As the colder months approach, most are winding down from their outdoor season, and are transitioning back into the gym; a season of sessions. Depending on where you live, by the end of October, typically the crags are cold, and the sun has flown south ‘til April. In Canada, if we’re lucky, the sun holds out for us as long as it can, but October is usually the end of the comfy outdoor weather. Thank goodness the climbing gym scene has blown up on every city block around the world, that we now have an abundance of opportunities to keep the ol’ body fit.
As an athlete, training has always been important to me. Despite leading a very busy life (business owner, family man, etc) It’s the gateway (for me) to getting fitter/better/stronger/faster. It also keeps me sane. Without the consistency of training, I find myself filling with anxiety and hosting a bad headspace. So I make a solid effort to get my training sessions in on a regular basis. And to be clear…there’s a difference between a “sesh”, and a “session”. When I’m focussed; determined to try hard with a set of particular exercises, I dive into the “session” and give it everything I’ve got. But when a group of friends wants to hang out at the gym, everyone being in “chill mode” – socializing, trying the different boulders, laughing, etc…this is a “sesh”, or we’re “sessioning” together. Both are important in their own way. Climbing, after all, is a “fun” thing to do. And when we lose focus on the fun, things end up on the wrong path, which can be a dark one. So it’s good to keep your path “lit up”, remembering the joy for both sessions, and sessioning with your buds. Keep perspective on both, remember the importance of both; trying hard, and having fun, and embrace the new season with open arms.
My training season starts with a willingness to dig deep, to stay committed, and to trust in the plan. But everything begins with my kit. My "training bag" is where a good training session begins. It’s packed; fitted with readiness. All the proper tools are in there, so that when it’s time to “try hard”, I can focus on the task at hand. Ice axes, climbing shoes, chalk, harness, belay device, gloves, tape, toilet paper (in case of an emergency), a snack (usually a protein Clif bar), water, toenail clippers, and some therabands for some recovery exercises. Being prepared is the key to any focused training time. All the proper tools, a detailed list of what you’re going to do (exercises, etc), the right people (if you have training partners), and then, of course, an attitude that will take you from start to finish; the mindset of a champion. And to be clear, a “champion” is not someone on top of the podium. A champion is someone who has the “inner belief” that they are “meant to be there”, that they believe 100% in success; performing at their ultimate/best. If you find that mentality, leading you through a session with the utmost of confidence (in yourself), only then will you be on the path of true performance.
Your time spent is your end result. What does that mean? How you spend every minute in your session will be the result of what you get out of it. I have to constantly remind myself, that somewhere in the world, there are others training…harder and smarter. That reminder is the motivation I need to spend my time wisely. With every exercise, resting period, and effort put out, it all needs to be dedicated to the moment. This may sound “too serious”, but it’s what it takes to be successful with your time. Messing around with your buds is all fun and games, but if what you want out of it is ultimate performance, it needs to be (somewhat) calculated. Have a stopwatch, or a Tabata timer, or even the clock on the wall. Give full effort in the time allotted (for exercise, and rest) and you’ll find a consistent effort. It’s hard, I know, but focused time will bring you closer to your goals. Be specific to how you track your progression or losses for that matter. Document everything so that you have a gauge to pull from. Listen to your body so that it can stay healthy throughout a process of focused training/movement. Keep your mind quiet when your body is performing. It needs to be of sound clarity so that during your time spent training, it’s training and nothing else. Distractions surround our every minute of being, so learn to “turn it all off” during your time. It takes time to gain such “mental strength”, but as you do “get it”, you can become free of stress, emotion, and other distractions while in the moment.
It’s a great idea to have a plan outlined for your training season (periodize the different parts; strength, power, power endurance, etc) if you have specific goals in mind. It can take years of practice to refine and define what works best for you, but without specific direction, you can find yourself going in circles…hitting mental blocks. Often your body can hit a plateau if you do the same things over and over. It needs change. Be willing to change, adapt, and sometimes even go back to the drawing board. We try, learn, fail, and try again. Listen to your body and adapt to what it needs. Simplify certain things so that you have more energy towards others. Fuel your body, hydrate your body and let your body recover. My gosh, listen to your body. If it hurts, stop it. Rest and recovery are imperative. If we don’t rest appropriately, we’ll constantly be playing catch-up in our recovery mode.
Climbing captivated me because it’s a world of fun. But over the years, my view on fun has adapted in accepting that fun doesn’t always have the same meaning. Sometimes fun is relaxing, enjoyable in the sense that there isn’t stress, but simply just a good time. On the other side, fun can be exhilarating, electric, and stressful all at the same time. The competition scene isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes work, dedication, and constant focus. But, even on the coldest of miserable days, whether baring down during a training session, getting after it in the mountains with friends, or on the competitive stage, I find the fun in what I’m doing. I find the joy in trying hard, pushing myself, and seeing what I’m capable of. No, it’s not a walk in the park with my family…relaxing and simple (which is also fun), but it’s a different kind of fun that I’ve found myself loving. It’s easy to lose sight of why we do things, forgetting about how things are fun, and in those moments, take a step back and remind yourself why you started doing it, go back to what you know, what you believe in, and resurge the passion you have for (competitive) climbing. Take the “begin again” approach and start over with…this is so fun.
Take some time and think about how to be ready for your “indoor” dedicated season, and try to find some consistency with some or most of your sessions. All of this, they’re just ideas. I’ve spent a lot of time working on how to train when to train, and the proper attitude towards all of it. But it works for me. Hopefully, you can pull some “nuggets” out of this that will get you on the right track. Remember to keep the fun in all of it, and stay focused on why you’re doing it. Enjoy every season for what it is, and hold onto your passion for the motivation needed to keep going.