Tim’s constantly torn between pushing hard in the climbing gym and recovering properly to send at his best when he’s out on real rock. So he went against all his instincts and asked a bunch of strong climbers about their approach to the weekend send.
Sport climbing’s all about peak performance. It’s about finding a route that pushes you to the edge of your ability and reaping that rush of endorphins when you finally top out. And then starting again with something harder like the addict you are.
To get better at sport climbing you’ll probably need to spend some time pulling on plastic holds in the gym. Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a bunch of outdoor crags, it’s likely that you’ll only get to climb on real rock (and your project) on weekends.
This has always left me with a conundrum. I want to climb at my peak on the weekend, but I also have to work hard in the gym to get stronger. If I climb too close to the weekend I’ll still be recovering when I get to the crag, but early the next week I should probably be resting to avoid injury.
That leaves me with…Wednesday? While I’m all for Sendy Wens-dy, I thought I should talk to some real senders and find out their methods.
How To Prepare For The Send
‘I like to taper with active recovery the day before – things like yoga, walking, sauna, eating super healthy and getting to bed early,’ Ben Treble reckons.
So Friday beers are out then? If you’re keen to send your project they might be a worthy sacrifice.
But what’s this talk of tapering? Tapering is reducing your exercise in the leadup to the main event. Endurance runners and swimmers won’t shut up about it, but most of the climbers I talked to used the term too. Preparing to climb at your peak is the equivalent of race day, so allowing your muscle to fully recover is a pretty key tip.
Sam Dreyfus also mentions diet: ‘I eat low GI carbs in the morning (like a good sandwich), healthy grub that’s easily digested puts me in the right frame of mind to push my hardest!’
But Georgia Buckley reckons that diet is key well before the weekend:
‘I always try and focus on nutrition, it makes a huge difference to how much energy I have throughout the week. Being vego (with some fish), I always try and include a good protein source in my lunch and dinner. Falafel, lentils, eggs, fish, beans and seeds are all good options.’
Ok, so you’ve kept off the fingers for a few days, got your forty winks, eaten like a saint and caffeinated your bloodstream. Time to jump on the wall right?
‘I always warm up on something that I know I can climb and get into the flow,’ Sam says.
Good tip, but sometimes the crag takes no prisoners and there’s no decent warmup, what then?
‘I usually bring a Theraband (elastic resistance band) for a shoulder warm-up and hold a pen in each hand for finger rolls as I’m walking in.’
I’ve also heard climbers suggest climbing bolt-to-bolt until you’re feeling warm – but make sure you don’t blow your onsight!
How To Recover From The Send
Nice work! You rested up, crushed hard on the weekend and you’re feeling thoroughly rooted from your efforts….hopefully.
Whether you sent your project or not, it’s important to get in some good recovery to make sure you don’t get injured, and to reap the benefits of working hard. After all, ‘climbing is the best training’.
‘Recovery is a matter of listening to my body, resting ‘til energy levels seem normal and not pushing too hard early in the week in my training,’ says Sam Clark.
You might be tempted to go and flog yourself in the gym if you didn’t climb as well as expected but remember that it’s not all about strength. Sam C told me about how mobility and strengthening exercises drastically reduced his rate of injury and Ben Alsop said that adding stretching to his regime meant that he could reach holds he couldn’t touch the week before.
But Ben Treble really preached to the choir with his advice to ‘have a bath with Epsom salts, or hit the sauna’. Personal opinion: if you sent your project you can take a beer or two in with ya.
‘I don’t have a post-climb recovery ritual,’ says Georgia, ‘other than a shower, a big feed and an early night (but this is pretty standard for every night).’ Consistency is key for her climbing success, as well as alternating her climbing with Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu during the week.
In fact, most climbers I talked to had a second squeeze. Whether it’s running, cycling or swimming, it’s good to have another (preferably aerobic) sport to keep you from overdoing it and build up endurance.
We’re running a rad climbing weekend in the Grampians with Arc’teryx. Grab your tickets now!
Feature photo by Jake Anderson
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