There is a difference between practice and training. Practice will of course improve technique, efficiency, and specific muscular endurance – but will generally end in a plateau. Training, however, is a planned gradual increase over time focusing on a specific outcome. The key being using an incremental modulation to get there.
This week a new bouldering gym had it’s soft opening in the city we live and train (Halifax Nova Scotia). Seven Bays Bouldering is a converted auto garage with shiny new holds, padded floors, and a brewery right next door in the heart of hipster town.
The soft opening was a fantastic event. Locals came to climb world class routes, eat world class food, support their friends and check out the new diggs. Over 500 people RSVP’d to the event and over 100 people bought climbing related passes on Day 1 which is a huge boost for their longevity. Having a gym walkable from home and work is too good to pass up!
Which brings me to the questions of this post; How does Bouldering fit into an Alpine Training program?
What you’re reading is as much an explanation as it is a question about how you alpine enthusiasts fit bouldering into a program focused on high volume low intensity training. Bouldering being the exact antithesis of this.
Where we live the bouldering is great. Not good. Great. So with the coastal bouldering season upon us and a new bouldering gym opening it is difficult to not try to squeeze it into our Alpine Training Program. But how to make it training rather than practice? This is the crux.
Chapter 14 “Training by Climbing” of Steve House’s Training for the New Alpinism is a deviation from most of the book in it leans heavily on climbing for the majority of a complete balanced program. The general outline remains the same – Transition, Base Strength, Continued base with Muscular Endurance (where we find ourselves today), Conversion, Peaking.
The following is paraphrased from Chapter 14 – it is not representative of the standard program.
Transition Period: Climb lots of pitches that are generally easy for you in preparation for the base period. Hold yourself back. Trust the process. Add 5 percent volume of climbing and scrambling per week. Complete a general strength cycle (two days per week climbing, the same two days per week general strength routine). Bouldering and weight training may count as strength training but work only boulder problems you can flash.
Base Period: Develop a resistance to fatigue and get accustomed to a high volume of work. Bouldering for Max Strength twice per week an action packed hour at most. Do not go to failure.
Base Period Muscular Endurance: Your endurance sessions will mimic a typical sport climbers day. Climbing to failure is OK. Make the hardest route of the day your 3-5th pitch then gradually get easier as fatigue takes over. Hit your programs recommended hours per week.
Be sure this all falls into a continuous gradual increase by planning everything out ahead of time.
When Matt and I started into this program my initial impression was that bouldering and sport climbing would be largely irrelevant since our goal is long moderate alpine routes in the Rockies. However as we have progressed in volume, gradually increased our strength & fitness, and seen real results in efficiency and endurance I have come to believe that building bouldering in (as long as we meet our other hours) as the Max Strength portion of the program will ultimately improve outcomes.
Congratulations to Seven Bays on a successful opening. I am looking forward to slowly increasing my max strength volume and beer volume at your gym / cafe / bar.
How do you fit bouldering into your training program? Am I rationalizing (fitting the square peg of bouldering in the round hole of alpinism)? Any recommendations on how to do this? If you boulder for 3 hours will you count all 3 hours as Max Strength?