Home Training: self-isolating and staying fit
- Friday 3rd April 2020
By Mark Reeves
With the world currently in a post-apocalyptic scene worthy of a Hollywood disaster film and climbing walls closed. Along with the latest directive that if anyone in your house has a temperature or a persistent cough to self-isolate for 14 days and with the escalation to a UK wide lockdown. We thought it might be helpful to give you a few ideas to maintain some of that hard-won climbing fitness many of us have developed this winter. A few lucky people might well have a home training wall, but for most of us we will have little equipment for home training. Whilst there are certain things we can do that require no additional equipment, there are a few things like a hangboard (fingerboard), a Theraband and some free weights that will add to your ability to train if you are stuck indoors. There are, of course, several climbing related things you can do to help yourself:
Believe it or not resting for a few weeks once a year is actually good for you. The idea is that if you have been training hard then you will probably have some niggling injuries that need time to recover and settle down. So maybe as much as it hurts you, simply taking some of this time especially if it is only a couple of weeks to focus your energy elsewhere. Catch up on those box sets, watch as many online climbing videos as you can, go for short walks avoiding people to get some sun and general exercise that has been shown to help your immune system.
You can still buy books online and digitally. I am a fan of old climbing books and use abehbooks.co.uk as many are very cheap and entertaining to read. You can also visit archive.org and search for old digitised mountaineering books for your tablet or eReader for free. Or you can choose to support a small aspect of the industry by buying new books from your local retailer via their online shops. So, whether it be the latest biography, how-to book or guidebook all can help keep you psyche, safe and entertained.
An alternative, maybe, would be to use this time to weave a rope mat out of old ropes. You will no doubt have a lot of it in the coming months as the crisis escalates. Check out Edelrid’s video here
Home training ideas
If after a few weeks we are still in lockdown then maybe, it’s time to break out the hangboard and other home training ideas.
Crimpd App by Lattice and the Training Rung
First off, if you are not using the Crimpd App already then I suggest you get it. Whilst you can use it to log your session and if you pay some money (the training plans start from £75) you can get a custom 12-week plan for fingerboard, general lite plan and a premium plan. Whilst at the moment the lite and premium plans might become hard to follow with the UK going into lockdown the fingerboard plan could be ideal.
However, you can bootleg your own training plan by simply using the many exercises that the Crimpd app includes for free. These roughly cover Aerobic Capacity, Strength/Power Endurance, Strength and General Conditioning. Within all of these areas, there is at least one exercise that can be done at home of a fingerboard like the Lattice Training/Assessment rung.
The Lattice Testing and training rung, also has a well-defined assessment of finger strength, which if you are going to use the Crimpd app training exercises you really need to carry out the Finger Strength Testing Session, which is described thoroughly in the app. It is a little confusing, but essentially, they are looking to find the maximum added/subtracted load you can hold on the Lattice Training Rung for seven seconds. With this you can then calculate the required loading for hangboarding sessions and, of course, at the end of a training period or phase, re-test to look for improvements. This testing method has been shown to have internal consistency/validity through rigorous research, so much so a scientific paper has just been released.
Neil Gresham’s Hangboard Guru
I did write an article on this in the May-June 2020 issue of the magazine due out on April 9th on hangboarding for beginners and tips from this will appear online in due course. However, there is also Neil Gresham’s Hangboard Guru app which I have not checked out because it is a paid-for app. It does have over 200 exercises that break down into fingers, arms, core or all three and aerobic, strength endurance, strength and core. To help track your preferences for each exercise you can use a photo of your own specific board and highlight what holds you use. Info here
Another app like Neil’s specifically designed for people using either of the Beastmaker Hangboards. Again, you can source a Beastmaker from many local online retailers or direct. Info here
This is a stand-alone training solution for small spaces. There is a five to 10 days turnaround in manufacturing before shipping. So, I would suggest contacting them first to check on the lag time, as you might be out of isolation by then, even though that's difficult to predict. It does offer a free-standing solution to hangboarding and other training. It does cost around £350 though. Info here
Creating your home hangboard training area
If you are going to make a good set up for your hangboard at home then you need to consider where and how to mount it. It can be hard if you are not mounting it onto brickwork or something with a solid substrate. You’ll need a stud detector to find the wooden supports behind plaster board and often you have to mount a large piece of plywood to the wall via the underlying wooden frame and then mount the hangboard to that.
A further issue is many of the aerobic capacity and even aerobic endurance exercises require bodyweight reduction via a rope connected through a pulley in the base of the hangboard and to some dumbbells/weights that act as a counterbalance. Although you can get around this by using heavy duty physiotherapy elastic bands or putting your feet up on a chair. However, the pulley system gives the best and most consistent method of weight reduction.
Finally, I would recommend a wooden hangboard as they are much nice to train on. Something like the Beastmaker 1000 or 3000 or the Lattice Training/Testing rung are the more common and most well-known on the market.
Hangboard Mounting Videos
Mounting a hangboard without screws - video here
Mounting a hangboard with screws - video here
Creating you own Budget TRX loops
TRX is a trademarked exercise system that cost from £60 upwards. They are similar to Olympic rings but most exercises are done with at least one limb on the floor, so the exercises use your own body weight as resistance. There are loads of exercises and you can train the antagonist muscles and core. The Crimpd App does have some exercises but if you YouTube search for ‘TRX exercises for climbers’ or say core, triceps, shoulders, chest you will get a lot of videos. Try a few exercises and see which best suits your needs and then design your own training plan.
To make your own TRX ring you just need a climbing rope, a decent bolt to attach it to, again this needs to be into a brick or stone wall, not plasterboard and, finally, as an optional extra an old piece of plastic pipe. You should have to cut the rope if you use either end of it. You can probably source a ring bolt for attaching to an external wall for a few quid from a DIY store or Amazon online, but you can also buy a proper climbing expansion bolt from a dedicated climbing retailer like V12, Rock + Run or Outside.
General Strength and Conditioning Work
A while ago I looked at this in the magazine under maintaining a functional body, with regards to training antagonist muscles. However, it is worth going a bit further and really looking into exercises for antagonist training (any muscle that does the opposite to what we normally do climbing) and core work similar to Pilates.
You can also use small dumbbells, about £20 online for a small set, to do some light free weight work. These are great for bicep, tricep and shoulder conditioning. Again, there are some exercises in the Crimpd app for this and you can also search online.
A Theraband or a selection of them with different resistance will also help with condition and shoulder stabilisation exercises.
Practising Rope Skill
It might be time to buy a book on rope skills or at the very least spend some time looking at video and online content. It could be as simple as practise getting your trad belays well-equalised using both ropes and slings or both. Try different methods to achieve this. I used to practise on the bannisters when I was a kid and as long as you do not fully load bear then you should be okay. You could, of course, use a couple of proper bolts to practise on either an external wall indoors or in the garden.
The more advanced things to practise would be some basic self-rescue. Again, using a single point anchor at the top of the stairs or running things from a table leg horizontally across the ground will allow you to simulate this. The important thing is not to fully load bear these and remember that if the system was loaded you would not be able to lift the weight by hand.
Tying off a belay plate - video here
Escape the system - video here
Abseiling past a knot - video here
Lowering past a knot - video here
Other things to look for is ascending a rope, making an assisted or unassisted hoist (3-to-1 pulley systems).
Sourcing Equipment Online
If you are not involved directly in the outdoor industry, then I can only urge you to try and think about your local suppliers and walls who will already be feeling the pinch as people start to stay at home. The industry at a local level has never been that lucrative and remembering the effects of foot and mouth I can only think that the next few months are going to be desperate with layoffs, permanent closures and a feeling of desperation.
From the outdoor instructional point of view I can tell you much work has just evaporated and many centres will probably be forced to close and given the high level of freelance/self-employment the old adage that people are never more than two pay cheques away from homelessness has never rung truer. So, if you are going to buy online maybe support a local business rather than an international conglomerate.
Getting Hold of Climber Magazine
Even Climber magazine will be affected as the reduction in footfall in newsagents and airports will be having an effect on sales, so maybe try ordering it online here or if you do make it to the supermarket for supplies have a look in the newsstand for a copy. You can also get a digital version here to make reading it even easier.
When it’s over try to think of what you can do to support the industry again, I appreciate that many of us will be in the same boat financially, but every little will help.
Finally, good luck to you all, it is going to be a very challenging time ahead and remember that there are already people dying out there. So regardless of your desire and wish to get outside and climb, one of the reasons it may not be wise to is as the stress goes up on the NHS then there simply may not be any beds should you have an accident.
This is the real reason for a shutdown, in essence, it is to reduce the usual tick over of people having accidents be they car crashes, climbing or other, adding to a system without any spare ICU beds, as the chances are within weeks there will not be any beds and people who might have recovered with specialist treatment will be dying. So if you do go outside, just go for a walk locally and be safe.