Plateauing on Your Climbing Project? Try This! Suggestions to Help You Send (1)

Photo courtesy of Louis Arevalo

Photo courtesy of Louis Arevalo

Taking time off might be the very last thing that a plateauing project climber might want to consider doing, but for me, it’s become one of the first lines of defense when a project seems to come within reach for a day or two, and then that reach starts to feel like it’s slipping away. The classic response to diminishing returns on a project is to start putting in more attempts on the project and refusing to take days off from a set-in-stone climbing schedule, but this can be entirely counterproductive and can lead to even more frustration and greater diminishing returns. You might eventually sneak away with a send by continuing with this approach, but chances are that if you stop this struggle sooner and employ some of the following suggestions, you would in actuality send sooner than you would by carrying on with your stubborn schedule.

If you start to low-point your project or have difficulties with moves you have been consistently doing or that used to not feel as hard to you, you are most likely in need of more rest – more days off or days away from this particular project, or both. You might even benefit from a week away from your project climbing on something else – this can allow your muscles to recover from the specific movements your project demands, while also refreshing you mentally.

More than once, I’ve lived real-world examples of this – taking a week or so away from a project that I’m close to doing, maybe climbing on some other routes, coming back much more recovered and relaxed, and sending the climb. It works, if you can calm your mind and condition it to accept that you’re making a smart big-picture decision and likely expediting your sending process. I often will also climb fewer days total during this week (give or take) away from a project. This is actually nothing remarkable to recommend; in fact, it falls in line with the idea of tapering for peak performance – something that is well understood by expert trainers for all types of sports worldwide. To stimulate a performance peak, try decreasing frequency, volume, and/or intensity, or a combination thereof, for eight days to two weeks before you want to peak.

The general expectation of far too many climbers that they should be able to maintain peak performance capabilities 24/7/365 is utterly ridiculous and unrealistic. If a climb is at or near the edge of your current athletic ability, an undulation in performance on that climb from day to day (or week to week) is natural and nothing to freak out about. The best training/climbing/performance plan will involve undulating peaks and valleys – you just want to make sure that each peak is higher than the last one, not lower, which indicates overtraining or erroneous training or detraining. If you start to experience weeks of decreasing returns, try the resting/tapering protocol suggested above. Ditto if you want to stimulate a performance peak.

Summing it up – if you’re plateauting on your project, try taking more rest days. Climb something else. Break your routine. Taper. Develop a deeper understanding of stimulating peaks and how this process plays into enjoying periodic peaks in athletic performance.

Next Up: Plateauing on Your Climbing Project? Try This! Suggestions to Help You Send (2): Tactical Changes Off-Route

Introduction to a New Improve Your Climbing Series on Plateau Busting

Photo courtesy of Louis Arevalo

Photo courtesy of Louis Arevalo

I haven’t penned a training article in quite some time for the simple reasons that a) I’ve been really busy climbing, training, working on stuff for the Bighorn Climbers’ Coalition, and teaching/studying yoga, but more truthfully b) I’ve been in a creative ebb in terms of writing, and this is something that I’ve learned to respect. Forcing the issue never helps, and at some point, I always want to write again. Since writing training articles is something I do voluntarily, it’s also something that I only ever do when I feel motivated and inspired to do so. I offer these pieces solely in the effort to help you improve your climbing, if improving at climbing is what makes you happy and what you enjoy about climbing, and especially if just climbing is not yielding the improvement that you’d like to see. I do the research, and then I pass it on to you. Honestly, I do the research first and foremost for me, to help me improve my climbing, but I don’t mind sharing what I’ve learned with you – if and when I feel the unpressured impulse to write about it.

And, as I’ve said before, if you hate training and simply enjoy climbing for one of the many other valid reasons for enjoying climbing, you should just disregard training advice completely and carry on with your enjoyment. There’s no judgement here; there’s no reason for me or anyone else to tell you how you should approach climbing or engage with it, and especially not if you’re already truly happy and at peace with what you’re currently doing. It is smart, however, to make space for questioning and revising one’s training approaches as one matures as a climber, if training for and improving at climbing are truly of interest to you. Keeping an open mind and trying to educate oneself about efficient and effective training methods as they continue to emerge from sound sources is a smart way to work toward improvement – again, though, only if this (improving at climbing effectively and efficiently) is what’s important to you.

I know for certain at this point that if I’d stuck with the training approach I once thought to be smart, I would not be where I am now in my climbing. I’ve also found that whenever I start to dig more deeply into areas that interest me – like sports training – the truth of a statement made by Albert Einstein becomes ever more evident, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” And so I revise and tweak my approach to training for climbing nearly constantly as a result; the more I learn and grasp about training and climbing both, the more I can play around with methodologies and approaches to training and climbing, but also, the more I realize how much we all have left to learn and how much we don’t fully understand about optimizing human athletic performance.

There is no end to this process; our unfettered potential for learning and evolving as individuals is one of the true delights and wonders available to us as humans, though so many of us tend to shut down to this and choose the comfort of routine and wearing blinders to so much of what’s available to us rather than rocking the boat and diving outside of our comfort zones…ever. And yet making that leap can often bring us to a whole new level of comprehension about our untapped potentials – rather than stagnating in stubborn frustration as our well-worn habits and patterns keep us chained in place, shirking those chains often leads us to discover that we had the potential to fly so much higher than we once believed we could.

Rooting this concept back into the real world in a common real-world situation for “serious” climbers (whatever that means!): One area of climbing that can really bring out this tendency to get stuck in ruts or routines is getting stuck on a project that you’re trying to redpoint. Getting stuck on a project is just one of many ways that climbers can potentially experience a plateau, or a period of time during which improvement either stagnates or actually declines. Nothing can be more frustrating or joy-robbing than starting to work on a route, making progress for a while, and then hitting a sticking point where progress slows or halts completely or starts to even go backwards, with each climbing day bringing consistently poorer performances and low-points (not even getting to the same place without falling as you once could).

So, what’s a plateauing climber to do? In the next few articles here, I’ll share some approaches that may help you work through this type of plateau.

Next Up: Plateauing on Your Climbing Project? Try This! Suggestions to Help You Send (1): Take a Break

Ten Sleep Canyon Toilets Getting Used; Your Support Needed for More Frequent Emptying

Climbing in Ten Sleep Canyon this summer? Contributing to the porta-potties provided by the Bighorn Climbers’ Coalition? Help keep them funded — and emptied more often — by making a monetary contribution to the coalition as well!

This porta-potty is funded by the nonprofit local climbing organization, the Bighorn Climbers' Coalition, through an agreement made with the Bighorn National Forest.

This porta-potty is funded by the nonprofit local climbing organization, the Bighorn Climbers’ Coalition, through an agreement made with the Bighorn National Forest. It would be nice to have it emptied more frequently…

Climber. Writer. Aspiring Yogi. Climbing Coach/Trainer. Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). ACTION Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Avid Lifelong Learner.

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