Reader Questions: The Working Class Jedi

One of our readers, Ed, asked a great question in response to my last post, " He SAID, She SAID".

Ed wrote...

Enjoyed the write up. You say most of us don't *need* hangboards and the like, but would you say there's no value in these things for us sub 5.12c'ers? This sounds a bit like the argument that outdoor is better than indoor. It may be true, but doesn't change the fact that the real world keeps forces us indoor more often than out.

Is there nothing to be gained spending 30 minutes, an hour, whatever on a hangboard a few times a week when life prevents us from hitting our local climbing gym as often as we'd like (or hell, between visits)?

Back to work!  No time for dreaming of big sends!

Ed, first off, let me say "Thanks".  In my previous post I was definitely making suggestions based on having an ideal amount of time and opportunity to train.  I'm a weekend warrior myself, though I've been able to wrangle a pretty good work schedule the past couple of seasons.  It wasn't that long ago that I was struggling with how to train at home when the gym is out of the question.

To answer Ed's question directly, if you can't get to the gym to actually climb, you can find huge value in sport specific exercises such as hangboarding.  Provided the exercises are done correctly, it may be just what you need to break out of a rut and get you psyched again.  At the least, it could hold you over until your schedule allows for time in the gym.

Over the past few years I've learned many secrets about how to train more efficiently as a weekend warrior.  Some of these secrets have been passed down to me from the warriors who came before.  Many are of my own discovery.  I'm passing some of them on to you.  They may seem obvious, but not many of us actually practice them.

"Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."          -Yoda, to Luke Skywalker

1. Obsessively Plan, You Must.

"Hmmm. The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see, the future is."      -Yoda, to Palpatine

It's a fairly sure thing that if you wait to find time in your schedule to train or to climb, that time will never materialize.  In both your outdoor climbing and in your indoor training, you must plan ahead.  There just isn't an alternative.  To maximize your time as a weekend warrior, taking all the guesswork out of when your next session will be is the only way to ensure that there is a next session at all.  Besides planning, you must also follow through.  We've all seen people who obsessively write "To Do" lists only to never accomplish a single thing off the list.  The planning doesn't stop when you get to the gym, or beneath your hangboard.  Have a workout ready.  Know what you're gonna train.  It helps me (and many people I've trained) to have an actual piece of paper with my workout on it. Don't be that guy sitting there wondering what to do next.

Scheduling shouldn't be reserved for your training time.  When time does allow you to make it to the outdoors,  keep the planning going.  Knowing what crag you're headed to, and what routes you'll be attempting is a huge plus.  If you're currently the type who just heads out and does whatever comes, try and make an effort to change that.  See how much more you can get done with a little planning.... it's really a pretty amazing difference.  Personally, I make a new list of goals every season, and every trip is devoted to meeting those goals, or the goals of my partners.  Not only do we get more done this way, but we can all be excited for each others progression. 

 So Plan.  Follow through.  No matter what small amount of time you're able to plan for, it's better than none.

2.   Need A Focus, You Will.

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”    -Yoda, to Luke Skywalker.

Now that you've planned, and you're in the gym for your stolen hour, or you're beneath your hangboard while the wife watches "Glee", is doing that same workout enough?  Are you working on the right things?  The best you can do for yourself is to decide what your absolute weaknesses are, and focus on those.  If you get to spend a couple hours in the gym, and you just do the compression problems that you're already good at, does your body need to make any adaptations?  Its a widely accepted fact that working on your strengths will result in much slower improvements than will shoring up your weak links.  That doesn't just mean that your crimping (or whatever) will improve, it means that your climbing ability as a whole will improve.  Climbing is too complex a sport to not be constantly readjusting your focus onto your weakest links.  If you're scared of it, go right at it.  Be creative in your approach.  If it's your weakness you're targeting, that creative hour or so of work will pay enormous dividends.  

3.  Have Patience, Young Jedi.

Grave danger you are in. Impatient you are.    -Yoda, to Luke Skywalker.

No matter what your workout consists of, or how ridiculously hard you train, it will take time to really reap the benefits.  I've seen so many climbers get frustrated after just a week or two of training that it "isn't helping".  Many of us fall into that trap because as relative beginners we saw enormous leaps in ability, sometimes from session to session.  When that progression slows, so does our patience.   I don't care what your genetic makeup is... a week of power training won't turn you into Daniel Woods.  A couple of focused sessions won't leave you with Dave Grahams footwork.  They've worked for YEARS to become the climbers they are.  Expect that, given the fact that you probably aren't blessed with their genetic potential,  it may take you twice as long to get half that good.  But no worry...half as good as Dave Graham is pretty damn strong.

Be patient.  Constantly reevaluate your methods, but trust what you settle on.  One of these days you'll go out and suprise yourself by hiking a long time project.  You'll wonder what the hell took so long, when it feels so easy...


I know I haven't given any specific exercises to do at home, or workouts to supplement your rare gym appearances.  Theres a reason for that.  In the next few weeks, The Power Company will be beginning a fun and exciting new project.  A training case study of sorts.  A friend of mine, who I've climbed with on a few occasions, agreed to let me assist in his training, and let me document it for my readers.  He's a husband, a new business owner, and doesn't have much time to get into the gym.  When he was going to the gym often, he was approaching the 12a range, and would like to get into the mid 12's by next spring.  A fairly common sticking point, I think.  I say we can do it, even with limited gym time.  Since I'm the type who enjoys a public challenge, you'll all get to see it, every step of the way.

Till then, May the Force be with you.

Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.     -Yoda, to Mace Windu

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