I’m in Johanesburg this week. Not usually your prime climbing destination, sure, but what ths place is teeming with is PSYCHE. People work hard, people play hard, people train hard. Even the dogs seem to bark with that much more oomf than dogs elsewhere in the country. It might be because of its nature as a big city and economic hub that everyone here seems driven to milk every possible bit of pleasure out of life. The energy of this place suits me right now.
My head is down writing my thesis at the moment and this can be an all consuming task but because I am in this fast pace city I am able to condense my working hours into solid chunks punctuated by training and seeing family and friends.
I decided to do a Brian Weaver style post and give you a run-down on life and training this year. Training has been fun this year. Living in Cape Town has been the best thing for me as a climber. There are good climbing gyms in the city and a large crowd of regulars plus endless bouldering and trad climbing: two areas that I want to work more on.
I have been working on a loosely periodised schedule this year where I follow a block of specific type of ‘training’ alongside my regular weekend climbing. The climbing outside may or may not fall within this category. For example, if I am training in a power block but I get really psyched on a long endurance style route on the weekend or my mate calls me up to have weekend in the mountains leading easy routes for pitch upon pitch, then I go with the flow. But, I usually stick to my guns during the week in the gym. It is a time to add a bit of structure to things where I will focus on power for a few weeks, then endurance and then power endurance while mixing this up a bit as and where I see fit. That said if I am in the gym doing endurance laps and the coolest boulder problem out is set up I may give it a go while I am still fresh. Or if a long lost climbing partner is in town visiting and wants a belay I am likely to abandon my hard boulder session for a day. This flexibility in training suits my personality well. I shy away from structure and sticking to a precise schedule. So this allows me to maintain motivation. What has been important though in battling my desire to be tied to a structured set-up is developing habits. The first habit has been going to the climbing gym two to three times a week. It allows this to be the default. So if I deviate from this habit, it is unusual and I can slot back into the habit the following week. Everytime I go to the gym, there is some benefit. Sometimes if I am low on energy I hang out with my friends at the gym and hop on things that look exciting or are the most social options to get myself out of my own head. Other times I feel very focussed and my training is selfish and all about me and the campus board and sets and reps in the weight room and on the rings. My stop watch is out and I am anti-social. For me it is important to change this up and keeps things varied. So even if I block my training I still mix up the types of things I do within the set-up. Maybe I will boulder on the moonboard today or I will work on dynamic movement. Even if the only thing I get out of visiting the gym is connecting with climbing partners to make weekend plans, I am instilling the routine of visiting the wall and inevitably I get some kind of movement practice, a point I will touch on in the next section.
Making way for a personal life, making a living and a degree has had its challenges but on the whole things have been on the upward swing for me. So time spent practicing is valuable. Following on from Steve Bechtel’s post about deliberate practice I thought he put into words a notion that has been part of my climbing preparation for years. I generally follow the philosophy that movement is the most important thing in climbing. I stick to this for about 60-80% of my climbing time in the gym or on rock. Note though that this doesn’t mean I time how long I spend on it, rather that on average I do more movement based practice and then add on other aspects in smaller moderation. When I warm up I always focus on a movement drill which involved careful, precise movement. I often dedicate time to boulder problems that are not my style or that I don’t get naturally. Sometimes working routes and boulders or other times onsighting. The other 20-40% of the time is spent doing sport specific training such as campussing, systems board, hangboard or general conditioning. I tend to add cardio training too, but this usually is an add on outside of climbing time and specifically when I know I have a big walk-in coming up or if I want to trim down a bit. My favourite here is swimming or surfing but this year I am adjusting to the colder ocean in the Cape and have been jogging and hiking too. I find hiking to be incredibly beneficial as it reflects on my days out climbing with larger approaches. It allows time for me to clear my head while still being in the mountains. Cape Town in great for this as the mountains are literally in the city bowl. I also make sure to always throw in a specific time for antagonistic muscle training at least once a week to prevent injury. I try to do a small amount of this at the end of every session too such as push ups and rotator cuff exercises. I add core strengthening in between sets- a personal weakness that needs extra attention.
But that has been the year to date and my preparation and adjustment back to the lifestyle of training and climbing religiously. My year in Korea (2014) of focussing on other things was excellent in renewing my desire to have a rigourous climbing life.
Let’s get back to why I am in Johannesburg. The Rockmasters 2015.
As some of you may know, I am a climbing coach. This means I help climbers of all ages and abilities to reach their potential, identify their strengths and weaknesses and work out how to best train and practice for climbing. In understanding what I do about motivation, climbing, movement, training and general sport science principals it is my favourite thing in the world to make specific differences to individual climbers lives. One of my climbing partners and coachlings (as I call them) is incredibly ambitious. Interstingly her and I were both invited to the Rockmasters event at CityROCK in Johannesburg. Mikela Sinovich and I spent some time in Johannesburg pre-event to get conditioned.
It has been great preparing for this event and feeling the skills transfer to my rock climbing. Going into this competition I feel confident. I am aiming for a podium finish but mostly just looking forward to having a strong contingent of female competitors. Bring on the routes!
Watch this space for my re-cap on Rockmasters 2015 from a competitors point of view. A big shout out to my family in Johannesburg. Thanks Morag, Keith, Keagyn and Shannon Saunders for hosting me and for all the support. Thanks Christopher Ravenscroft and Ryan Rabey for the fun times.