Preparation for your next climbing trip


Thursday, 14 May

Best preperation for your next climbing trip,  by Bonita Norris - RocUp.UK

Kalymnos (c) N Smallios
Sierra Blair-Coyle (c) Jackie Sterna
Magnus Midtbö (c) Henning Wang
Alexander Megor (c) Ken Etzl, Red Bull
Ben West (c) Si Rawlingson

From the glossy pages of magazines, to sun-drenched YouTube videos, climbing is a sport intrinsically linked with exotic destinations abroad. The lure of remote wonder means that many of us take at least one climbing holiday each year. Those precious few days are most importantly about enjoying yourself to the max, but could also be an opportunity to tick your hardest ever climb, and this means being in the best physical and mental shape possible.
A holiday is an exciting fixed goal to work towards, so take some time to plan a climbing schedule around these 6 factors, to put you in the best position to have a great trip:
1. top physical fitness
2. Injury free
3. Conditioned skin
4. Great route reading skills for onsighting 
5. A head for heights
6. Psyche!

With these 6 factors in mind, what's the best way to prepare for a sport climbing holiday? Well, most of us climbers are aware of basic training methods and what we should be doing to prepare ourselves, so this article is not going to re-invent the wheel, but often with so much information out there, what is needed is a little focus. 
So, here are RocUp Holidays top tips on the best things you can do to prepare for your next sport climbing holiday:

1. Be in top physical fitness:
For sport climbing the focus is on power endurance over explosive power. Factor these 4 training sessions into your climbing routine to make sure when the going gets tough on holiday, you're still holding on.

ARC Training: Aerobic endurance
Aerobic training is highly important when factoring in onsights, recovery, and long routes in general- it's the foundation of your fitness. Aerobic Restoration and Capillarisation (ARC) training can be tedious, but the results are well worth it. Start by climbing for 10 minutes without touching the ground on low intensity grades (x3 sets with 5 minutes rest). Aim for a low level pump that you can endure without the worry of falling off. Shake out throughout. When these sets become too easy, start building up both time and grade difficulty. Climb quickly and this will also help build your overall fitness.This type of training builds a network of new capillaries in your arms, helping flush out any toxins and increases the Oxygen supply to your muscles.
Boulder Link ups: Anaerobic Endurance 
Knowing you've got the staying power to hold on through hard crux moves and afterwards is invaluable. Anaerobic endurance climbing comprises of hard, powerful, at the limit moves, one after another, that build up a serious pump in the forearms.Link between 3 and 5 problems together for a sustained, hard set. Down climb easy problems for active recovery training and don't touch the ground. For example, I climb up a V6-8, down a V2, up a V5, down a V2 and up a V6/7. Rest for 5 minutes. You should choose between 3 and 6 different link ups varying in length and difficulty. Repeat for 3 sets. Over time you can build up intensity and duration- play around with the difficulty until you are falling off the final problem towards the top.

Bouldering 8x6's: anaerobic Endurance
A gruelling training session! Choose 8 problems that are near your limit. You should know these problems and be confident in climbing them clean when fresh. Choose problems that are different to each other and vary in style and angle. Complete the set by climbing all 8 problems back to back- the only rest is getting from one problem to the other. You can shorten this by running between them(!) Rest for 3-5 minutes and complete 6 sets. Initially you may fall on a lot of problems in your latter sets. As you continue to practice this session and improve, you should keep increasing the difficulty.
Lead climbing 4x4s: lower intensity anaerobic endurance
This session can vary in intensity depending on your level of fitness, but will always be less intense than lapping your hardest boulders. Choose 4 vertical/overhanging routes that you are familiar with and climb them from easy to hard. I.e. 6a, 6b, 6c, 7a. Climb each route 4 times with no rest. Get your belayer to lower you quickly whilst you clench your fists. The easier routes should start off being aerobic endurance and then become anaerobic as you get onto harder grades. You'll know the difficulty and intensity of the session is right if you are falling off the last set towards the top.

2. Injury Free
After perhaps a few months of training for your holiday, your body will be stronger but also possibly now more prone to injury. Keep in mind these 5 tips to help you stay injury free:

Structure your training. Having a set plan and some discipline makes you focus on training smart and avoid aimless/ careless sessions.

Rest is just as important as training. It is tempting to cram lots of climbing in just before a trip, but remind yourself that taking rest days allows your body to build strength without the risk of developing an injury that you won't have time to recover from.

Work your antagonist muscles. Not only will this improve your performance, but reduce the chance of injury. Press ups, shoulder presses, dips- any kind of exercise where you are pushing your weight.

Taper. A taper period can be around one-two weeks long and the focus should be on more rest and only maintaining levels of climbing, decreasing in sessions until you have a few days rest before going on your holiday. You might feel frustrated or like you are losing fitness, don't worry- you'll see the benefit of tapering once you hit the crag injury free and peak just in time!

Listen to your body and be disciplined. If you notice an injury coming on, stop climbing immediately, even if you've driven 2 hours to the crag and are on your warm up climb! Your focus from this point onwards is to limit the damage, so rest, ice, do rehab exercises, and even seek professional advice.

3. Conditioned skin
One of the biggest things that holds climbers back on holiday is trashed skin from climbing consecutive days on unfamiliar rock. It's hard to avoid but at least in your training you can build some mental resilience to the pain, and encourage your skin to repair faster.  The best way to condition your skin is to:

Climb consecutive days in training. Especially if you're tired and your skin hurts from the day before. Climb for longer sessions (like you will on holiday) which will toughen your skin up and mentally get you used to climbing on painful skin.
Look after your skin. File down potential flappers, and use Climbskin moisturiser to help you recover.
If you're an indoor climber, make an extra effort to climb outdoors as rock is often more unforgiving on skin than plastic.

4. Route reading skills and onsighting
Route reading is a basic skill in a climbers arsenal, but many don't use it enough to their advantage. If you have strongly developed route reading skills, you will also be able to develop strategy and this will give you a great advantage on holiday when you may be faced with unfamiliar styles of climbing and routes that are much longer than usual. Here are our tips on developing your route reading and onsighting skills:

Make route reading a habit. Factor in a route read into your pre-climb routine, no matter how easy the climb- sometimes a route read can take longer than the climb itself! Don't step off the ground until you are familiar with where the holds are (look for chalk or obvious placements), know as many of the moves as possible, where your potential rests are, where the crux is, and how you will position yourself to clip. Analyse whether your prediction was correct after the climb, and get into the habit of doing this for every route you step onto to.

Eliminate adjustments. Video yourself climbing a route or boulder problem and count how many times you adjust your hands and feet after you place them. You might be surprised to see how much you 'bump' your hands and feet. This wastes an incredible amount of energy. With your partner, watch each other climb and shout every time they make an adjustment- this helps because whilst you're climbing you won't even notice how many adjustments you make. Now, focus on your first-time placements, and for both hands and feet try to make no adjustments- even if you don't catch a hold quite right. If you watch Adam Ondra climb you'll notice how few adjustments he makes- especially when onsighting. 

Climb hopefully. A great tip for when your mind starts to get shut down on an onsight that's not going to plan. Often climbers start to think that the route is only going to get harder and the holds are only going to get worse, this negativity gives you an excuse to let go before you need to. Instead, tell yourself that the next hold will be better than the one you're currently hanging onto, and if it's not, then tell yourself the next one will be! Eventually you'll be right. This positive attitude encourages you to climb quickly through hard sections, and rest on easy sections- which is exactly how you should aim to climb, not the other way round! 
Learn from your mistakes. If an onsight doesn't go to plan, figure out why. You'll often start to see a pattern emerging and find that the same thing might be happening every time- target those weaknesses so that they don't hold you back on holiday.

5. A head for heights
Now this point seems a bit silly. We are all climbers, why should we worry about this?Well, for some that could be true, but often, going to different countries, the crags and rock are completely foreign to us. We are out of our comfort zone and as a result may feel more stressed on routes. You may be used to climbing 20m routes, but not 40 or 50m ones. This can freak you out a bit.
Our advice is to attack the fear of falling early on. Firstly, go on your holiday having done much more fall practice than usual in the last few weeks of training.
When you arrive on holiday, take lots of falls on your first day- some big ones too. Get your head in the game so that you trust your environment and are familiar with the type of falls you'll be expecting to take. If you make an effort to do this on your first day, it will really make a difference for the rest of your holiday.

6. Psyche
Inspire yourself. The more inspired you are, the better and more diligently you will train for your holiday. Buy the guide books, check out YouTube videos and Build up a knowledge of what will suit you and make the most of your trip, and do all of this with the friends you are going on holiday with. Try and take some time every week to indulge yourself  in guidebooks and trip reports, this will help keep you psyched when your holiday is still months away.

Get focussed. By inspiring yourself you're also getting focussed- on particular goals, grades, routes and styles of climbing- with focus you're more clear about what you're working towards. This will keep your training purposeful and as a result, more effective.
Make a training plan. Look at your schedule and be realistic. Don't beat yourself up if you miss the odd session. Set mid term goals in your training plan too, so that you know you are on track. Even if you throw the piece of paper away afterwards, you'll have a clearer mindset when it comes to making decisions about how much and what kind of climbing you should be doing each week.

The most important aspect of all of this is enjoyment. Enjoy your training, enjoy your climbing and enjoy your holiday!
Join RocUp Holidays this September in Kalymnos, where superstar climbers Alex Megos, Magnus Midtbø and Sierra Blair-Coyle will be running coaching clinics alongside professional coaches Robin O'leary, Leah Crane and Ben West. For more info visit

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