|Conditions worsening by the second.|
|Near perfect conditions. 2 days post snowstorm.|
Next morning, with one last 2 hour climbing window, and perfect weather, we trudged back up the hill so Annalissa could try “Harvest Moon”, a great 11a just left of the Killer Cave. Again, making the most of our short time, she clipped chains on her 2nd try to complete her first 5.11 in her home state. And on we go.
Alright, back to training.
I’ve been getting tons of questions and comments about the High/Low approach to training that I’ve been exploring and writing about. I figured that it might be prudent to let people know, in one post, whether or not this style of training is for you.
Who’s In, And Why?
If you fit into one of these categories, but not into one of the “out” categories, print your tickets and board the train!
Seasoned Vets. If you’ve been training through several cycles, and understand the difference between training and performance, then you might be a candidate. There is a skill that you have cultivated through years of both training and performance that is an absolute necessity for route climbers (and enduro boulderers) and you just can’t learn through High/Low training alone. Simply put, the ability to push forward, to keep climbing, when your forearms are bulging, your elbows are raised to your ears, and you aren’t sure you can make even one move more. If you haven’t been in that situation, it’s a safe bet that several things will happen… your footwork will start to deteriorate, beta will be impossible to retrieve, and you’ll either drop off without really trying, or you’ll say “TAKE!”. However, you, the seasoned vet, can avoid all that, keep it together, stay cool, calm, and collected, and clip chains. Now is the time to switch gears in your training. High. Low. Do it.
Weekend Warriors. Particularly the Weekend Warrior who is in the midst of the best of the season. While it may still be beneficial for the weekend warrior to train in the middle zones (if you fit into a category below), when the conditions reach their peak it’s best to keep the training in the polar zones of high and low. You need all the rest you can get before you go outside and try to perform at your best. Training in the high zone near the beginning of the week, and in the low zone near the end will have you in the perfect spot to make the most of your weekend.
Who Should Opt Out, and Why?
First Timers. If you’re still fairly new to training, there is a lot to learn before the High/Low approach can be effective. First off, you can’t possibly understand how to stay in the high or low zone until you’ve trained across the entire spectrum. The fact is, for those who are new to the world of training for climbing, nearly ANY smart, regimented schedule that you set out upon will cause improvements. The popular method of training, Periodization, has been helping climbers for decades. That isn’t changing, and you have some important things to gain from it. Start there.
Power Mongers. Now that Daniel Woods is roping up on the regular, I have a feeling that young, strong boulderers will start coming out of the woodwork to crush routes. Or to get crushed. Again, the big shortcoming of the High/Low method is that you will not learn the mental capacity needed to pull through a redpoint crux while totally fatigued. Since V9 is just a warmup for you, it’s a lock that a 5.13 crux isn’t as hard for you as it is for me. However, I’m not trying like it’s V9 when it’s only 5.12 and 15 feet above a bolt. Years of route climbing taught me to relax, taught me to keep it together while pumped, and, well, taught me to climb routes. You don’t have that yet, but you can get much of it through training and climbing in the middle intensity zone for at least one phase per cycle over a couple of seasons.
Old Traddies. I’m not talking about Peter Croft here. I’m talking about the guys in the gym who have been climbing trad for 25 years, still think 5.11 is ridiculously hard, and are just looking into actually “training”. Please, ignore this approach. You’re probably very good at climbing in the Low zone. There isn’t much realistic hope that you could even fathom what the High zone feels like until you’ve put in more time learning to train. What you need to do is really learn how to move like a sport climber. You need to stop toproping in the gym. You need to climb in the middle zone as much as possible for a couple of years, because it’s going to feel VERY high to you. Get pumped. Try hard. Learn to climb all over again.
New Climbers. I understand the immediate desire to be Chris Sharma (let’s face it, who wants to be Adam Ondra?). Jumping straight into a full on training program, particularly the NEW!, BEST! method that everyone is talking about, MUST be the speedy way to pro climber stardom. Not exactly. It’s possible that if you have been an athlete for much of your life, are a devoted student of movement, and have exactly the right training plan, that diving into that plan would be the best thing for you. For the average human, (and most above and below average humans, for that matter) there is a better path. Go climbing. A lot. As much as you can. Climb it all. Slabs, roofs, steep jugs, hard boulder problems, cracks, everything. Everything but offwidths. Nobody likes those. When you’ve built up a huge library of movement that is specific to climbing, you’re probably ready to start training.
These aren’t hard and fast rules. These are just generalizations based on how I would suggest a particular person should approach training. I can’t imagine a group of climbers who wouldn’t improve by training in the High/Low method, but it just isn’t the best plan for everyone. However, nearly everyone, with a few new skills added to their quiver, could certainly become a candidate for High/Low training.