Lockdown Training: Using Myself As A Case Study

Episodes

Lockdown Training Episode 6: Concluding Thoughts Lockdown Training

Welcome to the Prowess Climbing Coaching Training Podcast In this final episode of the series, Pete presents solo and records his thoughts on the training program and what he's learned along the way  Further information is available on the Prowess Coaching website
  1. Lockdown Training Episode 6: Concluding Thoughts
  2. Lockdown Training Episode 5: Barriers to Successful Training
  3. Lockdown Training Episode 4: Should We Be HIITing It Up?
  4. Lockdown Training Episode 3: Reviewing, Recuperating and Thoughts on Surgery
  5. Lockdown Training Episode 2: Adjusting, Calibrating and Intrinsic Feedback

To visit the parent page for our podcasts, in order to share or follow, please click here. Please note that the training program ended at the end of February 2021 and this page has been edited to be presented in the past tense.

Introduction

Personally, I’ve never been one for “training”; something which i allude to regularly both on this website and on my sister site Chez de la Bloc. I’ve always adopted the idea that more climbing will improve my climbing, albeit often targeted to specifics.

While I’ve often worked with clients to improve their skills at home and even created a series of At Home Exercise videos for the first national lockdown in Spring 2020, doing this myself has always been a step too far. As much as i enjoy climbing hard, the focus is always on the climbing aspect and I’ve always lacked the commitment to go through a structured training programme.

That is until early 2021. Spurred on by the ever-psyched Sally Lisle, coupled with another national lockdown, I decided that if I wanted to maintain the pre-lockdown progress I’d achieved before Christmas – nearly finishing Rock Atrocity Wobbly Bloc start 7c+ for example – I’d need to switch on and get working.

Then it dawned on me that, as a reasonably high-performing boulderer completing a structured training programme for the first time, it could be an interesting case study: can I stick to it? Have I created the right sorts of exercises? Are the sets hard enough? And will it actually help me once I get back to my project climbs?

So we decided to record it as a podcast; recorded periodically from the very start to chart progress and share first hand how effective these programmes can be. To compliment that, this page includes some important notes for those that prefer to read than to listen. Bear in mind, these notes are specific to me personally and do not include regular input from Sally; for her input, you’ll need to listen to the episodes, which will be linked here for you to follow or catch up on at a later date.

The Background

Let’s start with some background info: I climb regularly, only ever bouldering these days, operating around 7c. My goal is to climb my first 8a this Spring. During this training programme, it is assumed that I will not be working (certainly not much) and thus, will not be tired and struggling to complete the workout.

However the concept of Total Load discussed in the Climbing Bible (Mobraten and Christophersen, 2020) is an important factor for me. I have two young children, a two-year-old and a three-year-old, as well as a partner who intends to exercise and a dog that needs to go out regularly and sadly now refuses steadfastly to join me on a run.

I also have a very short attention span with things like this and am aware that I am likely to get bored quickly. Finally, no one knew in January 2021 how long this particular lockdown would last and how long it would be before I was able to get back out to try the projects again. All these factors came into play when designing the plan.

Designing the Plan

My plans are all designed around Replication Training; that is to say I selected three very specific projects and used these as a guide as to how to specifically train the muscle groups to complete these projects at the first opportunity. On a piece of paper, I stated these climbs, determined their attributes and chose exercises to replicate them; remembering to factor in antagonist training as part as well.

As I didn’t know how long I’d be doing this, I decided to do a weekly, rolling programme that is repeated over and over. This was based on Sally’s suggestion of two days on, one day off, two days on, two days off, giving a total of seven days to be repeated. To fit in with the rest of my life, I chose to take Wednesdays and weekends as rest days.

On a spreadsheet, I wrote out the whole programme down to reps and sets for each specific exercise. My initial personal programme can be seen here and lower down the page is a blank Excel spreadsheet for you to download and copy as you see fit:

In order to try and keep things interesting, as you can see from the image above, I opted for a different focus on each day on. Monday replicates the specific muscles needed for my project based on the initial plan; Tuesday is an aerobic workout (in part just to get me out of the house); Thursday replicates the high intensity of hard bouldering with a HIIT workout; and Friday utilises a private climbing gym to which I currently have limited access (hence only being one day per week).

Charting Progress

As mentioned, most of this stems from my good friend, Sally Lisle. It was her who suggested this in the first place and her who pulled me from my malaise. We used our relationship to motivate both ourselves and each other.

It was always going to be difficult to gauge exactly what I would find hard before things began or how many reps and sets I’ll need to do. However, we need a starting point and the training plan adapted each week, being tweaked and adjusted every week to achieve the right level of difficulty, to maintain interest and to fit around other constraints on my time.

Every week became slightly different to every other and in order to keep track and discuss the weeks of training in our podcast, I printed a copy of my plan and made notes along the way. To see how the plan evolved over time, a copy of my plan has been attached here:

To find out more detail about how each went and how and why the programme was adjusted over the weeks, well, you’ll need to listen to the podcast (listen above or click links at the top or bottom of the page).

Sally Lisle and Far Out Pursuits

As mentioned, the initial idea came from Sally Lisle. Sally runs her own company, Far Out Pursuits, and is an excellent climber based in North Wales. She’s an old friend of mine and a thoroughly decent human being and deserves a lot of credit, not just for helping me in this endeavour but in inspiring me to get going with it in the first place.

If you are looking for guiding or instruction in the mountains of North Wales, please see her website and get in touch with her.

The Podcast

As I said, the ability to chart a case study like this is rare; especially one where I can easily know how it feels. After all, many coaches will have trained in this nature for a long time.

As a coach, my goal is to help climbers improve their performance and this podcast may well prove insightful to those who are new to training. That is the hope: that those climbers who have decided to start a training programme can see first hand how I’ve gone about it specifically and how effective it has been.

This is exactly why I’ve written this page: to further explain the process I’ve gone through. There are many different models to follow with training like this and it was intriguing to know how this model fares (namely very successful given the circumstances).

If you would like to replicate this model yourself, there is a downloadable template below that you can adjust to match your own circumstances and fill in at your leisure. If you feel you’d struggle to design the content yourself, you can always get in touch for a free consultation or a Remote Training Plan Design to suit you.

Conclusions From the Programme

As the lockdown lifted and work came my way, my training programme naturally came to an end (Sally continued long afterwards). So the big question is: was it successful?

Given the circumstances, yes it was very successful, although the motivation seemed to change part way through; although perhaps that was more that I became more aware of my true motivation.

I started by stating that I wanted to get stronger for my projects but ended by wanting to “keep my eye in” and not regress. In this respect, it was very effective and the mixed nature of the training – not great for specific strength training but perfectly suited to maintaining motivation – worked well for me personally.

In the weeks that followed the end of my training programme, I certainly felt a regression and started to incorporate things like a HIIT routine into my week to maintain cardio fitness and (possibly a little narcissistically) my figure.

I wouldn’t suggest that my programme has had a particularly beneficial effect on my ability to climb hard. However given my reluctance to “train” in the typical sense, this worked well for me by keeping me in touch with my projects while able to work strength once the walls opened up and i could train in my usual way. It also helped me realise that as much as I do want to climb hard, I’m not willing to put myself through a typical training programme in order to achieve my goals and that was a big revelation. Because just like a good coaching session, training needs to be student centred and this programme was centred to me specifically. And in that, it worked a treat.

Resources

If you’ve missed an episode or want to revisit an older one, please click here.

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