Let’s face it: Becoming a stronger climber when you’re traveling without a gym to train in is tough. But maintaining your level of fitness? You can definitely do that, and you’ll be glad you did when you get back to the gym or the crag.
You don’t need some expensive proprietary workout kit, or set of rubber bands (though if you’ve got ’em, they help!). All you need is a commitment to yourself, a few minutes a day to work on your health, and to cut yourself some slack. After all, fitness is a long-term personal journey. As long as you commit to your own health broadly, losing grade “gains” here and there is no big deal.
When we’re traveling away from First Ascent, we follow a few principles. We can’t prescribe a specific plan here — for that, we’ve got Redpoint Training and our crew of personal trainers. But these guidelines can help you care for your body so you can keep growing as a climber when you can get back to the gym:
1. Rest and hydrate
It sounds counterintuitive, but active rest might actually help your climbing performance. A week of walking around in a different city, a hike or two or a bike ride with family all counts as “active rest.” Strength and fitness actually build up during rest, not during the workout. Your muscles repair themselves after you break them down. So, when you’re on the road, put effort into staying active, on your feet for a period of time every day or so. You should also drink lots of water to fuel your muscles’ growth and keep yourself loose.
Many people fall into the trap of overtraining. They climb and climb until they begin to experience chronic issues like tendonitis. Those who avoid it tend to have a couple of things in common: they focus on active rest and they stretch. Getting some time away from the gym is actually great for regular climbers. It’s a chance to work flexibility back into your muscles. Take ten minutes a day to gently stretch out your muscles — it’s really a chance to prevent injury. You might even come back in better shape to grow even more as a climber.
Another way to build your fitness “base” and prevent injury while on the road is to cross-train. A specialized sport like climbing taxes a specific set of muscles. Focusing only on those muscles, in the long run, can drive you to injury. Being away from the gym or crag is a great time to get yourself back into balance. If you’re in a place with forest trails, go for a hike or easy jog. Yoga, as always, makes for a great cross-training activity against the specialization of climbing. You can do some basic lifting in a hotel gym, or even dig up a bodyweight circuit routine on an app like Nike Training Club.
4. Improvise and prepare
To make sure your tendons and forearms stay in shape, you can pick up a set of portable training tools for use in hotel rooms and guest rooms. We like (and sell) the Metolius Rock Rings, which will fit in just about any piece of luggage you have and will allow you to do a hangboard routine wherever you set them up. And tools like these are great not only for your climbing muscles, but for core exercises and other muscle groups you might not usually train back at home.
One final concept to keep in mind when training on the go: you probably won’t be able to perfectly mimic the training routine you have back home. Traveling is a time to broaden yourself with new experiences, and training on the road is just an extension of that. By working consistently over a period of a week or two to actively rest your body, feed your muscles, and build their resilience with cross-training and focused work, you may come back feeling less obviously “strong,” but overall in a much better place to keep pushing your skills to a higher level without injury. So don’t stress too much — listen to your body and what you think it needs.