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The snowed-in girl's guide to training for climbing

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
5 min read

The area I live in finally stopped being the “hole” in the donut, and became the donut itself in the recent winter storm very early Thursday morning. The upside… much needed rest and quality time with Hana. The downside… I’m a day off my regular climbing schedule so had planned to climb Thursday night. I went for a few walks during the day and road conditions ranged from bad to terrible; but my climbing partner (who has been snowed in at my house) and I tried to head out to the still-open climbing gym… to no avail. We made it a few blocks before having a little lesson in friction (or lack thereof) and safely parked his car and walked home.

I keep eyeing my car, thinking she’s good in the snow, and could probably get around just fine if I can get out of my steep, snow-covered driveway… but… it’s not just about my car, and my driveway… there are externalities to consider… like the garage and/or my neighbor’s car that my car may roll into if it lost traction on the way up. Or down. So, in an exercise in risk reduction, I’m staying in.

So how does a climber girl not go completely stir crazy when she’s snowed in? My ghetto climbergirl workout, that’s how.

What you’ll need:

  1. Whatever you’ve got.

For me, what I’ve got is some resistance bands, a set of rock rings, some light hand weights, a yoga mat, the latest issue of Urban Climber, and my upstairs neighbor’s deck. Yes, his deck. More on that in a minute.

The whole thing takes awhile… I was probably at it for about an hour and a half yesterday… but also managed to get little things done during rests, so it’s not a constant hour and a half. I’ll tell you what I do, but you should tailor your workout to your own fitness and training needs.

I start inside my nice warm house, with warm up exercises… moving around just enough to warm myself up. Vacuuming, doing laundry, jumping jacks, whatever you feel like for a few minutes. Then I hit the yoga mat for my ab workout. Or, to be more accurate, Brandon’s AbBuster 5000 workout. Brandon now lives in Denver, but when he used to be up here he shared this awesome, painful, ab workout with us at the climbing gym. I’m not going to describe all the exercises since they’re easy to look up through google (edit – have added links where I could find them, since Mom wanted more details). On a good day, I do most of the workout in about 20 minutes. So… work those abs.

Then, everybody’s favorite… pushups. I do three sets of ten “real” pushups, now. I started with planks and/or “modified” pushups, though, and worked my way up. Wow – I’ve come a long way… when I first started training pushups, my wrist tendinitis was so bad I couldn’t do them flat handed — I had to do them on my fists. Now, training better, eating better, and resting better, my wrists rarely give me any trouble at all and my pushups are flat handed on the floor.

Next, now that your heart is really pumping (and your abs are screaming that they’ll never forgive you) you can work those climbing-specific activities. I do some (but not lots) of pullups on the various holds on my rock rings; I do more frenchies and/or lockoffs, and more of a hangboard-style dead hang workout to work my contact strength (hence the latest issue of Urban Climber, which has a fantastic hangboard workout by Ben Moon on page 65). I also use the beams on the underside of my upstairs neighbor’s deck as a poor-girl’s-hangboard and to bust out pull-ups for variety in addition to the rock rings.

Free weights and my home-made roll-up bar come in handy for the “old standbys” (see my elbow tendinitis post for details) I’ve been doing since rehabbing my newbie-climber overuse injuries.

Next is my Metolius Grip Saver Plus which I’ve also used off and on since my elbow tendinitis experience. The exercise I find most valuable is to squeeze the ball, stretch my hand out with the resistance of the little finger bands, then stretch my wrist up — it works my forearm and elbow and has helped my wrists a lot. I tried to take a blackberry cam video since that description isn’t very good… Hana loves the Gripsaver so much I have to keep it in a drawer she can’t open, since she really thinks it would taste good.

I’d like to a
dd a weighted medicine ball to the workout, since I use one in the gym for tricep and ab exercises and like it. I don’t have one yet, so I sub my 5-lb free weight, but something about the body tension on the medicine ball makes some exercises feel more beneficial (especially the arm exercises).

Then, it’s back to the yoga mat for another 20 or so minutes of stretching.

My routine is largely influenced by Eric Horst’s Training For Climbing book (here (the old edition) on Google Books and here (the new edition on, and I wouldn’t do a hangboard, dead hang, or rock ring workout without reading Ben Moon’s workout and advice in Urban Climber. Be sure to warm up properly, cool down properly, and hydrate before, during and after your workout, and all the other standard disclaimers (check with your doctor before starting any workout program…) apply.

So – tools that I’m sure I underutilize: resistance bands, and my light free weights. How do you use them in your at-home workouts? And, what would you add to this lineup? Please comment!


Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.