Improvement!

We got a lot of climbing in last week, possibly a little too much as my elbows were pretty sore by the end of the week! It seems to have paid off though, as I’ve managed to top-rope a technical, balancy 6c+ route at York that felt impossible last October, and almost led it last night. It’s really motivating to see these tangible gains every so often, as so much of the time, week to week it’s hard to see any noticeable improvement.

I’ve been thinking about the training I’ve done over the past few months – the first time I tried this 6c+ route it felt ridiculously hard – I seem to remember it taking me weeks just to link any of the moves. Now, having tried it on lead a couple of times, I only take one fall on the entire route. Much as I would love to pin down one specific part of training that has moved me on to this new level, I don’t think I can. Training over the past few months has included some fingerboard work (sporadic, and not particularly focused), some strength work in the gym (I’m not sure how applicable this is), some semi-regular core strength work, and regular work on a pull-up bar. It seems to me that the most useful training thus far has been the last two – regular pull-ups and leg raises on the pull-up bar, mixed up a little by using 3 or 2 fingers of each hand to hold on to the bar, and core work – sit-ups, roman candles, crunches, superman’s and planks and dishes (if anyone knows the more technical terms for these, please feel free to suggest them in the comments!).

It seems to me that some of my gains have been down to spending more time on this climbing-specific training, but not all. Right now, the most significant driving factor in my progression stands out to me as…climbing more, and attempting routes harder than my current grade. Since I first lead a 6b route, I’ve been working (on lead and top-rope), routes up to 7b+. Some of these attempts have involved dogging up a wall, working a single move multiple times, or working multiple moves without being able to link any of them. This is (at least to me now) an interesting observation – oftentimes in climbing, I think people are looking for a magic bullet, some magical training technique that is going to propel them to the next grade. My opinion on this is likely highly influenced by where I am with my personal climbing now, but the way to move up through the grades in climbing is simply to climb more, and climb harder. Attempt routes beyond your ability, and eventually they will be within your ability. Discussions on how you feel you make the periodic gains in climbing ability welcomed in the comments!

Training on Overhangs

The closer I get towards leading at F7a, the more I notice certain physiological elements that need attention. It started with a feeling that I was lacking in finger strength – regular finger pull-ups and hangs from door frames have helped a lot with this. I then noticed I was struggling to hang small pockets, so focused on working routes that contained a number of them. All of this quite directed finger training has meant that I’ve been finishing training sessions with fingers that feel they’ve had a workout, but not much else. The area I feel I’m now lacking in is power-endurance – my forearms are pumping out far too quickly on sustained routes. To this end, we went to the Leeds Wall and jumped on the big overhanging routes there. It’s interesting to notice how the grades suddenly feel much harder when climbing a different style of route. The aim of cranking out some big overhanging routes is to improve both overall power, and stamina. We’ll see how the next few weeks pan out..