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A Fitness Program: Why It’s Important and What to Include

Ever feel like you’ve reached a plateau that you can’t break through on the ways to your fitness goals? Or have you ever woken up one morning and realized somehow you’ve become woefully out of shape? You’ve probably made the same mistake of many other amateur athletes: failing to implement a training regime.

Most climbers recognize that they are in need of a better exercise routine, but many don’t know how to approach exercise or begin improving their physical fitness. Starting any training program can be a daunting endeavor, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by your fitness goals. Having a well-rounded plan can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed, and can speed your progress towards those lofty fitness goals you’ve set for yourself.

The following are a few things to keep in mind when designing a training schedule for yourself, no matter your fitness levels the following guidelines should be an integral part of any good training program.

Volume

Most athletes, regardless of their sport, have a period in the season where the overall volume of their training is very high. For example, at the start of track season runners often have a “base building” time period where they put in many more miles than they will late season. Having some days/weeks/months where you climb a high volume of routes will help establish a foundation of fitness for later training periods.

Establish days where you plan on climbing more routes than you usually do. Maybe that’s 10 pitches for you, maybe it’s 30. Climbing lots of easy or moderate routes will increase your muscular as well as cardiovascular endurance, giving you a foundation for more intense routes later.

Strength and Power

Generally people think of weightlifting when the conversation turns to strength or power, but many climbers use bouldering to increase their strength.

Runners don’t necessarily need to life weight to increase their power output, but they do run sprints. Bouldering is the climber’s equivalent of running sprints and serves as a fantastic way to increase your strength. Climbing a V2 is roughly the equivalent of 5.11a, so spend some time solving bouldering problems and suddenly the crux of that 5.10 won’t seem so intimidating.

Rest Days

Your body isn’t stronger after a workout, it only becomes stronger after it has had time to recover from the previous workout. Therefore training 7 days a week might be exceptionally detrimental to your climbing and fitness. Pressing on day after day will never give your muscles a time to recover, eventually causing a plateau in performance and maybe leading to an injury.

There are a number of factors that dictate when it’s time to take a rest day. It largely depends on your fitness levels and listening to what your body is telling you. If you find yourself feeling wrecked from the previous days workout, don’t feel like a quitter for taking a rest day. Just don’t mistake laziness for needing a rest.

Nutrition

People often worry more about the type of gas they put in their car than the type of food they put in their body. Well your body is the only vehicle you’re stuck with for life. Poor athletic performance, or a plateau in performance, might be a reflection of the dietary decisions you have been making. Consider consulting a dietitian, everyone can learn something from a registered dietitian.

Let’s keep it simple: avoid fast food, soda, candies, and other cheap but appealing products. Common sense works wonders here, you can probably take a guess at whether or not something is healthy. Cut alcohol out of your diet (gasp), as it has a negative effect on the ability of muscles to recover from exercise (Evelyn, 20014). Remember you can’t eat too many fruits or vegetables, and you’re probably not eating enough as it is. Less than half of Americans are consuming their recommended amount of fruits or vegetables (Guenther, 2006).

Make healthy eating a habit, your long term health and fitness will only benefit.

Consistency

The best training programs in the world won’t work if you don’t keep committed to your goals. You might climb hard five days this week, but that progress will be lost if you take a month off. Yes life is going to derail your training plans sometimes, that’s just how life is. Don’t let laziness prevent you from getting to the gym or out to the local crag. The easy option is to watch tv, sleep in, and skip a workout. But the easy option is not going to move you towards your fitness goals. You might need to wake up early and get some climbing in before work, or sneak off to the gym after the kids are asleep. There will be plenty of things that force you to take rest days you didn’t need/want (family emergencies, getting sick, etc.), don’t let laziness bring you more than you need.

Being inconsistent is the #1 reason for being out of shape, or failing to achieve your goals. Toughen up, go for a climb, repeat. Make working out a priority, and receiving your daily exercise a habit.

Let’s be real though, climbing is a lot more fun than your typical workout. Climbing athletes shouldn’t need that much inspiration to get out of bed and send some routes.

 

Obviously this isn’t a comprehensive training program for you to follow, a checklist to critique your current habits. Ask yourself some questions:

  • Are you getting some high volume days in at the gym or crag?
  • Do you boulder to improve your strength?
  • Are you taking enough rest days, and sleeping well every night?
  • Have you been eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lots of protein?
  • Have you honestly been training on a consistent basis?

If you can look back on your past six months of climbing and answer yes to all these questions, you’re probably doing okay for yourself. If you answered no to any of these questions it might be reflective of a hole in your training regime.

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