What to Look for in a Rock Climbing Training Program
Albeit a fairly new sport to hit the mainstream, more and more recreational rock climbers are beginning to see the benefits of the sport and interested in building on those skills via rock climbing training programs of various types. The sport itself, is here to stay. With the growing popularity of indoor rock climbing gyms, more and more people are being exposed to the sport's benefits. An added bonus to the availability of indoor gyms is exposing communities to rock climbing even though they may be miles from any natural boulders or rock climbing sites.
With this added exposure to the sport comes increased demand for rock climbing training programs of various skill levels. As with any sport, some people seem to be naturally gifted, while the rest of us have to work incredibly hard to approach their level of skill. Scott Corey, for example, climbed Yosemite's El Capitan at only age 13. Training for rock climbing allows the novice and average climber to at least approach that level of skill.
The focus of any rock climbing training program should focus, as with most sports training, on a few key elements.
Set a Climbing Goal, Think Through the Program, and Track Progress.
The bulk of people who sign up for, or come up with their own rock climbing training program do so without putting much thought into what they want to achieve, much less write it down. This half hearted attempt at making progress will most often end up just like the New Year's resolution that innocuously fell by the wayside. Decide in advance what level of difficulty you want to be climbing by a specific date. For example, I chose to focus on bouldering, making V6 within 10 months my goal. It's worth mentioning that it was both in writing, and every day's progress was logged in detail, and I managed to make the goal in only 6 months! Making it to the climbing gym or rock yard is part of it, but unless your plan is in detailed writing, it's incredibly easy to lose track of both your goal and your progress.
The Importance of Strength, Stamina, and Balance
Like most sports, rock climbing requires a certain measure of strength. To a great extent, upper body strength; more specifically, the muscles in the forearms. Chances are, if you're reading an article about rock climbing training, you're aware of the tremendous strain climbing can be and where that strain most frequently occurs. As important as upper body strength is, however, a rock climbing training program should not exclusively target the upper body during any cross training, but also feature core exercise and lower body exercise as well. Leaving these areas under-developed will prevent anyone from climbing at their optimal level.
An extension of strength is the development of stamina. Fortunately, this aspect of climbing is something that will come with time and further training and you can never have quite enough enough of it. Your climbing trainer or training program should incorporate some cross training that focus on developing stamina without actually being on the rock or wall. An excellent tool for developing finger and forearm stamina, for example, is a fingerboard, which can be mounted above a door frame in your house. Merely hanging from these for a minute at a time is a workout in itself, demanding the concentrated effort of only fingers and forearms.
The Development of Climbing Technique
According to Eric Horst, climbing extraordinaire, rock climbing is equal parts technical, physical, and mental. This perfect balance of factors isn't found in many sports. Golf, for example, is generally 50% technical, 35%mental, and 15% physical. Technique in rock climbing, then, is an aspect worthy of as much attention as climbing strength. If a climber seeks to develop further familiarity with advanced climbing techniques, this sort of information is usually passed from one climber to another, either in a formal training course, or for free via other climbers at a site or rock gym. If a climber seeks to develop better technique without help from other climbers, there are certainly many resources providing such information. Ultimately, however, climbing technique is developed only by putting in the time, and making a lot of mistakes, and trying different things.
Nutrition, as it Applies to the Aspiring Rock Climber
This tends to be a topic of enormous debate, as people take their diets very seriously, especially when it comes to what to eat and why. Without regard to what you eat in terms of food, keep your diet simple. Simplicity wins over complexity in every rational situation, whether in rock climbing or not. Given the strenuous nature of rock climbing, but the diverse nature of rock climbers, it's nearly impossible to find a black and white, hard and fast diet that answers every demographic's needs. Thus, the nutritional concerns for climbers ends up looking like many other recommended diet for athletes.
-More protein than your regular diet (1.5g for every pound of body weight).
-Possibly less fat, if your diet consists of very much fast food (make calories from fat only 15-20% of your daily caloric intake).
-More carbs. (About 2/3 of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates).
The above is simply a guideline. For a more in depth analysis of what's recommended, you may consider seeing a nutritionist. In general, however, this guideline has worked well for me. If you enroll in a formal rock climbing training program, it's likely that a detailed nutritional guide will be included.
The benefits of establishing a sound rock climbing training program are many. Imagine the inherently rewarding nature of rock climbing, then combine it with the feeling of a job well done, and you'll have an idea as to the rewards that wait for you once you achieve your climbing goals based on a sound rock climbing program. If you've considered undertaking a rock climbing training program at any point, rest assured, it's worth every bit of the effort.