How to Prepare for Climbing Competitions

The goal is to "peak" your performance level on the day of the competition. To do this you should begin specific preparation activities about two-months prior to the event. In addition to your routine training you must begin targeting specific muscle systems (aerobic, anaerobic) and specific muscle groups for the type of climbing. Use good nutrition in combination with a specific targeted training plan to maximize your advantage. The following is general guidelines. You should consult a sports trainer or sports nutritionist for specific training for your situation.

Two Months Prior. Target your workout with a routine that targets the type of climbing featured in the competition. What do you expect the type of climbing for the competition to feature? Will the competition feature?... overhanging, negative sloping and long-reach moves = Strength Training; "dynos", speed climbing = Burst / Explosive Power Training; high or long runs requiring continuous climbing for over five minutes = Endurance Training; "lock-off", long leads requiring difficult clipping, sustained power without burnout plus long routes and duration of climb = Strength-Endurance Training. After you have defined the type of training you need, begin a specific training plan that focuses on this training. See Training Plans for more information.

Nutrition. You should always avoid food fats, but it is even more important during the two months prior to a competition. Normal training diets should be high in carbohydrate, low in fat and protein. If your carbohydrate does not make up at least 60% of your daily calories, you may not be replenishing your liver and muscle glycogen stores and your glycogen levels will drop below normal. If you find you are not able to train consistently on a day-to-day basis, this may be a sign of glycogen depletion. To prevent this condition you need to consume approximately eight to nine grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight every day. Carbohydrate can be breads, pasta, potatoes, or in the form of fruits, sweets, etc.

One Week Prior. Discontinue strenuous exercise and begin moderate aerobic activity and stretching. Allow your muscles to completely recover. Your moderate aerobic activity should be something that does not use your "climbing muscles". (Of course you can't completely avoid using these muscles). Some good low aerobic activities are walking, bicycle riding, moderate swimming, ping pong, golf. These activities will stimulate blood circulation while target muscles are recovering.

Nutrition. Eat a high carbohydrate diet and reduce protein and fat intake, get at least 8 hours of sleep and drink plenty of water. Avoid fat, keep your protein intake low and your carbohydrate intake high. Continue to eat a normal volume of food - this is the wrong time to diet! Reducing carbohydrates before a climbing competition will cause your endurance to drop by almost half. The same is true with water. Muscles lose up to 25% of their contractile strength when dehydrated. Cutting back on food or water the day before only uses your stored glycogen (reduces endurance) or causes dehydration (reduces strength).

Three Days Prior. Do not exercise but continue to stretch. Some endurance athletes completely eliminate protein and fat during this period. This is called "Carbohydrate Loading". The purpose of loading carbs is to increase amount of glycogen stored in the liver and muscles and prevent the onset of fatigue during endurance events. During the one-week prior to an event, you should follow a normal diet for the first four days. During the remaining three days begin a high carbohydrate diet. Some endurance athletes increase carbohydrate intake to around10 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, which is about 70% of your dietary kilocalories during the two to three days before an event.

The Morning of a Competition. Eat a carbohydrate breakfast. Avoid fat and protein altogether for breakfast. Protein and certainly fat will not be any value this close to the competition. Carbohydrates readily convert to energy, and that is what you need.

In summary. Climbing competitions have become extremely competitive. It is nearly impossible to go from a difficulty competition that requires endurance to a bouldering competition that requires strength and do well at both. The best competitors in every sport work a fine balance between strength, endurance, nutrition, sleep, sports psychology to maximize their competitiveness. To win consistently you need to target your training and nutrition before each competition.

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