Maintaining aerobic fitness during steep climbing phases

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  • #23076

    I’m wondering if anyone has experience with different ways to schedule aerobic fitness maintenance hours during a period when you’re focused on improving your steep climbing. For instance say you’ve got five hours a week budgeted for running/ski touring in zone 1/2 — do you find you do better splitting that into two or three shorter sessions, or setting aside one day a week to do it all at once?

    During hangboard phases, I feel pretty constrained to shorter sessions. I try to schedule everything around being 100% ready to try super hard hangboarding every third day, which typically means not doing much for the preceding 12-18 hours. And I’m usually pretty wrecked for half a day after hangboarding, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to squeeze in a longer run. During base fitness and power phases I’m a lot more flexible, since I’m less worried about being completely rested for the steep climbing workouts, but in general I feel like I do a poor job of maximizing the aerobic kick I get for the amount strength training time and recovery I sacrifice, so was hoping to get ideas from other people about how they manage it.

    I should add that, as has been said a million times on this forum, one thing that’s made a huge difference when doing such a small number of aerobic hours is to do them as fasted as possible.

Posted In: Alpinism

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    Anonymous on #23133

    My first thought was “Do some Z1/2 after your hangboard sessions”, but it seems like they’re quite intense.

    I started training for rock climbing a couple months ago (after a ten-year hiatus). So far, I haven’t found the hangboard sessions that stressful, but I’m also being very conservative so I don’t get injured.

    So… how long are your sessions? What hangboard protocol are you using? Are you eating before and after?

    psathyrella on #23139

    This is Anderson Bros-style repeaters. More or less the “intermediate” protocol, with some tweaks to make it more specific for granite onsight climbing. I do 7-8 grips, it’s about an hour and a half from pushing go on my phone to the last hang, but between warming up and various pt/prehab things I’m in the gym for closer to two and a half hours. In the past when I’ve done max hang protocols with fewer different grips, it definitely felt like hangboarding could be squeezed in around other workouts, but after 3-4 cycles of this I’m thoroughly convinced that hypertrophy training through super focused repeater phases is the way to build long term development. And that all the pocket and pinch grips are worth the time even for granite onsighting. Even if I kind of half-ass the other phases in order to get in more alpine skill development.

    Yeah I have tried to get in the Z1/2 as soon after the finger strength workout as possible, maybe half the time it goes ok, and half the time it goes poorly, and of course it’s hard to tell which will happen beforehand. It feels like neurological fatigue as much as anything when I over do it, with the result I sleep poorly and tend to over eat. I’m for sure not old enough to complain with a straight face (late thirties), but I’m sure fifteen years ago I would’ve recovered faster.

    I eat a bit of low-GI cereal an hour or two before, and a bar immediately before, strength workouts. And some kind of cheap whey protein stuff immediately after, along with some protein spaced throughout the rest of the day.

    Anonymous on #23208

    Ah, okay. That makes sense. Those are long sessions.

    If strength is the priority and endurance is for maintenance, then I think you could break up your volume however you want. You could also do most of your volume in Zone 1 or easier.

    Nick K on #24084

    When you’re feeling awful during the Z1/2 sessions the day after hangboard, do you still feel awful when you finish the aerobic session? Have you tried keeping it super easy (like low z1) and considering it a recovery session? That way, the goal is not any specific training effect, just feeling better when you’re done. Then over time you may start to feel more consistently good as your body learns to recover from the hangboard sessions.

    I’m mid-30s and really seeing benefit from recovery sessions, though I’m usually doing them on a bikeerg to give my body a break from running.

    Nick K on #24085

    I weekly do a work capacity focused sport climbing day (spent on all 12s) with an easy bike session in the afternoon. Then I’m ready to for an all day z1/2 effort the next day.

    psathyrella on #24131

    Ah, sorry, I didn’t write that bit clearly. I’m not tired during z1/2 runs, but rather before/after. As you say, the (especially neurologic) fatigue from finger strength exercises doesn’t interfere with getting a good run in, but the added overall load of adding that run can tip me over the edge so I’m not well enough recovered the next day. At least for me, I only start getting really accurate feedback about how I’ve responded to aerobic loads after maybe 18 hours. So you could say the underlying problem is that the time scales on which strength training operates (being well rested every second or third day) are incompatible with those of aerobic training (which entails carrying fatigue for weeks). Which of course we all already know: strength and aerobic capacity are diametrically opposed and are hard to train at the same time.

    So in hindsight I think my question should have been “I’m pretending I’m just doing aerobic maintenance, but really I’m pushing up against the maximum aerobic load I can do without screwing up my strength training.” Trying to skate that edge may not be a terrible idea, as long as I’m clear which one is the priority at the time, but I think I was misunderstanding what “maintenance” is supposed to mean.

    I think you’re right that recovery sessions are the way to go, though.

    Anonymous on #24132

    @nrkuhlgmail-com: Great feedback.

    : I would be very careful with “trying to skate that edge”. In fact, I recommend the opposite. Maybe back off on your training so that you have a bigger margin of safety. Based on my (bad) experience, training right to capacity is never a good idea. You may get away with for a while, but eventually, something will break down. When that happens, it’ll cost you more to get back to where you were than what you may “lose” by not pushing the envelope.

    I would have progressed a lot faster, and probably ended up faster, if I had taken a more conservative approach in my training. I lost a lot of time many times by trying to do too much.

    Nick K on #24437

    I totally get where you’re coming from, as I try to improve my ability to charge up mountains and retain and improve my ability to pull hard on rock moves over here…

    As you say, I think the key is to be totally clear what your priorities are at any given point in time, and abide by those. I’m currently focused heavily on rebuilding aerobic base, so I have a bunch of running, some supplementary cycling, and one big day in the mountains every week. I have found that I can mix that with building some climbing work capacity, probably because they’re both training facets of the same thing: the ability to keep moving all day.

    Finger strength for me is always on slow burn no matter what else is happening, since that rewards consistency above all else. I also find that max hang focused programs are enough for me to make progress, so I don’t do a huge volume of hangboard. I’d rather put that time into actual climbing that will improve my skills.

    So I probably have a very different view of how much energy I need for a hangboard session than what you need.

    tructiepvietnam1 on #24455

    I would have progressed a lot faster, and probably ended up faster

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