Monday, March 29, 2010


I regularly read a variety of training blogs to gather new ideas and learn what others are doing to get more fit for climbing. One of my favorite sites in Steve Bechtel's Climb Strong blog. Along with being a well accomplished climber, Steve is a American Strength and Conditioning Certified coach and runs the Elemental Gym in Lander Wyoming. Steve combines his education and deep understanding of exercise science with an intimate knowledge of climbing to write some thoughtful and effective pieces on training. Check out his site here

In his latest column, Steve talks about the concept of "Tolerance." For many years since training texts had referred to "power endurance." Recently myself and others have used the term anaerobic endurance which seems more accurate to me but still not clear. "Power Endurance" to me, is an oxymoron. Power and endurance couldn't be more of a dichtomy. I like to use the analogy of the marathon runner and the sprinter to frame this idea. The marathon runner is training for a extremely long and sustained performance effort while the sprinter is training for seconds of maximal intensity performance.

Steve says that he was turned onto the term tolerance by a spanish trainer/coach who used the term to define the ability to climb through fatigue for sustained periods on a climb. To me this terms sums it up perfectly. Most routes that are difficult for us come down to being able to sustain a high level of strength and power for several moves through crux or multiple cruxes on a route.

Lately I've dealt with this on a long term nemesis in Rumney. The crux of this route is only about 12 moves long but by the 7th move I'm feeling gassed and mentally I find it challenging to push through that. Training tolerance will not only physically prepare yourself for that sustained crux climbing, it will also prepare you mentally to climb through the fatigue. Check out some of the exercises we've been doing lately here.

I'd be psyched to hear what others are doing to train tolerance and what they think about this concept!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Has Arrived!

New England received some amazing weather last week and I took advantage, heading over to Rumney for some sport climbing. Even after a winter of training hard in the gym it takes a day or so to get back into the swing of climbing on real rock. It was a beautiful weekend and people were sending left and right! I was psyched to send Suburban .13a on Sunday and am now psyched to work on the extension, Urban Surfer .13d. Probably heading back this weekend.

Here are some pics from the weekend!

Alex at the top of Concrete Jungle .13b

Brian shoeing up for a 2nd try send of Venus in a Halfshell .12c

Janet, Freddie, and Tagger!

Brian and Leah
Michael Penn sending China Beach .14b

Training Tolerance

For the past few months I've been cycling between Strength/Power and Anaerobic-Endurance components. One thing that has kept this training dynamic and interesting is constantly switching up the exercises from day to day. I'll talk more about the strength/power components in the near future but for now I wanted to share some of the anaerobic endurance workouts that myself and my friend Brian Bittner have been doing. For me it's been awesome switching up the workouts both on a physical and mental level.

Physically, keeping your workouts new and dynamic forces your body to adapt to more variable stimulus and keeps overloading the body in new and challenging ways. Mentally I have definitely avoided burnout by keeping things new.

As the spring season is upon us, training anaerobic endurance is a great way to transform that strength and power gained bouldering during the winter into route climbing fitness!

Here are some exercises to try out that are outside the usual 4X4 circuit:

Boulder Pyramids:
Select around 5 problems (has to be an odd number) in ascending difficulty. The 5th problem should be somewhere near your limit but should be a problem you have sent. Complete the 5 problems and then repeat them in reverse. Example V4,V4+,V5,V6,V7,V6,V5,V4+,V4

Repeat this pyramid at least 3 times resting between each set for the same length of time it took you to complete it.

Traverse into Problems:
Most routes have one or two main cruxes to be dealt with and a bunch of other climbing in between of variable difficulty. This exercise is an excellent way of simulating a route climbing experience without having to rope up. Select a problem at or slightly under your limit (This may take some experimenting to find out what you can do). Using existing holds in the bouldering area at your gym, pick out a traverse (30+ moves) which ends at the starting holds of your problem. Climb the traverse into the problem building in at least one rest hold prior to the "crux" boulder problem. This exercise is really fun and simulates route climbing as best as you can get without a rope!

30 Problems in an Hour
This exercise is a great stamina exercise and depending on how many problems you do (can be any number. Doesn't have to be 30) can be absolutely devastating! Pick a grade range such as V3-V7 and do as many problems within that range as possible over the course of an hour. Repeating problems is allowed. Give yourself points for each problem completed based on the difficulty of the problem. This keeps you honest and can be fun if you're doing this with a partner.

Alpinist Article!

I'm really psyched about my first published article that just ran on the Alpinist website. The article is about the modern era of climbing development in the Adirondacks and features some amazing photos from my friend Dave Vuono. Check it out here!