Monday, June 2, 2014

Document, describe, and reflect.

What is a day of climbing like? Or a session in the gym?  How does each set of movements (route attempt, etc.) contribute to an overall picture of how one climbs?

In light of an earlier post, I started to wonder about this for myself.  The primary image (below) from that post suggests that "just climbing more" would tend to mean more sets of of movements that are towards the middle of the intensity and movement number spectrums (Oval region). In contrast, RCTM training sessions would push climbers to records sets that are along an upper diagonal limit that maximizes the combined components of intensity and number of movements. In general, training then, inspires climbers to put in more sets that are more extreme on these two combined dimensions. Low intensity sets will be longer in duration, and brief sets will be more intense. Also, in the case of power endurance, duty cycles will be more rapid. and rests will be systematic and brief (e.g. one min on, two min off).

Document: I started by measuring all sets of moves from a training day.  Let’s say that every route, every boulder problem attempted, and every attempt or send is a “set” of hand movements.  Each movement has an intensity, and each set has a number of moves.  We can summarize the intensity of each set of moves with an average intensity.

A start of a normal day at the crag might look like this:

Set #
Name or description of set
# moves
average intensity
Notes, including qualitative observations
Warm up
felt a bit tired,  rested 10 min before next climb
Warm up 2
more energetic, felt super solid. . .

What would it look like for you?

Next time your climb or train, bring a notebook and record each climb, attempt, or set of moves; defining each of the following attributes.  Here is one example of how you might record your info. In addition to # of moves and average intensity in each set you might also want to record additional info like rest time between sets,  qualitative dimensions like how you felt, etc.  After the climbing is over, go to your handy spreadsheet and enter in the # of moves and average intensity for each set, and visualize the distribution of the scatter plot  [movements (X) and intensity (Y)].  This link goes to a google doc with a simple set up for entering sets and creating your own plot. Just copy the file and make your own version of the google doc.

Last Thursday I  trained endurance and also completed a brief hangboard workout.  I did three ARC sets and just three hangboard sets.   Here is the plot from that day:  

Notice that the X axis is displayed in log scale, meaning every major represents double the distance of the previous unit.  This allows us to see variation across the range of relevant set sizes, including single move limit bouldering problems to 250 move ARC sessions.  In this instance we just have three hangboard sets of 5 or 6 moves and three arc sessions of 103, 80, and 83 moves.  

Describe: Check out this set of table and graphs (a combination of multiple days of workouts).  

Notice how, except for the 2 warm ups and the two attempts on “BluesClues”, the other sets correspond directly to the 4 types of workouts described in the RCTM.  Also note that those workouts extend further towards the high move / low intensity (220 hand moves!) and low move / high intensity (1-2 moves) extremes than do warmups or route send attempts.  I suspect that prior to RCTM, more of my “sets” would have fallen in the more middle territory that is circled in red, and thus, would be motivating less extensive muscular adaptation.   Another punchline is that these days, instead of doing a conventional warm up, I tend to do a 15 min ARC session, and hopefully, both warm up and inspire a bit of capillary growth.

I plan to keep updating the graph with additional training days, and will post updates in the future. 

Reflect: Expanding the upper diagonal.

Training according to RCTM means pushing more of your sets into the upper diagonal and making sure that during every climbing season you are keeping the diagonal wide and fully established across the range of hand movements.  

Here is an update:  Today (6/3/14) I did a couple warm up hangs, a long ARC set and 10 hangboard sets. I played around with slightly longer hangs (10 seconds on, 5 off, 6 reps in a set). This is he duty cycle from the beginner workout, although earlier this year I was doing a version of the intermediate (7 seconds on, 3 off, 7 reps in a set).  My thinking is that the longer time on would be more specific to onsighting than redpointing. Anyways, here is what my log of sets looks like, with small jitter added to the hangboard values to avoid overplotting the same location.

This plot demonstrates one reason that periodized training can be helpful.  It is not possible to be fully fresh after a good hangboard session, and your connective tissues will be strained.  That would be a terrible time to train power, so no campusing for me today, lest I risk needless injury.  Similarly, I would not want to fill in the middle of the diagonal with some power endurance workouts, lest I overwork my elbows.  

Next steps:   Small changes to current practices that can push more of your sets into the upper diagonal

In an upcoming post am going to write about small changes that climbers can make that would allow them to shift their current "just climbing" towards the upper diagonal and thus, towards more optimal muscular response.  Improvement does not require the "end of fun" for climbers, nor "complete redesign" for climbing gyms.  Small but crucial shifts can make a huge difference.

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