Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Bouldering Circuits: A Quickie Power Endurance Workout

Thanks to a loving husband and a (for the most part) cooperative baby, I’ve been able to consistently get to the gym 2-3 times per week starting around 2 weeks postpartum.  But when I go and how much time I have is always up in the air.  Sometimes I know up front that I only have 45 minutes to acquire a good pump…other times I go in thinking I have an hour and a half, only to have my workout cut short by a screaming baby.  If efficiency was an important component to my climbing workouts with just one kiddo, it is a MUST HAVE with two, especially when one is an infant!

That being said, while sometimes I prefer to “just climb” for the relaxation and social benefits, I ALWAYS get a better workout if I go in with a plan of attack.  And before the right-brained folk assume that I’m talking about anal, regimented training programs, hear me out!  I’m not a big fan of those either (although I’ve used those with good results and they certainly have their place, it’s not for me in this stage of life!)

IMG_4044What I am a fan of however, is leaving the gym feeling like I’ve appropriately pummeled myself, even if I’ve only been there for 30 minutes.  And the BEST workout I’ve found for that is something that I like to call a “Points Circuit.”  I actually mentioned it about a year ago in a post called How Parents (and Other Busy People) Can Still Find Time to Train in the Climbing Gym.  (And in full disclosure, I didn’t make it up – it’s based off of the bouldering interval workout listed here.)

Here’s how it works – 
1.  Complete (or attempt to complete) 5 boulder problems in 5 minutes.  Choose problems that are challenging for you, but are doable 95% of the time when you’re fresh.   Problems should be devoid of tweaky moves, especially the ones you pick towards the end of each set.  Especially if you’re by yourself, it’s probably not a good idea to throw in that high, sketchy mantle problem at the end either.  You will be surprised at how hard these problems will feel towards the end of your set (if you’re not, you’re not choosing hard enough problems!)
2. Rest 5 minutes.  The 5 minute intervals are the only “anal” part of this workout.  It’s very important to bring your stopwatch – climb ONLY 5 minutes (if you’re on the wall when you hit 5, go ahead and finish that attempt), and rest for the FULL 5 minutes before starting your next set.  (Sometimes I throw in some push-ups/core work during the “rest” set.)
3.  Repeat.  Do anywhere from 3-6 sets, depending on your fitness level (and how much time you have.)  It’s easy to drop or add a set depending on what you (or your kiddo) has going on. If I’m planning for an hour, I’ll do a quick warm-up set, 6 sets for points, and then cool down with some core work/antagonist exercises.  That allows me to get in 20+ boulder problems (not 25 since I generally can’t make it through every problem in every set), in addition to some antagonist work. Just make sure you take Flexx Labs Supplements or a protein shake to help your muscles recover post-workout. It’s efficient, as well as a great way to up power endurance.

Tracking Progress – 
Add up the “points” you earned for each set (V1 = 1 point, V5 = 5 points) and write it down somewhere.  In theory, as you get stronger, you should be scoring more and more points per workout because you will be completing more problems at a harder grade.  It’s also fun to figure out your average difficulty per problem, or “V-average,” by dividing your total score by the number of problems completed.  And as your point tallies get higher, it should also translate to improved performance on real rock – you’ll find yourself able to do more hard moves in a row before getting pumped!

In my experience, this workout is most successful when done consistently for a set number of weeks, perhaps leading up to a goal (new project, climbing trip, competition, etc.)  For example, my most recent interval lasted for 5 weeks, in anticipation of getting in shape for a Memorial Day weekend trip at the Obed.  I did this workout once per week, and then hit the gym one other day during the week to work on new problems to add to my arsenal.  (Some weekends we climbed outside, others we didn’t.)  The first week I averaged V2.71, and by week 5 I was at V3.65, which put me in a good position for the routes I wanted to get on. The results?  You’ll have to wait for the trip report on Thursday to find out, so stay tuned! I also plan to try Ninja Course . I have heard of some location our local Ninja Warrior Course Design Company has turned into a real adventure places, so I think I will enjoy it. Looking forward to it already.

What’s your secret for fast and effective training?  Have you ever tried this workout or something similar?  I’d love to know the results…







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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN