Training your Mojo

“So, what do you think I should do for training?”

Hold on. Back up, you’ve jumped the gun here big-time.

Nobody actually cares how hard you climb. I mean it. Nobody does. So why do you want to train for climbing? Do you think training is fun? Most people don’t. (Note: I think training is fun, but I’m going to keep reading anyhow, because that’s not the point.)

“I’m just so scared all the time when I’m on the lead.” No amount of fingerboarding will fix this.

“I never feel solid on the wall.” Campus boarding probably won’t help you here.

No training necessary to pose and look pretty at the belay
No training necessary to pose and look pretty at the belay! Photo: Dana Felthauser

Think about it, why do you want to train for climbing? Do you know? If you don’t have a specific reason for it, then no training can’t possibly help you. You need a target to shoot for, or you’ll wander aimlessly, frustrated.

I know a guy who went out one day and climbed a cumulative total of 3,000ft in one day in North Carolina, as you can imagine he said it was one of the most fun days of climbing he’d ever had in his life. Anyone want to wager a guess as to how hard the crux-pitch was on this massive day? It was 5.6

I’m not kidding; the crux was 5.6 and the majority of the climbing was even easier than that. It was some of the easiest climbing Evan’s ever done, but one of the most fun days we’ve ever had. So apparently, all you need to have fun with climbing is the strength to crank 5.6. So why bother with training?

This is my face when I realize I'm about to do something hard
This is my face when I realize I’m about to do something hard… Photo: Jacob Bodkin

We all get caught up at some point in this notion that we have to climb HARD and that’s the real point of climbing. It’s not, and you don’t. I don’t know about you, but I usually hate climbing hard. I mean… I like being able to climb “hard” (or at least being able to pretend until someone who climbs hard shows up), but I don’t so much enjoy actually climbing at my limit. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule for me, I do like a good challenge from time to time, but I’m also really lazy and would kinda prefer to just hang out and have fun at the crag!

We read all these “how to climb harder” books, and usually it’s a little bit of a struggle to apply what you’re reading, right? The usual formula is “You want to climb hard, and I can teach you how to climb hard, because I climb hard,” but what if I really just want to climb happy?

My favorite instructional book on climbing is “Speed Climbing” by Hans Florine. Right in the opening he sets out the “why” behind his publication: in short, to paraphrase, Hans doesn’t expect you to become a speed-climber. So why should you read a book on speed climbing? “Because the only thing better than climbing, is more climbing.” Given that we have a finite number of hours in this world to do our climbing, if you climb faster and with more efficiency, you will have more climbing. Hans didn’t write a book on speed climbing; he wrote a book on how to enjoy climbing more.

This is the appropriate level of seriousness to bring to any climbing adventure
This is the appropriate level of seriousness to bring to any climbing adventure!! Photo: Dana Felthauser

Now isn’t that a notion? Rather than write a book on how to climb harder, or how to climb faster, or how to avoid killing yourself, Hans wrote a book on how to climb happier and it just happened to be through the lens of speed climbing.

That’s a book I love to read, and it’s a premise that has enhanced my life. And isn’t that really the point of climbing? To enhance your life?

What if we stopped thinking about how to climb harder and considered how to climb happier?

It’s a funny thing, if you climb easier routes, you’ll naturally move faster. That’s a quick and easy tactic to get “more climbing.” Another tactic is to get stronger. If you get stronger, more climbs will feel “easy,” and you’ll get more climbing.

One way to get strong is via training, and here’s the cool thing: When I’m training, I can make forward progress with as little as two or three hour-long sessions a week. Then for the rest of the week I have license to climb as easy as I want, socialize and have fun. Hold on, isn’t that why we started climbing to begin with? To meet rad people and have entirely too much fun?

For this, I just had to climb 5.7. YESSS! Cheap views are good mojo
For this, I just had to climb 5.7. YESSS! Cheap views are good mojo! Photo: Lisa Ko

Now that’s a concept I can get behind. Some folks get too serious about their climbing, ultimately it’s supposed to be fun. If it’s not, you’re doing something dreadfully wrong. I mean, why else would a human spend time at deadly heights if not to enhance life and to have fun? Surely there is no better justification for climbing than simple enhancement of one’s ability to enjoy life.

To me, that’s the perk of training. It increases my ability to relax and have fun while climbing, and it releases me from the pressure of having to “climb hard,” whatever that even means….

“Here’s an article on how to climb happier, it just so happens that training might make your climbing happier.” That’s a notion I can get behind. If training doesn’t make your climbing happier, why do it? Life’s too short to avoid something as fun as actually climbing things without a good reason.

So, why do you want to train? Submit your motivations in the comments below!

This thing is hard.... why am I up here?
This thing is hard…. why am I up here? Photo: Jessica Thomas

Jacob Bodkin Photography

Dana Felthauser Photography

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4 thoughts on “Training your Mojo”

  1. I think you have some good points, but many invest time and energy into training so that the end result is accomplishing something above what they thought was possible for themselves. Not only can this reward be reason enough to invest time and energy into training, but the process as a whole…including both successes and failures…can create some of the most enjoyable moments in life.

    1. I absolutely agree, but I’ve met a large and growing number of folks asking me for training advice because they’re “supposed to train” it seems it’s become ingrained in the culture now. I’ve seen many get burned out because they feel bad or guilty about not wanting to train. My point is not to make an indictment of training, or to claim that there is any one way…. But to point out the simple fact that we need a “why” to guide us or we won’t be happy with the results.

      The process of training, failure, and success is an equally valid reason “why” as any other, as long as it brings you joy. Happy climbing Jonathan!

      1. Haha. I must have a weird circle of friends because not only am I the only one who trains, but they keep telling me to STOP training. They just don’t see how anyone could enjoy the process (I do) or find long term goals more compelling than laying around climbing moderates…

      2. LOL, it’s similar here… I’m one of those odd masochists that actively enjoys campus boaring in it’s own right…. so folks tend to assume I know things and ask me about training a lot. I also find the simple act of climbing to be incredible regardless of grade, it’s just all compelling to me! That’s the thing we all have in common though, we started climbing because it was fun, just sometimes we need a reminder that we each have different definitions of fun! I’ve always got my “next big thing” lined up, but some days I just want to go yoga my way up some 5.easy routes and enjoy the view. Just depends on what stokes the mojo at the moment

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