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You’ve made a commitment. You’ve decided that climbing is more than just a social event. You’re ready to structure your climbing sessions and incorporate strength training. The first, and easiest, changes to make are time and focus. Climbing, indoor in particular, is a social sport. You spend a lot of time between attempts walking around, watching other climbers and hanging out with friends. It’s important to schedule fun sessions into your week; if you’re not having fun, then what’s the point?! When you’re there to train, however, you will need to shift your priorities to maximize your time, both on and off the wall.

How long should my session be?

When you first started climbing, your skin or forearms would tell you that the session was over after about 60 – 90 minutes. After buying all of your own gear and getting your coveted membership card, your sessions and social circle began to grow. Before you knew it, you skipped a meal and spent 4 hours at the gym. You may have found success in a rushed one-hour session or even a laid back three-hour session. But what is the ideal amount of time and how should it be structured?

Think of your session like a movie. Most movies are 1.5 – 2.5 hours long following the three-act structure: The Setup, The Confrontation, The Resolution.

Act 1: The Setup

Without a proper setup, the plot fails and the performance falls short. This will be the most important, and lengthiest, part of your session. The setup includes preparing, setting goals, warming up, practicing technique, and setting the foundation for the rest of the session. The setup will be 50% of your session.

Act 2: The Confrontation

After establishing the main characters (your goals or projects) and building the suspense, your performance is at its peak and moves into Act 2. This is where our main character makes attempt after attempt to solve the problem. As we know, success doesn’t usually happen right away. There may be several obstacles and frustrations to conquer. The main character must typically build upon her/his skill set and establish allies. This is when you will try alternate beta, work specific moves, and even call for a power-spot. You will often leave this act with a new sense of awareness or understanding. The confrontation will be 30 – 40% of your session.

Act 3: The Resolution

The Resolution is underestimated and misunderstood. This is more than just packing up your chalk bag and heading home. The resolution determines whether or not there is a sequel with the same set of characters and same problems to be solved. You will ensure you’ve made attempts on all problems determined in Act 1. You will reflect on your beta and potentially ask another climber for theirs. You will make a list of new or additional problems. You will incorporate strength drills or climbing movements that will assist in your future attempts. You will cool down, moving slowly and intentionally, to lower your heart rate. You will leave feeling accomplished and hungry! The resolution should be 10 – 20% of your session.

Most of the best movies are between 90 and 130 minutes. This timeframe is ideal for focused climbing and training sessions. Rests should be intentional and timed for best results. Remember, fun and unstructured sessions should not be excluded from a good training program! However, these may not significantly aid in strength or performance improvements.

Take your training sessions to the next level. Learn more about private instruction opportunities with Jess Blanton.

Jess Blanton

Author Jess Blanton

Jess Blanton is an instructor and routesetter at Climb So iLL. She holds an M.S. in Sport and Exercise Science and is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer. From setting nutritional goals to developing customized training plans, Jess works with all types of climbers – regardless of ability, experience, or age.

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