Is it ironic or normal that the longer I can’t train the more psyched I get about it? Adam Ondra won both the World lead and bouldering championships this year. It’s something that’s never been done before, mainly because it’s like winning the 100 and the 1500 at the same Olympics. It’s crazy, which just strengthens the argument that’s he’s the best climber in the world and, perhaps, all all time. This statement will bother some old timers but, and there’s always an argument when looking back generations, but when you look at level of competition today versus what is was even a generation ago, climbing is in another world, performance-wise.
Anyways, the point here isn’t to quantify history but to present Ondra’s training overview. Very rarely do we get to see what those at the top level to for training. There’s always either some mystery or hyperbole associated with what you read. Ondra, however, is different. He has no issues at all with transparency and, for someone highly competitive, doesn’t try and seek an advantage over his opponents by keeping anything secret. I’ve never seen this attitude by a top athlete in any sport.
part 1 of 3 interviews he did for epic tv.
In Andrew Bisharat’s interview on his blog, Evening Sends, Ondra comes clean about what he did last winter to prepare for the competition circuit and how it’s different from how he trains to climb outside, where he’s established and/or repeated both the world’s hardest route(s) and boulder problems.
To focus on training, Ondra had to stay home (so he started college) and train. While that might seem hard to do when your option is to travel anywhere in the world you want to go and climb, he seemed to dig it.
I must say … I really enjoyed the training! The sacrifice, the pain. In the end you just get to climb A LOT during training, so isn’t that great? Compared to working on a project outdoors, you make a lot more climbing moves day to day during a training period.
When you feel like shit, you go training anyways. After 30 minutes, the pain turns into joy. It was interesting see the limits of my body, what it can sustain and how important the mind is throughout this whole process.
Here we see that at the highest level, your performance also must be scarified in order to make big gains. I always have a very difficult time selling this to amateur athletes, who often abandon any structured training as soon as their performance starts to suffer.
Starting in February, I spent 3.5 months of training really hard, which consisted of climbing in the gym 6 or 7 days a week, with occasional cragging on the weekends—though I was too tired to perform well.
Conversely, another hard sell to amateurs, especially those who love training, is that training volume should go WAY down when you want your performance to increase. Here you see that Ondra’s training drops to a fraction of what it was prior. I’d say these kind of shifts are the hardest things to get used to for amateur athletes, who very often get stuck (addicted) to having certain sensations in their body everyday. This is precisely why almost every serious amateur athlete I know overtrains like crazy.
The other 3.5 months were periods of “pre-comp.” … There is always period of hard training followed by a “pre-comp period.” Here, I did only three hard routes a day, and maybe 30 minutes of bouldering or campusing. I rested two or three days a week and climbed outdoors as well.
It was a completely different lifestyle, but it was OK as I had to go to school anyways. During the mid-week days I didn’t have the time to go outside due to school. So I trained. I was just super focused on school and training. And each evening, I was just super happy that I did well each day.
Here he talks about the importance of power training. Again, this is a hard sell to endurance athletes, who tend to be addicted to long, slow distance and dislike gym-style training. Lead climbing is an endurance actively, similar to racing a bike up hills, where body type is everything. Ondra, understanding the he can’t get as light as his competitors, needs to get more powerful in order to utilize less effort per movement.
I began to understand that if I increased my power, I could make the moves feel easier and I could rest better on the route because all the holds felt bigger. This is why my training for lead included a lot of explosive campusing and bouldering—because I knew I needed it.
the vids above are both competitions. 5 hours of video for your rest days.
Finally, even though I know all of this, and have professed periodizatinal training for decades, it helps to hear that the very best athletes are doing it, too. It’s helps inspire me to craft my comeback training cycles and goals. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired too.