October 9, 2012 posted by

When To Deviate From The Plan

This is a follow up post to my training article that appeared in Dead Point Climbing Magazine last month. I’ve been on the plan myself so here are some observations that will answer some of the questions I’ve been getting about recovery and lock-off hangs.

Yesterday I got on an old nemesis, a 140-foot traverse that I used to train on many years ago. The crux has been underwater for ages, so I hadn’t been able to try it in a decade. I figured it might be dry, finally, and a decent barometer of how my training is going since I’ve only done the entire thing a couple of times and it’s always felt right at my limit.

I began this training cycle in earnest on Sept 1 following the plan I wrote for the article. The board workouts were exactly the same. We added a set of lock-offs on the wall, superset with bicycles (see them here as a part of Sean’s training) which one of us would do while the other did their rice bucket. I didn’t do the weight training, since I do plenty of that in general, and have been mtb riding or running/hiking on the off days.

Though I’ve done this plan before I knew it might be ambitious for me right now. For one, I’m old—probably older than DPM’s entire demographic. And while I’m fit, age matters. You don’t recover as fast. The other factor is that mountain biking isn’t a perfect rest activity and I didn’t want to stop riding. So I was expecting that training with only one rest day might be challenging and I was right.

After two weeks I needed to back off because I feared getting injured and my workouts weren’t improving. I added some climbing days and lengthened the time between sessions. My climbing was awful. I expected it to be bad but I was so worn out from the training that everything was a struggle. This is why I don’t usually recommend much if any climbing during the program. It worked, however, and the extra recovery time allowed my workouts to start improving. I also started to get stronger on rock as I adapted and was able to integrate the strength gains I’d made.

This pushed my schedule out longer than four weeks. Week 5 just ended and I still have a few workouts to go in order to finish the planned 4-week cycle. I just took a week off of training and did two very hard days back to back outside. My climbing wasn’t great, I still feel effects of the training/recovery holding me back, but I’m much stronger than when I started. The longer schedule with more rest and some actual climbing seems like it was the right course, this time. What you do should be based on your own recovery.

I’ve had to adjust my lock-offs and most of you will, too. Full lock-offs felt too stressful on the elbow, so I start locking off as high as I can, then medium, then low (but not all the way down). Repeat for a set of 6. The actual angles don’t matter much. Do what you can and STOP doing them if you’re elbows get touchy. We actually started the phase attempting lock-offs on the first workout and scrapped the idea less than one set.

So, yesterday, after a day of traveling and office work I got to the traverse pretty tired. I was still feeling the effects of my hard two-day session and wasn’t sure if I’d even climb. But the traverse was dry so I stared re-acquainting myself with the movements that I once had wired but were mostly forgotten. It seemed impossible. I thought about leaving and going for a run, instead, so that I didn’t waste the afternoon.

But because I hadn’t seen the thing dry in so many years I figured I might as well try. I did the first 80 or so feet of 5.11 to warm-up. I botched a bunch of the sequences but managed to hold on to the rest before the business end, and felt it wasn’t as hard as I was expecting.

Then I began a move-by-move assessment of the second half. The ground had washed away, adding some new footholds (making one of the cruxes substantially easier and probably taking a grade off) and tacking a scare factor to the finish, but it still seemed way too hard for my current condition. Oddly enough, as I warmed up it started to feel doable and, then, even stranger, not all that bad. Just before dark I gave it one good go and, shockingly, it went. I’m now even more psyched on my training program and can’t wait for the next session.

Original article

Part II

Part III (diet)

Part IV (crazy sciency shit)

Other good ideas

vid: couldn’t find a pic of the sandbox so here’s another traversing nemesis of mine.


  • I'm going to send the video to Dr's Mulligan and Hunter and see what they have to say about your movement and training. Based on their expertise I'm going to bet they'll find it lacking.

  • Certainly they would. Last night I did hangs holding a tennis ball in the other hand. I think that will help.

  • Cool stuff Steve, thanks for answering my questions. Basically, what I'm getting is: it's okay to tweak your system how I see fit especially when it comes to listening to my body (obviously I would do that either way) and if I feel I can handle doing extra cardio go for it and if not just add in some rest days. thanks again, man.

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