Program Design for Climbing Part 5: Efficiency

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by Douglas Hunter

Efficiency can be thought of as addressing the question of what is the minimum amount of work an athlete needs to do in order to achieve the desired performance goals. Efficiency also means how well structured your climbing / training time is, in the short, medium and long term.

Efficiency begins with our ability to make and execute a plan for a single day of climbing or training. Without efficiency at this level medium and long term efficiency won’t be achievable. So the making of daily plans and executing them well is the foundation of efficiency. Most climbers already know that the most basic daily plan consists of a warm-up, a main activity and a cool down. What we are concerned with is the quality of each of these phases and how successful we are in each of them.

For the warm-up, the considerations are how quickly it prepares your body and your mind for the climbing to come. Does your warm-up help you move well, does it help you feel energized and ready to work? Does it need to last two hours, or thirty minutes? Faster isn’t necessarily better, the point is to make sure that the time is used wisely, and that activities in the warm-up contribute to your readiness for the main activity.

In the main activity the goal is for the climbing to be well structured and well executed. The overall time the activity takes will depend on what it is. Some activities such as high intensity intervals can be done in thirty minutes. Other activities such as on-sight practice may take several hours. In either case its important to assess how well you did in the activity and why. If for example, your goal was to do a CIR at the V2 level but you could only do seven V2s before you needed to drop down to V1s. You want to figure out why this happened. Was V2 too high of a level for you? Were you unmotivated? Did your skin wear out too quickly? On the other hand what if the CIR went well and you succeeded in doing twelve V2s in the session. What factors contributed to that success, and do you think you are ready to increase the intensity?

Finally, for the cool down, the goal is to aid recovery from the climbing. The cool down is the time to prevent cramping and stiffness that often follows climbing workouts. So we need to consider how well our cool down is working, this can usually be done by examining how you feel the day after a climbing / training session. How well do you perform the basic movement patterns of daily life? How does your body feel as you get out of bed the morning after a climbing / training session? Muscle soreness is a natural part of the training process, but how sore you are and how often your muscles feel extremely sore is influenced by your cool down.

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After taking a couple of hours away from this post I re-read it and thought that maybe it’s too simple, too basic. But that’s actually the point. Training efficiency begins with the structure of each day, and it’s the ability to put together days, weeks and months of efficient training that we hope to foster in ourselves as we learn how to train.

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