In the course of developing my training plan for 2016, I took a long hard look at last year’s training. Here are the takeaways:
(1) I was inconsistent. Part of this was due to a lot of illnesses at the beginning of my training in January-March 2015. Interestingly, this is also happening right now – I’m still battling a cold as I write this. But, looking over my training records, I never really hit my stride with my workouts. I put it in a lot of aerobic work – just shy of 200 hours in 2015 – but I basically stopped working out when we got back from the Alps in September. This means that, from March to August 2015, I did a ton of aerobic work and very little strength work. And then went into a six-month tapering phase. Whoops. More on that in (4).
(2) I didn’t really understand how to execute the Training for the New Alpinism program. The Training Log is a huge help so far this year. It really drives home the authors’ point that strength is the base of your endurance. For example, I don’t think I would have ever figured out how many circuits of the core and general strength workouts I’m supposed to do during the transition phase. I never would have guessed that week seven would see two circuits of the core workout and four circuits of the general strength routine. I’m still confused about how to keep total training hours under my target of two hours / week; I spent 1.5 hours on strength alone last week, and 30 minutes of Zone 1 seemed a bit low to me (I ended up taking a brisk 50-minute walk, a 30-minute run, and a 90-minute walk with Hannes in the baby carrier – all in Zone 1, incidentally). I do feel like I understand the nuts and bolts of the program a bit more.
(3) I learned a lot about climbing. In short, I started the year with next to no climbing skills, and now I would say I am a safe and competent lead climber (at least on sport climbing routes) at the lower grades. I was so excited about climbing that I ended up spending much more time doing that than, say, strength workouts. But I wouldn’t take it back. My trip to Saxon Switzerland, for instance, was really inspiring, and even my inconsistent training helped build a large foundation of fitness that made those two days much easier to handle.
(4) I had unrealistic expectations and was impatient to achieve them. This is probably the most damning, and important, critique. Throughout my six months of training last year, I kept expecting massive gains that would somehow make the workouts easier and turn me into some climbing machine. In retrospect, this was a major thinking flaw that chipped away at my motivation. Why? Because my expectations were always too high, and of course my performance couldn’t meet them. So when I went to the Alps, I expected to be ridiculously fast on ascents. I was not. I was far faster than I had been in the past, but for some reason that wasn’t enough; I wanted to be Steve House fast, to cover 1000 feet in less than 30 minutes. For someone like me who has not trained consistently since high school (1993, wince), these kinds of goals are simply not realistic. And when I couldn’t do it, I got really frustrated and pretty much stopped training when I got back home. I’m glad I recognize this now, because it will spare me disappointment in the future and point me in the direction of something achievable.
Even though the above reads like a litany of self-critique, I think it’s a necessary step in the overall process. It would be much more comfortable to just pretend that last year’s training went smoothly, but then I’d be at a loss to explain why my legs already feel like lead in the third week of the Transition Phase: I’ve basically spent most of my time in my office chair for the last six months! And it’s useful to see my pattern of working out from March until September, and then slipping into a work-hole for the next six months (this happened in 2014 and 2015). I’m alert to that tendency now, which will make it easier to avoid this year.
One of my mental challenges this year will be the formation and articulation of reasonable expectations. The next post will focus on my short- and long-term goals, so stay tuned.