As a recent convert from
"weekend warrior-dom" to full fledged
"dirtbaggery" I’m having to wrap my head around a completely differnet spectrum of
"training". In the weekend warrior way there is a mindset of “Wooooo! We’re going climbing!” which bring long days and shredded finger tips and wrecked hands and a happy car ride home.
However, things are a bit different when you’re a dirbag. I’ve noticed that my crag sessions are more like gym sessions. That is, I’m much more likely to warm up then burn on a project or a few hours and call it a day. The pace is entirely differnt than the above. There would be no sense in trouncing myself the first day then having to take four days off just to recover with nothing to do in the mean time. This is a problem that only pro climbers and ditrbags have. If you only get to the crag once in a while, then by all means go for broke. If you plan on being at the crag nearly every day for the next long while you’ll need to be a bit more strategic.
One climbing magazine article illuminates my point by describing different rest and recovery cycles. Immediate recovery ranging from 10 seconds to 30 minutes (between burns on a boulder or redpoint attempts for example), then there is the “day-long stamina” cycle which takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours to recover from (how many hard boulders or routes can you pack into a day’s worth of climbing?).
The following will be most helpful if we think of dirtbagging as an “extended” climbing trip. We can find furhter advice here.
Take rest days. I definitely know the classic "We only have ten days so let's climb until our fingers fall off" approach. This is perfectly fine if you want to do loads of volume below your optimal level and need to take advantage of climbing every single day. Go for it! Just don't expect to go out and claim your hardest send 8th day on, though crazier things have happened.
Nobody becomes a dirtbag so that you can tally boatloads of moderates day in and day out, all day every day. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking your working harder by getting more wrecked with more volume. Which brings us nicely to the next point of the above DPM article:
Listen to your body. If your body says take two rest days in a row, do it. Chances are, it's in shock from the overload of crazy climbing you've been doing since your van landed int he parking lot. You'll likely get more quality climbing if you take a break and do a little sight seeing.
As I mentioned above, I’ve become quite a fan of the
"half days" mentioned in No. 8 of the DPM article. This is also voiced by Training Beta who suggest shorter (< 5 hour) sessions more frequently (than say all day investments). This would be a good time to mention that marathon / cram learning sessions aren’t that efficient over the long haul. Rather, short and easily digestable changes / doses are far more effective (like studying 5 minutes / day versus day-before-test all nighter; or losing a few pounds per month rather than whatever ridiculous tabloid headline you just read).
When it comes to specific trianing plans and real-life applications I found some wisdom here which echoes some earlier sentiments.
...this is a pretty simple schedule to stick to, the problem arises when you're on the road and only have so many days. In this situation, many people go with a two on, one off program that provides some rest, while still packing in a lot of climbing. Throwing in a day of super easy routes could also count as "rest," though it's not as good as simply taking the day off to catch up some emails or go for a short hike.
Two on - one off seems pretty applicable in my neophite dirtbag experience. I’ve also had success in the moths leading up to my full fledged dirtbagger-dom by bouldering twice per week in the gym and hitting up the trad crags on the weekend. That’s 4 days of pretty intense climbing per week. Most importantly though, I think your body will let you know what’s best. A rigid 2:1 ratio doesn’t make sense if the weather was particularly grueling or you happened to hit up all the uber sandbagged problems in the park in one day or if sustained a minor injury. Be smart. Listen to your body. You learn while you’re climbing but only get stronger when you’re resting. Climb often and learn to really try hard. When that stops working, then try it 52 more times.
Finally, No. 10 on the DPM list should inspire dirtbags everywhere:
Believe it or not people actually do get burnt out on climbing. i know! Living on the road or just climbing all the time sounds like the absolute best thing in the world, but sometimes a one-dimensional lifestyle isn't for everyone. Take time to remember why you climb and why you love it. If you find yourself approaching it like a job, take a second and remind yourself that you climb because it makes you happy and it's the best thing in the world.