I often get questions from other families regarding time management and climbing. How do you find time to train? How do you balance climbing time and family time? What are some quick and easy ways to squeeze in a climbing workout? While the answer obviously varies from family to family, the common theme usually involves a lot of efficiency and a little bit of creativity. Gone are the days when my hubby and I can meet each other at the gym after work and climb for hours on end until our fingers feel like their going to fall off. Nowadays we each have approximately one hour of time two days a week (and occasionally an extra day on the stray weekends we aren’t climbing outdoors). Since time is at a premium, it’s imperative that we get down to business right away and stay on task – otherwise the hour is up and all we’ve managed to do is climb 2 routes (in between getting water, shuffling pads around, and standing around talking). Here’s a handful of the ways we manage to keep our training on track with the limited time we have. Since it’s always good to keep your body guessing, we tend to rotate through each in cycles, depending on the season and what trips we’ve got coming up and/or projects we’re working on.
1. ROPED/BOULDERING CIRCUITS – This is the most organic option, for those of you who hate keeping up with a written training log. The concept is simple – just pick something specific to work on, do it, then rest for a bit before doing it again (and maybe even again and again.) For roped climbing, I wrote a while back about some specific intervals that could be done with 3 people (or just two if you don’t need an extra person on kid duty!) You can find that post here. If most of your training is done solo, roped climbing is out of the question (unless you are one of those rare people that don’t die of boredom after 5 minutes on an auto-belay). No big deal – the sky’s the limit with bouldering and interval training. Besides, I’ve found that I actually stay more focused and get more out of my workout time on the days I’m flying solo. Recently I tried to beef up my power endurance with a “5 in 5” interval. (I adapted it from a recent Climbing Magazine article). Basically I gave myself 5 minutes to climb 5 boulder problems that were challenging, but I thought I’d still have a fair shot at when tired (ie familiar problems devoid of tweaky moves). At the 5 minute mark I would stop and rest, regardless of whether I’d completed 5 problems or not. Another 5 minutes and I’d do another interval – 5 intervals (plus a solid warm-up) put me right at the 1 hour mark. I measured my progress by adding up the grades – so an interval with a V2, a V4, and three V3’s would be worth 15 points, as would an interval with 5 successful V3’s (unsuccessful attempts are worth zero points.) It might not sound like much, but 5 minutes leaves NO room for rests or mistakes, and I was shocked at how exhausting of a workout this was. But in 3 weeks time I was able to increase my “score” by 16 points!
2. UP AND DOWN – The ability to reverse moves is a very valuable skill to have in your arsenal when pushing your limits on new routes outdoors. It’s also a great way to throw in as much pump as possible out of a 30 foot wall. Make it a point to down climb every route you can – and don’t hesitate to take multiple laps on the same route or routes that share the same rope – you’ll build some endurance and all the while saving time, since you’ll be eliminating the amount of times you and your partner spend in transition tying in and out of the rope.
3. HIT STRIPS/CAMPUS BOARD/HANGBOARD – All of these nifty little training inventions could easily have been invented with the busy family in mind. When done correctly, they provide a very quick but highly effective and specific workout. Do them incorrectly and you’re gonna get hurt. Don’t hop on any of these pieces of equipment without a thorough warm-up (ie more than a set or two of push-ups). Also, most experts recommend that this sort of higher level training only be attempted by climbers in the 5.10 and up arena. If that’s not you (yet 😉 ), you’re actually in a great place because that means you can still see plenty of gains from just plain old climbing! If that IS you, then you’ve got a whole arsenal of time-saving (albeit sometimes monotonous) equipment at your disposal. Choose any one of these torture devices and you are guaranteed an exhaustive workout in under an hour. HIT Strips are the least boring and MOST like actual climbing. I experimented with them this past summer in prep for a trip to Ten Sleep, and was pleasantly surprised at the results (more specifics here). I’m not a huge fan of the campus board (mostly just because I suck at it…), but I know a lot of folks that have benefited immensely from it. The hangboard and I became intimately close last year when I was stuck in an ankle boot, and since then, I like to intersperse a short cycle of hangboarding every 2 or 3 months or so. And if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably read my review of the DRCC v5.12 hangboard from earlier this week (if you didn’t, click here – there’s a discount code at the bottom of the post!)
Although we used to meet at the gym at the same time and just alternate every 15 minutes or so for kid duty, we’ve found that C is in a better mood (and therefore everyone else is too) when there is less transition. So our current m.o involves Steve going to the gym directly after work, which gives C plenty of time to wake up from his nap at his own pace before we all rendezvous at the gym around 5:30. While it’s my turn to climb, C and his Daddy either hang out at the gym, socializing in between C’s “project burns,” or head home to play outside, depending on the day. Dinner is always leftovers on climbing nights, ensuring that we still have plenty of family time after dinner before it’s time for C to hit the hay. Our current strategy has been successful for the past 6 months or so, but my guess is that when C is older it’ll make sense to go back to the get-there-at-the-same-time-and-alternate-kid-duty schedule again.
That’s what’s been successful for our family of late, but I’m sure everyone else’s miles may vary. What strategies have (or have NOT) worked out for your family when it comes to workout/training days?