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Help...I have hit a plateau
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gblauer
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Jul 21, 2003, 7:39 PM
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Help...I have hit a plateau
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Here is the scenario...I have been climbing for about 1 year, I progressed pretty rapidly until now ...I seem to have hit a plateau. In the gym I can now climb any 5.10+, I am struggling on 5.11s. I don't seem to be making much progress any more. I climb 3x per week, 2-3 hours per session. Each session is typically spent 50/50 doing bouldering and routes. I also climb outdoors (can lead [sport] 5.8+) again, don't feel like I am progressing. Yes, I am having fun, but I am so goal oriented that part of my "fun" is seeing progress. Any thoughts on what I can do to move beyond my plateau? Has this happened to you? What did you do to reduce your frustration? Have I hit the limits of my climbing? (I am constrained by age [e.g. I am old!] and lack of hip flexibility.) As always, thanks so much for your input.
Gail


maculated


Jul 21, 2003, 8:25 PM
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Re: Help...I have hit a plateau [In reply to]
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First, get out of the gym. But that's just coming from a trad climbing elitist.

On to your plateau question. When you get to leading 5.11, you are going to have to really train to push past that. That means fingerboards, campusing, weights, running, lots of bouldering, etc.

Hitting a plateau around the first year of climbing is pretty normal from my experience.


angelaa


Jul 21, 2003, 9:58 PM
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In reply to:

Hitting a plateau around the first year of climbing is pretty normal from my experience.

I totally agree with maculated!
normally after about a year of climbing, you get to a point where you found the end of your natural ability . . . . anything better takes MUCH training and technique building. . . work on your Yoga and Pilates to get that flexibility back. .

Technique is really what will get you to your next level!!!!

How to work on technique? You will hear many different theories, but what has worked for me? . . .
don't stop . . and it will take awhile to see improvement, just work on climbing things you can climb better. Find an easier way to climb it . . spend time figuring out how to make a move using the least amount of energy as possible. This opens MANY doors!


Partner missedyno


Jul 22, 2003, 1:46 AM
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In reply to:

Hitting a plateau around the first year of climbing is pretty normal from my experience.

chicky's got that right. i'm just starting to progress again past my last plateau. from what i've heard, expect to hit many more. i know, just have fun, bla bla.


on_sight_man


Jul 22, 2003, 3:49 AM
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In reply to:
Here is the scenario...I have been climbing for about 1 year, I progressed pretty rapidly until now ...I seem to have hit a plateau. In the gym I can now climb any 5.10+, I am struggling on 5.11s. I don't seem to be making much progress any more. I climb 3x per week, 2-3 hours per session. Each session is typically spent 50/50 doing bouldering and routes. I also climb outdoors (can lead [sport] 5.8+) again, don't feel like I am progressing. Yes, I am having fun, but I am so goal oriented that part of my "fun" is seeing progress. Any thoughts on what I can do to move beyond my plateau? Has this happened to you? What did you do to reduce your frustration? Have I hit the limits of my climbing? (I am constrained by age [e.g. I am old!] and lack of hip flexibility.) As always, thanks so much for your input.
Gail

As said above, a [;ateau after a year or so is common because you get stronger and reach the limits of natural ability. Now is when the fun starts. Your body has to start doing things it's not natural for it to do and you have to train it. Sometimes that's a strength thing, but more often, it's technique. Two pieces of advice (from an amateur, if not rank amateur)

1) FOOTWORK - You know, I know, we all know, it's key. One really good way to help this is climb impossible slab climbs. Struggling up these can do wonders for balance and really recognizing where the weight is because it must be centered over such small areas.

2) BODY POSITION - and body tension. This you can do in the gym. Reclimb things that you have already successfully climbed and try to make them as easy as possible. If a move is hard, keep doing it in subtly different ways (you may not even know how it's different) until it becomes easy. Bouldering is great for this. You are not done once you send. You're done when you can send it off the couch in your sleep. Then ttry to think about why it's easy and learn from it. You also gain core strength often from doing this.

Good luck and have fun with the puzzles.

Kirk


caughtinside


Jul 22, 2003, 5:10 AM
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Just to add to that footwork thing.

A guy at the gym told me to work on 'quiet feet' while in the gym. This means you shouldn't be able to hear your feet hitting the holds. It will result from more precise placement. No more kicking and scraping when you don't have to. It had an immediate effect on my climbing.

And climb outside. Much more important.


angelaa


Jul 22, 2003, 4:19 PM
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CLIMB LIKE NINJA . . . .
LITTLE GRASSHOPPER :P


maculated


Jul 22, 2003, 6:14 PM
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LOL . . .

Some of us hit a plateau and freak out. I know I did. And then I went down to the Happys that day and decided to not climb any routes. V0- all the way. It was fun and that's when I realized I needed to mellow out.


jt512


Jul 23, 2003, 12:33 AM
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In reply to:
Here is the scenario...I have been climbing for about 1 year, I progressed pretty rapidly until now ...I seem to have hit a plateau. In the gym I can now climb any 5.10+, I am struggling on 5.11s. I don't seem to be making much progress any more. I climb 3x per week, 2-3 hours per session. Each session is typically spent 50/50 doing bouldering and routes. I also climb outdoors (can lead [sport] 5.8+) again, don't feel like I am progressing. Yes, I am having fun, but I am so goal oriented that part of my "fun" is seeing progress. Any thoughts on what I can do to move beyond my plateau? Has this happened to you? What did you do to reduce your frustration? Have I hit the limits of my climbing? (I am constrained by age [e.g. I am old!] and lack of hip flexibility.) As always, thanks so much for your input.
Gail

First of all, your two number-grade difference between your gym climbing level and your outdoor leading level means you should get out more, or lead more, or both, assuming that you ultimately want to be a good outdoor lead climber.

Climbing trainer Heather Sagar-Reynolds has written that there are exactly three reasons for plateaus: (1) overtraining, (2) undertraining, and (3) training the wrong thing.

We can probably eliminate (2) for you except for outdoor climbing, which it sounds like you're undertraining. That leaves (1) and (3). WRT overtraining, 3 days a week is a good frequency: neither too much nor too little. However, progressing to 11s in a year is pretty good progress, especially for a non-teenager. You've obviously been working hard and it has paid off. However, hard training has a price. Fatigue can accumulate over time, and you might need a week or two (or more) complete break from climbing to allow your body to fully recover. Personal experience is that the only evidence you will have of this type of overtraining is a mysterious plateau. You may otherwise feel fine. However, if you take a couple weeks off from training, and find that you break through the plateau within a few weeks of returning, you needed the break. You have to try it and see.

WRT training the wrong thing: Can you accurately answer the question, why do you fall off routes? If not, then you don't know what you need to train, and hence are probably training the wrong thing(s). I disagree with Maculated that you need a ton of strength training to climb 5.11. I have climbed with strong 5.11 female climbers who can't do a single pull-up, but who have impeccable technique.

It's hard to know what your own strengths and weaknesses are. When your arms get pumped and you fall, it always feels like a lack of endurance, but more often the problem is an underlying deficit in technique that leads to inefficient climbing and premature fatigue. Try and analyze why you come off routes. Ask a better climber to honestly critique your climbing. Watch better climbers. Do they climb your routes the same way you do?

One specific piece of advice: Stop bouldering and route climbing on the same days. Bouldering builds power, core strength, and a certain set of techniques; route clibming builds endurance and a somewhat different set of techniques. Doing both on the same day means that whichever you do first will compormise whichever you do second. Separate your bouldering days from your route days.

Hip flexibility: You've identified a weakness -- an important one -- but one you can work on. Get the "Stretching" book that's been around since like the 60s and do that stuff. You can improve hip fiexibility, and it is important to do so. It's hard to "use your feet" if you can't step up to the next hold.

Age: I looked at your profile and you're not old. My story is that at age 40 I could barely get up a 5.10a. Now, at age 45 I redpoint mid-5.12, and I suck. There are plenty of climbers older than me who redpoint 5.13+ or even 5.14. Identify your weaknesses and train them until they are your strengths. By then your old strengths will be your new weaknesses, and you have to change your training. This goes on forever and trainers call it "periodization" to justify their billing rates. But the bottom line is that as long as you keep training the right thing the right amount you will get stronger and your climbing will improve.

-Jay


Partner phylp


Jul 24, 2003, 4:07 PM
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As usual, Jay has done an excellent job of providing sound, complete advice! I completely agree with everything he said. Most important: figure out why you fail/fall on a route.

The Sagar Reynolds book he referred to is a good reference if you want to dissect how to figure this out and modify your training.

General commentary: I am always curious when people say they climb at a certain level in the gym that is significantly higher than their level outside. I know these days that is the norm, but IMHO that statement alone should give people insight into what they need to train if their goals are to climb better outside! Why the disparity? Personally I have always climbed at a higher onsight level outside than in the gym, where height related factors are more of an issue than outside. Also, I do a lot of on-sight leading (sport and trad) and my incentive to succeed is much higher outside where there are often much nastier consequences to the falls I might take!

Take heart. You are not old for a climber. Experience, better technique and training your mental attitudes on success and fear can add at least a number grade to your climbing level without any increase in "strength".
Phyllis


ecocliffchick


Jul 24, 2003, 7:25 PM
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I'm also confused about the difference between your indoor and outdoor grades. Typically outdoors, especially in the .9 and .10 range, there are lots of extra holds around, that make these routes easier than gym climbs of the same difficulty rating. There are also usually lots of rests, that you don't tend to find in the gym either.
There could be two reasons for the difference.
1. Your route finding skills haven't been developed. Climbing more outside should quickly remedy this. If you can pull down hard 10's indoors, it's likely you won't find a crux on a 10 outside that you can't do. or
2. Your gym isn't appropriately grading the routes.

Before you expect to pass your plateau, work through the 9's and 10's outside. Once you have a solid base of routes in that range, try an 11, and you'll be surprised. They aren't really all that much more difficult than many of the .10's and sometimes even feel easier!


gblauer
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Jul 24, 2003, 9:40 PM
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Thank you all for your input. I read it all, absorbed and last night, I climbed the best I have climbed in a very long time. I spent the night bouldering, working tension, lock off, technique. I sent many of my projects and began three more in the 390-470 range.

Just to cut the confusion about my indoor vs. outdoor leading...
I have only had the opportunity to lead 5.8+ outdoors. I haven't tried anything harder yet. On top rope I can handle 5.10 (I did two 5.10c in J-tree). I did a 5.11+ at Devil's tower (Lots of hanging, grunting and swearing!). In the gym I am trying to work 5.11s and I am having a tough time. Endurance is my forte...I summited Devils Tower twice in a single day, Soler and El Cracko Diablo.

Thank you all for your valuable and kind guidance.
Gail


stonefoxgirl


Sep 12, 2003, 8:31 PM
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Climbing for a year, huh? Here's the secret, take it easy. It sounds like (and most people are so hooked they dream about climbing) you want everything, now. That's great, it shows your ambition and drive. Now, with that said, you may be more prone to injury. Be very careful because during your first year of climbing, your body is ajusting to a completely different type of stress and abuse. I was extremely frustrated during the first year of climbing but early on I realized the importance of rest and what a pateau really means to me. I am now peaking at my 3rd plateau and I have been climbing for a little over 3 years, I have had constant, stready progress. I'll tell ya, the plateau is your time to get comfortable with your new, higher grade. Just in time for that next climb to the next plateau. My prediction, for myself will be 5.11 sport leads by the end of the season.


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