• ALEX STIGER tombraider

Alex Stiger: How I Trained for Tomb Raider 5.13d

Our main goal with the How I Trained For series is to showcase how actual climbers trained to complete their goals. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. This means everyone has different training needs, and successful training programs reflect these individual concerns. Additionally, goal routes or boulders require a wide range of skills, tactics, and physical adaptions from us to succeed. If you have a specific goal climb, these unique requirements should be reflected in a successful training program.

Today’s second installment in the How I Trained For series features Alex Stiger and her battle with and eventual send of Rifle’s Tomb Raider 5.13d. Alex is a Colorado-based climber and head coach at The Spot climbing gym. When not working with her youth athletes, she is a driven climber out there putting in the work on her projects. What Alex outlines below is not her entire training program, but a two-week training block she used to flip the script from regressing on her project to clipping the chains.

There’s a lot that we can all learn from Alex’s approach to climbing and training. However, we really like this story because we think it does a great job of illustrating just how effective training can be when you can both target your individual weaknesses and work towards a specific goal. We’ll let Alex take it from here…

 

Alex Stiger: How I Trained for Tomb Raider 5.13d

Saturday, June 9th

“I’m ready for a break and I feel weak.”

I said these words to my boyfriend Luke as we were leaving beautiful Rifle Canyon. We had climbed Friday and Saturday and the next weekend was a forced weekend off from our normal weekend warrior schedule as I would be coaching Youth Sport Divisionals. Our last eight weekends had been spent battling our chosen projects. Luke had sent his project, Slice of Life 5.13d, the previous weekend and lots of sends in Rifle were happening! I, however, had regressed…

My goal for the weekend had been to reach a new high point on my project, Tomb Raider 5.13d. However, I had fallen several moves below my current best. Feeling tired and a bit beat down mentally, I made the decision that I would spend the next two weeks away from Tomb Raider, training and resting hard. Following this tune-up, I would try it one more weekend. If things didn’t feel substantially better I was going to put the climb aside until cooler temps in the fall.

Alex Stiger in the thick of it on Tomb Raider 

The Project So Far

Six weekends into projecting Tomb Raider, the best I’d accomplished was a desperate three hang and a high point about a quarter of the way up the climb. The end of June was near, temps were rising, and I didn’t feel hopeful I would get the job done. Tomb Raider would be my first 5.13d and I was feeling like I might have bitten off more than I could chew. The low crux felt heinous, the middle hard, and the top improbable while pumped. The couple times I managed to climb through part of the low crux I fell off super out of breath and out of energy – not even that pumped, just unable to breathe and keep my heart rate reasonable. Being an optimist by nature, I had been putting off any hard training during the last three weeks because I wanted to be fresh for my weekend send goes. However, I didn’t just feel weaker; I definitely was weaker and quickly losing confidence in my fitness.

I felt in a good place to have a short burst of high-intensity training focused on getting back to my prior levels of finger strength, core, and general fitness. Last fall I had used this same tactic of a two-week training/rest break to complete my first 13c, also in Rifle. From that experience, I knew it was important to feel in peak form in order to make the kind of progress on Tomb Raider that I wanted.

My Training

My training over the last three years has focused on consistently increasing my power, finger strength, and core strength. My goal for the two weeks was to get back up to my previously established baseline levels, but not push too hard for personal bests as the last thing I wanted was an injury.

I usually train power with bouldering sessions (indoor or outdoor once per week) with occasional blocks of campusing (once per week for 3-4 weeks on a campus board). When it comes to strength I focus on finger training (repeaters in a half crimp on small edges), core training on a TRX, and shoulder exercises on gymnastic rings. The icing on the cake is usually power endurance, which I address with hard single pitch sport climbs + lots of rest in between attempts (also once per week). As a short climber (5’0″), I can never be too powerful and feel a huge difference, not for the best, when I neglect my power sessions and finger training.

Alex Stiger bouldering for power, hangboarding for finger strength, and working upper body pulling strength with assisted one-arm pull-ups.

When possible I try and separate my climbing and general strength training sessions by at least a couple hours. It’s not always easy to fit in multiple short sessions around my work schedule, but planning it out before the day helps a lot. Having time (1-3 hours) to recover in between climbing and general strength training sessions helps me stay psyched, fit more in, and also recover.

For this two-week block, I not only increased the training load, but I also tried to make good eating decisions (salad for lunch instead of mac and cheese, chicken breast instead of hamburger, a glass of wine instead of bourbon and wine). Here are the specifics of my two-week training tune-up:

Two Week Training Tune-Up

Week One

  • Sunday June 10th: Full rest
  • Monday:
    • Route climbing at Movement Boulder – 1.5 hours (11+, 12, 13a, attempted and failed 13c)
    • 1.5 hour rest
    • 1 attempt max on hard-for-me boulders with the climbing team (about 10 boulders between v6-7)
    • Half crimp repeaters on the Beastmaker 2000 small edges
    • TRX Core work after work at home. 3 sets of the following circuit:
      • Body saws 30 sec
      • Plank 30 sec
      • Mountain climbers 30 sec
      • Plank 30 sec
      • 2 min rest
  • Tuesday: Full rest + stretching
  • Wednesday: Outdoor bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time in over a year.
    • Repeated Tommy’s Arête (v7), tried and failed on Marble (V10), 3 laps on Autobot (v5)
  • Thursday: Rest w/ stretching
  • Friday: Doubles on routes at Movement Boulder (8 routes total, between 11+ and 13-, took at least 10 min rest between sets).
  • Saturday: Full Rest + stretching
  • Sunday: Training session at Longmont Climbing Collective.
    • Open bouldering – 15 minutes
    • Kilterboard – 20 minutes
    • Half crimp repeaters
    • General strength work:
      • TRX core
      • Pistol squat practice
      • Push-ups and pull-ups (3 sets of three one-arm pulls with a resistance band)

The author working on her shoulder stability and core strength with gymnastic ring flys.

Week Two

  • Monday: Full rest
  • Tuesday:
    • Bouldering warm up
    • Try-hard attempts on the Youth Sport Divisional routes at EVO Rock Louisville. The goal was to try hard until failure.
  • Wednesday:
    • AM treadwall session: 4×1 min on a hard circuit.
    • PM RMNP bouldering: Autobot V5 x2, repeat Revenge V6. Didn’t try The Marble because my fingers were too tired from the day before.
  • Thursday: Rest with 20 min of stretching and mobility.
  • Friday: Rest with 20 min of stretching and mobility.

 

Alex Stiger tuning up her core strength with TRX body saws.

 

Saturday, June 23rd

“ I feel good!”

I made this remark as Luke lowered me off my warmup. After we finished our warmups, we headed straight to The Wicked Cave so I could try Tomb Raider.

My first attempt on the project ended early due to a kneebar pad placement error. Whoops…

On the second go, though, I found myself midway through the lower crux, almost to my high point, feeling better than ever, and actually able to breathe! A few more moves and I was through the hardest section of the climb. I settled into an uncomfortable kneebar rest feeling psyched on my new high point. While resting, I decided I might as well try hard and get as high of a new high point as possible.

Clipping the chains, I was shocked.

“Did that just happen?”

Sending Tomb Raider my first day back was a true surprise. However, I think it really highlights the fact that at some point, while projecting, we have to realize when no more progress is being made. Putting off training sessions just means you start to regress further and further. A step back, some focused training on weaknesses and quality rest days can do way more than a few more bolt-to-bolt attempts. My two weeks of training focused on getting back some lost finger strength and core. The result was a surprise send.

About the Author

Alex Stiger lives in Longmont, CO and is currently Head Coach at the Spot Gym. At the age of 16, Alex found climbing by signing up for a climbing wall and rope course while on a chess cruise (called geek cruises) with her family. Immediately after returning back to her hometown in Texas she looked up the local climbing gym and basically moved in. In 2006 Alex moved to Boulder, Co to continue building a lifestyle around climbing. Now a full time climbing coach, Alex spends her weekends in Rifle, Co with her boyfriend Luke and dog Milly, occasional afternoons bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park, and home time playing online speed chess.

TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. Check out our blog, our interviews on the TrainingBeta Podcast, our rock climbing training programs, personal training for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.


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By | 2018-10-03T11:18:08+00:00 October 4th, 2018|6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Jan October 10, 2018 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Well done, Alex! I appreciate the clear, concise explanation of your training plan. I’ve been climbing for 2 years (began at age 59) and live in Florida, which means a LOT of travel for me to get to actual, factual rocks. 😉 My outdoor climbing started this summer in Montana & Idaho, and just got back from climbing in OK and Arkansas. I loved your description of meeting climbing and then basically moving in to a gym! Yep, it’s addicting in the best possible way. Keep up the great work!

  2. Aaron October 8, 2018 at 11:32 am - Reply

    This (like all the other content you guys produce) is awesome!

    Question about the training schedule. I’m intrigued by the fact that Alex splits things up in a day (and even does some things at the gym and some at home).

    What kind of warmup does she do before each session? I guess it depends on the exercises she plans to do for the current session?

    Thanks!

    • Alex Stiger October 9, 2018 at 7:07 am - Reply

      Hello Aaron,

      That is a great question! My new years resolution for 2018 was to actually warm up. I consulted a local PT on what movements/exercises were best to get done before climbing. He said to follow basic warm up principles (increase heart rate, big muscle groups to smaller etc..), dynamic movements for the lower body, plus activation exercises for the mid and lower trapezius as this muscle is often underdeveloped in climbers and not always activated while climbing. I’ve found that last bit regarding the trapezius to be super helpful. To warm up my mid and lower traps I use the crossover symmetry system when at the gym, https://crossoversymmetry.com or our makeshift home/truck system. At the very least I do 3 sets of 5-10 scap push ups and scap pull-ups (there are great youtube videos for both exercises).

      My body warm up looks like this:
      1 min of jumping around/legs (jumping jacks, skiers, high-knees, squats and lunges)
      2 min of Cross Over Symmetry or bands
      1-2 min of Scap Push and Pull-ups
      1-2 min of dynamic leg swings and shoulder/arm circles.

      My climbing warm up is usually 5 min of intermittent traversing before gradually increasing the difficulty. I try to never hangboard if I haven’t already climbed. The occasional times when climbing to warm up before hanging isn’t an option, I make sure to start on really large edges and progressively get smaller. As for the TRX home sessions, I don’t always warm up.. but probably should.

      I hope this helps!

      Alex

  3. Mark Stiger October 4, 2018 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Very well done. I am impressed

    Love Daddy

  4. Erin October 4, 2018 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    This so cool! When I lived in Boulder, I went to the training classes at the Spot that Alex teaches – they were my favorite. I moved to Denver, so I was sadly no longer able to attend her classes. I remember her talking about going to Rifle, and I had no idea she was projecting a 13.d! I saw her last weekend in Rifle and wished I had known that she’d sent it so I could have congratulated her. She has such positive energy, and always has a smile on her face. It’s so great to hear about her specific training routine – so inspiring! Congrats Alex!

    • Alex Stiger October 9, 2018 at 7:12 am - Reply

      Thank you Erin!! So great to see you in Rifle and I hope to see you there again soon (or next year when it is a bit warmer). I might be teaching a few conditioning classes at Spot Denver when it opens. It would be awesome to have you in the class!

      Best wishes,

      Alex

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