5 Tips for Two-a-Day Climbing Training
There are few things that will get my sleepy boyfriend out of bed before 7 a.m. Unless it’s a flight, a powder day, or we have to go to Costco on a Sunday, he is NOT getting up.
So when he told me that he wanted to get up at 5:30 to climb before work, I was skeptical. However when Tuesday morning rolled around, by about 6:05 we were both strapped into an auto-belay at our local gym and ready to do our first two-a-day.
Why Train twice a day?
So what is at the root of training morning and evening? In simple terms, you get the same amount of training done, but with optimized recovery.
Let’s say you want to get 4 sessions of training done in a week: a strength workout, an endurance session, a volume boulder session and a limit boulder session. Instead of needing 4 days to do these four sessions, and whatever rest days you need in between, you could structure them into two days, and have more rest between big training days – which is much more optimal for recovery than climbing multiple days on.
Benefits of Chunking
Another benefit of two a day training is that chunking your training into shorter, more-specified blocks helps your body adapt better to the stimulus of training. E.g. doing a purely strength focused session in the morning and then an endurance session 10 hours later is way better than doing an endurance workout and trying to eek out your lifting session immediately after in a single 2-3 hour block. (Source: Eric Horst’s Training for Climbing Podcast Episode 32)
So what does this look like in a real world scenario? For me, it looks something like this:
AM – Strength workout
PM – Bouldering for Volume
And so boom, you just got 4 days of climbing done in two, you’re taking more complete rest days, AND you have time to do a little more training during the rest of the week. Alternatively, you can rest really well on Thursday and Friday before heading outside for the weekend to climb on Saturday. Sweet!
For me, this is a way better structure than climbing multiple days on, so I do two a days twice a week now (as well as an additional third day of training/outdoor climbing). Here are my tips for fitting this training structure into your life.
TIP 1: Figure out what works for you and what doesn’t
It took some experimenting to figure out which types of sessions fit well together in a day of training. I am aware that I am NOT Adam Ondra so my capacity to do two super hard sessions in a day just isn’t there. There was one day that I did an intense hangboard and lifting session in the AM and tried to do a session of limit bouldering in the evening. My bouldering session sucked and I was RIDICULOUSLY sore the next two days. I learned that these were not two sessions that I could group into a day. My rule of thumb now is that I do not slot two highly intense types of training into one day. But YOU have to experiment with what works for you to figure this out.
TIP 2: With new found time, try something new
My two a day climbing started when our gym announced they were opening at 6 a.m. I planned to keep all of the usual training sessions that I did, but I wanted to add two sessions that were solely dedicated to practicing climbing technique and increasing my endurance. This was perfect because low-end endurance training (climbing many routes 1-3 letter grades below your max) pairs super well with movement drills – something I had never really considered until listening to Episode 123 of the TrainingBeta Podcast – how John Kettle went from 5.11 to 5.13 by practicing movement drills.
Movement Drills and Endurance
I only have an hour to train in the morning sessions. At least one of these two AM sessions is dedicated to climbing lots of routes while performing 15-20 minutes of 3-4 movement drills. I really like Power Company Movement Skills ebook. Typically I do 15-20 minutes of the “Heavy Feet Drill”, 10-15 minutes of the “One Touch Drill” and then I mess around with the “Matching” Drill and the “Hover” Drill as well, to round out my hour. Videos below for reference – but get the book, because the detailed explanations are really good and The Power Company did a great job on this e-book.
TIP 3: Warming Up
Waking up in the morning is hard. Waking your body up in the morning to the point of practicing climbing is harder. You should never skip warming up before you climb, but you especially shouldn’t go from your bed to bouldering without a proper warm-up. My morning timing is tight too, but invest the 5 minutes it takes to get warm before getting on the wall. Here are some of my favorite things to do in the AM before a session, in some combination:
- Foam rolling my back, hamstrings, and hips
- Arm swings
- Wall angels
- Before a hangboard/strength session, I traverse the children’s climbing wall for 5 minutes to warmup my fingers
- Air squats
- Leg swings
- Restistance band stuff (bent over T’s, “draw your sword”, I’s Y’s T’s, etc.)
- SPRINTING! note that I don’t do this, but I have friends that swear that a good AM sprint across the gym will wake you RIGHT UP.
TIP 4: Consider the logistics
One of the reasons I love mornings is because my climbing gym isn’t crowded and I can go in and get it done without having to wait for auto-belays, gym equipment, hangboards, etc. My time in the gym is definitely optimized when I don’t have to navigate around other people to complete my session. Think about your time in the gym and figure out which sessions might work best in the mornings (assuming AM is less crowded than PM).
I know that for many, actually getting to a climbing gym before work isn’t possible. In my last job, there was no way that climbing before and after work would ever, ever happen. However, I made a home gym in the basement complete with my hangboard, free weights, and squat rack. It took some motivation, but I was at least able to complete strength workouts before work if I wanted to.
If you can’t make it to the climbing gym in the morning, consider if a home gym could help you slip in some extra strength training in the morning. It’s a lot better to do strength training when you are fresh in the morning than after you’ve worked all day and climbed for two hours and you need to go to bed.
TIP 5: YOU HAVE TO EAT AND SLEEP
Speaking of bed, optimizing recovery is extremely important when you train twice a day. Even though you are properly structuring your sessions so that you aren’t killing yourself, you still have to take extra care that you are giving your body the resources to recover. Here are two rules I live by when it comes to recovering from a two a day.
The day of and the day after a two-a-day, I make sure to get plenty of protein. I eat 20-30 grams a few times a day so that I get a total of around 120+ g. I weigh around 123-125 these days. So this is about enough. The consumption of small amounts every few hours is optimal for recovery, so I pack lots of protein snacks for during work and eat a snack before climbing in the evening. I may even have a protein shake while I make dinner after climbing. Either way, I make sure to ensure I’m getting a decent amount of protein. (Resource: Climbing Nutrition – Clarifying Protein Intake)
8 Hours of Sleep at Least
I know, I know. There aren’t enough hours in the day to sleep. But if you can’t sleep to recover from your twice in a a day training – then it doesn’t matter and you’d be better off sleeping more and skipping the AM training session. If you’re training twice a day, make sure you sleep for at least 8 hours after this. If you can swing it, 9 or 10 would be even better.
I make 8 hours of sleep happen with a full time job and an hour commute each way. I don’t have a personal chef, I just make sure to plan my life accordingly and cut out ALL the BS if I have to. It’s tough but it’s possible!
BONUS TIP 1: The path of least resistance
Getting up super early is definitely not easy. But you can make it easier. I remove as many road blocks as I possibly can from my mornings to make the two a day happen. I lay out my work clothes AND my climbing clothes, pack my lunch for work, get out the non-perishable smoothie stuff for breakfast, and make sure my work bag is ready to go. Whatever I can remove from my morning to-do list, I do it the night before.
BONUS TIP 2: Dirtbag stuff
In the mornings I don’t always wash my hair after I climb. I take a two minute shower with my hair in a bun and subsequently give my hair what it needs to be “presentable enough for work”: Dry Shampoo. Dry shampoo is my forever savior.
Do you do two-a-days? Have you ever tried? Have any questions about structuring your training with two-a-days? Leave a comment or shoot me an email. I’d love to discuss!
If you’d like to gain some insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a climber, check out my climbing theme song quiz! While it’s definitely a good time, it shines a light onto the aspects of your training and climbing that might be holding you back and keeping you in a plateau. And once you get your result, I’ll also send you some tips and tricks to help your training and climbing more effective and efficient!