The Cross-Training Dilemma

First off, thanks to everyone who stopped by over at Reddit and participated in the AMA!  Great questions kept pouring in that required in-depth answers, and before I knew it, I'd been at it for over 6 hours straight.  Having to answer questions that were being fired at me from all sides was a great way to "reset" my brain and mental state, and to get more focused than ever.

"The Engine Room", in progress.

We've been building a Power Company training room, complete with new toys that you'll be seeing in reviews, including Eva Lopez's Transgression hangboard, and the system holds from Atomik Climbing.

I built a board specifically to try out Atomik's System line (both bolt on and screw on), and the first few sessions have left me incredibly amped, as I think system boarding could be the most overlooked training tool out there.  More on that later.

Right now I want to talk about a question that is asked of me nearly weekly.

"What kind of cross-training do you do?"

None.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.

Actually, I suppose that isn't true.  I climb on boulders to get better at routes, and I hang on small edges to get better at bouldering.

It's not that I believe that cross-training is silly.  Not at all.

Ok, that isn't true either.

For a large percentage of the people who "cross-train", it is silly.  Pointless.  Unproductive.

Let me say this loudly (but not so loud as to be in all caps):

If you're cross-training for fun - because you like it or want to excel at it - or because it simply makes you feel good, then by all means keep doing it and stop reading now.

If, however, you do it because you believe that you'll become a better climber by running, doing CrossFit, or playing soccer two nights a week, keep reading.

Allow me to backup a little.  I'm getting too excited and getting ahead of myself.  There are people who will benefit greatly from cross-training.  If you fall into one of the below categories, then join the cross-trainers over in the corner who are already cursing me out.

  • You need to get fit.  If general fitness is your weakest link, or if your aerobic fitness isn't at least average (among athletes, not among all Americans; I'm sure that average is horrendous,) then maybe playing soccer is what you need.  If you don't have the general bodily strength that comes along with being an athlete, a (very) little bit of CrossFit can probably help you out.  If keeping your weight down is your main concern, then running or biking is going to be great for you.  A very small percentage of climbers actually fit this bill, and most of those would see greater benefits with a better diet and more climbing, but sometimes it's easier to be involved in something organized, so I'm willing to let it slide.
  • You have nothing but extra time.  If your free time is unlimited, and all you want to do is climb, then finding a low impact cross-training hobby might be a good idea.  Climbing all the time isn't good for your climbing, particularly if you're always trying hard, so a little organized badminton is just your ticket.  I personally don't know anyone who gets everything done and still has so much time that they need this, but I suppose it's possible.
  • You are A.D.D.  (the real kind, not the overdiagnosed bullshit kind).  If you find that you just can't focus on climbing, and need something more exciting in your life, give rugby a whirl, or maybe auto-racing, or bull fighting.  According to Hemingway, the latter two might be your best options, depending on your level of pain tolerance.  I understand that climbing is slow and boring, and maybe you haven't realized yet that it's the only sport that actually does keep your attention, so try out some others.  You'll be back.  And before you go and get all uppity on me, I have some experience (and success) with helping A.D.D. climbers learn to focus.  So there.
  • You just like it.  I mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again so that I don't have to answer comments from 45 people who like running but can't read for comprehension all that well.
  • Your climbing skills are too good to improve upon.  I'm not even going to bother explaining.  If you believe that you fit into this category, then do MORE cross-training, please. 

Sure I do.

That's pretty much it.  For the rest of us, it doesn't make much sense to spend time competitively doing Kipping pullups when we could be refining our actual climbing skills.  I've yet to see a climber who I immediately thought "Wow, that guy definitely needs to play some softball."

In all seriousness, if you love to run, go running.  If you love to push a bobsled, do it.  If you adore CrossFit, then by all means, enjoy destroying your joints.  I'll be climbing, or doing something very specific to climbing, with my training time.

And who knows, maybe all this climbing will make me a better bowler?

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