Tips for Training in College

Tip #1: Coffee helps.

However psyched, bummed, or indifferent you are about “back to school,” it’s getting to be that time of year. Thankfully for my stress levels, I’m not joining the textbook-buying rush, but, after having “campused” my honors BA in three years while simultaneously working two jobs, I know the difficulties of trying to fit in enough outdoor climbing to keep you sane for studying while still sneaking in enough weekday training to keep climbing outside from being a frustrating mess. I’ll admit, I haven’t always been the best at training consistently or picking the most effective training methods, but, after three busy years, I’ve learned a few things that hopefully will help you keep training during your busy weeks, whether you’re a freshman, entering a hellish junior year, or aren’t in school, but, like many people, have a busier schedule than you’d like:

Do what you can. Some days you have to spend nine hours in a desk chair, and you’re likely not going to climb in the gym for three hours after that. However, you can still squeeze in 10 minutes of planks or a few pull-ups as a study break. And then there are those times when you have an awkward 15 minutes before you have to leave for class: Use them to do your shoulder strengthening exercises or push-ups instead of messing around on Instagram.

Stay organized and plan ahead. Start by drawing out a rough schedule of when you have class, work, and other commitments, so you know what time you have left to train. Then make a weekly training schedule for exactly what you’ll be going to do during those breaks to avoid wasting time making up workouts on the spot or trying to remember if you should do abs today or tomorrow. Use some of these workout ideas and/or metolius rock ring and hangboard workouts to save yourself the time it takes to invent original workouts. 

The Classic 4×4 Workout with Daniel Woods:

Do lots of mini sessions. Cranking out 100 push-ups while waiting for your pasta water to boil helps. You may not have an hour or two to fit in a full climbing session, but if you do abs before you leave for your first class, 100 pull-ups during your lunch break, and 30 minutes of yoga and stretching before bed, you’ll be much better off than if you did nothing (refer back to “do what you can”). And on the days when you do have more time, make sure you pack what you can into your 1.5-hour sessions too.

No wasted training time/effort. Only go for a long easy run on the treadmill or elliptical if you’re simultaneously studying, as your training time is better spent climbing. Don’t do 20 minutes of easy abs when you can do the eight hardest core exercises you know back to back and burn out your core out in less than 10 minutes. Simultaneously train finger strength and abs by doing hanging ab exercises from your hangboard (recommended only for intermediate climbers–V4+–with healthy fingers). You get the idea.

Study while you work out. Practice your flash cards between burns, 4×4 sets, while warming up on the stationary bike or elliptical and/or while walking to the gym. Watch educational videos and listen to lectures while using your foam roller.

Train on the weekends after climbing or build training into outdoor climbing days. Do abs, pull-ups, and push-ups right when you get home from Saturday’s cragging, or run laps on skin-friendly problems or routes to burn yourself at the end of the day instead.

Don’t skip injury prevention. Climb a little less (this tends to help prevent injuries) in favor of doing shoulder band exercisesfinger extensions, and other antagonist-muscle training to stay injury-free for the climbing time you do have.

Find a training buddy. Ideally you live with someone that you can do pre-breakfast abs and basement hangboard sessions with. Otherwise, try to meet up with friends at the gym a couple days a week to ensure that you’ll train. It’s easier to stay motivated (and to simply show up) when you have someone else to keep you accountable. Plus, a little healthy competition can be the difference between just going through your list of exercises and really pushing yourself for 45 minutes.

Take your busiest weekday off from training, so you have time to study while you let your body recover from what training you are able to do. And don’t forget to SLEEP to let your body repair itself after hard sessions. Aim for 7-8 hours as many nights as possible, and make it a priority to get more when you can.

Limit wasted time during day. How often do you really need to check Facebook? Instagram? Your email? You should also cancel your Netflix account now. While having some time to relax is important, you don’t need to spend an hour on social media every day or watch four episodes of Game of Thrones before bed. Climbing time and sleep are more important.

Related: The Power of Doing Home Workouts in Your Underwear

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