The Football Analogy
Thinking that reaching one’s personal potential in climbing is possible without climbing (and climbing a lot!) would be as silly as expecting a person to master football without actually playing football.
If you wanted to get really good at football, when you first started playing football, depending on your coach, you’d probably spend quite a bit of your practice time learning and refining the basic movements and skills needed to play your position on the field (or a bunch of different positions). Maybe you’d do some sport-specific conditioning (i.e. weight or resistance training, power work, sprints, movement drills, etc.) right from the start, or perhaps (especially if you started as a small child), these components of training – especially the weight/resistance training – would be added in at a later time once you had the general skills down required to play. Or perhaps strength training or conditioning exercises specific to you (as opposed to a general program undertaken by the whole team) would come into play if or when a coach happened to note particular physical deficiencies holding the progression of your game back.
Regardless, though, after you reached a certain level of understanding and expertise at the game of football, you probably wouldn’t spend most or all of your time training for football by just running plays or practicing sport-specific skills that you loved and were already good at – and you definitely wouldn’t spend your time doing this if you had a good coach who could see the areas in you that could use more work to bring your game up to a new level.
In other words, if you wanted to improve at this point, you most likely wouldn’t show up at practice and spend two (or three, or six+!) hours, every time you practiced, randomly playing football with your friends, and you definitely wouldn’t do that every day you practiced and consider it a solid training plan expected to deliver clear, efficient and effective improvements in your game. Could you continue improve just by playing football this way? Sure, maybe – but probably not as efficiently and effectively as you might by adding some more structured and individualized components to your training/practice routine.
If this all makes sense to you and you find yourself nodding your head (but maybe wondering why the heck you’re reading so much about football in the Improve Your Climbing series), then it should also make sense to you that the same scenario outlined here might apply to climbing – and more specifically, to being effective and efficient about training for climbing. My reason for using football as an example is simply that taking a step back from something we’re close to can sometimes allow us to see things with a little more clarity than we usually do.
Next week’s entry will start to detail how the above process might play out in a climber’s development and efforts at improvement.
This multipart series of articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. This information and advice is based on my 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.
One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!