Justen Sjong, right, encourages Jim Logan during a climbing class at Boulder s Movement Climbing and Fitness. Sjong and Kris Peters have paired up to form a coaching business called Team of 2, which emphasizes both fitness and climbing coaching.


    Kris Peters encourages one of his climbing students during class.


Team of 2

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For many climbers, the only logical way to improve is to spend more time climbing.

Boulder coaches Kris Peters and Justen Sjong are trying to change that. They’ve teamed up to form a new coaching business, Team of 2, which focuses on climbing but also incorporates fitness, strength and general life coaching to create a more well-rounded athlete.

“Climbers need to be treated like athletes,” Peters said. “Climbers need to be trained like a pro athlete would be trained. We’re bringing this new mentality of, this is how hard training is supposed to be if you want to get to the next level.”

Peters and Sjong joined forces last October at Movement Climbing and Fitness, where most of their business is based, and have since worked with well-known climbers like Alex Johnson, Daniel Woods, Emily Harrington and Sasha DiGiulian.

In addition to working with top pros, the duo also works with recreational climbers and “weekend warriors,” Peters said. Their equation works, they say, because Team of 2 combines Peters’ fitness and personal training background with Sjong’s climbing and coaching background to create one personalized training plan for climbers of all abilities.

Sjong, who’s been climbing since 1992 and coaching for much of the last 20 years, is a well-known strongman in the climbing community. He knows firsthand how much climbers love to climb — and sometimes overdo it — and works with them on the mental and psychological aspects of the sport, while Peters trains them physically.

“They love climbing so why would you not do it?” Sjong said. “We get overdeveloped in certain areas. We get that hunchback look and we like to climb 12 months out of the year and expect ourselves to perform all the time. It’s an obsessive sport, and I think it’s a nice element of trying to find balance.”

He works with athletes on the “big picture,” he said, rather than what their next big climb will be. In his words, he makes sure they have their “head screwed on straight” and are working to become better people overall in addition to better climbers, he said.

“For Justen, it’s about learning how to control your emotions, how to approach a climb, how to breathe properly, how to stay strong mentally,” Peters said. “Not just ‘I can do five one-arm pull-ups.'”

Peters originally wanted to make a career out of training professional football players, but fell in love with climbing instead. He specializes in targeting areas of the body that climbers might not think to train, and he works specifically on making injury-prone areas of the body stronger.

At the end of every three-hour training session, Peters leads a “beat down,” or a physically exhausting last-push segment of the workout to show athletes how to dig deeper when they’re already tired. For many climbers, that’s new, he said.

“People are motivated and excited because they’re getting physically worked,” Peter said.

They’ve found new athletes mostly by word of mouth, which Sjong and Peters prefer because it means they work with self-motivated climbers. They can’t offer someone a “silver bullet” to climbing success, Sjong said, but they can provide the steps and a plan.

Many professional climbers travel to Boulder for a week or a few days at a time to work with Sjong and Peters, and the two recently hosted clinics in San Francisco. They hope to keep adding more cities and make Team of 2 a national — and maybe someday international — coaching business.

Boulder climber Alex “AJ” Johnson, who said she normally competes “off the couch,” said she became the strongest she’d even been after working with the Peters and Sjong before the 2012 climbing world cup in Vail. Boulder climber Chelsea Rude has said that without Sjong’s help with her mental game, she’d be lost.

Another Team of 2 athlete, Andrea Szekely said she’s been training more effectively since she started working out and training with Peters in addition to climbing.

“It makes you a lot more motivated and try a lot harder when you have someone behind you all the time kicking your butt,” Szekely said, laughing.

–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.

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