Not always Plain Sailing

The training I do is immensely rewarding, but I would be lying if I said it was always easy. Sometimes, in fact, it is very, very hard. These are some of the aspects which I find tough about structured training.

The training itself is immensely physically and mentally demanding. Some weeks it leaves you feeling  tired almost every day. This can be tough mentally when you wake up in the morning feeling exhausted but you know you still have another two or three days to go before you can rest. Having such a structured training schedule tailored exclusively to me definitely does push me to the limits of what I can handle both physically and mentally.

The hard training weeks also leave me worn out at the weekend so I cannot just go out and climb whatever I want. Most of the time I don’t mind this as it brings a lot of variety to my climbing by taking me to different crags that I might not have otherwise considered visiting in an effort to find routes of the right standard for my varying levels of fatigue. However, on occasion it can feel frustrating when I see all my friends out trying their projects and I know that I cannot join them because I will be too tired or I get close to doing a hard route and then have to leave it for a month because I will be going back into training. It can also be frustrating if a period of bad weather or seeping crags coincides with me being in shape and fresh from training. Seeing my performance level wildly fluctuate from week to week according to where I am in the training cycle is something I have got used to now, but if you are someone who likes to be on top form every weekend then periodized training is perhaps not for you.

The recent onset of good weather, although great for the psyche, has definitely also brought with it the onset of sore skin! 4 days on climbing indoors leaves your hands in a sorry state, especially when it is warm. By the end of some sessions I am left literally wincing in pain and I sometimes have to tape up every finger and my palms too in order to carry on. My husband, Stu, came back from a particularly brutal campusing session last week with blood blisters on several fingers which he then had to train on the next day.

Working your weaknesses can be really hard work mentally as there is always a lag phase before you see any kind of improvement. During this phase it always feels like you are actually getting worse, not better. If you are working an aspect of your technique, for example, you can feel like a complete beginner again which can be hard to take. You have to look at the bigger picture and trust that in the long run you will come out of the process a better climber. It can sometimes be tempting to take the easy path and go back to doing something I am good at, but if I do that then I always feel like I have let myself down.

Periodized training requires quite a lot of self-motivation, especially in the UK where it is less common to view climbing in this way. During the winter months a lot of climbers seem to train and the walls are full of people with stop watches and weight-belts which creates a great atmosphere. However, as soon as the long evenings and good weather set in the walls empty as people prefer to be out at the crags enjoying themselves. At this time of year I find it can take quite a lot of self-motivation to keep going when you are the only person down at the wall, sweating it out in 30 degree heat. When it gets tough I just try and stay focused on what I am doing it all for and keep my eye on the prize.

I have also found that the attitude to training has changed a lot in the UK in the last few years. I first started training with my coach when I was living in Barcelona in 2008. Out in Spain it is much more common to follow a structured training plan and many people, regardless of level, seem to do it. When I moved back to the UK in 2009 I came up against quite a lot of negative feeling towards what I was doing. I used to feel very self-conscious getting my weight-belt out and on occasion I would hear people being judgemental about me behind my back when I did. People would often ask me if I was taking it all a bit too seriously too. I have never minded people not viewing climbing in the same way as I do as it is a very individual sport and everyone should be entitled to their opinion and be free to participate in the sport in whichever way suits them, but I did used to find it hard when people didn’t respect my decision to train if I wanted to. However, for some reason attitudes seem to have changed somewhat over the last year or two, and now people who approach me usually do so to ask me for advice on training or because they are curious to know more about what I do which is really nice.

One difficult aspect of training unique to women is the “sporty” physique that it gives you. For men this is clearly just an added bonus of an otherwise brilliant sport, but for women it’s perhaps not quite the look we would ideally choose! I’ve lost track of the number of times climbers and non-climbers alike have commented on my muscly arms. In a sporty situation I don’t feel so self-conscious, but it can be a bit distressing when you go to buy a smart dress for a wedding and can’t find one that fits over your big shoulders! This used to make me feel very shy and self-conscious, but over time I have come to accept the way I look and I now see it as just part of who I am. When it comes down to it, I’m proud of my training and my achievements, muscles and all.

Aside from the actual training itself is the way training impacts on the rest of my life. Being freelance gives me the freedom to go training when I want (which, don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for), but I do also find it can be quite stressful having to work funny hours and juggle my time. Other people work 9 -5, shut off from the office at the end of the day and enjoy their evening. However, my climbing sometimes entails doing long circuits that take up the whole wall and so I need to go down during the daytime when it is quiet, or it would be impossible to do. This can mean keeping an eye on my phone to answer work emails while I am training, and then working again in the evening when I get home which means I don’t ever get to switch off properly. Obviously though, this is a small price to pay for having the freedom to train when I want.

The training also takes up a huge proportion of my life. I train 3-4 days a week down the wall, and climb both days at the weekend. This doesn’t leave a huge amount of time for anything else and can make socialising a bit tricky! My husband is also a keen climber and trains as hard as I do, but if he didn’t then we wouldn’t see much of each other. Most of our friends are pretty psyched too and a lot of our social life revolves around climbing so it isn’t too bad.

All in all, I guess the most important question is: is it all really worth it? Without a doubt![:us]Not always Plain Sailing

The training I do is immensely rewarding, but I would be lying if I said it was always easy. Sometimes, in fact, it is very, very hard. These are some of the aspects which I find tough about structured training.

The training itself is immensely physically and mentally demanding. Some weeks it leaves you feeling  tired almost every day. This can be tough mentally when you wake up in the morning feeling exhausted but you know you still have another two or three days to go before you can rest. Having such a structured training schedule tailored exclusively to me definitely does push me to the limits of what I can handle both physically and mentally.

The hard training weeks also leave me worn out at the weekend so I cannot just go out and climb whatever I want. Most of the time I don’t mind this as it brings a lot of variety to my climbing by taking me to different crags that I might not have otherwise considered visiting in an effort to find routes of the right standard for my varying levels of fatigue. However, on occasion it can feel frustrating when I see all my friends out trying their projects and I know that I cannot join them because I will be too tired or I get close to doing a hard route and then have to leave it for a month because I will be going back into training. It can also be frustrating if a period of bad weather or seeping crags coincides with me being in shape and fresh from training. Seeing my performance level wildly fluctuate from week to week according to where I am in the training cycle is something I have got used to now, but if you are someone who likes to be on top form every weekend then periodized training is perhaps not for you.

The recent onset of good weather, although great for the psyche, has definitely also brought with it the onset of sore skin! 4 days on climbing indoors leaves your hands in a sorry state, especially when it is warm. By the end of some sessions I am left literally wincing in pain and I sometimes have to tape up every finger and my palms too in order to carry on. My husband, Stu, came back from a particularly brutal campusing session last week with blood blisters on several fingers which he then had to train on the next day.

Working your weaknesses can be really hard work mentally as there is always a lag phase before you see any kind of improvement. During this phase it always feels like you are actually getting worse, not better. If you are working an aspect of your technique, for example, you can feel like a complete beginner again which can be hard to take. You have to look at the bigger picture and trust that in the long run you will come out of the process a better climber. It can sometimes be tempting to take the easy path and go back to doing something I am good at, but if I do that then I always feel like I have let myself down.

Periodized training requires quite a lot of self-motivation, especially in the UK where it is less common to view climbing in this way. During the winter months a lot of climbers seem to train and the walls are full of people with stop watches and weight-belts which creates a great atmosphere. However, as soon as the long evenings and good weather set in the walls empty as people prefer to be out at the crags enjoying themselves. At this time of year I find it can take quite a lot of self-motivation to keep going when you are the only person down at the wall, sweating it out in 30 degree heat. When it gets tough I just try and stay focused on what I am doing it all for and keep my eye on the prize.

I have also found that the attitude to training has changed a lot in the UK in the last few years. I first started training with my coach when I was living in Barcelona in 2008. Out in Spain it is much more common to follow a structured training plan and many people, regardless of level, seem to do it. When I moved back to the UK in 2009 I came up against quite a lot of negative feeling towards what I was doing. I used to feel very self-conscious getting my weight-belt out and on occasion I would hear people being judgemental about me behind my back when I did. People would often ask me if I was taking it all a bit too seriously too. I have never minded people not viewing climbing in the same way as I do as it is a very individual sport and everyone should be entitled to their opinion and be free to participate in the sport in whichever way suits them, but I did used to find it hard when people didn’t respect my decision to train if I wanted to. However, for some reason attitudes seem to have changed somewhat over the last year or two, and now people who approach me usually do so to ask me for advice on training or because they are curious to know more about what I do which is really nice.

One difficult aspect of training unique to women is the “sporty” physique that it gives you. For men this is clearly just an added bonus of an otherwise brilliant sport, but for women it’s perhaps not quite the look we would ideally choose! I’ve lost track of the number of times climbers and non-climbers alike have commented on my muscly arms. In a sporty situation I don’t feel so self-conscious, but it can be a bit distressing when you go to buy a smart dress for a wedding and can’t find one that fits over your big shoulders! This used to make me feel very shy and self-conscious, but over time I have come to accept the way I look and I now see it as just part of who I am. When it comes down to it, I’m proud of my training and my achievements, muscles and all.

Aside from the actual training itself is the way training impacts on the rest of my life. Being freelance gives me the freedom to go training when I want (which, don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for), but I do also find it can be quite stressful having to work funny hours and juggle my time. Other people work 9 -5, shut off from the office at the end of the day and enjoy their evening. However, my climbing sometimes entails doing long circuits that take up the whole wall and so I need to go down during the daytime when it is quiet, or it would be impossible to do. This can mean keeping an eye on my phone to answer work emails while I am training, and then working again in the evening when I get home which means I don’t ever get to switch off properly. Obviously though, this is a small price to pay for having the freedom to train when I want.

The training also takes up a huge proportion of my life. I train 3-4 days a week down the wall, and climb both days at the weekend. This doesn’t leave a huge amount of time for anything else and can make socialising a bit tricky! My husband is also a keen climber and trains as hard as I do, but if he didn’t then we wouldn’t see much of each other. Most of our friends are pretty psyched too and a lot of our social life revolves around climbing so it isn’t too bad.

All in all, I guess the most important question is: is it all really worth it? Without a doubt!

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