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The Nerdy Joy of Tracking Your Training

Original Post
Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,118

I posted this over on the Rock Prodigy/Rock Climber's Training Manual forum, but figured I would share here too.

First, an endorsement of the Rock Climber’s Training manual:
I had been stuck at 5.10 for about a year. Try as I may, the progression was not happening. Now after completing my first round of training, I have onsighted 1 5.11a, redpointed 2 5.11a’s, 1 5.11c, worked within reach a 5.12a, and onsighted an alpine 5.10b which felt like 5.11 with the pack weight and thin air!

My goals are mostly hard trad, with some sport thrown in for good measure. Crack technique is extremely important to my end-goal, Fallen Arches (5.13a) in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT. There are two cruxes: a rattly-fingers 5.12 portion and a V6(ish) boulder problem halfway through.

To be honest, I want to climb harder because I hate waiting in lines for climbs. The lines drastically disappear the more difficult the route gets!

I’m an aerospace engineer. This means that I live in Excel (and love it there). All other benefits of the Rock Climber’s Training Manual aside, the most inspiring part of it was showing me how to track my training and put it in chart format. In the following paragraphs, I will present my current methods with charts. Of course, I’m open to input. Also keep in mind that several of the plots (such as the hangboard) project workouts into the future as things to strive for.

Base Fitness:
Unfortunately, I have yet to determine a way to track this one. The routes at my gym change constantly and there’s no way to consistently keep track except the amount of forearm burn.

Strength (Hangboard):
The raw data:

The first 8 workouts were on the 10 second hang, 5 second rest. The remaining workouts are on the 7 second hang, 3 second rest. Grey cells denote workouts yet to happen. I’ll explain the volume calculation in a moment.

The next plot shows the strength progression (including the planned progression):

The weight added and planned final values were based on how my fingers felt at the end of the last session. I found the 2-finger pocket to particularly painful and one that should be ramped up slowly.

Now, comparing whole workouts to “volume”:

Note that by decreasing my TUT, the volume has decreased. The formula is essentially the sum of the workouts (6 total) where the volume of each individual workout is the equivalent of my body weight plus any added weight (or subtracted) multiplied by the time under tension. I’m currently on the “basic” hangboard regimen with 6 hangs per set at the same weight.

We’ll see how this season’s hangboard progresses. I’m debating between adding a 7th grip, a 7th hang for each set, or ramping up weight.

Power (Campus Board):
Again, I’ve had to compensate for my gym. I do not have route setting privileges and many of the routes are insanely hard for multiple moves or too easy. Many holds rely on pinches (which I find I have a decent amount of strength in anyway). Therefore, I’ll be sticking to the campus board for the time being.

The raw data for the campus board is very long in Excel. Basically, I assign the following intensities to these workouts:
Workout Intensity

And the following intensities to the rungs:

The volume is then calculated by multiplying the rung intensity by the workout intensity by the number of moves (a ladder with 8 moves on the large rungs would be 1*1*8), and then summing it across 4 sets. I currently have to stop at 4 sets to not damage the fingers. Still getting stronger!

Campus board setup.

Campus board volume workout. Note that workout 6 is “in the future” and is part of my planning.

Power-endurance proved to be another interesting one to analyze. I mixed up this routing by doing LBCs and outdoor Route Intervals. I tracked pace and interval length. Familiarity with the routes facilitated faster intervals, although I know it would have been better to maintain a single pace.

Note also that for the outdoor route intervals, I could only throw down 3 sets. My outdoor route of choice was an overhanging jug haul at 5.11c where every move was a big throw.

Long-Term Planning:
So where do you go with this tracking? Which goals do you have in mind? When do you want your peaks to happen?

The first step for me was to identify when I wanted my peaks. My spring and fall peaks will be idea, although my winter peak (occurring in mid-January) will be hard to utilize. That’s fine. Here is my long-term plan as far as cycles are concerned:

This is good from a scheduling perspective. But as the Andersons pointed out so well in their opening chapters, you need to have goals. I tossed this off initially. Upon further thought and reflection, I added in goals and it has helped me focus better. So do it! Here is the long term goal, assuming one-letter grade progression per season. This may be ambitious, but the goals (I think) are reasonable.

Route Tracking:
Route tracking is also very important and serves as a great motivator. Here’s a breakdown of my current 2014 season:

I have found plotting workouts not only fun, but extremely helpful in my training. As I enter my second season of training, I look forward to climbing harder and tracking it in graphical ways. I hope this has given some of you ideas on plotting your training and climbing, and most importantly, given you motivation to train better!
NC Rock Climber · · The Oven, AKA Phoenix · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 60

HOLY SHIT! You are serious about tracking your training. I thought I was doing well with a simple spreadsheet and a few notes about what I do in each training session. After seeing your work, I feel like a slacker. Good on you! That is some strong work!

Ryan Watts · · Bishop, CA · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 25

First of all, whoa, that is pretty awesome.

Second, you mentioned hard trad / cracks being a big part of your goals -- how helpful do you feel these workouts are for that? It seems to me that hangboarding, campusing, etc are mostly targeted for face climbing (although there would probably be some transfer).

I saw a homemade crack hangboard once but how useful that is again idk.

Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,118

Right, so regarding those goal climbs.

There's another element to the training that's not included in these plots/formal training plan, and that's trips to Indian Creek.

With pure crack technique, you're right, the training probably would not help as much. The goal climbs, however, rely on cracks for protection but are usually a mix of crack climbing, face climbing, and slab technique.

While no expert on training, I will go so far as to say as the training DOES in fact help with these. By increasing strength, you also increase your endurance. Some cracks also climb like face climbs (think narrow cracks or shallow cracks).

Once you have the crack technique nailed (size dependent), the rest comes down to endurance, body balance, and other techniques. The cracks at Indian Creek are unique in their consistent purity of style (helps refine technique). But all my goal routes are either slanting, intermittent cracks, overhanging, etc.

Crack hangboards are "fun," (built one at one point), but I don't think it helped much at all.

Rajiv Ayyangar · · Portland, ME · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 210

Love it! I'm in data science, and I agree there is a certain satisfaction to tracking your training and performance. Even though the data omit most profound aspects of climbing - friends, battles, memories - I feel like they give me a chance to indulge in a little numerical narcissism, to add a little extra fuel to the psyche fire.

These are a bit out of date, but here's my hangboard progression. I do 1-rep, 3-rep, and 5-rep workouts (a la robotclimbing) and I use Brzycki to estimate the 1-rep-max equivalent. Board is the Beastmaker 2000. Grip: small crimps.

Hangboard Progression

At the first peak, around July, I redpointed a 13b/c project. At the second peak, I had my best month of bouldering ever, breaking new grades from v7 to v10.

Here's a picture from a post I did on visualizing my route climbing progression from 2009-2013:

Here's the post: progression: the numbers
Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,118

Rajiv, I really like the way you plot out your progression comparing year to year. I might have to incorporate that format.

Steven Shimizu · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 15

If you're interested in tracking simple route progression for indoor climbing, you can check out, which I created to track my own workouts. You can easily specify:
-ascent type (attempt, redpoint, flash, onsight)
-climbing type (bouldering, toprope, lead)
-number of reps

It has plots showing progression over time and climb distributions, and it also has distributions for the entire site so you can see where you fall on the curve relative to other climbers.

Distribution of boulder problems (redpoint or better)

Bouldering progression over time

A histogram of many climbers and their highest redpoint ability.

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 521

This all looks like a terrible bore to me, but I'm glad you're having fun with it.

Chris Rice · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 50

Very impressive - but I'm stuck at adding a column of numbers with the auto sum feature in Excel :)

Dan Vinson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 40


Impressive tracking!

I answered all my major questions by re-reading.

Are you doing any additional training? ie. weightlifting, running, high-intensity.

Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,118

So, near the beginning of the cycle (first 10-ish weeks of a 17 week cycle) I will do the Stairmaster for 20 minutes, twice a week, and about as hard as I can go.

I will do basic (maintenance) opposition weight lifting and significant ab workouts on most non-climbing days. Except for this week...I've had a hard time getting the motivation to do much of anything.

sachimcfarland · · Edenbridge, Kent · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 0

Hi Charlie,

I signed up to the forum all the way from England specifically to ask this, would you be willing to consider sharing some of your formulas for the graphs? As someone who just plain sucks at graphing in Excel etc this would be a godsend, the goal progression one in particular interests me a lot. Regardless, really inspired by your dedication to tracking your training. I record everything I do, including indoor routes and boulder problems and have been for the last year or so, but struggle with how to express that data meaningfully.

P.s a good way to track your base fitness workouts/phase might be to assign points by the rating of the climbs completed, e.g. .10a is worth 100 points, 10b 200 (I have no idea of the American grading system), and so on, and then track your progress by volume and difficulty of of climbs completed, as expressed by the points system. If all other things remain equal, e.g. length of sessions/sets/rests, then you should be able to track your progression?


Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,118


Send me a PM and I'll e-mail you my tracking sheets. I have no problem sharing those! Hopefully the Excel wizardry isn't too convoluted.

That's an interesting proposal to track base fitness. However, at my gym, I end up traversing more than climbing routes, and mostly take whatever part of the wall is open to avoid people. I've also begun to throw in footwork drills and dynamic movement drills to mix it up.

I think the volume metric would be beneficial in the case of a treadwall. Too much variability in traversing.

Currently, I'm gauging the success of my base fitness workouts by how long the forearms burn afterwards. All night long seems to be an indicator!

sachimcfarland · · Edenbridge, Kent · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 0

Thanks alot Charlie, I'll send you a PM

It sounds like this is basically what you are doing but I guess you could give your base fitness sessions a "perceived level of effort" score, as you get fitter and stronger if the PLE score remains consistent then it stands to reason you will be using harder holds/moves. The Base fitness phase seems to be be the least quantifiable and most subjective in regards to data. My BF phase is either top-roping a ton of routes (so i at least have the record of the routes) or doing huge numbers of boulder problems, e.g. 40 or 50 in an hour or two.

I remember the Andersons saying time under tension was the key metric, so theretically 2x 30 minute traverses in a climbing session would be the same as 10 x 6 top rope routes with minimal rest

Keep training hard! :)

jonathan.lipkin · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 70

I've just finished week three of strength/hangboard of the anderson training plan. They recommend two full days of rest (excluding some light ARC and aerobic exercise) between hangboard workouts. Have you followed this strictly? Without getting up to go look at the book, I think there are another three weeks or so of just hangbaording. Pretty dull...

I think some outdoor milage on weekends.

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
jonathan.lipkin wrote: Without getting up to go look at the book, I think there are another three weeks or so of just hangbaording. Pretty dull...
There's a lot to be said about structured training. RPTM is a good starting point & you should probably stick to it for while until you are more attuned to the effects of training.

I've been training relatively unstructured lately (and have never trained as structured as RPTM), but I usually have a pretty clear purpose for each training session (and I have an equally motivated & honest training partner). It's been working just fine. In the last few years since I've switched my climbing mentality from "just climbing" to training oriented, I've been able to break my previous plateau and progressed at >= 1 letter grade/year, and it hasn't slowed down.

Tracking micro details of training works for some folks. I think I have a pretty good sense of my training effort w/o necessarily counting time/sets. And I have developed the confidence that my solid effort for each session will help w/o necessarily tracking small progresses. IMO, there are just too many variables in life that'll affect the objective performance of each session, but solid effort is solid effort, and that's all you can do.

In the end, you need to find what works for you.
jonathan.lipkin · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 70

Actually, I found the first few weeks of ARC training to be pretty enjoyable (when I could get time on the autobelays when the kiddies weren't around). And also very helpful in recovering from my shoulder problems.

Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,118

So, to keep the nerdy excitement going, here's this year's charts to date (encompasses 2 seasons plus the one I'm in now).

Hangboarding (currently in this phase):

Hangboard workouts by weight and volume.

Campus/Limit Bouldering (solid blue was a limit boulder day):

Campus/limit boulder volume.

Power-Endurance charts (don't really mean much; I have meaningful data like duty cycle and time of all circuits combined in tabular format):

PE Log

Routes by month, difficulty, and style:

Routes by month, difficulty, and style.

Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,118

I've since rewritten my original posting and now have it in a PDF, allowing for better chart resolution. I plan on updating this document as time progresses and new ways to keep track of the progression are developed.


Daniel Parisot · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 5
Charlie S wrote:I've since rewritten my original posting and now have it in a PDF, allowing for better chart resolution. I plan on updating this document as time progresses and new ways to keep track of the progression are developed. thecabinfeverfighter.weebly…
Great work on you climbing tracker. I would like to do something similar to that as well. Would you be willing to share your spreadsheet with me so I can tweak it to suit me and maybe learn a little more about excel along the way?
Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 2,118

It continues!

I've changed a significant portion of tracking to use Microsoft Access. Excel was getting slow and cumbersome. See "The Nerdy Joy of Tracking EVERYTHING" now posted here:

Updates include caloric burn, heart rate, vertical feet ascended, and other non-climbing workout capability.

More tracking...

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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