Training Tuesdays: How Spreadsheets Saved My Life, and Other Exaggerations

Spreadsheets obviously didn’t save my life, but I’ve had an affinity for the neat little rows and columns for years now to keep me organized at work. Up until recently I hadn’t really thought of tracking workout data and instead relied on the bro-split workout or a jog when the mood struck me. Steve House’s new book, Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete, showed me a new approach to designing a workout plan. The book was helpful not only in how it prescribed a week-by-week approach to creating a training plan (most plans do this, it’s nothing new) but actually provided spreadsheets that I could download and use to track my progress and measure against benchmarks contained within the book. This really appealed to the data nerd in me so I decided to give it a go.

TT sheet 1
Weekly volume planning – workout volumes for each phase go up a bit every week.

The idea is that you pick a climbing challenge and date and work back from there. I’m planning on doing a Mt. Washington climb in February, 2015 and was starting in March of 2014. Each week has a prescribed amount of workout volumes that grow progressively throughout the period, loading through smaller blocks, dropping back to allow recovery and then growing in volume past that. Without spoiling the book, the goal of the plan is to get your body used to putting out large amounts of moderate volume exercises so that you’re able to comfortably handle 20+ hour days on a mountain objective. The program is a mix of heavy, compound weight strength sessions (squats, deadlifts, dips, etc) mixed with technical climbing and LOTS of cardio, especially towards the end of the program. My schedule had me finishing at around 25 hour weeks. Unfortunately I was hit with a serious chest cold and lots of work travel in October and it derailed my cardio training and never really got back on track. TT sheet 2 I noticed measurable gains in my general fitness but was unsure of how much this would impact my climbing, especially early on. It turned out that by June I was able to send all of my rope climbing projects and a couple of new bouldering problems. I also started to use more focused gym climbing sessions around this time so it’s difficult to tease out what specifically was responsible. Looking back at my records* (another bonus of tracking stats) it doesn’t look like my weight changed any so all improvements were strength and technique based. I wasn’t mentally prepared to send all of my projects so early in the season and kind of ambled through the rest of the year without any goal in mind. I stagnated as a result and simply worked on my trad climbing at lower grade levels. However, I’m now confident that a periodized and formalized approach to training like this one can have major effects on climbing performance. When I return from a Christmas vacation to the Southwestern US I’m going to be starting the new year with a program to finish on a August 2015 trip to the Bugaboos in Alberta and am confident that I’ll be able to push my climbing performance and will probably be crushing 5.13 trad by July (this is the other exaggeration I eluded to in the title).

*As a practical tip, I saved the Excel sheet (and used various tabs within it) in Dropbox so I would have access to it at work and on my mobile device to make tracking as easy as possible. Google Sheets would be another good option for this.

My training for the previous two weeks hasn’t been very intense as I’ve been working through a new instructional textbook for Olympic lifting (review coming as soon as I finish). I’ve focusing on correcting a number of small but important technique deficiencies so that I can make much bigger improvements in the year year. I’m going to devote the next few training posts to issues surrounding diet and body weight for climbing fatties like myself.


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