By Kathryn Perkinson

We are not living in an alternate reality. This world– a global pandemic, quarantine, no access to climbing– is reality. If you stay stuck wishing for what was or hoping for what will be, you’ll certainly miss this opportunity and make yourself miserable. How will you fully accept our new normal and seize the moment? 

Being on lockdown is an opportunity that will not come again. I know what my strength limitations are, and I bet most other climbers do too. I need to work on my pulling strength – my biceps have pumped out before my forearms on steep climbs. I also need to work on some specific finger strength – I’ve hurt my fingers twice in the past year pulling on monos, and I fatigue more quickly because I don’t trust small holds with a relaxed open hand. 

In my pre-pandemic life, I didn’t prioritize focusing on either pull or finger strength. I readily rationalized that choice – if I work too hard on pull ups or make my fingers too tired, I won’t be able to perform on my climbing days. But in reality, I had written my own destiny to maintain the status quo and limit my ability to improve. If you’re not putting in the work to get better, you won’t get better. And in reality, performance should not be a year round priority or expectation. 

We should all build in seasons to our yearly training cycle in which the goal is to get stronger in the specific ways you as an athlete need. Decide if your goal is to perform at the crag or to get stronger. If you’re trying to get stronger, remember that the end goal is being better at rock climbing. You don’t need to become the deadlifting world champion, just work on improving your deadlift up to a point. Focus on a particular goal for four weeks over 8-12 sessions, and then switch. For example, your first four weeks could focus on hip mobility and in the next four you could focus on upper body pressing strength. 

Right now, I can shift my focus from my prior route goals for the season to a few specific strength goals. For me, April is upper body pulling strength, and in May, I’ll transition to power and smaller holds. Three times per week, I’m working on strength with the basic gear in my garage– weighted and unweighted pull ups with lots of rest, isometric holds with my arms locked off, at 90 degrees and  at 120 degrees, and one arm inverted rows on the TRX. I have a lot of time and control over my days now, which I can use to focus really, really hard on my goals. I have no excuse for not executing, and I have no distractions or temptations. Perhaps never again (I hope) will my life be so simple. 

Take excellent care of yourself. Eat well, sleep well, move everyday. It’s easier to form new habits in a sudden change of environment. The environment’s changed– are you going to sit around waiting for everything to “go back to normal” or are you going to get eight hours of sleep and hit the hangboard?


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