climbing gym, do what our friends do, spend too much time on macho stuff like dynos, get strong despite our foolishness, and then plateau for the rest of our career and lament our poor genetics.” – Steve Bechtel

How many of you can resonate somewhat with this quote?

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a random, fun climb with no other thought besides wanting to get on the wall is more than OK. When you’ve had a bad day, going through the motions and having a not so serious session can do wonders for your mental health and training motivation. However if this makes up the majority of your climbing it’s not going to cut the mustard when it comes to wanting to improve if that’s what you want?

Just in case you’re worried though, going in with the intention of wanting to drill technique doesn’t mean your session has to be easy and thus underwhelming. The idea behind building technical proficiency is practicing lots of climbing at a sub maximal grade (i.e. hard but so hard that every move is a battle of will). For me the sweet spot for this is when I complete a session with a high number of problems or moves that are about a 7/10 difficult wise (8/10 if I’m practicing single moves). At this intensity I can really focus on the skill I’m trying to develop. Any harder than this and my automatic brain takes over. When it gets to over 8/10 I’m not consciously practicing skills anymore, I’m not training or learning a great deal, I’m simply performing. Want to improve technically? Spend the majority of time on problems away from your limit and only hit your projects after spending some meaningful time on easier climbs. Oh and believe me training this way is anything but easy.

What next then? What other factors should we take into consideration in order to simply and streamline our climbing training? 

The gym, the moon board (or training board), the campus board and the fingerboard are 4 tools that are commonly misunderstood in climbing training. To put it simply (and stay in theme with this article!), they all have their place. However just because they’re available doesn’t mean they need to be factored in. The truth is NOTHING can replace real climbing if you want to get better at climbing. Sounds daft but it’s something a lot of us tend to forget. What I think it all boils down to is your intentions, the time you realistically have available to train and your current ability level. We’ll go through these things in part 2 of this article in next month’s newsletter. Stay tuned!

 Coach Will