What: Sport Climbing Series National Championships
When: April 1 and 2
Where: Movement Climbing and Fitness, 2845 Valmont Road
Want to compete in the Sport Climbing Series National Championships next weekend? No problem. Here’s how you train for the big show.
That is, here’s how you train if you’re Emily Harrington, 24, Boulder native and five-time winner of the championship.
If you’re Harrington, you do some bouldering while you’re waiting for your partner to arrive at the gym. When your partner arrives and you tie in, you say, “I’m going to warm up!” before you quietly glide up climbs hard enough that some climbers around here (ahem) just hope to get to the top of some day, even if by the skin of their teeth.
One more thing — if you’re Harrington, you don’t say anything about your climbing or training that isn’t humble. For example, part of her training regime for the competition includes regular pull-ups (“I’m terrible at pull-ups.”) and uneven pull-ups (“Those are hard!”). After talking about pull-ups, she said: “I don’t consider myself a really strong person — physically very strong.”
“Climbing is all about technique, and it’s very mental,” she added.
Still, Harrington hopes to feel physically strong for the SCS nationals next week. The competition takes place next Friday and Saturday at Boulder’s Movement Climbing and Fitness, and it includes climbing for speed and difficulty. (Harrington competes in difficulty.)
But back to training.
Harrington has taken more than a year off from competitive climbing — her last competition was the 2010 SCS Nationals — and spent part of the beginning of this year teaching climbing skills to Sherpas in Nepal at the Khumbu Climbing School, through her sponsorship with The North Face.
Hiking in Nepal has not been great for her grip.
“I’ve been training for three and a half weeks now, which isn’t a lot,” she said. “I kind of feel like I’m playing the catch up game, trying to get really strong really fast.”
She got help from Justen Sjong, who was her coach on the Boulder Rock Club’s team when she was younger.
“He put together a training program for me, basically just to help me get stronger overall,” she said.
Here’s how Sjong had her whip herself into shape fast:
Start up a dynamic, core-intensive CrossFit-esque workout. Fifteen minutes or so in, switch to climbing. Climb three routes. Repeat the cycle three or four times. (Harrington: “It was really hard at first.”)
Also: Train five days a week. At least three hours at a time. Enlisting an equally-dedicated climbing partner is helpful for this. On Wednesday, when Harrington yelled up the wall at Movement to her partner, “How long can you climb for?” the answer was “Forever!”
Lastly, don’t forget the pull-ups — 40 or 50 (in sets) after climbing, even if you’re no good at pull ups.
But this alone might not cut it. Though Harrington has enlisted a tough physical regime to prep for nationals, she hasn’t forgotten the importance of mental training.
“I think the best way to train for that is to work as hard as you can, and have confidence,” she said.
“I want to go into the comp feeling confident that I’ve done everything I can.”
In the end, though, it’s not all about competitions.
“Climbing is such a unique sport in that it’s not all about competition. In fact, a very small part of it is about competition. When I was young, I didn’t really realize that, because all I did was compete and climb in the gym.
“And as I grew older and started climbing outside and having new experiences and traveling, I started realizing there’s a lot more to climbing than just competing. And I’ve really embraced that in the past year and a half or so.”