As promised, Phil Requist’s blog is finally up and running again. Phil was once the training columnist at Allez, the notorious, low-budget, dirt bag, climbing magazine of the 90s. Since that time, he’s continued to train, learned a lot, and is finally sharing it with the world again. Lucky us. Well, lucky you. I’ve been in the loop the entire time.
Does he know what he’s talking about? Phil’s in his late 40s. See the video. He’s been training, and climbing, without fail since I met him in 1989 or 90. He’d been training long before that. He continues to make progress, setting lifetime PRs continuously over the last few years. That is a pretty-damn strong testament to effectiveness. In my life, I’ve yet to meet someone as systematic and singleminded about training as Phil, especially over time. Sure, a lot of youngsters get psyched for a while. Phil’s kept at it, basically, his entire life. That’s a lot of experience to benefit from.
Anyone as focused as Phil generates anecdotes, and he is no different. Stories about his training are legendary amongst a small group of climbers. I’ll use one to lend insight into the mind of a training genius.
Back in the day, we ran a video/climbing store in Isla Vista, Ca (home of UCSB). The store had a lot of training apparatus, so we could exercise during times the shop was slow. In fact, there were no climbing gyms. It was the only place to train. If you were the type who rented movies during the day (rare in a college town on the beach) or bought climbing gear (the sport was pretty small back then, especially in Santa Barbara), you’d likely find a crew in the middle of a training session. Phil could handle an insane amount of training volume. He trained more than us. This meant that you saw him training in the shop even at night, when it was busy. Phil would often spend all his downtime between rentals sitting on a contraption he’d invented called a forearm trainer or doing hangs or weighted pull-ups.
So one night, Phil is training. A guy starts asking about climbing, assuming that was the only reason he’d be putting himself through such misery all night long, which would seem to make sense. This irritated Phil.
“Does that work?”, asked the guy.
“I’m pumped,” says Phil, who has forearms the size of Popeye, so it obviously did.
“No, I mean for climbing. That’s why you do it, right?”
“I train for training,” Phil says. “To get a good workout.”
“But you do it so you can climb harder, right?”
“No,” says Phil, now a bit miffed with the guy for focusing too much on the end game. Climbing was the means. Workouts were what mattered. For Phil, it was always fitness, first and foremost. “I’m doing climbing-specific exercise but I’m training TO TRAIN.”
The guy won’t let up, “But you’re doing it FOR climbing. If you didn’t care about climbing harder you wouldn’t be doing this—”
“I get every bit as much satisfaction out of a great training session as I do from any climb. Or more. My goal is the workout.”
I don’t think the guy believed him. He didn’t know Phil. Yes, he climbs. Very well, in fact. But his goal always has been, and probably always will be, the perfect workout. If you like training, that’s a guy worth listening to. Whether you climb or not.