Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Season of Strength and Power

My fall season ended in early November.  I rested, did some ARC and jumped into strength training. Winter has been my season of strength and power.   A normal season in periodized training systems includes a 3 week power endurance phase and a performance phase.  However, I was curious about focusing just on strength, power, and rest during my 14 week winter season.

On the one hand, I was motivated to focus on the attributes that I lack the most (finger strength and power).  On the other, I did not want to try to schedule a performance phase with the unpredictable winter weather.

So, I scheduled two mini training seasons that each focused on building strength (hangboarding) and then power (bouldering and campusing).   I am in the final power cycle and here is what I learned so far:

  • Don't make too sudden of a change to the types of grips you train.  While warming up the other day I realized that I seldom crimp and seldom engage my thumb in order to pinch during normal climbing.  In my first winter HB cycle I included both the medium and wide pinch, and I worked these grips pretty hard, and in the process tweaked my left elbow a little bit.  I solved this by dropping the pinches from my workout and focusing on open hand and half-crimp.  
  • Don't tire yourself out needlessly.  During my first power cycle I ran into a wall of strength depletion for several days after campusing.  I learned that this was a result of doing too many sets of exercises on the campus board.  I cut my # of sets in half to about 8, and finished my workouts feeling strong.   During my second power phase I plan to keep doing more with less. 
  • Be patient with your body.  The RCTM advocates increasing the HB weight after you complete a full set at a given weight.  But I am trying to be extra patient under the assumption that muscle increases faster than connective tissue.  On a practical level this means that I take extra time before increasing my HB weight, or I repeat problems I have already done instead of ramping things up every workout.  
  • The acceleration is more fun than the top speed.  It is easy to imagine that climbing at your goal level is more enjoyable than climbing at our current level.  But I think it is more likely that the enjoyment we feel comes from the climbing process itself and the reality of progressing towards goals.   
  • You don't need a performance cycle in your climbing season.  By skipping the performance cycle I have had greater opportunity to enjoy the process and maximize the quality of my growth.  This winter I have climbed outside, I have climbed indoors, and I have trained.  However, every climbing day was one where I did not have any particular performance outcomes wrapped around the experience.  The lack of a grand performance goal added to my enjoyment, and I think, helped my extend my slow steady process of learning and getting stronger.  

Two weeks ago I repeated a 5.10a route I had first climbed 2 years ago.  This time every single hold felt big, and I was comfortable to climb slowly and enjoy it.  I did not send any new routes that day but I could feel and enjoy the progress that had caused that route to feel so smooth and easy. 

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