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Getting into Winter Climbing Shape with FA Guide Chad Peele
Posted on December 7, 2011

Working on an M7

By Chad Peele

Fall is officially leaving and winter is fast approaching. Time to get in those last rock pitches and start sharpening those ice picks!

As the cooler temperatures linger, I find my motivation steadily grows for winter activities, especially ice climbing. I know everyone is different but, for me, this time of year is always the perfect season to get into shape for the upcoming winter. If you’re into sports, I assume you already get out, have fun and do a little bit of training to maintain your fitness. For many of us, this involves a mixture of cardio and muscle building. As a climber, I try to focus on both of those while doing actual climbing to get the focused benefit I am looking for.

Many people have their preference for how they go about their cardio training. Some ride bikes, swim or run. Although I like all of those, running is the simplest and requires the least amount of motivation and equipment to get out. I find that a 45-minute run three times a week is a good amount of pure cardio. By focusing more on the time and less on the mileage, I keep a constant goal of challenging myself by adjusting the pace as my conditioning improves.

Weight training is a great way to round out the body and focus on key muscle groups, especially if “lifting” for a specific purpose. I find a standard workout that involves the basic large muscles (chest, shoulder, arms, back and thighs) combined with specific climbing exercises is a good, well-rounded approach for most climbers. Keep in mind that most climbers lift more for endurance and less for bulk, which typically means less weight and higher repetitions. Climbing is primarily a “pulling” exercise, and weights are generally pushing. By training your body to do both you will have less likelihood to develop climbing injuries like tendonitis.

And last but not least, climbing. To be perfectly honest, nothing beats actual climbing for getting into climbing shape. If you look at most technical climbers, they are slimmer and have less muscle mass, meaning more time on route and less in the gym. As a working-class mountain guide, I don’t always get out as much as I should in regards to personal climbing, but a little bit here and there keeps the fire stoked.

As the mountaineering and rock-climbing season fades away, I start looking toward winter activities, which typically involves ice climbing. My standard approach for building motivation and momentum for ice climbing is to get out and do some dry tooling on warm sunny rock. Dry tooling is where you use your ice tools and crampons directly on the rock to scale the route. By combining some early season dry tooling with cardio and a basic weight program, I find my body and mind quickly adapts to the rigors of winter ice climbing.

Fortunately for me, just outside the Ouray Ice Park in Colorado, there is an excellent area for dry tooling called Skylight, which also hosts an impressive array of naturally forming ice climbs during the winter months. By dry tooling, I can focus on increasing my grip strength on the tools as well as body positioning for greater efficiency and endurance. Just like in ice climbing, I try to focus on straight arms to reduce muscle fatigue and a loose, relaxed grip while releasing the tools often. In doing this, I drop my hands below my torso and “shake out,” which fights the “pump” by using gravity to remove spent blood and by bringing in a fresh supply to my forearms. By doing several laps with plenty of rest in between, I find I can get a thorough workout while building experience and confidence for the upcoming ice season.

In summary, some form of cross training can benefit most people regardless of what sport your into and when in doubt, do something active that you truly enjoy and you will be a stronger and happier person for it!


Author: - Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

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