by Steve Bechtel

When I first sit down with a new athlete, the first thing I ask them is where they want to go. The question usually goes like this: “In six months, what do you want to have accomplished?” That part is easy for most of us – the dreaming is not hard to do. The next thing I want to know is how far the athlete has come in the last year. How many max-level redpoints? How many goal sends? How much has the athlete improved in the gym? How has his bodyweight been? It’s during this point in the interview that I get the blank stare. Most climbers can recall their hardest send in the last year, but they don’t really know why it happened.

A training log or journal is probably the most useful tool a climber can use in his training. By keeping a good log, you can precisely identify training patterns that worked and those that didn’t. It’s a little inconvenient to make notes during a workout, and it might make you feel a little uncool, but the value is worth it.

Training requires overload within the framework of both the session and the training cycle. If you don’t carefully plan overload session to session, you probably won’t see the progress you could. As I’ve state before, just getting tired in the gym isn’t the answer. Pushing the loads the right amount higher and recovering correctly is how you really get better. The only way you can effectively do this is to remember what happened last time, and the time before, and the time before. Most of us just can’t remember that much.

What makes a good training log? Rule number one is to have one at all. Start with a calendar and write down the days you trained, what kind of training you did, and the total duration. That should take about five seconds a day. At the end of each month, you can compare total training time and intensity week-to-week and see if you’re progressing things enough.

You can include more information each training session, and by doing so, gain more insight into what’s really going on. The more information you gather, the better. In a weight training session, you’d keep track of exercises, sets, repetitions, load, and rest. Additionally, you could track tempo of movement, rest between exercises, and perceived exertion. With weights, it’s easy to figure out how to progress – usually you just try to lift more.

In a climbing or bouldering session quantifying work is more difficult. Not all V3 problems are created equal! With this in mind, you’ll want to pay attention to a few more details. In addition to writing the grade of each problem, I suggest tracking total problems / routes climbed, angle of the route, type of moves / holds, and type of problem (i.e. techy, powerful, continuous, etc.). You’ll also need to track performance. Did you flash it? Take three tries? Have you worked a problem for a few days?

Without too much number crunching, you’ll get a pretty clear picture of where you’re strongest and how fit you currently are. Without good record keeping, this isn’t possible.

Once you’ve created the habit of logging your daily sessions, it’s time to add another layer to your record keeping. First, you’ll want to track adherence to your plan. I talk a lot about this with climbers who are unhappy with their training plan. The line usually goes “I have been doing x training plan for 2 months and it’s not working.” My first question is, “How much of the plan did you do?” Again, the blank stare…The crazy thing is that most of us don’t even consider that changing this session and shortening that exercise eventually erode the plan.

A good way to track adherence is to detail all of your sessions on the calendar for 4 weeks, then match up the actual training with the calendar as you progress. If you’re continually coming up short, it’s clearly an issue of planning. You’re setting yourself up to fail each and every cycle, which plays havoc with your drive.

Another critical habit is to assess just how much training you’re getting each cycle. We’ll look at the logs every 4 weeks and write down training hours per week, the total time spent in any given intensity level, significant sends or personal records in the gym, average bodyweight, girth measurements, and any testing data collected that month.

Sound like a lot? It is. It’s a lot of useful information that only takes minutes to record. If you’re not logging your training, you have everything to gain by writing a few things down. With a few weeks of dedicated practice, you’ll start to see patterns in your training. Chances are, you’re going to start seeing very clearly the things that need work.

Below is an example of a simple weekly training log.

Simple Training Log week of:
date climbing activity cardiovascular activity resistance training other activity sleep prev. night notes nutrition
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT
SUN
totals: overall nutrition:
total volume climbed: week highlights: week weight: rhr:
total time cv:
total time mobility/ stretching:

Below is a yearly data record. This is where we can see overall trends in the athlete’s performance, including changes in weight, performance at the crag, training volume, etc. This gives up really good information on how the climber is progressing year-to-year.

JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
BODYWEIGHT 151 149 149 148 149 150 148 146 144 143 148 149
DEADLIFT 3RM 370 365 362.5 347.5 367.5
5.13 RPS 0 0 1 5 1 0 0 1 0 4 5 0
TOTAL TRAINING 27 29.5 29 17 22 26 29.5 30.5 18 14 16 21.5

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