I've been on a binge of rock climbing and training for the last couple of months. As usual, I've re-relearned a few lessons about climbing, training and performance. I thought I'd share them to remind myself of a few basics. Just wrote the following in about 20 minutes of raging typing but I like it, it cleared some things in my head, which is why I write this stuff. Maybe some of it will resonate with you.
1. Don't train "power" after doing anything seriously aerobic. Yesterday Cory and I went and hiked up and over a snowy Yam (about 3,000 feet of vert with some horizontal too) at a fast pace despite my intentions to just idle along (we had to get some gear we left on top of Yam and it's always fun to beat around in the snowy mountains). I then went into the Vsion bouldering gym and got my ass kicked on relatively easy problems. I went through the motions and did my best, but I couldn't hang onto much of anything, my body was tired, no power, no "cling," low motivation. This always happens when I go too hard aerobically before a power-oriented session, I just had to learn the lesson again. But I did my best.
2. Do your best. Very rarely is any training session "perfect." There are always, always issues. Not enough time, not enough food, too late, too early, too hot, too cold, whatever, there are always going to problems. Deal with it and do your best. Despite my belief that yesterday's effort was a less than perfect it was still a hell of a lot better than having done nothing, and I can feel my upper body did at least get some sort of workout despite the fact I could barely do my normal warm-up problems. I need to rest today to climb on Yam tomorrow, so I'm glad I got it done even if my ego said I sucked at the time. I didn't suck, I trained, and tomorrow I will be stronger for my goal.
3. Have a goal, and fight for it through failure. Mine is to climb this route on Yam right now, and it drives me into the gym even when I don't "feel like it." Nothing is more powerful than having a real desire to get something done. Goals are intimidating because they imply a large chance of failing. So what, failure is better than existing in a twilight of, "Well, gee, I'd sorta like to maybe do something I think is worthwhile." Buck up, make a goal, succeed or go down fighting. Every failure is one step closer to not failing, use the energy of failure to move forward. I fucking hate failing and find no happiness in it, but an honest failure is a pure moment of existence and respectable on the road to the goal.
4. Eat and sleep as best you can. Being sleep-deprived before a training session will hurt the session's quality. It's supposed to be "manly" to stay up all night and still kick ass at a sport, but it's not realistic in the long run. Being under-fed will mean an early end to a session. A couple of days ago I was doing a high-volume day at a local crag and simply ran out of juice, even though I'd eaten a big high-quality breakfast. I hadn't brought enough food to the crag, and after climbing solidly for a couple of hours I was moving like a slug instead of snapping along. Climbers are generally over-focused on diet, rather than enjoying food as fuel and making sure to have enough of it; exercise often, eat simple high-quality foods, avoid anything in a package with more than about two ingredients and you'll become lean and strong. Eat a lot of pre-packaged junk and sit on your ass and you'll have lower energy and likely be fatter. There's a really good summary of "world class fitness" on the crossfit.com site, check it out. I don't follow the Crossfit program during my peak performance cycles, but I respect the philosophy and attitude and find it helps keep my body younger.
5. Learn to listen to your body. It took me a long time to hear my body, I used to think it spoke Portugese or something. If you're having a shite session ask "Why?" Have you trained to the point where every joint feels creaky and the skin on your hands is dessicated from chalk? You've over-trained, back it down, train differently, change. My body is not "it," a seperate "thing;" my body is me, and I have to work with it, not declare war and hope to win through decimating my opponent... When my body is happy it is incredibly strong and will meet challenges far beyond what I think it can do. When I don't listen to its complaints and pains I end up injured, demotivated or climb like I've never seen rock before.
6. Focus on results that matter, not results that look good. This is tricky, but if your goal is to climb harder routes then having buff biceps is totally irrelevant. If your goal is to be able to climb more routes in a day then being able to bench-press is irrelevant. Judge the effectivness of your workouts not by how much better you are at working out, but by how much better you actually PERFORM. I see far too many climbers focusing on easily quantifiable gym exercises because the progress is obvious, rather than the more important goal of climbing better. I generally fall off of hard routes because I can't hang on (yeah, that's obvious, but I keep having to learn the lesson). Either I'm pumped stupid or there's a move I lack the finger power for. All the bicep curls and bench presses in the world won't help with either of these problems. Neither will protein powder, vitamins, or eating 1,000 calories a day until I'm "skinny." Bouldering will increase my finger strength, and linked boulder problems or laps on routes will allow me to hang on longer on routes I used to fall off of from the pump. It's not complicated, but focusing on performance instead of training accomplishment is hard to do.
7. Organize your day so that you can have the best training and performance environment possible. Yesterday I went on the aerobic mssion late 'cause I was too pressed with work, and as a result didn't have enough time to recover before my bouldering session in the evening. I could have done better. Rule your time, it's yours as long as you claim it and don't let others steal it.
8. Be honest about where you are, where you're going and where you've been. I often hear a climber say something like, "Well, I used to onsight 12a and I'd like to get back to that level within a month." Actually, Joe 12a flashed a 12a once about four years ago after the only summer he ever spent climbing regularly, and is now way out of shape. Joe 12a really currently onsights 5.10 regularly, low 5.11 occasionally, and is a likely several months to several years away from being able to onsight 12a reguarly. Joe 12a is cool with me, but his self-perception is way out of whack, and he is setting himself up for a frustrated self-inflicted lashing for no reason. I am getting close to my best fitness ever, but I'd be lying to myself if I said I was there. But I can work at it, the results will be evident when I don't fall off and not before then, no matter how much bullshit I talk to myself or others. One day I'm going to climb to the top of something harder than I ever have, and then I'll know where I am...
And some other stuff. Rant off.