11 August 2010
If you wanted to learn how to mess up your training and stay as crap as possible at climbing, or better still injured and disillusioned with your sport, you could learn any of these five habits that you’ll see in fellow climbers all the time. Guaranteeing failure to improve at climbing is a lot easier that guaranteeing success, which is why so many people manage it with the following:
1. Wait until you are tired. Slower reactions and lazy movements will add more peak forces on working tendons and joints, giving you more microscopic tissue damage. So you can add the same damage as you would with a heavy training session, even though you burned out after a short time and gave up. Because you only measured the training load as route grades X volume, you wont notice the extra damage and fail to rest long enough. Repeat for several sessions and you have an overuse injury.
2. Listen too closely to fear. Could be fear of falling, or fear of failing. Doesn’t matter. The research shows that we are driven by fear of loss. It worked well at the time our brain architecture was being designed by evolution, a few years back when something stealing your food or worse still eating you meant it was game over. But the trait causes some big problems in modern life. Like in sport climbing when falling is safe but still feels terrifying. We are scared of the wrong things and worse still when we expose ourselves to them in the wrong way (too much too soon) we become hypersensitive to them. A crippling negative feedback cycle. Slow, incremental exposure to scary things like competitive situations, pressure to succeed when you’ve invested a lot in a goal, or even just taking a lob is the way to conquer. Try and shortcut it or skip the training and go straight for the performance and you’ll fail spectacularly.
3. Do the same as last time. Humans love routines, so this one couldn’t be easier to slip into. Successful training is about maximising the total load on the body across the different energy systems, muscle groups, techniques etc. Working on one while the other rests allows you to fit in more stimulus per unit time. If you do the same routes, on the same length of wall, same angle, hold type pattern of session intensity you’ll manage to overtrain a few systems while detraining the rest. Worst possible place to be. Ever wondered how olympic athletes absorb 10 times the number of training hours you do, but have less time out to injury?
4. Compete like it’s a competition. It rarely occurs to amateur athletes that there is a difference between competing in training and competing in competition. Mainstream sports are pretty messed up, but if there’s one thing they are good at it’s knowing where the difference lies. The (superficial) goal is competing in competition is to win the game, be the best, outdo the other guy. So you have to bend over backwards, go that extra mile, ignore pain, tiredness and not look over your shoulder, just focus on the finish line. Competing in training is about learning from the other guy. So the point is for you to watch them, not for them to watch you. But if they are watching you while you show off your skills, they can catch up faster by assimilating what you do and adding it to their individual strengths.
5. Get angry. I don’t mean simply release the tension of a big effort with a power scream - that’s fine. I mean get ANGRY! Kick the wall, tear your hair out, have a rant at the hold that moved, the heat, the grease, the duff beta you got off me and the guy who was watching and made you feel nervous. That will distract you nicely from the things that might actually make a difference.