Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Compact Campus Board

Standard campus boards are huge (4ft by 8ft) and won't fit in the space available in our garage.  This compact design fits some nice features into a smaller 2ft wide by 6ft tall layout.  A couple weeks ago I installed the frame, the lower panel, and the first 5 sets of rungs.  Last week I added the top panel and some more small rungs, including half a narrow ladder along the left. Today I filled it out with the remaining  medium rungs.

The board starts at 44 inches above the floor, and finishes between the rafters on the ceiling at 10 feet.   The main ladder starts with Small #1, and continues up to S7, then it shifts left a few inches for S8, and then S9 is at the top between the rafters.  The shift is needed to center the climber prior to the final reach between the rafters.  The rungs are Moon spacing, so every jump between rung on each size ladder is 22 cm.  Every half step alternates the rung size between small and medium.  The first half row starts with Medium #1, and finishes on M8, the second to last rung between the rafters.  I chose to devote the maximum vertical distance to the small rungs in order to allow us to make the longest moves on the smallest rungs.  [Perhaps some rock star will drop by the Dojo and knock out some 1-5-9's.]

 The smalls on the half ladder (on the left side) are on the same level as the mediums on the main ladder.  This new half ladder will allow people to campus half step standard ladders on smalls or mediums for the first 12 half rows.

Of course, I realize that the Anderson brothers (Rock Climbers Training Manual) advise against alternating rung sizes (as I have on the main ladder).  I think  that the main down side of alternating is that we cannot do matching ladders at half steps, and we cannot work max ladders at half steps as easily.  However, matching at half steps makes for really short moves, even on the small rungs so I don't think that is a big loss.  The half steps lets us have full width rungs and fit two sizes onto a 2ft board, while also allowing us to do standard (non matching) ladders on both sizes.  We can also still work half step increments on single move max ladders, although with some constraints about which rungs we start on.

Anyways, I am hopeful that this design will allow us to ramp up our power workouts without sacrificing too much campusing flexibility and too much more of our storage space.

See my original post on the build of the board for other design details.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Compact Campus Board: New addition to the Dojo

I constructed a campus board downstairs at the Dojo.  Originally I had planned to squeeze it in upstairs, but the low ceiling turned out to be more of limitation than I expected.  5 hours of garage cleaning revealed enough space for the campus board downstairs!

With the 9ft ceilings there is now plenty of room for putting together decent sized upward movements. Currently I am just getting back into campusing, so this initial version is plenty challenging. Once I get some basic fitness together I will work on doing the 1-3-5 on the medium rungs, and get solid on the basic ladders on the smalls.  Later in the fall I plan to add more rungs to fill up the remaining height.  Here is what the board is like now:
  • Two interspaced sets of 5 rungs, made by Wood Grips smalls and mediums from Metolius. 
  • Incut side up
  • Moon spacing (22 cm on center) for each set, alternating every 11 cm between sets.  
  • 15 degrees overhanging
  • Nice smooth birch veneer plywood (no splinters!)
  • Room for narrow set of more juggy holds on the left for kids, warming up and down climbing
  • Lowest rung is about 44 inches above floor
The 9ft ceiling means that we will not be able to set up a full max ladders (1-5-9) unless I extend the last bit of plywood between the rafters.  Doing so would also require shifting the upper rungs to the center of the panel.  I doubt that I will actually need to train for such extreme power, but perhaps someone at the dojo will want to work the biggest max ladders.

In the RCTM the Anderson brothers are unequivocal:  do not intersperse types of rungs.  Well, I did it anyways.  I only had room for one ladder, and I wanted two different rung sizes.  So, I adopted part of their advice and omitted the large rungs, selecting only mediums and smalls.  Each ladder rung is 22 cm on center, and alternate one size and then the other every 11 cm.  What do I gain?  Two different levels of difficulty.  What do I lose?  Option to make 1/2 distance moves without switching to the other size.  Not a big loss. [Actually, it is a big loss when it comes to making incremental progress at max ladders.  However, we can partly solve that by adding alternating half rungs on the left, see next post]

Ted's mini review of wood grips rungs from Metolius:    

I ordered wood grips rungs for the campus board because I wanted the rungs to be, as much as possible, perfectly standardized.  Making a campus board with standard sized rungs, standard angle, and standard spacing allows comparison of performance on this wall to others.  For instance, when I am able to do 6 sets of 1-3-5 ladders on the smalls I will have a sense of where my fitness has progressed.   So, I was always going to order the standard sized rungs.  

 I ordered sets of both small and medium sizes through Amazon.  However, the mediums came from a larger supplier than the smalls.  The mediums shipped immediately and when I opened them up I was pleased to see they were just as I expected:  uniform, well textured, and consistent.  I really like the slight incut shape that is built into the upper surface (with the logo right side up).   Anyways, based on the mediums I was super happy with these rungs.  

I was quite surprised and and a bit disappointed with the smalls after unboxing because they were not consistent thickness.  I suspect that the set of smalls that I received is not typical for wood grips, and perhaps represent an earlier manufactured set, or a set that slipped past quality control.  Two rungs are thinner on the ends than the others due to the fact that the wood is warped and likely was warped before the sanding process.  The sanding reduced the warp by thinning the holds on the ends.  One rung was especially warped and is noticeably thinner than it should be.    

How much thinner are these, and how much does it really matter?   They seem about 1/16th of an inch thinner, perhaps a bit more at one end.  Is that enough to really matter?  Perhaps?  I can't tell yet because I put the thinner rungs near the top of the ladder.  Perhaps once I am using them regularly I can better assess how much it increases the difficulty of the rungs.  For now I would rather have them in place than deal with exchanging them or any nonsense.  Besides, if they really bugged me I could shim the ends to get the right depth.  

Going forward I plan to add 2-3 more rungs in each the medium and small ladders.  I am not sure if I will buy more of the wood grips or if I will make my own.  I am now certain that I can make them consistent to the standard sized models from wood grips.  For the smalls I think I will make my own from standard oak moulding and a bit of time with the orbital sander.  The big functional advantage of the wood grip rungs (besides standardization) is the incut, in addition to the rounding.  However, on the smalls, most of the depth of the rung is rounded, so the incut was not nearly as pronounced as on the medium rungs.    The final lesson I would draw from all of this is that it if possible, I would open and inspect all the rungs in a set before purchasing just to make sure they seemed as consistent as possible.  

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.