Every climbers training regimen should focus simply on more climbing. I always say that climbing is the best training for climbing. Sometimes I feel like a broken record repeating this and suggesting this over and over, but so many climbers overlook the simplicity of this fact and instead focus their efforts on weight training and hangboard training, which have their place, but just don’t give the same results as actual climbing.
However, having said that, it is possible to climb too much and have it result in none of the climbing gains you are looking for. In fact, it could actually hinder your climbing potential.
Learning to listen to and understand your body is an important skill.
Let’s start with learning to understand your body.
During any exercise (like climbing), your body uses glucose for energy that it gets from carbohydrates that you’ve eaten throughout the day. As you continue to exercise, the glucose levels in your body can become too low and your body will instead start running on glycogen, which is your body’s secondary energy source. Glycogen is basically excess glucose that your body has converted and stored as glycogen in your liver and muscle tissue. They say that your body can store about half a days worth of energy in glycogen, however, during strenuous exercise it can deplete much faster.
Now that you understand your body, it’s time to listen to it.
Once you start noticing that your muscles (i.e. your forearms) are exhausted to the point where you aren’t gaining much strength back after a rest, then it’s time to take the shoes off and go home. If you proceed to climb beyond this point, you are depleting the glycogen levels in muscles to the point where you would need a day or two for your muscles to recover, thus limiting the amount of climbing you can get in over a period of time.
If your goal is to become a better climber then you should be climbing as much as possible. Even if you only have time for and hour (which is plenty of time if used properly) you don’t want to overdo it and sacrifice climbing time for the next couple of days.
I know it may be difficult to do this. Heck, I struggle with telling myself it’s time to go home. I just want to keep climbing and sometimes try and convince myself that I’m not as tired as I think, or that more climbing always equals more benefits. Just trust your body’s signs, hang up your shoes for the night, have a healthy carbohydrate and protein snack to help you refuel and recover, and come back strong and energized for your next session.
Here are some tips to help you stay energized and make the most of every climbing session:
1. Don’t eat a meal right before climbing. Fuel foods like proteins take a long time to digest and your body will direct a lot of energy to digesting leaving your muscles with less energy to work with.
2. Eat your meal at least 2 hours before climbing to give your body time to digest and make sure it is composed of yummy, healthy carbs. However, if you’re like many and like to squeeze in a session after work and don’t have time to eat your meal 2 hours in advance then having a small energizing and easily digestible snack even 5 minutes before climbing is fine as well.
3. Pack yourself some refueling snacks to have during your climbing session, especially if you plan on climbing for more than 90 minutes. In order to make the most of every session and prevent yourself from dipping too much into your glycogen storage, pack yourself some snacks like fruits, which digest quickly and give you energy.
4. Eating carbs and protein (3:1 ratio) within an hour after your climbing session is great for your muscles to help recovery and for your body to store away as energy for your next session. An hour is suggested because it is said that after this time your body is less likely to use what you eat for recovery.
5. Some of my favourite carbohydrate sources are: bananas, every type of berry, brown rice, brown rice pasta, chickpeas, plantain, and lentils!
6. Some of my favourite protein sources are: quinoa, nuts, almond butter, almond milk, spinach, hemp, seeds (chia, sesame, and sunflower), and raw cacao powder (for making hot chocolates!).
Have any other tips to add? Share them below!