Limited Resources to climb? Training Tips to Preserve Climbing Fitness

This question came to me from Facebook and I thought it warranted a permanent response location. Here it is:

Question: Not all of us are fortunate enough to climb everyday, some of us are only able to climb twice a month. For training purposes, how would you tailor your training? Would your rest day be the day before a day at the crag? What advice would you give to us?

Response: Your question leaves a lot of open questions in terms of what devices and means you have for training for climbing. I will assume when you said “not able to climb everyday” that you are limited on a gym as well as the outdoors.

Some of my friends who find themselves barricaded in remote places like do some things to help stay in climbing shape. Staying fit is a priority. I always travel with an assortment of training equipment such as a Theraband, Freestyle Trainer, Grip Stick, gymnastic rings, and/or Metolius Rock Rings. That way I have many options for fingers, core, push and pull exercises — all I need is a load bearing bar and some clearance underneath to make it all work. Be creative here! Keep your overall fitness up to make the most of the days you can climb.

For finger strength:

Finger Rows

Finger Rows: make sure the pinky is on, do not crimp, this is an open hand position

Door frames make great edges to hang from, but in lieu of that, anything you can hang from (pull-up bar like, be sure that it’s safe to hang from), you can train 4-fingers, 3-fingers, 2-fingers, 1-finger dead-hangs and pull-ups. This will help with hand and tendon strength, though you will want to devote time to finger tip hangs if you continually find yourself devoid of ‘door jam’ type edges. Also, instead of wrapping your hands around a bar for a pull-up, try to use just the edge to hang and do hangs with an open hand grip (no thumb).

Another trick, if you have a weight with a rim on it, the rim can act as an edge. Put a runner(sling) through the bar hole on the weight and secure it over your pull-up contraption or some other load bearing structure and do finger hangs from that. You can also use the weight (lighter than you imagine) to close grip your fingers and train the tendons that way. This would require you start with your fingers extended, arm at your side and just squeeze the fingers closed, gently release (aim for lighter weight, higher reps).  Use the weight for fingertip rows, to continue to stress the tendons. Be sure to get all 4 fingers on the weight, do not engage the thumb.

For foot strength:
calfRaise pt1

Calf Raise, start low heels (go as low as you can) – do both legs at the same time, or alternate legs

calfRaise pt2

Finish the calf raise on toes, pause and then lower to low heels: repeat 15 to 20 times.

You might not think this, but your feet need training, too. Travel with a pair of climbing shoes. Stairs are perfect for this exercise. Since you are without climbing holds, you need to make the stairs act like jugs and small edges. If you can find a building structure or ramp that provides you some slab ‘climbing’ use that, too. Some things you can do so your feet retain strength are the following (mix things up but try to do something in the shoes for at least 30 minutes a day):

1. spend time in the shoes (start by walking around in them)
2. do calf raises on the stairs starting from low heels to toe tips (both legs or one-legged (alternate legs))
3. walk up and down the stairs on the toes of the shoe
4. if your shoes are not painful, try to push up from toes to generate a hop (your feet leave the ground) (alt feet, so spring up from one foot, then the other)
5.  if you have something to hang from that is near a wall such that you can hang and push your toes (in the shoes) against the wall to create friction and body tension (best if there is something there to latch onto), then this has the bonus of working your core and getting body tension from arms through to the toes
Finally, there is nothing better for training climbing than climbing so when the opportunity does arise, jump to it and get out there and climb!

Hope this helps.

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Breaking Climbing Plateaus and Mental Barriers

Audrey Little Si

Audrey climbing Hanging Out to Dry 5.12b out at Little Si, WA in 2006.
Photo by Mike Doyle

When I wanted to take my climbing to another level, the first thing I did was make a mental statement to myself to “Lead my Ability!” This was a frightening proposition but a step that I wanted to take to discover what my potential with climbing could really be. As soon as I shifted my mental context, I found the local gym offering a training for climbing course for Adults. Having been envious of the kids programs, longing for attention like that for myself, I signed up without hesitation. Finally! I would learn the secrets to getting stronger for climbing.

That was back in 2003 when I would lead 5.10a/b and top rope up to hard 5.11. The coach for the “A-Team” was Tyson Schoene, head coach of the Vertical World Youth climbing team, whom have won many individual youth titles and team podiums over the years. After the first year of climbing training, I onsighted on lead (climbed to the top without any foresight or information of the climb, putting the rope up for myself and others) my first 5.12a. That was a big step for myself in climbing and one that has set me on a continued journey to discovering my potential even further today.

Audrey Lost Horizons

Audrey on Lost Horizons (5.14b) at Little Si, WA in 2014.
Photo by Luke Humphrey

I continue to train myself and share my insights and learnings through clinics for gyms and events. The next clinic I’ll be at will be the Red Rock Rendezvous end of March. Find me there to ask me how you can unlock your own potential or take a clinic with me during the festival.  Here’s a testimonial from a girl I worked with a few years ago:

“When I met Audrey, my friends had been training with her and were clearly climbing consistently stronger than I had seen before.  They decided their goal was to lead 5.11’s.  Only having led up to 5.10a myself, I just laughed, “knowing” I couldn’t possibly do that, but decided to join in with the training. Before the three months was up, I had already done my first two 5.11s. Now, I am consistently approaching these grades and finding progress coming quickly. Overall, I feel stronger, more confident, and have better climbing intuition. I’m excited to be breaking into this new level and attribute the success to the training. Thank you, Audrey!”

Hearing about the successes of others and knowing the hard work that goes into seeing these types of pay-offs is inspirational.  They say half the battle [to success] is showing up. Well, this girl showed up and then some!  Her friends are now calling her the ‘rope gun,’ where the rope gun is implied to be the strongest of the group and the one who is most capable to set ropes on routes that may be too challenging for others. What an awesome place to be!  Where do you see yourself going?

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Start the conversation: CS credit for college enrollment

 Touch Develop

A student participates in the Touch Develop part of the Microsoft application developer day hosted on the main Microsoft campus and open to Puget Sound TEALS participants

I took Computer Science in High School back before computers became a trendy field, but during an age where kids were addicted to computer games, whether it was Nintendo or at the Arcade. Very few people actually had home computers. I certainly didn’t. I learned Turbo Pascal and completed the course with an understanding of pointers and Linked Lists. It did not count towards a high school graduation or college entrance requirement. When I went off to University, I was ahead of everyone in my Introduction to Computer Science class. I enrolled in this course, simply because it was offered and I seemed to think I knew a few things about Computers by that point. Let’s face it, first year in University and getting an easy ‘A’ seemed like the right way to start off. It wasn’t long before I was approached to become a TA for the course, which I did for 2 years. I enjoyed working on computers and learning different coding languages. I learned to program in Assembly and ‘C’ early on and continued to focus my studies on Algorithms, Data Structures and Database systems. It wasn’t until my final year that I studied C++ and learned about object oriented programming. With my computer skills setting me up ahead of many of my classmates and my new connections in the computer science department, it became a no-brainer to continue to explore the field and eventually major in it. I can’t say that I knew what I was doing when I made this decision, initially or that I knew where it would take me all these years later, but I’m really glad fate or luck was on my side with this choice.

Jeremy Moore, World of Opportunities

Jeremy Moore, World of Opportunities

I didn’t have a lot of guidance overseeing my career or studies. I’m not sure what career path my dad would have liked to have seen me on, but in High School he made sure I took a typing class. I resented the notion that I might ever only achieve being an administrator or receptionist with this skill and typed poetry instead of doing the typing exercises. I was really bored in that class. In hindsight, I have to thank him for his intuition because my typing skills are superb these days and since I practically live tethered to a computer (when I’m not tethered to a cord on a rock face somewhere), I couldn’t imagine not knowing how to type. J A lot seems to have changed and a lot seems to have remained the same from back in those days. One noticeable thing is that Computer Science curriculum in high schools seem to come and go in waves. My alum in Ohio lost that program not long after I graduated. I lost track of what was happening with CS in schools, let alone in University, after I stopped being recruited to recruit would be new hires with CS degrees. Then, I stumbled on this program called TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools). They were promoting the resurgence of computer science in high schools with an ambitious goal to get a curriculum going in every High School in America. I lobbied for a pilot, remote teaching effort in rural Ky that brought Intro and AP CS to Lee County High School and started spilling out into other counties until Kentucky State Board of Education is now trying to figure out how to make it a curriculum in every high school in the State. And, they are not alone. Chicago’s got some impressive agenda underway, Washington State has it’s own undertaking. It’s another resurgence, but one that is likely and I am hopeful will stick around longer. Why is this important? Why should you care?

LaShanda demo

A Senior demos one of her CS projects for the Senator. Photo by Luke Allen Humphrey

First, our U.S bureau of Labor Statistics touts that we are growing a deficit of engineers in this country (15% faster than average). Computer Science alone will see around 1.5 million CS-related jobs available by 2018 with only 29% of graduating students in the field of Computer Science to fill those positions. (TEALS) Computers are a huge part of our infrastructure today and will continue to play important and pivotal roles in the future. From farm modeling, cinema, mobile applications, vehicles to a wide variety of consumer products (have you seen the clothes that sensor how you train?). Computers are not going anywhere and like I suggest to students at career talks, which side of technology would you like to be on? The one that influences what’s important to you or the one that allows others to make those choices on your behalf, whether you like them or not. Learning how to manipulate a computer is a powerful thing. I guarantee that if we (the United States) don’t step up to meet this challenge, other countries will be taking our jobs. Next, just because you take a computer class does not mean you have to be a computer scientist. There are many careers that leverage that skill in different ways from graphics design, scripting for custom manipulation or reporting of data, technical writing, and much, much more…What do you want to do with your life? I guarantee computers can play a part. They design the equipment you might use, analyze motion, run comparative analysis, predict weather, etc. The future is in our youth’s hands, if we enable them to take advantage of this great tool. We’ve got the ball rolling, now what?

Simple Mario illustration of compute concepts

Simple Mario illustration of compute concepts

Even if we get this curriculum into high schools, there is the ever demanding list of requirements students must meet to graduate or be considered for acceptance into a college or University. As a student in this day and age, I see that they are completely overwhelmed with school demands that taking electives that don’t count towards these requirements is a luxury they can’t afford. They have no time for this, which means students who would take a CS class might reconsider because it doesn’t help them graduate or get into college. With demands on their time, they will tend to prioritize only those classes that help them in this regard. If students don’t prioritize the course, then the offering doesn’t see enrollments, which means the school can hardly justify funding it no matter how compelling. Therefore, we need to change the way CS matters, but how??

Let’s consider a few options:

  • If we make CS a requirement we are forcing all students to take it, like a basic math or English requirement. I don’t think that’s really fair, even though I am biased that all students would benefit from the class. Therefore, the likelihood that CS will ever become a standalone graduation or college entrance requirement is really slim.
  • What about making CS count towards a math, science or other subject? This would encourage enrollments and satisfy a graduation requirement, but at the sacrifice of what? Student schedules are already tight, but this seems to be the best approach. Now, is CS closer to a math, science or foreign language (Washington House bill 1445)? It’s really none of the above. It does teach a universal language that computers speak, which is super handy in today’s technology world. It does leverage mathematical concepts to teach the constructs of building programs and since computers only do what you tell it to do, there’s a lot of analytical thinking, problem solving and logic that gets developed by going through these exercises. I can’t make an argument for science since I want to steer clear of going down this other ‘pathway…’
  • Make CS a pathway or vocational trade so the school and the student benefit. This seems nice on the surface, school gets credit for training students in a field making them ready for a job straight out of high school, but that isn’t the same as preparing them to go to college to further pursue and develop these skills making them hirable by prestigious companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. These companies are looking for a minimum BA/BS with a preference for computer science degrees. Also, this offering alienates the common, curious student who would benefit from taking a class but is not interested in pursuing it further after high school.
Robotics at UW

Robotics demonstration at University of Washington

We’ve been focusing on the high school aspect, but what about the Universities? How can they contribute to help CS matter in high school?

  • If CS gets categorized into a field that is one of the essential requirements for getting into college, then we are there! But what are our options? Not coincidentally, high schools structure their graduation requirements around college entrance requirements. Therefore we need both educational institutions onboard with a plan in order to facilitate a change.

The initial conversation sparked by the Washington House Committee meeting February 4 asked post-secondary institutions if they would engage in conversation to see what possibilities could exist to get CS to count towards an entry requirement. The pure motion to consider Computer Science as a foreign language caused quite the defense. Let me elaborate a little more on why this proposal seems to be the most fitting to pursue. We have already seen that CS doesn’t really fit in today’s curriculum buckets like math, science, physical education, foreign language, etc. but people have put some thought into why, with no change to existing graduation or college entrance requirements, considering CS as a foreign language makes sense. Here’s what I think is going on

  • To find a new graduation requirement scheme and college enrollment requirement equivalent will take much longer than bucketing the class into an existing requirement.
  • There is a sense of urgency here. These programs have momentum now, but if enrollments start to drop and the money and corporate support starts to dry up, schools will no longer be able to justify offering the class. We have seen this repeated over time since I was in High School.
  • Why foreign language? There is a statistic that 25% of students who study a foreign language in high school actually retain and use that language well into adulthood. There is an argument to be made for considering foreign language development when kids are most susceptible, which would be in grade school, not high school. Who knows if that shift will ever occur (to make foreign language a requirement for high school, say), but in the meantime, the kids who are most curious about computers will opt for it as their ‘language’ requirement. Learning Computer Science is more demanding than learning a foreign language skill, and I say that not to undermine the foreign language (after all, I speak 4 different languages to varying degrees and the language I speak fluently next to English was not the language I learned in high school), but to underscore that students will not flock to this class simply because it’s offered. There will remain many more students who choose Spanish, French, German, etc to CS.

People who feel threatened by this proposal need to think carefully about what is at stake. I would love for there to be more time in the day for students to take advantage of many, many different subjects, but it’s not possible. Computers is an area of study that warrants this discussion simply because, fundamentally, it permeates our lives. Our world doesn’t function without them. Therefore, if we want to continue to innovate with technology and lead the way for future generations, we need our institutions to collaborate and support this course of study as a credit option. This in turn will provide influence that will spark more enrollments for Computer Science in our schools today. If you don’t agree, get involved. Let’s get the conversation started. How would you solve this problem?

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A little confidence goes a long way…

Audrey World Cup 2011

Audrey Sniezek competing in a World Cup in Munich 2011

I remember one day back when I started competing (forced to compete in the open category, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise and a whole other story). I was intimidated, lacked confidence, had never put myself to the test amongst the ‘best’ and I believed I didn’t measure up. I was down talking my ability, articulating what I really believed about myself at the time and overheard a few other (whom I perceived to be strong) girls with similar expressions.

It was at that moment a light went off in my brain and I asked the girl I was talking to (it happened to be Vikki Weldon): ‘do all of the girls say things like this before a comp?’ She smiled and nodded with a yes. It had occurred to me that I had never actually heard Vikki say any of these things and she went on to win the event and more events.

This moment made it’s imprint on me and ever since I try to catch myself and regardless if I think I have a valid reason to downplay or ‘set expectations’ about my ability, I try to stop myself, smile and say ‘thank you’ or join in the fun giving my best with no excuses.

I’m glad to see an article like this one circulating. I think more women need to hear the message:

  • It’s ok to be you
  • It’s ok to have off days and not have to apologize for it
  • It’s ok to not set expectations about your perceived performance because you never know how a day will really turn out– bad days sometimes yield amazing things
  • It’s ok to give your best and not see the outcome you were expecting, lessons come in all forms and trying is success
  • It’s ok to give your best and out perform someone else, there’s simply no reason to downplay your skills. If the person can’t handle it, find someone else who can.

Since that time, I have represented the US National team and competed in World Cups for Bouldering and Lead in the US and Abroad, which means I have put myself in the lineup with the likes of Anna Stöhr, Alex Puccio, Emily Harrington, Sasha DiGuilian, Alex Johnson, and more. I had good competition days and not so good competition days. I did the best I could with what I knew and my ability at the time and the experience made me an overall better climber.

Put yourself out there, no excuses and surprise yourself with what comes back in return.

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Gadget review: Garmin Vivofit

Vivofit

Garmin Vivofit, red

I recently tried Garmin’s Vivofit as a way to track my general daily activity levels and see if the information would be beneficial for someone who was not as active as myself. I could never use ‘just a pedometer’ but a fitness activity tracker sounded more  interesting. Unfortunately, I returned the device and am on the hunt for something more….

First off, I already have a fitness monitor and use it regularly to track my runs and ‘other activities’ but the bulky frames usually deter me from wearing them whenever I am climbing or training for climbing. This is a bummer, but what would the information tell me, anyway? Like the Vivofit, there is a place and a purpose for the use of the device. Running, cycling, hiking data is straight forward, but measure a push-up or a pull-up. What can you determine about energy output or difficulty of the exercise by a step?

Not to dig into that matter deeply in this post, but I believe there are some data points that an athlete (pro, amateur or casual) should have at their fingertips, ok, on their wrist. The Vivofit was attractive to me, not just by the look, but by the variable goal algorithm that determines your current goal based on past accomplishments –an adaptive way to train, that was alluring.

I’m an overachiever, therefore I could see how this could be motivating. However, I found myself discounting the goal and not paying attention to it simply because I couldn’t understand how this device determined steps or activity. If I’ve done some circuit training, the device might see my steps as lower than if I went for a run. Further, when I went for a run, the total number of steps  didn’t equate to the 2000 steps per mile rule.

This coupled with my difficulties getting sync to work with my desktop and the unavailability (for days on end) of the desktop app–to the point I stopped bothering to try and set it up (further complicated with the initial trouble getting the phone app to work)– affirmed my notion that this device is not one for the person for which I intended. If I was frustrated and having this much trouble, what would it be like for them?

The one question that keeps cropping up in my mind is how to get a sleek looking watch like this that means something. That I can wear and get basic data all the time, and maybe it is suitable for climbing or my training for climbing. If I want to go out and do something hard core, I’ll put the beast monitor on. What I want to track most regularly is my heart rate (HR), but I don’t want to wear a heart rate monitor all day every day. It’s that simple.

For instance, I don’t need a super accurate HR reading for sleeping, just consistency in determining the number so I can track it over time. The number one way to identify overtraining and track recovery is by HR. Give me this in a sleek looking wrist device without reliance on a HR monitor strap with your other features, a useful web app, easy syncing to device and desktop and I’m in!

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Back to Fitness, no more excuses…

back to training

Back To Training!

It’s a new year and a fresh start to a new you. What will 2015 be about? Have you taken the time to think about it?

Everyone talks about goals, which, to me, is an overloaded word. Sometimes goals can feel weighty, lofty, or even absurd. They start off ambitious with good intentions but without an approachable plan can often lead to nothing.

I’m the type of person that appreciates a routine, a plan, but more importantly, I enjoy  progress and achievement. Regardless if you are like me or not, I’m pretty sure you would enjoy seeing yourself improve and achieve some things, too. Here are 3 simple tools to consider as you go forward in this new year, to begin the process of creating your better self.

Vision

My long term vision, created back in 1998.

1. Create your vision, if you don’t already have one , for your life.

Be ambitious, be bold, be fun, be crazy, be real, whatever it takes to feel like the vision you hold is really the one you want to create and live. I suggest some real soul searching and time with yourself to fully develop and have fun with this. If you already have a vision, check in with yourself that it still holds true, modify if or as necessary.

Kalymnos climbing

Audrey trying some moves on O Draconian Devil (5.14a/8b+) in Kalymnos, Greece.
Photo by Luke Allen Humphrey

2. What can you do this year that will get you closer to living the life you envision?

Ever heard the phrase “how do you eat an elephant?” That’s right, “one bite at a time.” Likewise with your vision, trim it back to something achievable, something to aim for in this one year.

Badge3. Answer the questions, Why? and How?

Why is this important to you? How will you get started?

Creating visions and setting goals, realistic or otherwise, don’t do anyone any good unless you understand ‘why’ you want to fulfill them. This becomes your motivation and fuel, your driving factor that will help you get started or push yourself further. And, when things get tough or setbacks occur, this becomes your faith, your beacon, your hope. Where you start depends on where you are and where you want to go.

You know yourself better than anyone. Now, no more excuses. Don’t let yourself get in the way of creating a better you, today.

What do you want to achieve this year? How will you get started?

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Audrey’s brief year of thanks, Merry Christmas!

remembering loved ones

Remembering loved ones

This year I said farewell to a number of loved ones; it was a strong reminder that life is short. While celebrating the lives of these special people, I reconnected with others and was thankful for all of the people in my life who have and continue to inspire me, teach me the value of today and encourage me to live to the fullest despite challenges.

I’m proud of the accomplishments achieved working with a school and local establishments in Eastern Kentucky to make a Computer Science program sustainable as well as help with expansion and economic development using technology as part of Ky’s SOAR initiative. This included speaking at various events and hosting Senator McConnell at the school and sharing the impact of this work and the challenges remaining with him.

Senator McConnel visit

Senator McConnell visits Lee County High School in Kentucky

For a second year in a row I was able to bring a group of KY students to Washington for a job shadow opportunity. They visited Facebook, Google and spent quality time with other like-minded students at Microsoft.

TEALS AP CS Class

TEALS Lee County High School AP CS Class from Beattyville, Ky visit Seattle, WA

I am super proud of all of the hard work these students have put in. I am especially thankful to Microsoft for creating such a program, the school for taking the program on and making it fit into their curriculum and for the volunteers who supported me in making these experiences possible. I will miss having the Microsoft name behind me as I go forward to continue the work I began there.

I was laid off for the first time in my life this summer. While that might seem like a not-so-positive thing, I saw it as a forcing function to make some changes I’ve been needing to make for a while. One of them was the need to take time to travel, decompress and climb.

half marathon

Audrey running her first half marathon.
Summerlin, Las Vegas, Nevada

Climbing continues to go well for me and I’m training for next year’s objectives. I was most excited to complete a climbing project in Seattle (Lost Horizons, 5.14b); summit Kilimanjaro with Luke in Africa,  which included a safari and time in local villages; and spend some time climbing around Europe, visiting friends and making new ones. I was able to reconnect with family in Poland, and visit my ancestors homeland, once again. Witnessing how other cultures live and seeing the differences with life in America, including witnessing hardships firsthand,have reminded me how privileged I have it. When my family immigrated, this was what they wanted for us and I will forever be grateful that this is the life I get to live while I am here.

Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making my year such a memorable experience. I look forward to more good times in the New Year!

XOXO, Audrey

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Lost Horizons

Barely making the big move. Audrey sending her second 5.14b. Luke captures the send on camera.

Audrey climbing

Audrey climbing Serene 7c (5.12d) in Kalymnos, Greece Photo by Matt Segal

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