Endure the Gnar

Okay, so you’re strong, and you can do all the moves on your project, but you’re just too bloody tired to pull the last few “easy” moves and scream in frustration as you fall off with the anchors tantalizingly near to your face. Frustrating. At least the path is clear, you just need a little more endurance to keep chugging to the end. This is my favorite training phase, because the best way to get endurance is usually just through climbing more, and the only thing better than climbing… is more climbing!

What is Endurance?
There are actually two different facets of endurance, and this tends to send folks barking up the wrong tree in terms of training. Climbing laps at the gym will help you climb longer days outside, but your numbers won’t progress any higher in terms of maximum redpoint grade.

  1. Muscular endurance: This is your ability to keep pulling one hard move after another without pumping out, think in terms of 15-30 difficult moves with little rest. Commonly this is referred to simply as “endurance,” but endurance is more complex than that. If you fall off the crux of a route because your forearms feel like they’re filled with concrete, and you can do the moves when you’re fresh, then working on endurance might bring the send!
  2. Cardio Endurance: This is your ability to keep climbing hard routes/problems all day long at the crag. This is what separates folks with the ability to give one good project burn, from those who can work a hard route 5/6 times in a day and still progress. It’s your ability to recover, and it’s what gets blood flowing in your muscles. This is essential for recovery between moves, between routes, and between sessions. If you find yourself overly fatigued after a short session at the crag, lack the ability to keep climbing “easy” routes at the end of the day, perhaps your days could be extended with a little cardio that’s specific to climbing.
hard climbing that doesn't let up, that's Muscular Endurance! www.boonespeed.com
hard climbing that doesn’t let up, that’s Muscular Endurance! http://www.boonespeed.com

Reps, Sets, and Rest:
My standard rule of thumb for Muscular endurance is about 20-30 moves, more if your projects are on longer walls. The idea is to pump out in a number of moves that simulates the number of moves on your single-pitch projects. I’m still holding myself to a minimum of 5 minutes rest between runs.

For Cardio Endurance the best exercise is to find routes that are so easy you’re not really going to get pumped and run laps on them. This should be a fairly hot and sweaty routine, and you shouldn’t be falling. Rest should be kept to a minimum, as should intensity.

My Enduro-Masochism Routine:
My Muscular endurance routine consists of performing 5 hard things in a session. First, I warm up with easy bouldering or roped climbing, then gradually work up until I feel ready to try a project-level boulder problem. I find one that looks suitable and I give it a try or two, then move on. This is just to remind your fingers to stay strong, and to avoid losing gains in Strength and Power that you’ve made in previous weeks.

So five hard things right? For each “hard thing” you can choose whatever you want, just so long as it causes you to pump out and fall from fatigue in that 20-30 move range (or whatever your project length is). Below are the “hard things” that I’ll use for my personal routine, and suggestions for how to adapt them. Remember, you need at least 5 minutes rest between each “hard thing”, and what qualifies as a “hard thing” might change over the course of your session as you become tired. This is normal.

  1. Diet-Coke Projecting: It’s like projecting, but you really don’t care about getting to the top. The point of this training is to fall off, so if you send the route, that’s considered a mistake. Enjoy the falls! Some folks try to project gym routes by essentially falling up them, and asking for prolonged takes on the way up. If this is fun, and you’re stoked on trying hard moves high up, that’s fine, but it’s rather useless as training. The movement doesn’t last long enough to train endurance, and the rests are too short to help build strength. Instead, I go for a method that lets me work the moves and avoid hanging on the wall for half an hour.
    1. I find a route that will be challenging, and very unlikely for me to onsight.
    2. I allow myself two takes on the way up, and then push it until I fall.
    3. The takes should be limited to 60 seconds or less, if you need more rest, then the route is too hard for this exercise.
    4. If you find one day that you call for two takes and then clip the anchors, start climbing with one take and one fall.
    5. If you call for one take, and then manage to climb to the top, start going for redpoint burns, climbing up from the bottom until you fall off.
    6. When you fall off, lower to the ground and begin resting.
  2. 4×4’s: Folks are becoming more used to these, but the idea is to climb four boulder problems back to back and carefully select problems so that you pump out and fall off of the last problem. Problems are between 5 and 8 moves typically, if you multiply that by four we have 20-32 moves. That’s perfect!
  3. Campus laddering: I’m a complete masochist, and I’ve been campus training for a long time. As a result, I can ladder hand over hand to the top of the medium rung campus board, back down, and then back up. 30 moves. As my training session progresses, my high point starts moving lower down the board until I’m cranking about 22 moves. That fits. Most folks can’t do this, however, you could use a foot jib or something of the like to reduce intensity, and ladder up and down the first three rungs of the board to hit the same target. There are three sizes of campus rungs (S-M-L) so you can vary the finger intensity. Make sure the intensity is more on the fingers than the biceps, you don’t want to shortchange your session by falling off because of burning arms. We are targeting failure in the fingers for this exercise.
El Capitan is a testament of cardio endurance in climbing, especially for speed climbers
El Capitan is a testament of cardio endurance in climbing, especially for speed climbers

For Cardio Endurance it basically comes down to climbing as much as possible. There are a couple routines that I’ll try, but they all basically come down to “CLIMB EVERYTHING!” It’s my favorite part of training, because the only thing better than climbing is more climbing and that sums up the workouts in this section. In all these sets I’ll typically climb blocks of three or four laps, then let my partner climb a lap, and then repeat until the goal has been achieved.

  1. Pitches per hour: I’ll set an interval of time, and try to climb as many pitches as possible in a set timeframe. You can track progress by simply counting how much climbing you do in terms of vertical feet for your session.
  2. Points Game: a 5.8 becomes 8 points, a 5.9 becomes 9 points, a 5.11 becomes 11 points, etc. Things get hard in the double digits, but that doesn’t matter. To score your points, you just have to get to the top of the route in any style, hang-dogging is allowed but it slows you down and makes it harder to score higher. I’ll set a goal (say 10, 20, or 30 pitches) and try to score as many points as possible with a fixed number of laps. 20 pitches of 5.10 scores 200 points, but 20 pitches of 5.11 would score 220 points, so you can track progress based on the total score.


Rest and Recovery:
Typically I have to rest at least 48 hours after an endurance session, I can handle this training three to four times a week. It’s okay to perform a very light Cardio Endurance session when you’re slightly sore, and this can sometimes speed recovery if you do it right, but you still have to be careful. A light Cardio Endurance session is basically just a proper warmup. Meanwhile, Muscular endurance should be treated with a similar respect to strength training, and I avoid training Muscular endurance when I have sore muscles. Remember: Nobody ever built strength in a gym. They built strength asleep at night afterwards, and recovering with light activity when their muscles were sore from exertion.


Separate Realities: Accident and recovery update

Post Edit: This post was written one-handed on an iPhone during my last days in the hospital. There’s a lot I’d liked to have fixed, but I don’t like to perform large edits once a post goes “live.”  this is the first of what will likely be several posts reflecting different periods of recovery. Check back for more as time goes on. Hopefully I’ll be more coherent. This post was mostly me ranting, raving, and being angry to keep myself busy in the hospital room. Though the writing is poor, it served the purpose of mass-updating my friends and family, that was the only intent for this piece. </ PostEdit>


If you drive through the valley, all you have to do is take one turn an everything changes. Suddenly you’re out of the lowlands and riding tunnels through the walls of Yosemite high above ground. Park at one of these tunnels and you can scramble straight off the rim. Rig your rappel at the right spot and your reality changes again as you drop into panic for a moment landing in 40′ of pure freespace before you are deposited at the base of the iconic climb “Separate Reality.” You’re  not the ground, but you’re  not on the wall either. Yet. Anchor your belayer and lieback up for 30′, and then prepare your soul for the final transition as the world goes horizontal again. Unfortunately , you’re on the wrong side of the earth and have to crawl back out, you’re in the Separate Reality.

  Photo: Jacob Bodkin Photography

You’re not exactly on the wall, and you didn’t start on the earth, and this certainly isn’t vertical. It’s pretty out there.

This route was established by Ron Kauk, mixed up in the advent of cams, sent by the Kings of yosemite, and legendary from free solo ascents such as Wolfgang Güllich (who sent the first 5.14d), Alex Honnold and (of course) Dean Potter.

So it’s obvious that I had to touch the thing when I came to The Valley, Separate Reality is more dear to my heart than any climb on earth, even more so than The Nose.

Fairy Dreams:

In another reality… Everything was laid out in our canvas shelter for visitors on that rainy night as I adjusted my sleeping space. There, that’s comfy, Daniel would probably appreciate if I snored less, perhaps a comfy space  would help! As everyone arrived and I doled out sleeping supplies I realized this sturdy little shelter would be a fully packed house tonight. Surrounded by friends, all geared up for days of adventure, a good shelter so everyone can rest, welcome to Camp Mojo indeed! Rolling over onto my mat it occurred to me that I had never felt so comfortable , so at peace, or so happy. Being able to facilitate everyone’s trip like this is the ultimate satisfaction.

False Reality:

I could feel the world spinning like someone had tossed me in with the laundry. I couldn’t even feel what way was up. Opening my eyes clued me back in to reality once more. Can I go back to my canvas shelter now?

  • I had been in a fall
  • This was my third night in the hospital
  • I have 5 fractured vertebrae
  • My wrist and skull are fractured
  • I have no sense of equilibrium, I cannot feel up and down
  • 9 staples are holding the wound in my head closed
  • I am completely deaf in my left ear
  • I have double vision and my eyes refuse to focus on anything further than three feet away
  • My doctor says the loss of equilibrium means I will never climb again
  • I say that’s horse-shit

I have six months to learn up from down again, whatever Cerebellar dysfunction remains after that will likely be permanent. The doctors say I will have a hard path to a normal recovery. He also says I will never climb again, he obviously has no proper concept of what “normal” means for this patient.

Photo: Julia Watson

Road to Reality

Here’s my recovery plan: I will send “Separate Reality” on, or at least I n time for Dean Potter’s one year anniversary. Dean isn’t dead, he’s just not here man.
Just practice

That idyllic scene in the shelter never happened, it was just a dream produced in the delirium of extreme duress on the fine line between sleep and reality. I awoke from that dream state in the middle of my own private nightmare, but at least it seems my brain was already trying to bring me home the only way it could: in my dreams. Thanks for the help little buddy, I’m guessing the sweet dreams were your way of saying “thanks for the helmet!” Now my brain and I have to partner up for a more permanent return this time as I begin my #RoadToReality. It’ll be long, and it won’t be easy…. But hell…

“Life is uncomfortable, but that’s why it’s so fun”
-Daniel Woods on lessons learned from Dean Potter

Recovery Notes:

  • I can focus in mid distance now. Rare bits of blurred vision, I can focus all the way out to about 50yds
  • I no longer experience vertigo when my eyes close, but stil need assistance walking straight since I can’t feel “down” very well
  • Still deaf in my left ear
  • We need to have my left wrist inspected for risks of complications including necrosis of the bone. With luck the blood supply to my scaffoid bone remains intact through all of this

  Photo: Jacob Bodkin Photography

 What the FUCK happened

Here’s the best guess for what caused the accident based on my fractured memories and reports from the scene. 

  1. I was on the first pitch of “The Nose” (5.10+ or C2)
  2. I wanted to free the moves, but the crack was too wet to climb safely.
  3. I feared slipping on wet rock would send me on an unpredictable fall through the low angle blocky terrain
  4. I began leapfrogging link cams as handholds while leaving C4’s as pro. I don’t trust link cams so under no circumstance would I allow them to be the only point between me and the ground.
  5. I planned to leave fall protection every 10-20′ while aiding. Because of the wet I remember deciding to leave gear every 3-6′ just in case.
  6. Wet gear is less likely to hold, so I was avoiding purely parallel placements (PS: Terribly written. I was placing in bottlenecks as often as possible…), and exploiting my offset cams. I was also leaving extra gear in to shorten fall potential and hopefully limit impact forces to give the gear every chance to stick, plus the extra gear should’ve been there in case it didn’t
  7. Reports state I fell 20′ to the ledge atop the “Pine Line” with no gear arresting the fall. Daniel reports that the rope never came tight on his belay (which was solid).
  8. Given those known facts:
  • My link cam must have popped when I pulled on it
  • All of my fall-protection cams must have ripped out when I fell
  • Judging by my injuries, the fall was upside down. Or at least my landing was
  • Perhaps my aid gear failed before I was able to fully deploy my fall protection system, Though I find it unlikely I would expose myself to danger like that.
  • There were three parties lined up and we were at the head of the line, I can surmise that it’s possible the pressure of being responsible for a traffic jam could have caused me to brainfart on my well made plan, but ultimately we will never know for sure. I remember climbing and evac. I don’t remember falling or hitting the ledge.
  • You know what? Fuck this shit, I need to stick to soloing…. The gear is MUCH more predictable and complains loudly before its at risk for failure….

“There are only a few more moves left to the obvious holds where the roof starts and the world turns horizontal; these holds are the last position of safety. Then I will move into the ‘other reality.’ Separate Reality free solo—out onto the edge of the roof and over it—is what I want to do! The crippling fear that made my every move freeze at the very thought and left my hands damp with sweat is gone.

Finally I have all the information I can get about the route. I know every detail, know how much strength it is going to require…. I have already done the route with a rope several times without mistake. But having to do everything perfectly can cause you to freeze up, to obstruct the precision of your climbing, to prevent you moving economically. What would that mean? Maybe somewhere out there on the roof the vicious circle of panic would start and you would be left to shrivel up with your hands locked in the crack.”

-Wolfgang Güllich on preparing for Separate Reality

 Güllich described the free solo as entering ‘another reality in free climbing.’

‘An incredible feeling of joy melts all the tension and I suddenly have the impression that it was not a game of gambling with my life; it was not subjectively dangerous. I sit in the sun on the flat summit plateau – the ‘other reality’ is now part of the past. It is the thought of death that teaches us to value life.’
 – after his first free solo – ‘Separate Reality’, Yosemite Valley, 1986.

More on Gullich here

well, that’s enough for me to digest this week. I’ve dissected the accident to my satisfaction, assessed my injuries, plotted a course to heal, and fixed my motivation by tying my past and my heroes into my future. Here’s hoping my #RoadToReality goes well, I’m looking forward to clawing out of this nightmare. It certainly beats the alternative!

“We are the last of the Wild. If we keep excluding the next most-wild-creature, sooner or later there will be nothing left.”
-Dean Potter

Finger Strength

I’m tackling this aspect of fitness first because it’s probably the most important. If you look at long term trends in a climber’s progression over the course of a 10, 15, 20, or 30 year career, the limiting factor on progress is almost always finger strength, or injuries. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that most of these injuries come in search of greater finger strength. We know how to warm up properly to prevent injuries now, so it’s time to get strong!

“If you do not have the strength to do the individual moves, then there is nothing to Endure” – Wolfgang Gullich

*NOTE: Fingerboarding and Campus Training are severe and shouldn’t be attempted unless you’ve been climbing for about two years, climb at least V5 or (5.12-), and you’ve reached some sort of plateau that you need to break through. Climbing is severe, and when you remove the support of your feet it becomes MUCH more severe, approach these exercises with caution, because they are the quickest way to injure yourself if your technique is poor or your body isn’t ready

What is Finger-Strength/Power?

  1. Strength: How much force can you apply with your fingers, what is the smallest hold you can grab? This is the limiting factor on boulder problems and stopper-cruxes. If you find yourself failing on a problem/route because you simply can’t hold onto the crux holds, even when fresh, then training strength might break your plateau. Lack of strength shows up when you fall on short difficult sequences.
  2. Power: This is a climer’s zero-to-sixty. Right now, as you’re reading this, make a fist. Now squeeze as hard as you can. Do you feel how it takes a moment to engage all of the muscles in your forearm? Power is how quickly these muscles will engage. Power is the ability to snatch a small hold on a desperate move and apply full strength momentum pulls you off. If you have difficulty latching the hold on crux lunges, even after your fingers touch the hold, perhaps you could benefit from increased power.

How hard is too hard?
The idea here is high, but not dangerous load. Think about the crux hold on a boulder problem, you can hold it for a few seconds, not very long, and it’s strenuous, but hopefully not dangerous to the point of injury. Your arm motion is to snag something awful with your finger tips, hold it for a few seconds, release, shake off, and hit the next one. So that’s the motion we want to repeat on finger-strength exercises. Likewise for power, we want to simulate moves where we throw with all we’ve got and barely manage to snatch the target.

Reps, Sets, and Rest:
One rep for a fingerboard repeater consists of hanging for a set time, and then shaking off for a second or two. My standard rule of thumb for strength is 3-5. You want a hold that you can hold for 3-5 seconds, which you can repeat for 3-5 reps. Then you rest 3-5 minutes between sets, and perform 3-5 sets total per session. For a hard session, 5 sets with 5 minutes rest totals up to approximately 30 minutes. When starting this routine, it’s best to start with 3 sets and work your way up to 5 when it feels appropriate. You should be somewhat fresh at the start of each set.

For power I use a similar guideline, but remove the hangtime. You want an exercise that can be repeated a few times (3-5 double-dynos, or 2 lunges for each side), then perform 3-5 sets with 3-5 minutes of rest in-between.

The idea for strength/power exercises is to come at them fresh and send the signal to your muscles that they aren’t quite strong enough even when you are well rested. This will cause your body to build stronger muscles.

Rest and Recovery:
Typically I need to have at least two rest days after a strength/power session, and I can only handle this type of training twice a week. Think about it, if you went out to the local bouldering crag and tried to crush your hardest, how many times a week could you keep it up without hurting yourself? Remember: Nobody ever built strength in a gym. They built strength asleep at night afterwards, and recovering when their muscles were sore from exertion.

Do not train on sore muscles. This will lead to injury.

My Strength/Power Routine:
I like to do circuit training for strength/power, this condenses a lot of exercises into a short period while still maintaining adequate rest periods.

Below is my current circuit, but it’s important to note that this is just an example. You don’t need to copy my circuit. The ideas behind this workout can be applied to anyone if you change or modify the exercises for each muscle group, and suggestions to make it harder or easier to match your current fitness are listed below:

Target Exercise
Arm Strength One-Arm Pullup/One-Arm Negative
Finger Strength Weighted Fingerboarding (3 finger, 45lbs, 0.75” edge)
Power Campus Board
Core Leg lifts/Wipers
Stability Olympic Ring Pushups

Arm Strength:
Again, you’re looking for an exercise where you are capable of performing 3-5 reps. I can’t do 3 One-Arm Pullups, so I’ll begin performing negatives when I’m too tired to complete a one-arm with good form. Below are some alternative exercises, listed from most to least difficult:

  1. Weighted One-Arm Pull-up (probably a bit silly)
  2. One Arm Pull-up
  3. One-Arm Negative
  4. Weighted-Pull-up
  5. Pull-up
  6. Assisted Pull-Up (pulley or banding systems can be used to good effect)

One additional exercise that works great, and can be used for any level is the Lat-Pull-Down machine in the weight-room. You can start with low resistance, and work up to pulling the equivalent of your bodyweight. If you can pull down your body weight, you’re ready for pull-ups! When you’re ready for more progression, you can add weight, and once you can pull double your body weight, you are likely ready for the one-arm pullup.

Injury Prevention: NEVER extend your arms fully, this shock-loads the elbow and shoulder joints and will RAPIDLY lead to injury. Always maintain engagement of the muscles and avoid hyper-extension of the joints. Make sure to include stabilizing exercises to prevent over-use injuries.

John Gill OAP with Weights. www.johngill.net
John Gill OAP with Weights. http://www.johngill.net

Finger Strength:
Climbers have been training finger-strength for decades, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Keep it simple. There are only a few ways to get this, and the best I’ve found is fingerboarding. When are you ready for fingerboarding? I’d say as soon as you start having trouble making progress simply through bouldering. Fingerboarding removes any support from the feet which makes it more severe than just climbing, so it’s important to make sure you are ready for the added stress. As a general guideline I’d say anyone who can climb V4 or 5.11+ would be fit enough to carefully begin fingerboarding.

Fingerboard Repeaters:
Find a grip you can hold for 3-5 seconds (this will vary over the course of your workout). Simply hang on the holds, with elbows slightly bent and your shoulders engaged. Don’t perform pullups, just hang. Adding pullups to the routine is virtually useless since you’re training two muscles at once, and one will quit first which shortchanges the training on the other. Training must be specific, so we only target one muscle at a time.

Hang, shake-off, repeat 3-5x and that’s a set. It doesn’t take much. Start with 3 sets per training session, and increase to 5 sets as you become accustomed to training.

I take a page from Dave McLeod and do my fingerboarding exclusively with holds that utilize 3 to 4 fingers, this reduces stress on the tendons and helps you live a long and happy life. If you can hold onto the worst hold on your fingerboard for more than 6 seconds with 3 fingers, start adding weight to your harness instead of going to two-finger-pockets. Unless you’re specifically training pockets for some reason… In which case I wish you luck, and may god have mercy on your soul.

Injury Prevention: NEVER train in full-crimp. Use half-crimp or open-handed finger positions. Stop if your fingers feel weird, do not train while the forearms are sore. NEVER extend your elbow fully, this shock-loads the joint and will RAPIDLY lead to tendinitis. Always maintain engagement of the muscles and avoid hyperextension of the joints. Make sure to include stabilizing exercises to prevent over-use injuries.

This one is tricky, and this is the most dangerous exercise category to attempt. Never train on a campus board or perform lunges more than twice a week unless you’re looking for an injury.. [Link to masochist line] Below is a list of exercises for power, from most severe to least:

  1. Double-Dynos
  2. Hand-Over-Hand lunges (single, skip one, skip two, 1-5-9, etc)
  3. Hand over hand laddering (match hands after each reach)
  4. Foot-assisted laddering (same as above with footholds to assist)

Injury Prevention: NEVER train in full-crimp. Use half-crimp or open-handed finger positions. Stop if your fingers feel weird in any way, do not train while the forearms are sore. NEVER extend your elbow fully, this shock-loads the joint and will RAPIDLY lead to tendinitis. Always maintain engagement of the muscles and avoid hyperextension of the joints. Make sure to include stabilizing exercises to prevent over-use injuries.

Campus Training cs.euroclimbing.com
Campus Training cs.euroclimbing.com

These training methods are severe, and can easily lead to injury if one is not careful. Part of that care is strengthening of the joints that you’re abusing in the rest of your workout and your climbing life. Nobody wants surgery, nobody wants a torn rotator cuff, tendinitis sucks, training to the point of injury will cause regression and you will become weaker. Let’s not do that.

Olympic Ring Pushups:
Get a pair of Olympic rings and lower them as close to the ground as you can, then perform pushups. The higher off the floor they are, the easier the exercise becomes. I do this after every campus board session, and so far have managed to avoid any form of over-use injury in my elbows and shoulders, despite the fact that I’m a masochistic campus-board addict.

If you can't find a pair of olympic rings, improvize!
If you can’t find a pair of olympic rings, improvise!

You probably know more core exercises than I do, this is one of my major weaknesses, but my preferred exercises is to perform “Leg Wipers”. You lift the legs as far up and left as you can, then lower. Then raise them as high up center, and down. Then up to the right, and back down. Repeat 3x, more if you can. This can be made easier by bending at the knees.

Coming Up Next:
Endure The Gnar

Warming Up for Gnar

I want to open with a bit on how to warmup properly, because that’s one of the bits I’ve seen folks struggling with the most. We all begin with little to no climbing fitness, and so we don’t warm up properly because everything is hard. That’s understandable, and that’s okay, because in the beginning, we aren’t stressing our physical limits. However, there comes a time when you’ve learned how to move and you wish to push yourself harder, so you push your limits… And they push back. Injuries, time off, backslides, lack of progression and loss of strength are inevitable when you push your body too hard without an adequate warmup.

Now, the biggest obstacle to warming up properly is this: Climbing is HARD! Also, bouldering is just the hard part, so it’s no wonder that the boulder pit is where people become injured the most often. Given this, perhaps it makes sense to avoid warming up in the boulder pit?

It’s called a warm up for a reason. Your body is literally supposed to become warmer. I’m talking about a rise in core temperature, and increased heart-rate. If you haven’t begun to sweat just the slightest bit, you’re probably not warm. What gets your heart rate higher? Cardio. It’s worth noting that the individual movements in cardiovascular exercise are very, very easy. Because of this, I always try to warm up on the easiest climbs I can find. I’ve recently redpointed my first 5.13a, but if I get the opportunity I’ll warm up on 5.6’s and V0’s and work my way up from there.

I’d bet Danno was feeling pretty warm after that run!

The easy terrain helps warm up properly, because I can move faster on easier moves, and this gets the heart rate up without abusing climbing muscles too much before training. After all, we want to begin training fresh, not pumped. My favorite warmup, if I can find it, is a 5.7-5.8 hand-crack. Once you have the moves dialed in, you can move fast and get the blood flowing to all the right places without taxing the forearms!

It’s worth considering that you have two things to get warmed up: Your mind and your body. They are equally important for the process of climbing, so I’ll perform a two-phase warmup.

At first I’ll begin on very easy terrain where I won’t get pumped, and climb very slowly and very deliberately. The idea is to practice feeling peaceful and calm up on the wall so that your mind will have that instinct ready as soon as you begin trying hard moves. After moving slowly on the route and getting back in-tune with my body (as you would with the first downward-dog of a yoga session) I will become fairly familiar with the holds and the moves on the route, and can begin to climb it quicker. Now I’m ready for the physical part of the warmup. The idea is to move as fast as you can WITHOUT losing control. This gets your heart rate up, raises the core temperature, and gets you in the habit of making fast and efficient movement when necessary. After a few laps on the same easy climb, I’m primed for climbing!

Cardio isn't a bad option for warming up, but even then you should make sure to do a little extra for the fingers
Cardio isn’t a bad option for warming up, but even then you should make sure to do a little extra for the fingers

Remember that your body will respond differently at the beginning of every session, and some days require you to work up through some additional climbs rising in difficulty. Generally, as you get stronger it will take longer to warm up properly. Make sure to listen to your body. If you’re too sore to train hard, you’ll feel it during the warmup, and be able to make a decision to rest an extra day. This isn’t such a terrible thing, since a good warmup can actually speed recovery if you don’t push it too far.

Warming up alone:
I get it, folks don’t always have a climbing partner, and sometimes we all have the desire to climb alone and not be bothered by anyone. So how do you warm up without a partner? Here’s a couple suggestions:

  1. Auto-Belay. The easiest method is to warm up as outlined above, but on the auto-belay instead of with a partner. You might lack quality routes, or height of climbing but typically auto-belays hold the easiest routes in the gym, and that’s what we’re looking for. Easy-mode.
  2. You can perform the same warmup sideways instead of vertical, moving slow at first to find your preferred path for the traverse, and then speeding the tempo as you feel ready. This can be difficult when the gym is full of people, but then you have a third option…
  3. Boulder Problems: find the absolute easiest most not-hard-at-all problems you can, and climb them slowly for your first lap, and then try to climb them all in succession as fast as you can. Make sure to rest for a minute if you begin getting pumped, because you want to feel stronger after the warmup than when you started. If you get excessively pumped on your first couple problems you will limit your abilities through the rest of your session

Coming Up Next:
Fingers Strength for Gnar