2 August 2006

We need more data!

Working moves on Rhapsody June 2005. I kept a training diary all summer so I made sure I didn't skip any sessions while still getting lots of days on the route (Photo: Steven Gordon)

Well its good to see interest in this site starting to get going already - wow! In the comments for my last post Lee from Australia gave us a link to his training diaries article. Lee admits to being fanatical about training and I'm guessing very few of us keep training diaries in the long term. So should you? Well, probably yes! I only keep one for a couple of months of the year when I'm not climbing, just training specifically for something. Last year when I was training for Rhapsody I kept one for three months because I had so many training objectives to fit into the training week - fingerboard sessions, endurance circuits, flexibility, running and I was trying to get 4 sessions a week on the route itself. You might say 'well why not just allocate a weekly routine with set tasks on Mon, Tues etc..' Well yes thats fine if you can do that, but most peoples lives aren't so simple. And if you are trying to do your real climbing outdoors then you have to schedule around the weather. So all in all its easy to lose track of your volume and it inevitably slips either side of the optimum.

I tend to keep track of my yearly volume in my head because training comes first in my daily schedulea and I think about it non-stop. But for most thats not the case. If you want to improve year on year you NEED to be sure you are doing more training/climbing load than last year, otherwise your body won't adapt. The Scotland Online article on the links page has more on the overload principle. It's always an eye opener when you write down some detail on how much time you spend training - it always makes you realise just how big the gaps are at certain times of year when life gets in the way. If these gaps were smaller, a lot of people would be climbing a lot harder.


Lee said...

If you want to improve year on year you NEED to be sure you are doing more training/climbing load than last year, otherwise your body won't adapt.

Yep, and here's where things can get tricky, and it's an area I have been struggling with. How do you measure load? How do you quantify it? The load generated by each type of training is different.

David Macia has written some material on load, intensity and volume (I will try to get this to you if you haven't seen it already – let me know). David states "It is only possible to train in a methodical way if we know exact intensity of effort in each moment."

Weight training
Easy to quantify based on weight (plus or minus), the hold, the grip, the hang time, reps and sets.

Pretty easy to quantify based on weight (plus or minus), the hold, the grip, the hang time, reps and sets. Just make sure you have a way to record it.

I have managed to make this quantifiable by assigning a plan of movements with the rest time between each. Doesn’t really take into account load though, but at least I can record what I am doing and see a progression.

System Training, H.I.T, or directed exercises
Reasonably easy to quantify because you are performing a set sequence. Use reps and sets.

Very hard to quantify! You can count moves (I've found this a bit arduous/impossible!), however the intensity of the moves vary. Particularly, as you improve, problems become easier and the intensity decreases. So calculating load is hard!

Route climbing
As above. Sure there’s a grade, but one route of a certain grade is not equivalent to another. Each route is unique. We could try to use metres climbed, or time on the wall, but routes are not consistent in their intensity. Hard to calculate load!

Given that we are constantly trying to overload our bodies, and then rest just enough but not too much (so that supercompensation occurs) we need to track load. But how can you accurately do that when we’re using a combination of training methods each week?

Top level Aussie climber Lee Cossey (not to be confused with me!) is attempting to do this by assigning movements of his various exercises a given intensity rating.

0.1 – Easy moves
0.3 – Strength (weight reps)
0.5 – E2 (20 move circuit)
0.7 – E3 (30 move circuit)
1.0 – Boulders (short v. powerful)

He says “I have given each category a intensity value relating to the amount of stress (stress being the main thing to watch when training, making sure it is enough, not too much and progressive) one move of each imposes. For example a 10 move boulder prob = 10 units of stress. To get the equivalent amount of stress from E3 (30 move circuit style) you would need to do about 14 moves.”

Obviously, he then counts the number of moves of each type of training and multiplies it by the intensity rating to get a stress value. This can be tracked and managed through time.

He also notes that “with this set-up you can also predict when you will peak or feel tuckered [tired]. Unless the factors/values for each category are perfect (impossible I think, especially between different people) the stress values between macrocycles/4 week blocks, are not that meaningful so it is useful only 4 weeks at a time.

Lee said...

Dang, seems I can't edit my above comment to fix a mistake. The weight training section should just say "Easy to quantify based on weight, reps and sets."

Dave MacLeod said...

It is indeed tricky to quantify load. I think it's best to keep things really simple. The methods you mention are a good stab at a load measure taking intensity into account. But they are not scientific and are very rough guesses, prone to error (probably large error) so I'd say if you guess wrong it could do more harm than good. Just looking at number of routes [or whatever unit] and route grade over a given time period will be absolutely fine for most people. An even simpler way is just to categorise the session difficulty as easy, medium or hard for a type of session (e.g. bouldering/strength). You could refine this to a 1-10 scale. I just stuck to easy, medium and hard. Better to have a simple measure and get it right than a detailed one so prone to error it gives you spurious data.

The sources of error could be things like temp. a 7c in 15 degrees is much lower intensity than the same route in 25 degrees. Lee Cossey is on the right lines with a subjective measure of stress. Subjective ratings of percieved exertion are used a lot in sports science.

The most important thing is to have yearly data. How many days in the year did you climb? and be able to see how long any big gaps (like injury) were. Avoiding big gaps or ignoring an aspect of training for months at a time is high priority.

let us know where to find the David Macia info - that would be good.

Lee said...

Have emailed you the David Macia stuff.

Lawry said...

Gday guys! Thanks for the interesting thread. This topic must surely be one of the most important and over-looked subjects in climbing training.


"I just stuck to easy, medium and hard. Better to have a simple measure and get it right than a detailed one so prone to error it gives you spurious data"

Just wondering why you think a Load Summation method as described by Lee might be so prone to error and how it may do more harm than good?

Surely such a method will give far move accurate data (and hence be more valuable in spotting load trends) than a method that only takes the number of routes and their grades (or easy, medium, hard) into account?

In terms of its complexity, unfortuantely I think counting moves and reps is a necessary evil in modern climbing training. However once we get into a habit of doing this, a LS method like Lee C's becomes quite easy to apply.