The Burn Means It's Working — Some tips for training endurance

I think we all have that friend — you know, the one that seems to be able to climb endlessly without even breaking a sweat. Yes, we all have that friend and secretly hate that friend but let's face it — we are NOT that friend. We gotta train our endurance, and battle the pump when things start getting real. Unless your forearms are made of some sort of iron, then endurance training is always a benefit — especially if you are signed up / going to sign up for our 12 Hours of Summit Suffering comp. Climbing for 12 Hours straight is next level, so make sure you prepare your body for the hell it is about to endure, so you're not second-guessing the decision halfway through. Climbing hard for 12 hours straight is totally doable — and not only that, but so gloriously validating. It puts things in perspective, that's for sure! So in short: there are three different types of endurance to train for climbing: aerobic, anaerobic, and power endurance.

Here are those three broken down —

Aerobic endurance keeps you going on longer climbs, keeping your muscle exertion to a minimum and maximizing your efficiency, and keeping you from not being physically exhausted and breathing hard during a long climb / lots of repetitive climbing.

Anaerobic endurance is based in your forearms, and increased anaerobic endurance keeps the pump out of your forearms so you're able to complete harder moves for longer, and not give in to that panicky voice in your head saying "I'M PUMPED I'M PUMPED OH GOD OH GOD."

Power endurance is based in basically all of your muscles, and keeps you able to make difficult moves even when your anaerobic endurance has your forearms screaming. It's the ability to still stick that crux, even 40 feet off the deck on a very sustained route. Basically, your power endurance is what's left when you gotta dig deep for that send.

All three of these are useful, obviously, but for anyone wanting to climb for just an obscene amount of time, you should focus on both your anaerobic and aerobic endurance. During endurance competitions like our 12 Hour comp and the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, you're normally not getting on a lot of routes at your capacity, but more easier routes, and repeating them for more points. So it's not about making a lot of hard moves, but more A LOT of easier moves, as efficiently as possible so you don't keel over and die about halfway through the comp.

Ok so ... we know we need endurance because it's the only thing keeping us from certain death at the 12 Hours of Summit Suffering, but how do we get this mythical endurance? The obvious answer is to just climb more, but there are some more specialized things you can do to get your body in tip-top shape ... so you can then destroy it. JK LUV U LOTS BODY.

Traverse ... to infinity .. and BEYOND

Especially great as a warm up because it'll work up a slow-burning pump, traversing is a good way to boost your endurance. It's also good as a warm-up because you can bail whenever you want, like if you are getting flash pumped, but I would also recommend traversing as a cool-down. Just when you think you have nothing more to give to a climbin sesh, finish the nigh strong with a traverse, and climb until you absolutely can't hold on anymore. That's when you know you're done.


Circuit training is another way to help slow your body's pump clock. For numbered circuits, which are typically about the length of a route, try running them back to back. For example, as soon as you are done with with numbered yellow circuit route, hop in the next one, and so on and so forth until you fall. And even then ... hop straight back on! The point is to work through the pump, so if you find yourself falling on a yellow, hop straight onto a green and see if you can make it. If you're feeling baller status, see if you can do all three different circuits on one wall IN A ROW. Super nuts. For the circuits at Carrollton, try to complete every problem within a designated circuit as quickly as possible.


Log lots and lots of wall time 

This one might seem pretty obvious, but try to be on the wall as much as possible during an endurance training session. During an endurance competition, you don't actually have that much time between routes sometime, so train your body to be able to keep crushing after just a few minutes of break. So if you find yourself sitting, or lounging around during a training session, GET ON THE WALL!

Get strong

During an endurance competition, most of the routes you will do will be way below your limit. The best way to be able to make a lot of moves below your capacity is to make sure they are totally below your capacity! By being strong, you are able to make every move with less effort, therefore saving your energy for more, and then more routes. So make sure you're still making time for project days while training endurance, and make sure you're still working on those hard moves.

Be willing to fall

I always recommend the 4 x 4 when training your endurance and power endurance (running 4 routes 4 times in a row), but only if you choose routes that, while most likely below your level, at least still challenge you. When running laps, choose routes that aren't necessarily gimmes. Be ok with falling. Climbing until failure — and then some — is the best way to push past your limits.

Focus on what you struggle on, and improve it

This applies to not just endurance, but every part of your climbing. Obviously if you suck at power endurance, work on that, but even practice individual moves that you struggle with until you've got them dialed. If gaston moves are your achilles heel, then work on them until they begin to feel easy. By increasing the amount of moves you feel totally comfortable with, then you'll expend less energy when climbing a great many routes, with a huge variety of moves on them.

Climb 4 dayzzzzz!

If your schedule allows, try to climb for more than one day in a row. This will simulate that exhausted feeling you'll probably feel during a long endurance comp, and you'll find new, creative ways to save energy that you have never thought of before! It's not until your body is totally beat that you discover the total glory that is the heel hook, or learn the benefits of centering your weight directly over your feet when you rest.

Active rest days

When you do give yourself a well-deserved rest day, don't spend it wallowing around like a chump. Make sure you get a low-impact activity in there, to keep your body active. By remaining active, you're encouraging your body to keep recovering, instead of taking a break. Some light running, or a Yin Yoga class are great rest day activities. Or do an abs class, if you really hate yourself. Especially Drew Payne's ... but like I said. Only if you really hate yourself.

For further reference, I have included links to some great references for training endurance. Obviously I only covered the very basics, but feel free to take things into your own hands, and get creative with increasing your endurance! And feel free to share with us / others / your mom what sort of work outs you've got cooking, so don't be a stranger, mmkay?

Climb Strong — "Unlearning 'Endurance' Training"

Moon Climbing — "The Three Training Phases for Climbing"

"24HHH Tips from Leather and Lace"

Climbing Magazine — "New Workouts to Refresh Your Gym Training"

"Alli Rainey: Improve Your Climbing — Endurance"