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rock climbing

Perfecting the taper

golden hour on the Kettle Crest, cr. David Moskowitz

As I transition into the quiet time before a storm of movement on yet another multi-year project, I have been revisiting my own advice on the art of the taper.

Tapering involves a relaxation and turning inward of the mind, body, and habit; it may last from a few days to six weeks depending on the event. During my various tapers for rock projects, expeditions, alpine climbs, and long runs I've developed a few transferrable strategies to make sure I'm well-rested and prepared for the big event.

 

Timing: Training too hard too early before your intended event can be just as detrimental to event-day (or month) performance as not training enough in advance. Finding the right balance of loading on the volume and backing off, track your various tapers and performance during events religiously. Reflect critically after the dust has settled following each event. You will, in time, learn the proper amount of time your body needs to rest before each event. A note: the time and type of taper necessary will vary within the athlete based on the kind of event undertaken. For example, I taper differently for an ultra than I do for a climbing objective.

Rest: Allow your body to cycle into as deep a state of rest as the event requires. For an endurance event, allow yourself to go to the state of rest where you're peeing a lot, sleeping more than normal, and don't feel motivation to train. Ideally, the body cycles through this state and back into an impatience for movement and more normal sleep patterns prior to the event. In addition to what one might normally think of as rest such as less training and more sleeping, try to eliminate excess items from your calendar or take a couple preparatory days off from work. Time away from stress, even productive or good stress, is necessary to allow your mind to prepare.

Insulation: Perhaps the least-practiced and most important part of tapering. To allow the most regenerative pre-event experience, this introvert avoids excess social contact, introductions to new people, new experiences, and most media during the taper period. Take a social media vacation in advance of your event - and delete the dang apps off your phone so you don't cheat. According to the event, it may also be nice to insulate oneself from the cold in order to prepare for some extended time out in the elements - this provides a time of coziness to harken back to when chilled to the bone and moving. This period is a safe island isolated from the intensity of training and event.

Reduce inflammation: Remove all alcohol, drugs, and food allergens from your diet - for real. The one exception to this tip is cannabis. If your body relaxes under the influence of CBD or canna, indulge at this time. It is preferable to ingest it in tincture or edible format. A couple supplements that can smooth the path to anti-inflammatory state are this one and a regular ol dose of turmeric

Self-care: Good self-care is always a key to high athletic achievement, but becomes acutely so in this final period. Through your final massage and acupuncture visits, note your body's energetic tank filling, perhaps even track it in your training journal. Depending on the seriousness of the event, consider updated blood work and a visit with your primary care doctor to be sure everything is in prime order. Continue your meditation practice, even deepen it at this time. Use delicious, whole foods to nourish the body and mind. For my clients who are in the know, the Owl Eyes exercise is indicated at this time.

Reaffirmation: In your meditations and lucidity sessions, visualize the exact sequence of your project, fly over the mountain you're about to climb, or let your feet touch the bends in the trail you'll travel. Feel yourself strong and vital as you complete your event and imagine the states of mind you'll need to cultivate for each stage of performance. You've committed to preparation for this event now review the goal and your path. This practice helps me see how far I've come and instills in me greater confidence in my ability to achieve the impossible.

Logistics: Practice packing for your event well in advance. In the process, you'll likely note a few items that could use repair or that you still need to purchase. This is cruicial for expeditions and self-supported events. Review your map or itinerary - the physical one and the topo in your head. As you conduct these final preparations, take a few shakedown runs, climbs, or rides just to keep the qi moving.

Recovery: Recovery begins with pre-event preparation. Clean your space to prepare for your return home. Collect your favorite recovery foods - even consider preparing them so they are ready to eat at the end of the event. Bring your most comfortable post-event clothing. On expeditions for the time between getting off the mountain and returning to the US, I find it nourishing to have a few touches of home like nice street clothes or my favorite chocolate. For endurance events, I have a favorite pair of lush sweatpants that I only wear post-run and find myself looking forward to during the event. 

 

I hope you've found this useful. If you'd like to learn more, visit my Coaching page and sign up for a consult on the topic of recovery. Resting is a vital element of athletic progression and I'm happy to lead you through these steps.

Perfecting the taper

Tapering involves a relaxation and turning inward of the mind, body, and habit; it may last from a few days to six weeks depending on the event. During my various tapers for rock projects, expeditions, alpine climbs, and long runs I've developed a few transferrable strategies to make sure I'm well-rested and prepared for the big event.

 

Rest: Allow your body to cycle into as deep a state of rest as the event requires. For an endurance event, allow yourself to go to the state of rest where you're peeing a lot, sleeping more than normal, and don't feel motivation to train. Ideally, the body cycles through this state and back into an impatience for movement and more normal sleep patterns prior to the event. In addition to what one might normally think of as rest such as less training and more sleeping, try to eliminate excess items from your calendar or take a couple preparatory days off from work. Time away from stress, even productive or good stress, is necessary to allow your mind to prepare.

Insulation: Perhaps the least-practiced and most important part of tapering. To allow the most regenerative pre-event experience, this introvert avoids excess social contact, introductions to new people, new experiences, and most media during the taper period. According to the event, it may also be nice to insulate oneself from the cold in order to prepare for some extended time out in the elements - this provides a time of coziness to harken back to when chilled to the bone and moving. This period is a safe island isolated from the intensity of training and event.

Self-care: Good self-care is always a key to high athletic achievement, but becomes acutely so in this final period. Through your final massage and acupuncture visits, note your body's energetic tank filling, perhaps even track it in your training journal. Depending on the seriousness of the event, consider updated blood work and a visit with your primary care doctor to be sure everything is in prime order. Continue your meditation practice, even deepen it at this time. Use delicious, whole foods to nourish the body and mind.

Reaffirmation: In your meditations and lucidity sessions, visualize the exact sequence of your project, fly over the mountain you're about to climb, or let your feet touch the bends in the trail you'll travel. Feel yourself strong and vital as you complete your event and imagine the states of mind you'll need to cultivate for each stage of performance. You've committed to preparation for this event now review the goal and your path. This practice helps me see how far I've come and instills in me greater confidence in my ability to achieve the impossible.

Logistics: Practice packing for your event well in advance. In the process, you'll likely note a few items that could use repair or that you still need to purchase. This is cruicial for expeditions and self-supported events. Review your map or itinerary - the physical one and the topo in your head. As you conduct these final preparations, take a few shakedown runs, climbs, or rides just to keep the qi moving.

Recovery: Recovery begins with pre-event preparation. Clean your space to prepare for your return home. Collect your favorite recovery foods - even consider preparing them so they are ready to eat at the end of the event. Bring your most comfortable post-event clothing. On expeditions for the time between getting off the mountain and returning to the US, I find it nourishing to have a few touches of home like nice street clothes or my favorite chocolate. For endurance events, I have a favorite pair of lush sweatpants that I only wear post-run and find myself looking forward to during the event. 

I hope you've found this useful. If you'd like to learn more, visit my Coaching page and sign up for a consult on the topic of recovery. Resting is an important element of athletic progression and I'm happy to lead you through these steps.

Guest post: Do climbers need aerobic training? Part II

bleary-eyed on the descent from a single-push on Dragontail Peak wishing I'd taken up running already, 2010, selfie cr. Chad Kellogg

 By Mercedes Pollmeier

Last week I talked about the benefits of aerobic training, how it increases your capacity to do more work, recovers muscles from hard training days, and it can teach you how to regulate your breathing and heart rate while climbing. Because we are rock climbers, and not training to be a runner, the program will be different. The recommendations listed will be primarily for recovery from climbing or other strength related training.

So how do you start adding in aerobic training into your lifestyle? If you are anything like me, I hated running because I felt I was constantly in pain when I ran, mostly because I tried to beat or maintain my last running pace. Silly Mercedes. 

What I discovered was that I didn’t need to run at a high intensity every time I ran. I started running at an intensity that was slow and long, keeping my breathing constant, smooth and unlabored. You may have heard this term before “Long Slow Distance”, where essentially you can have a conversation while you run. This is the type of running you will do for recovery adaptations. Don’t feel like you need to go fast at all, and if you do, you won’t get the recovery benefits from the training.

I’ve been doing this program myself for a few weeks now and have been able to increase my speed and distance while keeping my heart rate low. This is the kind of adaptation you want to start with. Add one run (or aerobic activity) a week at very low intensity (easy breathing, low heart rate, around 75 to 80% of your Max Heart Rate) keeping it easy and long (between thirty to sixty minutes). Then you can add in another aerobic session if you have the time. Make sure to add aerobic training in at the end of a climbing session or after a strength training session. If you can’t do it afterwards, try to separate the aerobic training from your climbing or strength training by a few hours.

Of course, there is much more you can do with your aerobic training, and if you are getting amped about it, you can integrate one day of high intensity running intervals to train the other side of the intensity spectrum. This type of high-intensity training does not help recovery from training, rather it taxes the muscles more and is used to improve adaptations specific to strength and power, which is also beneficial for a rock climber.

 

Thank you, Mercedes, for contributing your wise words on the topic of recovery these last few weeks while I recovered from the baby event!

Brittany Raven


As Mercedes suggested in her piece, training strategy is key to your climbing performance. My coaching can help you develop an appropriate gait, assist as you strategize your limited time for training, and support your perpetual performance. 
If you have not already, sign up for coaching with me below. Whether you'd like to consult on a single topic or engage in the run-up to a significant run or climb, I'm here to provide support to your limit-breaking ambulations.

Pregnant Rock Climbing: tip #4

capitalize on unpumpability

true story: upon first becoming pregnant I discovered a pregnant athlete superpower - I was unable to get pumped. I tested this by climbing the roof at my favorite gym tirelessly, by hiking long stretches of liebacking at Joshua Tree without a vein popping out of my sinewy hands, and now continue reaping the benefits of this physiologic phenomenon by climbing a letter below redpoint grade at THIRTY-NINE weeks pregnant.

sound too good to be true? it is not. it is science.

while we as a culture spend so much time focused on the perceived fragility of the pregnant physiology, many climbers happily, safely, and studiously progress through the grades late into pregnancy. a fancy bodily wingding at our disposal that causes this unpumpability is: increased blood volume (and for some, increased hematocrit) which is able to easily dilute the build-up of lactic acid in worked forearms. no lactic acid, no pump. it is that simple.

so next time you belly up to your favorite steep, pumpy route whether outside or in the gym, preggo, be confident knowing you have forearms like no other flat-bellied climber in the gym. yours are much more powerful.