Grit and Burl: Maybe it's time to take training seriously

Campo 4 Comp Lucas Scott PhotoThe comp might've been a bust for me, but at least Lucas Scott got a rad photo of my desperate efforts. #braidbeta A little more than a year ago, I wrote a post about one of my many mental battles. I wondered if I was cutting myself too much slack by keeping expectations low at the crag.

A stronger and more experienced friend assured me that I was overthinking things but pointed out that, if I did feel a little slumpy, “picking objectives and outlining the path to them is a sure fire way to success.”

I read that sentence and kind of shrugged. I knew he was *probably* right, but surely I could become a crusher without anything so stuffy as specific goals and a training plan. So I just kept climbing, daydreaming, and attempting to absorb the powers of the greats through YouTube binges and Crux Crush interviews. I slowly progressed past the V5 mark and toward V6, strengthening my shoulders and bettering my head game by climbing a lot of routes in styles I enjoyed. When the lady climbers I most admired talked about their own training plans, I shrugged some more: Sure, they train, but I’m not on that level yet.

Well, I think I really am. I don’t even think there is a level. Climbing with purpose and cross training are probably beneficial no matter how long you’ve been scurrying up walls.

I wrote in my last post about the frustration I’ve felt trying to get back in shape after two months off from climbing. After competing *very* poorly at Campo 4, I decided I needed to be more mindful about getting strong again. I started entering the gym with a written plan and focusing my efforts on developing specific skills, rather than throwing myself at anything that looked fun.

Then I sprained my ankle and couldn’t climb for a week. I decided I was not having any more of this sedentary off-day nonsense and started hitting the weight room for the first time since P.E. class in college. I brought along a notebook, and it has since become my training log.

That’s right: not only am I working to improve my climbing in an organized and intentional manner, I’m logging my workouts and eating habits. I fell off the wagon this week after getting food poisoning — I really can’t catch a break — but I’ve already had some small breakthroughs at the crag and on plastic.

I’ve been listening to the Freakonomics series on self-improvement, and my favorite episode so far is "How to Get More Grit in Your Life." In it, psychologist Angela Duckworth addresses personal grit. She explains that this "stick-to-itiveness" is an important characteristic in high achievers of many kinds. Gritty people push through unpleasant short-term experiences in the pursuit of bigger long-term goals. And although they may seem to have special abilities, grit is really something anyone can develop.

I think it’s time for me to develop my climbing grit. I will always climb because it's fun, but I know the satisfaction of pushing past my body's limits will be well worth an increase in my focus and discipline. What's more fun than putting down new grades?

12362719_10153809796969402_3389314246451772462_o A flashback to slightly stronger days. Photo cred to Mackenzie Taylor Photography

So here are those objectives, Brian, about a year late:

Long Term Goals

These are my biggest climbing aspirations. They shape the shorter-term goals I have for myself.

Send a V10 by age 30. I think this is totally doable. I have seven years to gain the strength and technical ability to climb V10, and hopefully my smaller goals will get me there.

Get AMGA certified, also by age 30. I don't necessarily want to *be* a climbing guide, but I want to be able to be one. Maybe that sounds dumb, but it's just a thing I want to do.

The biggest obstacle to this goal is that certification is an expensive process. But I will also need to undergo Wilderness First Responder training and, well, learn to trad climb before I'm even eligible to apply.

This Year’s Goals

I’m pretty sure I can pull these off before the new year.

Send a V7. This seemed more doable a few months ago, but I have faith that with focus and psych it will re-enter the realm of possibility.

Send a 5.12. Maybe my sport climbing expectations should be higher, but I will probably never be as grade-intense about routes as I am about problems.

Do 12 pullups with good form. I know a lot of climbers think pullups are a waste of time, but I truly believe in their core-strengthening power. I also just like feeling like a mega-strong lady hulk.

Become proficient in using the major climbing knots. The Figure 8 is generally sufficient for my current purposes, but there are many knots that are more useful in different contexts. The more comfortable I get with them now, the more easily I’ll transition to situations where my safety actually depends on their proper use.

Three-Year Goals

These are things I want to accomplish by the end of 2018.

Send a V8. Logical.

Become comfortable leading 5.8 trad. Gotta keep things measurable and realistic!

Become comfortable leading multi-pitch routes. By “become comfortable,” I mean "become enough of an expert to confidently teach these skills to newbs like the one I currently am."

Get certified in First Aid and CPR/AED. I want to be useful in emergency situations.

Five-Year Goals

Send a V9. Again, logical.

Get WFR certified. Again, I wanna be useful in emergencies, but I'll also need this to get my guide certification.

Be a crusher in Patagonia, France, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and Japan. Maybe Korea too. This goal doesn’t have much to do with getting stronger, but travel is an important part of my climbing daydreams and motivation.

The Short-Term Plan

Eat well. I think I’ve really been underestimating the connection between what I put into my body and how well it can perform physically. I’m good about generally avoiding “unhealthy” foods, but I need to focus on really eating the right things for muscular rest and recovery.

Sleep 8 to 9 hours a night. Rest is another aspect of training that I neglect. Although late-night Netflix may put me into a trancey zombie state, it’s not a replacement for quality sleep, which I know from experience works wonders for my climbing.

Lift weights or do yoga on non-climbing days. The focus of these workouts, for now at least, is to efficiently strengthen my core and correct muscle imbalances. Pushups should not feel harder than pullups!

I may also run on days when I just don't feel like going to the gym, or when my muscles need a real break. Rest days ≠ Netflixin' lazy days.

Be intentional at the climbing gym. The occasional climb-everything-I'm-likely-to-send sesh can be really fun, and it's good to experiment with different styles beneath your limit. But the gym, for me, is a tool to improve my outdoor climbing. I want to concentrate on working specific weaknesses while I’m there, thinking critically about beta and making micro-adjustments to benefit my outdoor climbing instincts.

Right now I have all the time, motivation, and physical resources that I need to get jacked. Now that the internet knows what I’m committing to, I’m totally accountable. I'll post updates on Instagram as I sweat and sleep toward greatness, and in the meantime I'll embrace the process and enjoy the adventure.

Will you join me on the quest for grit and burl? What are your goals for the season/year/decade? How do you feel about training? Share your thoughts below!