The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically affected all of our lives. From a climbing perspective, this has meant that most of us have had to temporarily abandon outdoor climbing and adjust our training as we’ve lost access to the facilities and equipment we are accustomed to.
In my practice as a climbing coach, I’ve recently been helping a lot of my clients pivot to at-home training. With the knowledge that so many people needed help with that, I recently wrote the TrainingBeta At-Home Training Program eBook. I designed this program to give people with minimal equipment a framework for thinking about their training in addition to numerous different exercise options and session samples.
What the At-Home Training Ebook doesn’t explicitly cover, however, are specific strategies for staying motivated to train during these challenging times and in often less than ideal scenarios. The longer we are all unable to return to climbing and training normally, the more important sustaining motivation becomes. What follows are four strategies for staying motivated. I hope they help you keep the psyche. Training during social distancing may not be the most fun way to engage with climbing, but if we can do so with purpose and consistency, there’s no reason we can’t emerge from this period having not only minimized our losses but also having developed new strengths and skills that will serve our training needs moving forward.
1. Keep Your Long-Term Goals in Mind
As the weeks without climbing gyms or the ability to travel for outdoor climbing continue to roll by, it’s becoming easier and easier to forget that this is a temporary situation. This will pass and we will get to go climbing again.
Keeping that in mind is important and one of the easiest ways I’ve found to do so is to focus on upcoming goals. What were your summer climbing plans? If those have had to be scrapped, what about the fall? Your current training may not be that fun, but it’s easier to keep doing it if you know you’re working towards something concrete.
This longer-term goal could be a certain route or boulder outside, it could be a trip to a particular destination, or it could be achieving a certain grade in the gym. What the goal is is up to you. All that matters is that it’s specific and you frame your current training as building towards it. This also doesn’t need to be a new goal. You probably had goals before this. Keep working towards them and know that the work you put in now will pay off later.
To be clear, I’m not saying that you need to tailor your training right now to the demands of a route you want to try in the fall or set your training up in a way that you’ll be ready to send your first day back at the crag. That probably isn’t possible with the equipment you have available. That’s ok. You can still use these longer-term goals as motivational targets to keep you heading in the right direction.
Tip: Make your long-term goals visible. It’s a lot easier to remember the boulder/route/destination you’re training for if there’s a picture of it right in front of your face when you’re hangboarding.
2. Set Shorter-Term Training Goals
Having long-term goals is essential as they can give you a clearer sense of where you are trying to head with your training. Because they are so far off, however, it can be hard to continually sustain motivation for them. The solution is to have shorter-term goals that you can achieve along the way. These kinds of goals are called process goals and can be thought of as stepping stones towards your bigger objectives.
During normal times, these could be easier routes or boulders that sending would help to build towards your ultimate project. With that off the table for the moment, it makes sense to set intermediate training goals. Since chances are you are training differently now than you were before, these goals should be based on what equipment you have available. Most importantly, however, they should be measurable.
It’s easy to say, “My goal is to get stronger fingers.” The problem here, however, is how do you know if you’ve achieved it? A better way to set this kind of goal would be to say, “I want to add 5lbs to my max hang,” or “I want to be able to hang a 10mm edge for 10 seconds.” These process goals don’t just have to relate to finger strength. Learning how to and developing the strength to do a pistol squat is a worthy goal that doesn’t require any equipment. The same can be said for a one-arm pushup or being able to hold a one-arm plank for a minute.
When setting these goals, I urge you to focus on strength-based goals whether they have to do with your fingers, your core, or any of the other major movement patterns. Focusing on maintaining your endurance right now is a trap. Don’t fall into it. Getting stronger is a great stepping stone towards any longer-term goal in climbing.
Tip: No matter what strength-based goals you settle on for yourself, write out a checklist of your training goals and post it somewhere visible. Not only will it be a reminder that you have a plan, but it will feel damn good when you get to check the boxes.
3. Mix Things Up
Routines can become monotonous. If you’re finding it harder and harder to motivate for your workouts, change them up so that they feel new and different. They don’t necessarily even need to be “better.” Sometimes we just need something to be different so that it renews our psyche and motivation.
Please don’t take this as a call to do random different workouts every day. Consistency and repetition are still critically important components of effective training. They are the only way you are going to reach the goals you set in strategies 1 and 2. Do your best to keep playing the long game, and remember that while this pandemic is changing how we train, it isn’t changing the principles behind effective training.
That said, how do you know if something you’ve never tried before isn’t a major opportunity for improvement you’ve been missing? With the current situation putting all our performance goals on hold, there’s never been a better time to experiment. Try a training modality you’ve never used before, even if it’s “just” bodyweight training. Learn new movements. Learn new skills. Doing so will expand your training “toolbox,” and you’ll still have these newly acquired skills at your disposal when things go back to normal.
Time invested in learning a new skill is never a waste.
Tip: If you need ideas for where to start, the TrainingBeta At-Home Training Plan has lots of different options that can be used with little to no equipment. Use the templates in it to design a plan for yourself. Then, pick an end date–a month is a good place to start–and write out the changes you plan to make in your next block. Even if you end up re-evaluating this future plan, at least you’ll have something to aim towards.
4. Find a Training Partner
One of the hardest parts of this pandemic is that we are being asked to isolate ourselves. Humans are social creatures and it’s a lot easier to slack on your training if you think no one is looking.
The good news is even though we can’t all meet up at the gym or crag and socialize, we can take advantage of these social inclinations to hold ourselves accountable in our training.
Legendary strength coach Dan John calls this concept “intentional community” and we can adapt this idea to our current isolation. To do this, simply find a training partner. Whether you commit to following the same training plan, working out at the same time with a Zoom meeting running, or simply check in regularly with someone about each other’s training, it will be a lot easier to motivate to train if you know you’re not in it alone.
Tip: If you have a regular climbing or training partner, share your plan with them, ask them to hold you accountable, and offer to do the same for them. If you don’t have someone to do this with, you can still hold yourself accountable by sharing your training. Something as simple as publically saying that you are going to post a summary of all your workouts on your Instagram story will make it a lot harder to put off training day after day.
Cover Photo: The author training in his kitchen | Photo: Matt Pincus | @mpincus87
About The Author, Matt Pincus
Matt is a boulderer and a sport climber from Jackson, Wyoming. He spends most of his time on the road living out of his van. Matt is responsible for most of the blog posts and social media posts for TrainingBeta and is our head trainer. He’s a seasoned climber and coach who can provide you with a climbing training program from anywhere in the world based on your goals, your abilities, the equipment you have, and any limitations you have with time or injuries.
Train With Matt
Matt will create a custom training program designed to help you target any weaknesses so you can reach your individual goals. Whether you need a 4-week program to get you in shape for an upcoming trip or a 6-month program to make gradual strength gains, he’ll create a weekly schedule of climbing drills, strength exercises, finger strength workouts, and injury prevention exercises tailored to your situation.