When I got the news that I would be representing the USA at two bouldering World Cups this year, I knew that I had some serious training to do to get ready for these events! I am definitely the kind of person who likes to make an in-depth plan and have a good idea of what I am doing to prepare. After ABS Open Nationals at the end of January this year, I maintained a pretty steady regime in my training. Things really began to pick up in the Spring, as I concentrated on really honing in and focusing on comp-specific techniques and exercises for the World Cups. A typical week of training for me meant working out approximately 20-25 hours a week. Roughly 16+ of those hours were climbing at the gym, while the rest of the time was devoted to cross training and other off-wall climbing exercises. I was able to get a lot of important advice and help in structuring my training from my longtime coach and mentor, Douglas Hunter, as well as other amazing people from the youth team I climb with, Team Touchstone. Here is a very basic outline of some of the things I did for training.
- Sunday = Easily my lightest day of training. I used this day mainly to rest and recover from the past week of training. I basically just did a lot of stretching and arm, shoulder, and back massages. Total time was approximately 30 minutes.
- Monday = For sure, my longest day of training! I would do a lot of climbing at the gym, running, stretching, and cross-training related exercises. This day came out to be around 6 long hours of training!
- Tuesday = Back at it in the climbing gym, stretching, and cross-training (with a specific emphasis on medicine ball throws).
- Wednesday = I used this day to completely rest my arms and give them a break. I did more leg-related things like running, plyometrics, vertical jumps, and of course lots of stretching!
- Thursday = Very similar to what I did on Tuesday: climbing at the gym, stretching, and cross-training.
- Friday = Again, similar to what I did on Friday: “Leg Day,” if you will. Running, plyometrics, vertcial jumps, and stretching.
- Saturday = On my last day of the week, I mainly focused on getting out and climbing at other gyms or at local competitions that were putting on Onsight/World Cup format comps. I tried to do this so that I could get additional practice on new setting. I also did more medicine ball throws and stretched a lot after I climbed or competed.
This is just a very basic idea of what I did to train for India and Vail. In addition to what I did from Monday through Friday mentioned above, I also trained a lot on off-wall cross-training related exercises. The most important for me during these four days were campus boarding, hangboarding, and weights. I also made sure to do a core workout every single day leading up to my trip to India. Like all athletes, I don’t want to go into detail or reveal any specifics of what I had been doing on every single exercise. 😉 However, I won’t totally be that person who just leaves you in the dark and never gives out anything. I will give you a little insight into what I did at the gym, why I did medicine ball throws, and why I did plyometrics/vertical jumps, along with their relevance to World Cup training.
For my climbing on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, the most important parts of the time at the gym were spent on three main components after my set warm-up. First was running through a comp onsight simulation (like that of the World Cup formats with a predetermined bonus hold and top), projecting problems graded V9-V11, and finally doing an interval to work on power endurance. One thing that I changed in my training during the time between India and Vail was the addition of practicing more on my weaknesses at the end of each climbing day. I tried to practice on the slab and multi-coordinated movements (such as weird double/triple dynos or strange off-set balance moves) more, because in India there were two climbs that I could have done had I been more prepared for.
The onsight simulation was important because it helped me to practice the style and format of the World Cups, especially since USA Climbing uses a different and unique comp format for their Regional and National events. Practicing the international format helped me to time exactly how long I would preview the problem, how many tries to give, and overall strategy on each climb. It helped me learn how to think on my feet and read each problem quickly and efficiently.
The purpose of projecting was mainly to help me build strength for very difficult moves and sequences, as well as give me confidence to execute hard moves on the wall. Lastly, intervals were super important and are always the first thing I consider and make a plan for in any of my training – past, present, or future. I was first introduced to this method of building endurance by Douglas Hunter, and I must say that intervals are so incredibly useful and helpful in making anybody into a better climber.
There are four main types of intervals that I use for bouldering (sport climbing is different), but one that was very prevalent in the lead up to India and Vail was the 8×2. Basically, I would pick 8 different problems (ranging from V6+ to V8-) and repeat each climb back-to-back with no rest in between. So I would do a climb twice before taking a short, predetermined rest before the next problem. I purposefully varied the hold and wall types, as well as the lengths of each climb (some would be 10 moves, others 15 or more). This workout was great because it helped me build power endurance and stamina for high intensity boulder problems. It was giving 2 high quality sends in a row, then taking a short rest before trying another hard climb. This is very similar to how onsight comps work: only a few short minutes to try a hard climb only a few times, and only being able to rest a limited amount between each problem.
Finally, the medicine ball throw exercises and the plyometrics/vertical jumps were both important to me personally because they both build explosive power and dynamics, two things I always need a little more of! For the medicine ball throws I did between 3-5 sets of 5 reps per set. I had two methods of doing these, one that was vertical and one that was lateral. In brief, I used an 18 pound medicine ball and held it above my head with straight arms. I would then throw the ball straight down as hard as I could in one smooth motion with my arms. The point was to develop speed and fluidity as I aimed to make the medicine ball travel 180-degrees as fast as I could. This helped me build strength in the shoulders and good coordination and speed in the arms and upper body.
The purpose of the plyometrics and the vertical jumps was similar to the medicine ball throws: to build speed and dynamic power but for the legs, and to work on good, fast plantar flexion of the feet. I did 3 sets of 8 reps per leg with added light weight on the plyometrics, and 3 sets of 8 reps per leg with added weight for the vertical jumps. The point was to strengthen the legs so that they could really power the body up during a dyno, and to give me the control and ability to stick moves that were far beyond my reach. The emphasis on the legs was important because they are the first things in motion during dynos (a move that is now so popular in comp-style setting these days). And as everyone knows, if I could just gain even a little more height by training with plyometrics, then I’ll do it. I need to gain every inch!
One important thing about training is always to remember to get the adequate rest and recovery. Anytime I feel unusually sore or have an unknown bit of pain, I try to take extra care, caution, and even some time off. This is always the best solution during a time of high intensity training because you do not want to injure or aggravate anything. I should also mention that about a week and a half before each of the events, I GREATLY tapered my workouts and even eliminated some exercises. This was so I could give my body the proper amount of time to rebuild so that I wouldn’t be fatigued when I competed. Trust me, I’ve had problems with over training in the past and then being completely fatigued when I stepped up to compete. It is not fun to be tired when you know you have to perform! Also, eating enough good nutritious food and working on staying hydrated is very important for your body to be healthy, strong, and running at peak efficiency.
I hope that by getting a glimpse into what I do for training will inspire you to try and experiment with your own methods. Everyone’s needs are a little different, and each training plan is unique to each person. Training is hard and it can be tedious sometimes. However, it is so incredibly critical if you want to achieve a goal. While it sometimes isn’t fun, training is ultimately the difference between success and failure. If you want to accomplish something, then you must put that time, energy, sacrifice, and effort into it. All things in life that are worth doing will be hard, but if you are devoted to that goal then the possibilities are limitless and the end result is totally worth it. Find what you are passionate about, train hard for it, and go out there and do it!