Different Ways to Measure Climbing Progress

This week’s climb was at the tail end of the graph. We have one more week before the routes get reset. “What graph?” I hear you enquire with equal anticipation and excitement – as most, if not all graphs should be met. Well, my friends, this graph:

Phases of climbing progress vs. age of routes set

I’m in week 4 or 5 – I think they’ve left the routes for a little longer on this loop. This means that my progress seems slight. It means I know all of the easier routes and my warm up is smooth, familiar and comforting.

Once warm, it’s around the loop for those tricky ones which I have so far not mastered, the ones I need to prove I didn’t fluke and the “new” opportunities which have been hiding in plain sight all along.

For me, on this set of routes, my tricky ones seem to mostly be pink routes. I have managed to make crazy progress on the one that starts in the mini cave, goes out over the edge and then needs a muscle up and reach of trust to grab the next hold. From there it’s some crazy feet and then you’ve hit the top. I’m on the muscle up bit.

I’m so so so close to the reach of trust. This staggers me. I remember first looking at this route and deciding where I’d get to. It wasn’t even out of the mini cave. I have no idea if I’m stronger or have better technique – or hopefully, a bit of both.

At one point, I was hanging on the big hold with both hands (which I will later muscle up from, once I’ve moved my feet), my feet slipped off of the holds on the cave. I hung, tucked my feet back up and carried on to the pinchy toe bit, to then attempt (and fail) the reach of trust. I hope you can sort of see the type of route I’m talking about in your head. Having failed the reach of trust, I hung and jumped down, beaming. I could not believe I’d had the strength and control to sort my feet after slipping off.

Yes – I take the little wins.

I don’t normally rejoice too much in my triumphs, but this I find amazing. I can’t avoid it. You look back up at what you’ve done and where you got to, and you have to be proud of how you got there and the progress you’ve made.

The same goes for another pink route. When I started on that one, I couldn’t stand up on the volume, never mind make it to the next three holds. Now, I can stand up on the volume, stay there, do the holds and nearly stop myself from slipping off of the annoying pinch hold! I’ve controlled my barn door move at least.

Enough of the detail. Back to the graph (finally!).

Through the session I didn’t feel tired really, it was tough, and I was puffed at times, but I wasn’t pumped at all. When I checked my recording of the workout, it was only a smidge below other workouts I’ve tracked at the wall. Then today, my rest day, I have been super tired. I think I not only make different progress during the later weeks, but it’s a different type of exertion. My shoulders don’t ache, but I know I’ve used them. You know, that great feeling.

Happily, I turned to Pinterest and found some upper body foam roller techniques – which is my new version of heaven.

I also ditched my rest day and did an upper body workout, followed by dead hang training – I know that sounds a little crazy. I’ll take my rest day tomorrow. I think.

I have a week to train wisely. Last chance on the routes before they’re gone. Have I mentioned I love this?! I’m still on my crusade for finding the right shoes – new plan hopefully executing next week. From there, it’s only a matter of time before I climb outside. For now, from my comfortable, warm and safe sofa, I am super excited about climbing outside! Doing it for real is a really exciting prospect…

Have I really said much about the different ways of measuring progress? I’m not sure, I think I’ve been on a bit of a ramble, apologies.

Basically, there are the whole routes which you feel really good about because you get near instant gratification – or at least same day. Then there are the slow burners. The ones where you end up totally wiring the beginning bits of the climb, and obsessing about the smallest bits of progress. On these routes you explore lots of different ways of doing the same route. Maybe you try using different holds, different bits of available wall. These are the ones that really make you think.

And that’s it. I think that’s why I was so tired today – not necessarily the physical, but the mental exertion.

But I love all of it. I love the thinking. I love the doing. I love not being able to avoid celebrating my successes. I love how it makes me smile, shamelessly.

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