Monday, 18 February 2013

Sprint Tri Training... a starting point...

Sometimes we need a bit of a shake-up in life... sometimes it is a way of regrouping and taking a different perspective on things but more often than not it is a form of escapism… I have decided to put personal climbing on a bit of a back burner for a few months and I needed a new focus…

So ... let’s do this properly now...

I am pretty rubbish at writing so I will keep this simple, last year I planned to do a triathlon but got a chest infection which put it on the sidelines, a few months ago Lisa Potter sent me a message on Facebook saying… "here is something you might be interested in…” with a link to the Leicestershire Sprint Triathlon.. I hit sign up and here I am writing about it!!

Why a triathlon? … not sure…

I suppose it is because I get bored running any major distance and I can’t be bothered putting the time in to do long distance for a marathon… perhaps can’t be bothered is the wrong definition, I simply don’t have the time and I don't like to do things I am not going to do well in... 

I can easily run between 3 miles and 7 miles every day depending how much time I have and what route I am cycling into work via and on that note, I cycle to work pretty much every day via 3 routes, either a 8.5 miler on road, 11.5 miler cross country or 19.2 miles on the road….

So why not train for a triathlon, I am doing 2/3rds of the disciplines anyway and it will give me focus… but… there is a big but… I am rubbish at swimming…

Since signing up for the Triathlon I actively set myself the goals of learning to swim and having access to a pool has made it very easy for my do be able to go the distance (400m) which to start with was a joke, I was struggling at 12 meters!!

So this will be a new slant to the blog...  I believe anyone can do well in any sport if they a few key components…

So for me the key components are;

1)      A goal that’s achievable, I won’t be able to do a full tri so the Leicester Sprint Tri is the best option.
2)      A good base layer of fitness, which, by putting the pool sessions in  I hope I have!
3)      Desire - training is mentally hard… I want to get better, getting tired is not a bad thing and I know I am going to have to push myself…
4)      Access to facilities, luckily I have easy access to a pool, I can run anywhere, I cycle to work pretty much every day and I have a gym at home.
5)      And finally … 12 weeks of good consistent training.

My Goal is to finish well, I’d like to finish as close to 1 hour as possible, I think this is easily achievable and I am looking forward to kicking of my training come the 1st March.

The Triathlon is the Leicester Shire Sprint Tri on the 27th May 2013 and it consists of a 400 meter swim, 20k on the bike and a 5 k run… Leicester Sprint Tri;

I will set up a new section on the Blog about my training and try to do one post a week so hopefully we’ll see a big of progression…

Power Endurance (Routes)

Power endurance can be defined as the ability of your muscles to contract at or near maximum for a greater amount of time.

The more power endurance you have the longer you will be able to pull hard moves. Excellent power endurance is the ultimate goal of a difficulty (lead) competition climber, the ability to pull hard moves after already pulling numerous hard moves. Unfortunately it is also the hardest thing to train properly. It requires the correct blend between strength/power training and endurance training.

Generally power endurance can be described as climbing for 15-40 moves, or 3-8 minutes on the wall. Power endurance can be closely linked with redpointing routes. Especially indoors routes tend to be more consistent meaning that a F7a will have lots of F7a moves stacked on top of each other so that provides the perfect opportunity for power endurance training.

There are several keys to training power endurance:

  • Consistent routes - the routes should be consistent without the opportunity for large rests.

  • Power and Strength - the routes should have a mix of powerful moves and smaller moves on bad holds.

  • Desire - power training is mentally hard. You've got to want to get better, getting tired is not a bad thing.

  • Goal - getting to the top without falling. It helps when you are trying to redpoint a route to remind yourself of the goal. It can get boring trying the same route over and over, but as a part of a workout it will make you stronger.

Power Endurance Drills

The following are some drills that you can do on your own or with a partner to increase your power endurance.


Increase the number (volume) of boulder problems that you are attempting in a workout. Decrease the rest time between problems and always start each attempt from the first move (don't work individual moves). This allows you to pull lots of hard moves in a short period of time. Try and do three or four boulder problems in 5 minutes then a short rest 3-5 minutes, and repeat 3-4 times.

Linked Boulder Problems

Linking together two or three boulder problems is a very effective way of extending the number of moves that you are doing. Start with a hard problem that you can barely do, move to one that you can do quite easily but can't stop and rest/recover on, and then move on to a problem that is again quite hard for you. You will have to take this drill into account when you are setting problems or else it will be too hard to link them together. Two things can be accomplished with this drill; one you are climbing lots of hard moves; and two you are climbing routes that you have already done so you should be determined and will yourself not to fall.

With this drill you can partner up with one or two people and rotate through. Attempt each link up 3 times with 3-5 minutes for rest in between attempts. If you are not completing 20 moves then try and change up the boulder problems that you are doing, if you are always completing the linkup then make the boulder problems harder.

This drill is especially effective when you are starting the transition between bouldering and power endurance training. The problems should still be very hard and chances are you will not be on the wall for more than 3 minutes per attempt.


Redpointing routes can be a great way of training power endurance if you are making 
it at least 15 moves into the route each time and the route does not provide lots of areas for resting. If you do not have long routes available to you then you can link routes together in a similar fashion to the linked boulder problems, or try and be tired by the time you go to start redpointing.

Circuit Training

Make your own climbing circuit of between 20 and 40 moves. The moves should be powerful, consistent and not provide holds for resting. Try to vary the terrain that the circuit crosses and try and distribute the move/hold types evenly for both arms. The great thing about circuit training is that you can tailor it to your needs. You set the circuit for yourself and if it is too easy you can make the holds harder or take away footholds. If it is too hard then add a foothold or make the holds slightly easier. Once again you should try and be on the wall for between 3-6 minutes and attempt the same circuit 3 times in a row with a 5 minute rest in between attempts. On the first attempt you should complete the circuit and on the third attempt you should get very near the end. If you complete it all three times then make it harder, and if you can't complete it the first time make it easier.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Stabilizing for Clips (and Resting)

Most energy is wasted when you only have one hand on the wall therfore it is very important to be in a solid stance when clipping. Some of the same principles apply to resting as well, you want to distribute as much weight as possible to your feet and be able to relax your upper body.

Here are a couple of things to consider when clipping:

• Dead Hang - Try to keep your arms straight and just hang from the holds. Don't squeeze too hard or try to pull yourself towards the clip until you are ready.

• Concentrate on Your Feet - Adjust your feet so they can pull or push you towards the clip. Are your feet on the biggest footholds? Are they too high? Make sure they won't slip, there's nothing like having to catch yourself on one arm while the other is still holding a loop of rope.

• Centre Your Weight - Try and distribute your weight as much as possible to your feet and the stabilize with your arms. You don't want your feet to be off to one side or the other causing you to have to pull extra hard with your arms.

• Push into the holds - If the hold is an undercling, sidepull or gaston make sure that your feet are pushing you into the hold. This will allow you to straighten your arm and increase the length that you can reach. It will make clipping alot more balanced as well. If possible try and avoid clipping off underclings, they require alot of core strength to hold onto.

Not all of those techniques will work on every clip but play around and learn how to hold yourself in Different clipping stances. Most of all don't rush it. Make your clip smoothly and efficiently. Practice clipping draws from all angles. From the left, right, top and bottom. You should be familiar with how to stabilize the draw when clipping, especially on steeper climbing like on roofs. Try out finger clips and reverse finger clips, ask someone at the wall if you don't know what these are.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


This article is based on a number of other articles that have focused on the use of games on climbing and bouldering walls.  Some games and ideas are probably familiar to colleagues, others new and might require some trialing to adjust the basic tenet to suit their needs (and that of the group you are working with).  I don’t know the original source of some of the ideas and apologies if anyone who has shown me an idea has been left out of the acknowledgements.  Some are especially suitable for work with children; others are more open to all ages and ability levels.

Games on the climbing wall are fun and create interest. They can add to the value of the workout by creating an enjoyable atmosphere and usually extend the length of the workout. They can also be used to introduce beginners; to motivate the jaded rock-jock; and obviously they can be used as a specific training spot for skills development.  The main point here is don’t be stuck into using them only as I have described them – think off the wall!!

Add-on - Two climbers of with similar ability play the game. Begin by agreeing on the first sequence of three to five moves. The first climber gets on the wall and climbs or traverses this sequence of moves. When the first climber finishes, he/she adds one more move. The moves can be marked by chalk, tape or memorized. Each time a climber completes the sequence he/she adds on another move. You can play "hands only" where any foot hold can be used, or specify both handholds and footholds. Continue to repeat this pattern until exhaustion. Great climbing game for building endurance and memorizing sequences.

Pointer - This is mostly a traversing game since it requires a partner to "point". The person designated as the pointer will use a broom handle or any pole to point out the next hold. The climber begins climbing. The pointer taps the next hold. This should be times so the next hold is tapped just ahead of the person climbing. A good pointer makes it challenging but not beyond the climber's ability. The game ends when the climber falls. The climber and pointer then switch positions. This excellent practice for developing your on-sight ability.

Hoops – Take a variety of gym hoops and get a climber to traverse along a section.  Hold the hoop at right angles to the wall so the climber has to climb through the hoop.  Use a variety of hoops and place them at different heights so the climber has to drop down or climb up/down and through the hoops.  Use different sized hoops to make it more interesting with smaller hoops!  Good practice for balance and awareness of positioning the body.

Memory - The first person points out a sequence of 4 to 10 moves. There are no markings placed on the wall. The second person has to climb the route remembering each hold. The value of this climbing game is it teaches you to remember the holds in the route, making it an easier transition from preview to climbing.

Take Away - Create a route of about 20 holds. Mark the holds with chalk marks. Each climber climbs the route. After each successful climb/traverse the finishing climber rubs out a chalk mark. If the next climber cannot climb/traverse it without falling the turn is passed to the next person. If no one can do it the original climber must prove it can be done. If he cannot do the move the mark is put back on.

Tag - Several people on a bouldering wall play tag. The first person is "it" and tries to climb to another person and touch them. The person being "tagged" then must tag someone else excluding the person just touched. The previous person earns a rest and can climb down until the next person is tagged. Greatly improves endurance/stamina. This is a good climbing game for youth teams.

Dyno - Place one or two foot holds and one or two hand holds. Place a large hold higher above the handholds. Each person takes turns "dynoing" to the hold. The dyno can be vertical, off vertical or even horizontal. Improves dynamic climbing.

One Arm / One Foot - Two or more climbers decide on a sequence and attempt to complete it using one arm. This can be done as an add-on or take-away climbing game. This game improves dead-point ability and greatly strengthens your arms/legs. The version of this climbing game using one foot will greatly improve body tension and trunk strength.

Quickdraw Climbing Game -  Designate 8-10 'goals' (e.g., holes in the wall, big holds) and place the same number of quick draws in a location near them (say hanging on another hole. Person must then climb back and forth from the pile of quickdraws, taking one quickdraw at a time to the goals (one for each goal). This also makes players think about strategy, whether to go for the far away goals first or last. Improves Endurance, Strength.

Round-About - One person is 'in'.  They select a place with quite a few good holds.  The other partner has to try to climb around then in circles while the person 'in' has to try to stop them by getting to the holds before they do.  When the person goes for more than 10 seconds without changing a hand or foot they swap places.

Blind Climb - Blindfold a climber.  Start to climb by feeling with hands and feet all around the wall.  See who can get the furthest without falling. Improves awareness and sense of touch for feet and hands.  Only roped climbs.

Get Dressed! -  Hang different items on the wall (hats, gloves, pants, shorts, jackets, shoes, etc.) or even on the ground. The idea is that the climber must pass through the wall and whenever he or she finds something, they must put it on! Try the same thing but now undressing. It is a great climbing game to work out resting positions and endurance.

Amputee - This climbing game is where 1 person boulders from 1 point to another. Other people from a set distance throw a small soft ball or sponge at the climber. If a limb of the climber is hit then climber can no longer use that limb. If the climbers head is hit they lose. If climber is hit in the back 3 times they lose. If climber falls they lose. If climber gets to the last point then climber wins. A spotter returns the sponge/ball to the throwers.  Works strength, balance, and endurance (sometimes).

Twister – Fit out a section of the wall with a variety of holds in 4 colours only. Have a board with each of the same 4 colours painted – one to a quarter [just like a board for the game "Twister" (™)].  It has the same rules as normal Twister.  Training Value: Improves endurance and balance.

Dice - works with two or more people.  The first person chooses a point to begin and a point to end.  All start with 20 points or other similar number.  They then roll a dice to see how many holds they can use between the starting and ending holds.   If the first person completes their route then the rest of the players must complete it, losing points for failure. If the first person doesn't complete the problem, then it goes to the second person and so on. Training Value: strength, balance.

Lapping - This climbing game includes as many players as wanted. The first climber traverses across the walls and makes the most laps as he can. Then the second climber breaks the record of laps the first climber did. If he does, he wins, and if does not, he loses. Training Value: endurance/stamina.

4x4 - Pick four routes you know you can do on the bouldering wall.  Do each one four times, make a loop and see how many times you can do each one. Training Value: Bouldering,

Time's Up - For as many players as desired. Start with a ten second time limit. First player gets ready, and a time keeper says when to go. The climber gets to as many holds as he/she can before the time keeper yells, "Time". Second climber tries to beat that number, (same path if you want to make it harder). If the climber does, he wins, that's the new goal. After everyone goes, end of round one, add time, and start round two. A game continues until one remains, or everyone is tired. Training Value: endurance, stamina, fluidity, memory, recognition;

ELIMINATOR - Works best with a maximum of four players. Find a route each of the players can do. The first player chooses a hold to take away.  If you come off you have 3 chances. The first player then goes to the back of the queue and this goes on until there is only 1 player left or no holds left. Works best with fingery holds. Training Value: strength, perseverance.

Shark Attack - This climbing game can be played with as many climbers as you can fit on the wall. It is very similar to musical chairs. The climbers start in a circle in the middle of the floor facing inwards - when you shout "Shark Attack!" they must get onto the wall as quickly as they can. The last person on the wall is the looser. The looser is either out of the game, or "looses" an arm or leg. You can add many variations to this game e.g. climbers may not use legs, etc. A great game! Training Value: A bit of fun and competition!

Pirates of the Carabiner - Buy a couple of haggard foam swords at ToysR’Us and boulder around the wall bludgeoning each other with them. Last one to fall wins and pull ups are awarded to those who are foolish enough to drop their swords. Training Value: none but it’s great fun! (ok, endurance)

Graffitti - Pick a section of wall with lots of holds, and a starting jug at a moderately low height.   Start both hands on the jug, and see how many other holds you can move to and hold without moving your feet off your original hold.   The end hold must be used with both hands, and held for 2 or 3 seconds.  Use a few different colours of sidewalk chalk to see who can tag the most number of additional holds.   Each time one is held, it is tagged with the appropriate colour chalk, and then is off limits.  Training Value: footwork and balance.

Lucky Draw - This climbing game is great for a group of climbers or for training by yourself. Write down all the climbing moves you can think of (e.g. lay-back, gaston, drop-knee, pinch, dyno etc...) then cut it out fold them and put into a hat/chalk-bag. Now draw three papers and make a boulder route using those movements (the ones you wrote on the paper). Or get someone to do that movement and others must guess what it is. It sounds boring but kids and teens love it.
Training Value: Use of techniques,

Add On – Pointer - Ever thought of combining your two favourite bouldering games? Your partner chooses your first moves (1-3 moves depending on you), then he/she must do those moves and the next moves you chose and so on until one of you can’t do the move. You find out your partners weakness and find your strength and end up working both your strength and weakness. Training Value: endurance, memory and technique.

Gladiator - Best played with 4 people, two climbing two belaying. The climbers number themselves 1 and 2. 1 ties a short sling around harness loosely enough to be pulled off but too loose as it will fall off. Climber 1 then goes up the wall - about 1/4 of the way Climber 2 has to chase him! If climber 1 gets to the top without losing his sling he wins if climber 2 gets the sling he wins. When done swap over. Training Value: Increases speed.

Simon Says - You can play this with a group of people.  There is a leader (Simon), this leader gives the group 15 seconds to get off the ground and stay there.  After that time, the leader calls out various commands: "Simon says... move your left foot." for example and everyone must move the nominated limb to a new hold unless the command is not prefixed with "Simon says".  Players are out if they fall off or do not obey the commands. Training Value: Stamina, balance.

Wimbledon – On a slab or corner climb get the climber to hold a tennis ball in each hand and then climb the route.  This climbing game allows some use of hands for balance and a little pulling on massive jugs, but real success comes from the thighs.  This can be run either as a skill developer on its own or as a wee competition. NOTE: watch as some people will try and use finger tips to cheat and makes themselves prone to finger tweaks. Training Value: Improves footwork.

I went to the wall and used... - One person starts at one end of the bouldering wall. Their spotter calls out "I went to the wall and used a..." then they call out a move e.g. crimp, undercut smear etc. After the move has been completed the climber steps off and the partner repeats the move. The new spotter calls out the next move to be used. "I went to the wall and used a crimp and a smear." Repeat the moves for as long as you can manage it. Training Value: develops stamina, balance.

Tag Team - Two people start at the bottom and race up to the top then jump down and "Tag" the next person then they race up to the top and race back down last one down loses. Training Value: speed and stamina

Taps - There will have to be a person on the floor to keep track of totals. This game was made up to assist the young climbers with concentration. What they have to do is climb  a route like normal but every time they use any hand they have to first tap their head and then count out loud starting at one. The goal is to have the climber try to beat their personal best by trying to lessen the number of times they use their hands.  Training Value: Concentration

Arch Runner - For this climbing game find a decent wall at least 20 feet long (horizontal) and about 12-16 feet high, and some coloured chalk or tape (something to mark holds).  Start at one end and climb all the way up, then all the way across, and down.  Run back to the starting point and repeat, however you may not reuse old moves.  Ground starts are allowed and recommended.  Depending on the number of holds on the wall, try to get at least 4 or 5 runs in under a set time.  The idea of running back to the start keeps the heart rate up and hinders setup for the next climb, forcing you to think on the wall. Also, try to stay at least 2/3 up (like it’s an arch of a bridge). Training Value: Endurance, quick thinking on the wall, strength, and reduces use of unnecessary hand moves.

Tap Its - Working in pairs or more, one person chooses a hold for each hand and one foot. With the other foot they then see how many holds they can touch whist their partner counts. They then swap places using the same holds, the person that touches the most wins. All about flexibility and realizing where and how far they can reach. They are not allowed to move the other foot or hands. Training Value: Realization of reach and flexibility.

Freeze - This climbing game is most fun on a traverse.  All participants engage in traversing at the same time in the same direction at different locations on the route while one stays on the floor and randomly calls out "freeze."  When that command is given the climbers must cease all movement, even if in the middle of moving from one hold to the next, for a pre-decided amount of time.  Climbers may not move until given a "go" from the officiator timing the freeze.  If a climber moves while in a "freeze" or falls off the wall he/she is out until next round.  Last man standing (hanging) wins. Difficulty level can change based on the route or the time to hold a "freeze."  Training Value: Endurance strength, body position technique, and fun.

Touch Holds – Climbers take a comfortable position on the wall just off the floor.  They then have to touch as many handholds as possible without moving their feet.  This can also be done by moving feet without moving hands.  Training Value: stamina, balance, body awareness, footwork.

Relay Race - Split a group into two.  Each team has a sling with the same number of krabs as climbers clipped to it.  Hang the slings for each team halfway along a traverse section.  Start each team from opposite ends of the wall - each climber sets off and traverses the wall to their sling and unclips a krab, drops off the wall and runs back to their group. The next climber repeats and so on until the first group has unclipped all their krabs from the sling.  If someone falls off, the next person has their turn.  After this first round, swap routes and repeat on the other traverse.  The winning team is the one with the highest number of krabs totalled up from 2 races.  Training value – good fun!

SUMMARY – There are probably as many games not listed here as those that are.  Visual restriction games with greased or painted goggles are well known; try repeating Ray McHaffie’s feat of climbing in boxing gloves and push the grade out!  Don’t forget to warm up, think about movement skills; be careful with young people and children.  Above all have fun!  Send me any more wall games for inclusion in the next article and give me feedback to improve any of these games.  Finally, don’t just chuck them at clients without having tried them yourself and think about their place on SPA and CWA courses – they are just one part of the whole picture.

Thanks to: Jill Whittaker at Thornbridge for letting me use some of her ideas here, to Wolfgang and Sarah for other ideas, and people who have let me watch their sessions.