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Training with Inconsistent Gym Grading


Original Post
Adam Ronchetti · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2011 · Points: 25

Hi Internet Hive Mind,
My local gym has a bit of an issue with inconsistent grading. A V1 can be between a V0 and V3. That trend seems to be true as you go though the grades. I'm normally all for stuff like this when I'm just having a fun climbing day or going outside (I know what I'm signing up for on real rock) but when I'm trying to train this occurrence has proven more than a little annoying. It would almost be easier if everything was sandbagged across the board.

I like to track certain metrics and grading inconsistency pretty much throws all of that out the window and makes numbers useless.

Has anyone else encountered this at their local gyms? If so have you come up with any ways to turn this to your advantage or anything. FYI I have talked to setters and I don't see the issue going away anytime soon.

Thanks

Aaron Liebling · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 800

1. Find something that is a little hard for you
2. work at it until it's easy
3. Repeat

Ignore grades. They're meaningless for training.

Mark Vigil · · Boring, OR · Joined Aug 2017 · Points: 0

I am assuming you are training to climb outside.   Bouldering grades outside are very inconsistent too.  Ive flashed V4s and not been able to climb a V4 after 4 or 5 sessions.  Just climb what you enjoy and dont worry about the grade.

Isaac Gray · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 2

Grades are subjective. I don't think that's something specific to your gym, I find it true anywhere I climb (inside or out). 100% agree with Aaron and Mark's advice and subscribe to their approach. However if it's vital to your training program to have an accurate log of the grades of your problems why not just grade them yourself? If you're so sure that that V1 is actually a V3, why not just log it as a V3?

Long Ranger · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 316

I think that's everyone's local gym.

If you want consistency... Moon Board? Or track progress on campus board exercises, weighted finger board hangs, etc.

Ryan Pfleger · · North Lake Tahoe, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 20

Climbing grades inside and outside are notoriously subjective. And even if grades were perfectly linear for you, they would be off for someone else a little taller, or with smaller fingers, or bigger biceps, or a different skillset. Try using this opportunity to give it your own grade. I'm not sure what your goals are, but many long climbs have very little beta and looking up at a route and figuring out which parts might give you trouble is a useful skill to have.

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 2,035
Adam Ronchetti wrote: Has anyone else encountered this at their local gyms? If so have you come up with any ways to turn this to your advantage or anything. FYI I have talked to setters and I don't see the issue going away anytime soon.

Yes, this is a constant issue at my local gym. The problem is made worse by not adequately fore-running/setting the problems, and as a result the setters never have a real handle on the stuff on the wall in terms of relative or overall difficulty. To demonstrate, let me submit two scenarios:

1) Setters throw a bunch of holds on the wall without trying any of the moves. The 'team' then 'fore-runs' the problem, 'tweaking' (but rarely outright changing hold choices or placements) it until fits some broadly defined category such as v1-v3.

2) Setters set the problem wearing their climbing shoes, trying each move as they go, all the while aiming for a specific grade (for them). The team then fore-runs the problem, tweaking holds, placements, etc until it is the specific grade (relative to the other problems on the wall) being sought by the setter for the majority of the route setting team.

I claim the 1st  scenario ends up with a more inconsistently graded wall which often has the problems pile up around certain grades, whereas the 2nd scenario creates a more even distribution of problems with narrower ranges for the experienced (by various sized individuals) difficulty of the problems. Thus the first scenario is akin to a weight room where the weights change week to week and often have multiple barbells of the same weight, whereas scenario two is like a normal weight room where there is one set of barbells for each weight and a full set of barbells.

Also aggravating the situation is the requirement that all the holds on any problem are of the same color, as this limits the hold choices of the setters, both for setting the problem as well as fore-running it.
Ryan Pfleger · · North Lake Tahoe, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 20
JNE wrote:
Also aggravating the situation is the requirement that all the holds on any problem are of the same color, as this limits the hold choices of the setters, both for setting the problem as well as fore-running it.

I've always thought this was an issue as well. It makes the routes/problems easier to see, but perhaps that makes route reading even less similar to outdoor climbing. 

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,040
Adam Ronchetti wrote: 
I like to track certain metrics and grading inconsistency pretty much throws all of that out the window and makes numbers useless.
Can you give an example of metrics you are trying to track?
I know Steve Bectel suggests various tracking metrics, such as the density of the boulder problems you do in a session, by counting boulder problems as points. V0-v1 1 point per problem, V3=3 points, etc. 
But you can still do that, even with grading inconsistencies. 
You can re-grade routes as you see fair, for your own counting purposes. Or just go with the grades as given, and trust that things will average out, and if you did one V1 that was more like V3, and only counted it as V1, because that was the trade given... we’ll, do what? There is also that other V3 that is more like V2, and you counted it as 3 points. 

But I personally have never been quite so obsessive as to write it down. 


Has anyone else encountered this at their local gyms? If so have you come up with any ways to turn this to your advantage or anything. FYI I have talked to setters and I don't see the issue going away anytime soon.

Thanks

Yes, this is common in every gym I’ve been to, and is further exasperated if you are not the same height as the average gym routesetter. I don’t know how to turn this to your advantage, but I know how to live with it. It boils down to:


1) ignore the grades, find routes that are hard for you, work on them until you get them, or keep track of incremental improvements, if you are doing true limit bouldering. 

2) look at things in aggregate, e.g. January: did 50% of pink routes and 10% of purple routes, tried and got close on 2 blue routes. March: did 65% of pink routes, and 20% of purple routes, Completed 1 blue, and got close on two other blues. => quantifiable improvement.
 
Paul Hutton · · Kansas City, MO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 740

I pay attention to the names of the setters if the route/problem placards include that info, and even try to get to know them if I see them around. I once participated in a problem setting apprenticeship program and was hanging out with a dude that had sent 5.14c and could onsight 5.13a outside. I caught him effortlessly sticking a V7 dyno on slopers, which I couldn't do. So, that's what I aspired towards. Any time a new route went up, I was psyched on it and would project it. Just keep hurling yourself at climbs that are hard for you. The only thing that matters is that your ass is covered for falling. You're gonna fall a LOT. Being able to climb everything in the first few tries is no fun.

Adam Ronchetti · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2011 · Points: 25

Lena,
For example every 2 or 3 months I do an endurance evaluation which is basically just me bouldering for an hour straight. I keep track of the number of problems that I do and the grade of the problem. The idea being that over time I want to see an increase in the number of problems I can do and (ideally) and increase in the difficulty of the problems I'm doing. I do this because the gym has always had consistency problems and this let me at least cancel some of that out.

This is ultimately for climbing outside but since the ideal season in Wisconsin is pretty narrow (late march to may and october to december) I spend a lot of time in the gym. I agree that route reading and finding is a skill but reading in a gym and reading outdoors are different skills. I want to practice climbing in the gym so I can perform climbing when I go outside. 

Seth Bleazard · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2018 · Points: 309

One gym I've gone to marks diffeculty with shapes. If a boulder is marked with a triangle it could be V5-V6+. A bit annoying.

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,040
Adam Ronchetti wrote: Lena,
For example every 2 or 3 months I do an endurance evaluation which is basically just me bouldering for an hour straight. I keep track of the number of problems that I do and the grade of the problem. The idea being that over time I want to see an increase in the number of problems I can do and (ideally) and increase in the difficulty of the problems I'm doing. I do this because the gym has always had consistency problems and this let me at least cancel some of that out.

Sounds like you had answered your own question of how to deal with inconsistencies?  It is never going to be exact or precise. 
If you have access to moonboard, tension board, etc, as others have suggested, that would allow you to track progress over time, using the same benchmark problems, instead of trying to relate the routes you do today to routes that were set a year ago, with different setters, and different feel.  

Aweffwef Fewfae · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

you should use the hangboard or buy your own no hang device and bring it to the gym.

if you're going to train seriously, you need a metric. let's say your no hang is 50 kg. the next week it goes to 54 kg. after 6 weeks, let's say you get to 56 kg. divide this by your bodyweight, and you'll know exactly where you really are. for example, if you are 100 kg, you know you improved by 0.6 v grades. if your gym is incompetent and can't tell what the vgrades are, at least you'll know what your real improvement was.
while progress is good, it's a lack thereof that's more important. if after improving you see your max drop from 56 kg to 50 kg over the next week, you're likely over trained. your body can't sustain that kind of all out effort (nobody's can) - you'll need to take a week off. when you come back, you'll need a metric to know if the resting period was enough. for example, if you come back at 58 kg, you'll float your projects, awesome, start the next cycle. however, if you're not performing at your previous max, you need more rest.

let's say you get to v6 and get injured. you should rehab it. your no hang would tell you that your injured hand can marginally handle v4 and comfortably handle v3. if your gym has competent labels, you'll know where you stand. this is why having every grade labeled is important.

similarly, even if you're not injured but everything feels difficult, you may need more warm up. you may need more rest. if after 2 weeks of rest your metrics still aren't near previous max, you may need to push through. that is, toughen up and try harder. knowing when to push and when to rest is critical, with no real way to tell if you don't have a standard.

most importantly, don't get injured. while fingers are the most important thing, they're not everything. just because your fingers got to v6 doesn't mean your shoulders did. i recommend keeping up on campus boards too.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 503
Adam Ronchetti wrote: Lena,
For example every 2 or 3 months I do an endurance evaluation which is basically just me bouldering for an hour straight. I keep track of the number of problems that I do and the grade of the problem. The idea being that over time I want to see an increase in the number of problems I can do and (ideally) and increase in the difficulty of the problems I'm doing. I do this because the gym has always had consistency problems and this let me at least cancel some of that out.

This is ultimately for climbing outside but since the ideal season in Wisconsin is pretty narrow (late march to may and october to december) I spend a lot of time in the gym. I agree that route reading and finding is a skill but reading in a gym and reading outdoors are different skills. I want to practice climbing in the gym so I can perform climbing when I go outside. 

Adam, I follow a similar idea, my endurance sessions (both aerobic and anaerobic capacity) are spent bouldering. I've found my gym to be inconsistent in their grades as well, so when I log mine I simply put down the grade I felt it climbed. From a pump standpoint there have been V4 problems that were slightly overhung, tiny crimps, but feet put right under your center of gravity, I logged that one as a V2. There have also been some V2 problems that are on jugs, but the hands and feet are totally vertical, fully sideways layback, that one I logged as V3. 

At the end of the day you're just trying to keep track of your perceived intensity and density of session right? So who cares what arbitrary number the setting staff assigned. Be honest and consistent with your self assessed numbers is all that matters here.

I should note that I've found this works well for the low end aerobic type sessions, but on the anaerobic capacity (Bechtel calls it "strength endurance") sessions I've found the gym setting to just be too damn inconsistent in the V4-6 range. I do almost all of those sessions on the moonboard now, because at least the problems are repeatable and I'm getting a consistent load. 
Adam Ronchetti · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2011 · Points: 25
Nick Drake wrote:

Adam, I follow a similar idea, my endurance sessions (both aerobic and anaerobic capacity) are spent bouldering. I've found my gym to be inconsistent in their grades as well, so when I log mine I simply put down the grade I felt it climbed. From a pump standpoint there have been V4 problems that were slightly overhung, tiny crimps, but feet put right under your center of gravity, I logged that one as a V2. There have also been some V2 problems that are on jugs, but the hands and feet are totally vertical, fully sideways layback, that one I logged as V3. 

At the end of the day you're just trying to keep track of your perceived intensity and density of session right? So who cares what arbitrary number the setting staff assigned. Be honest and consistent with your self assessed numbers is all that matters here.

I should note that I've found this works well for the low end aerobic type sessions, but on the anaerobic capacity (Bechtel calls it "strength endurance") sessions I've found the gym setting to just be too damn inconsistent in the V4-6 range. I do almost all of those sessions on the moonboard now, because at least the problems are repeatable and I'm getting a consistent load. 

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll try this. Yeah I'm primary interested in relatively low difficulty, high volume climbing. I was just hoping to avoid assigning my own grades since when you're really gassing out a V1 can feel like a V3 very easily. 

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 503
Adam Ronchetti wrote:

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll try this. Yeah I'm primary interested in relatively low difficulty, high volume climbing. I was just hoping to avoid assigning my own grades since when you're really gassing out a V1 can feel like a V3 very easily. 

What I've done for that is usually climb the easier grade problems during a warm up after they are first set, so having a small rest between them. I'll figure out whether the grade seems accurate for me at that time and then log my self assessed number on all sessions of that problem going forward. I try to stick with the gym's grading for consistency between sets (or gains on my part), it's really just 1 or 2 problems per set that I just feel are way off. 

Jim Turner · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 295

Sandbagging you is part of your training 

SeƱor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

If the setters' grades are wrong, and messing you up, just grade them yourself. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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