8 Ways to Train Outdoors for Climbing
Strategies for getting stronger outside—no gym required ! With the longer days, warmer temps, and sunny skies of summer upon us, the last thing on your mind is being cooped up in a climbing gym. Sure, it’s a place to have fun and get stronger. But ultimately don’t most of us want to be testing our limits or cruising classics outside? With 30 years of climbing experience, we’ve been able to get and stay fit while spending very little time in the gym and mostly climbing outside.
To pay it forward, we’ve compiled a number of thoughts here to give you a training plan that doesn’t really feel like training at all, mostly because you get to be outside on real rock. There’s nothing like moving over stone to sharpen your skills, broaden your horizons, and get a little stronger in the meantime. From a quick post-work session to full weekends of cragging, each time you go outside, pick one of these to focus on and become a better climber without the gym.
Try to become more aware of your mental state while climbing. Give a shot at different states of mind on different days. One day, go out and just have fun cruising moderates and racking up as many laps as you can. The next day, go out and be serious about trying something at your limit while working your projecting and redpointing skills. Be competitive with your partner if you need to be. A third approach is to be a kid again. Flopping around on dynos, jugs, no-handed slabs, and circus trick problems.
Just enjoy being outside and having a physically strong body. Your outlook is such a huge factor in your performance—and in the quality of your day. No matter what your goal is for that session. Cycle through these approaches now and again. Just like it’s beneficial to get out of your physical comfort zone. And try new moves or new styles, it’s helpful to try a new mental approach to climbing.
Moving your feet first helps develop excellent technique. Not to mention engages your muscles in a different way over a wider range of motion. When you downclimb, you’re forced to stretch and search for a foothold, find it, and commit to it. This simple action requires you to rely on the foot. Even if it’s not in the “perfect” position it was on the way up. Your tactile awareness will benefit greatly from searching out, feeling around, and committing to that low, lost foothold before you let go with your hands above. Downclimbing also activates muscles at full extension.
When headed up, we maintain muscular contraction through the initiation of the move at hand, followed by a slackening of the body and the limb in motion until contact is made with the next hold, when we immediately snap back into flexing. When downclimbing, your muscles are engaged through the entire range of the movement. Including the lockoff up high, lowering slowly to full extension down below, and searching for that faraway foothold. You’ll be surprised at how different a problem feels on the way down, how easy it feels on the next trip up, and how in command and confident you’ll feel on the feet.
Try to do three to four downclimbs per day on problems or routes that are around your warm-up level. And keep the variety going. It’s a much different workout to downclimb a slab than it is an arête. And a totally different set of techniques and muscle groups to downclimb an overhang.
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