Keith McCallister using stamina to top out high above the valley floor. Hörst photo.

Keith McCallister topping out high above the valley floor.

If your climbing dreams include big walls, alpine adventures, or some super-long days of cragging, add stamina training into your routine ahead of time. Build enough stamina to support you from sun-up to sun-down (or longer) so that nothing holds you back from scaling the highest heights!

(This article was originally published in January 2015.)

The best way to train for all-day climbing stamina is to climb all day, as often as you can. For most recreational climbers, however, there’s not enough time or opportunity to train stamina in this way alone. Fortunately, more general forms of aerobic training can build stamina that carries over nearly as well.

Try these two effective strategies for building abundant stamina and endurance to support long climbing pursuits.

1. Climb All Day

This is the train-as-you-climb strategy. If your climbing goal is to send Grade IV or V routes in a day, then you need to simulate this workload frequently. For example, preparing for a trip to Yosemite might involve logging ten, fifteen, or twenty pitches at your local crag over a long day. It will likely take repeated efforts to extend what you are capable of performing, not just physically, but also technically and mentally. Climbing a high number of pitches in a day requires both efficient movement and an efficient two-person climbing system. Real-life stamina gains on the rock really result from enhancements in your ability to perform mentally and physically to a higher level of precision and total volume.

It’s important to begin this type of stamina training at least three months before the date of your target climb. Plan your training and climbing schedule so that you can engage in this kind of stamina training at least once every two weeks, ideally once or twice per week. No amount of running or other type of physical stamina conditioning can replace this most specific and valuable training method. So, get a partner and start climbing!

2. Two-a-Day Training

Two-a-day training is a powerful training strategy for endurance athletes. The goal here is to engage in two, one- to two-hour workouts per day. This could be any combination of an aerobic activity such as running, biking, or swimming on one hand, and a climbing session comprised of bouldering, gym climbing, or a half day at the crags on the other. To maximize the quality of each workout, it’s important to have at least a six-hour break between the two workouts. For example, you might go for a long run in the morning followed by climbing for a couple hours in the evening, or vice versa. If climbing is not an option, you would simply perform both a morning and late-day aerobic activity of an hour or more each time.

Two-a-days add up to a whole lot of training. They’ll require a high level of conditioning that might take a few months to build up enough stamina to support. Begin with just one two-a-day workout per week and gradually advance to as many as three two-a-day routines per week. Maintaining proper hydration and eating between the two daily workouts is vital; you need plenty of fuel for each separate workout, plus enough to recover from the last. Time your eating well to enhance recovery and preparation from one workout to the next for the most effective stamina training and performance.

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