So, I have 90 minutes.  What should I do?  

A week into my journey from 5.10 to 5.12 I had my first opportunity to get to the climbing gym.  After a few experiments with strength exercises, it was time to utilize my limited gym minutes as efficiently as possible to get a long sought after endurance workout.

I knew I needed to work on my base training.  In every climbing book, article, and podcast I continually hear everyone  saying “if you are 5.8 to 5.10 climber that wants to get better, what you need is to just climb more.”  While I hate hearing that, there is some truth to it.  

I found that the MyClimb app has a lot of endurance workouts loaded for those looking to build their base.  I typically climb 5.10a to 5.10b outside. That means that 5.10a and 5.10b are the hardest routes I can go up without stopping if I practice them a couple times.

I began with the “5.10a Foundation Workout (25 Climb)” module.  My rock climbing gym offers routes that are 40’ high. Completing the 25 climbs in the training app meant that I would climb a total of 1000 vertical feet.  These long easy climbs are exactly what the body needs to build the endurance system. This particular workout warmed me up at 5.7 to 5.8 and ran me up a lot of 5.9 climbs.  I was feeling quite strong during this workout and this was exactly what I needed! My arms were fatigued from the duration of climbing, but I never got a pump or felt tired.  In the days after the workout, I didn’t feel the soreness that typically results from the hard pumpy workouts, so I was ready for my next workout very quickly.

This type of training is unusual for most beginner climbers, yet I can say with absolute confidence from my training research and my experience as an elite runner and competitive cyclist that you must have workouts focused on building endurance base.  Going to the gym and pushing hard each time will leave you mentally and physically fatigued with plateauing performance.  Also, as a single dad, full time employee, and student, my mind is often tired before I even enter the gym. Because of other demands in life, I can only really push myself at the rock gym a few times a month.  Sometimes you just need to get the heart pumping on the wall.

Oddly, the self-discipline required to climb easy routes 25 times in a row can be just as high as what is required to climb hard.  I brought my kids with me and saw a couple of friends at the gym, too. Each conversation I had at the gym involved an invitation to climb a harder route.

Don’t give in to the peer pressure to climb hard every day.  Plan your work and work your plan.

Have you ever gone to the gym to focus on endurance?  How do you measure your endurance workouts? By vertical feet climbed? Number of routes? Time on the wall?