Thursday, September 1, 1994

Reprinted from Allez... Training: Goals

This is an exact reprint of my first training article published in the Sept-Oct 1994 issue of Allez Magazine.
“The aim of art is to project an inner vision into the world, to state in aesthetic creation the deepest psychic and personal experiences of a human being."
   - Bruce Lee
It is the progress in any endeavor that yields the rewards. Why then, has Joe Banks (“Anything can happen..." on page 31) taken the time to emphasize how far behind American climbers are? Are 5.13s inherently more fun to climb than 5.8s? No. Mastery of an art and pushing the limits of your own potential are where the joy in climbing lie. These rewards and more are possible only if the art is pursued with overwhelming passion, focus, and vision. We must, therefore, look to the European climbing scene for an objective yardstick of what can and will be accomplished.
   There is no one reason why Americans are so far behind the Europeans in climbing. A comprehensive study of this fact is needed, but is outside the scope of my training articles. Three points which I believe act to keep the US. behind the Europeans are relevant to the subject of training. Therefore, they must be discussed before we reach the next, more ‘practical’ level; these points are the lack of:
  1. Goals
  2. Belief in Training
  3. Training Knowledge
No human greatness is achievable without a goal that an individual envisions long before it is attainable. A goal is a person’s highest ideal and motivation. Briefly, a proper goal should:
  1. Evolve from the individual. These ‘honest’ goals require no outside source for motivation. Although I compete myself, I think competitions have had several negative effects on the focus of climbers in America. Although competitions are quite difficult, they are the easiest way for a person to get sponsorship or even earn some money. Unfortunately the same support base does not exist for those whose emphasis is redpointing and onsighting hard routes on rock. Also, with a rise in sponsorship the ‘goal’ of many young climbers is to become sponsored. Many French climbers climb (14a) yet receive no sponsorship.
  2. Not be bounded by the standards of the times or the society. Everything that has ever been done was at some time done for the first time. Unfortunately, many U.S. climbers seek success only on a national level which aids in keeping us behind the Europeans. This sells our country‘s climbing future short and it affects climbers of all levels.
  3. Be clear and specific. “Wanting to be a good all-around climber" is too vague. A better goal might be: "I want to maximize my on-sight, redpoint, and competitive ability." By focusing on each one individually for one year, after three years you would be a better climber than if you attempted all three goals at once. Keep in mind that climbing is so advanced, it is unlikely that any one person will ever again dominate in all three of these categories (not to mention others, i.e., 1st ascents, soloing, multipitch routes, ice climbs, etc.) Eventually, climbing will reach the point where ‘stamina’ climbers and ‘power’ climbers simply cannot touch each others hardest routes.
  4. Have a time-frame that you can relate to. Some people simply cannot focus on a goal which is too far off, that’s fine. Others, like myself, love goals we know we will not achieve for a few years. Its probably best to have short (less than 6 months), medium (6-12 months), long (over 1 year) and very long (over 2 years) range goals. The very long range goal should be a logical consequence of multiple short range goals. The key is to be honest with what you can expect of yourself, but never to sell yourself short.

Belief in Training
Having a goal is only the first step. Hunger does not give us knowledge pertaining to growing food and goals do not inherently tell us how to achieve them. Thus, we must select a way to reach our goal. Furthermore, there will most likely be several ways in which we could attain our goal; but this does not mean that they are all equal. If you believe, as I do, that life is finite you will want to attain your goals in the most efficient manner possible.
   Now we have reached the essential principle of training. If you are not improving as fast as Malcolm Smith (you’re not) then you should want to rethink and redesign your training. If you do not want to do the training required to reach your goal, you must revise what your goal is. This step (the willingness to do whatever necessary to attain one's goal as efficiently as possible) seems obvious, yet this is where many climbers’ plans go awry.

Training Knowledge
The goal of my future articles is to raise the reader’s level of training sophistication. ‘Raw’ knowledge will be emphasized because this allows you to understand how to customize your training to a particular situation. Schedules, exercises, and workouts will be recommended, but you are always free to adjust them. Highly specific issues for more advanced climbers will be covered as well. I do not pretend to know everything about training, but the majority of climbers will improve their training efficiency by considering these articles. Finally, a foundation for communication (regarding training) among climbers in southern California must be built, at present this is sorely lacking.

A Conversation From 1992 and A Prediction of the Future...
“Training allowed Malcolm Smith to come out of nowhere and repeat the world’s second hardest route," I said, provoking Hans Florine into another debate on the benefits of training. "But he can’t onsight for shit," was Hans‘ retort (debatable at the time). In the two years since this conversation, Malcolm has onsighted 13c, redpointed 13d in a day, and put up the world’s hardest boulder problem... Hans got injured.

Next Issue: Cyclic Periodization.

Recommended Reading: Goddard and Neumann's Performance Rock Climbing

Phil Requist on Better Than Life (13c) photo Steve Edwards