I’ll admit: I’ve been doing a lot of “training to feel good about myself” for the past eight weeks. And by “a lot,” I mean doing something about four days a week for at least 10 minutes. Despite the fact that I’ve broken a sweat a few times, these sessions haven’t led to sore muscles or extreme exhaustion, nor has my climbing improved.
Since the end of May I’ve had what I convinced myself was a great excuse not to train: Studying abroad in Berlin. Everyone knows that studying abroad in a non-climbing destination—there are no easily daytripable outdoor climbing destinations outside of Berlin—means eating a lot of the local cuisine, drinking a lot of the local alcohol, and not exercising beyond bar hopping and taking an occasional walking tour, right? Wrong. Complete BS actually. In a large European city like Berlin, which boasts seven climbing gyms, there is no excuse to stop climbing.
So what does training to feel good about yourself look like? For me, it’s a workout consisting of 20-minute floor abs followed by 10 seconds of staring at where my abs should be. It’s calling “arms day” 10 minutes of endurance pull-ups (three almost-pull-ups every 30 seconds: yes I’m weak) followed by 60 almost-push-ups. It’s going to the gym once a week and “bouldering” for an hour and a half, which includes resting between climbs, chatting with locals, taking my shoes off several times, eating two snacks, checking Facebook and email, and going to the bathroom at least once—usually twice. It’s running three miles in 30 minutes with no more than six feet of elevation gain for the entire excursion. It’s taking two rest days each week knowing that I haven’t had more than maybe one solid training session in the past seven days. It’s feeling accomplished when my iPhone tells me I’ve walked six miles during the past 12 hours. It’s altogether pathetic.
Now, you can get a solid workout in when you only have 30 minutes to an hour. But the difference between not having very much time to train and still training to get better and not having (or making) much time to training and simply doing enough to feel good about yourself lies in your mindset and intensity. Doing just enough to break a sweat and feel a slight burn in your abs might make you feel good about yourself (at least I’ve tricked myself into thinking that counts as working out), but it’s not going to help you send a grade harder. Simply messing around at the gym in an unstructured, ADD-esque manner for an hour or two each week isn’t going to make you or me any stronger, as shown by the fact that I’ve undoubtedly become weaker in the past two months.
However, one hour of four-by-fours in the gym with only one or two minutes rest between sets would certainly bring on the pump and some added power-endurance. High intensity circuits (burpies, jump-squats, push-ups, plank jacks as fast as you can, etc.) for 20 minutes can leave you drained and sore the next day, while my taking 10 minutes to complete five sets of 20 almost-push-ups, triceps dips, and supine push-ups and then finishing up with two minutes of arm circles isn’t exactly challenging. I can say I did 100 push-ups, but that’s about it.
So maybe you don’t climb every day when life gets busy, and maybe you don’t hang out in the gym for five hours during each session when you’re traveling abroad or are on a business trip—though chatting with local crushers is an experience worth having—but you (and I) can make an effort to make what training time we do have count. That’s what will change training to simply feel good about yourself into actual training. And lets face it: You won’t feel good about yourself the next time you are able to climb outside if you’re weak from weeks of half-assed “training.”
For more ideas about how to train on a time budget, check out this Training Beta podcast.