Review: Team of 2, Online Training

I hope everyone had a good holiday season/Desendber/new year’s! We’re finally back home in Seattle after a very eventful month. If you haven’t read my trip report for Red Rock,  or if you already have check it out again; I added a link to a video I put together with our big crew! After Red Rock, we went to Austin for two weeks. I was hoping to tick off a long term project of mine (last chance to get the elusive double digit problem for the year) while there but the weather was very uncooperative. I did however finish another project, a power test-piece, appropriately called Power Slut. Or I guess that name isn’t entirely appropriate. Be sure to check out the video I made with a few other Austin classics.

Ok now we can get to the real stuff. I first worked with Team of 2  in January 2014, when they came to Seattle for a training clinic. Probably the most intense 3 hours of my life: multiple 4×4’s, sprints, core. I was wrecked for days after. If you’re not familiar with team of 2, the team is Boulder, Co based Kris Peters and Justen Sjong, the trainer and coach, respectively. Kris a very knowledgeable and extremely motivating professional trainer and Justen is a mental-game guru, with almost a savant level ability to get into your headspace. A few months after the clinic, To2 launched their online training program, giving access to world class training to climbers of all levels and all locations. They sold out of available slots very quickly so I had to wait until June to start. I did a 10 week program with video analysis. My results were incredible so to prepare for my recent trip to Vegas, I squeezed in a 5 week program just before. In the new year I plan to continue with more 10 and 5 week programs. From my experience and in my personal opinion, the 10 and 5 week programs have different uses which is why I plan to do both. I’ll explain further in a bit.

Addaero

addaero

To2 uses a 3rd party online training app called Addaero. It’s essentially a calendar where they can upload workouts. There’s also a feed where you or they can leave comments on the day’s workout. Addaero wasn’t originally made with climbing in mind. For instance, in the projecting workout there’s a fill in prompt for distance. However, they’ve started tailoring it much better since I first started using it. Honestly, I didn’t much care for Addaero. It often didn’t relay my comments to To2, there was an option to have the day’s workout emailed to you but that email wouldn’t have all the workouts, the interface is extremely slow, and an actual mobile app instead of a mobile-formatted website (with very limited functionally) would have been much appreciated. It seems like they’re constantly improving it so hopefully it’s current (as of Nov ’14) flaws will be addressed.

Sprongo

For the 10 week plan I also did video analysis. The premise is To2 will watch your videos and analyze your movement patterns, facial expressions, etc. to find flaws in your mental game. This is something I feel is extremely important in order to improve as a climber, and I still think about Justen’s advice he gave me in person during that first clinic. However, there’s really no good replacement for an in-person coach. I found the video analysis only slightly helpful, simply because of the limitations of the technology used: recording at the gym with a cellphone. Is this the best angle for Justen to analyze? Can he see my face? Is the camera close enough? Who’s going to hold the camera? Etc.

Ten Week Program with Video Analysis

First, I should say signing up was very easy: order online, fill out a few forms, sign up for free for Addaero and Sprongo, and you’re ready to go. Kris was nice enough to do a Skype call with me before we started to go over everything, let me give input on the training load, ask any questions I may have had, etc. They set up my plan to repeat weekly then at the five week mark, they switch a few things up. In a recent podcast on Training Beta, Kris said he likes to “shock the system” when beginning a training cycle, and boy did he load me up for my first plan! I was training close to 20 hours a week. So there’s the first take away from this post: they’ll work with you and your schedule but training is a huge time commitment. Here’s what a typical week looked like for me:

1st 5 weeks

-Monday: Hangboard, Shoulder workout

-Tuesday: 4×4 w/fitness, Chest workout

-Wednesday: Cardio, Shoulder workout

-Thursday: Hangboard, Posterior chain workout

-Friday: Projecting, Chest workout

-Saturday: Contrast climbing, Forearm workout, TRX core workout

-Sunday: Rest day

2nd 5 weeks

-Monday: Campus board, TRX core, Forearms

-Tuesday: Projecting, Posterior, Shoulders

-Wednesday: Cardio

-Thursday: Cardio, Chest, Shoulders

-Friday: Hangboard, TRX core

-Saturday: Projecting, TRX cross-train, TRX shoulders

-Sunday: Rest day

A few explanations: the hangboarding was mostly one arm exercises, or two arms with added weight; very intense. The 4×4 w/fitness consisted of a 4×4 then rush to the workout area to do some non-climbing calisthenics, then rush back for another 4×4. I think I did this 4x. It was brutal. Contrast climbing was an interesting exercise where you climb something easy, then immediately climb something hard, then easy again. The goal there is to observe the contrast in your technique when climbing hard/easy.

There seems to be a polarity about running for climbing. I was always on the side of it’s useless (running is as good training for climbing as climbing is as good training for running) and possibly detrimental (too much running leaves you too tired to go hard when climbing). However, I think how Team of 2 is implementing it is actually beneficial and I’ve felt the benefits. They’re basically using it to solely improve fitness. In, I believe, the same Training Beta podcast, Kris says he wouldn’t make Daniel Woods run, because, well, who’s fitter than Daniel woods? Running only once a week is basically an active rest day, a day to keep your intensity high while giving your tendons some much needed rest. Like the plan as a whole, it’s very intense at first to be running an hour as a rest day, but once the body adapts it leaves you with a much quicker recovery rate.

As I said before, they really loaded me up, and almost every training day left me completely exhausted. I was constantly hungry, eating probably 3000 Cal, and falling asleep by 9:30 every night. The hardest part at first was staying motivated when on Fridays (projecting day and 5 days since a rest day) I was drastically losing performance; I went from projecting V9’s to struggling on V7’s. Kris has told me they actually lose a lot of clients because they expect to train hard all week and still climb at peak performance on the weekends. Well unless you’re a mutant, that’s really hard to do. At first. It took me almost half the whole 10 week plan to really acclimate to the work load, but when I finally did, it was on. I was showing immense improvement on the hangboard, and getting back to doing V8’s and V9’s the very next day. So if you do decide to start training with To2, trust the process and stick with it!

Noted results after 10 week program

  • Two consecutive one arm pull ups on right arm
  • 5 second non-assisted one arm hang on a full pad edge
  • 2x V8 flashes (in gym)
  • Consistently able to do at least one V8 (in gym) every session regardless of how many days on
  • Two V9’s in one session (in gym)
  • Did first outdoor V9, Immortal Techniques, after about 1.5 hrs of total effort.

Five Week Program

For my second program, I didn’t quite plan ahead so only had time for a five week plan before I headed off to Vegas. It should be noted that I started this one about two months after finishing the 10 week, and without doing any maintenance workouts and sustaining a slight finger injury, my overall climbing performance was on the decline. Since they had worked with me before, they focused this plan more on building raw strength rather than general fitness. Here’s what my week looked like:

-Monday: projecting, TRX core, Shoulders

-Tuesday: Campus board, chest, posterior

-Wednesday: Rest day

-Thursday: Hangboard, TRX core

-Friday: Cardio, Forearms, ab roll outs & front levers, Shoulders

-Saturday: Moderate intensity climbing, Shoulders

-Sunday: Rest day

I found this plan a little more manageable. The workouts were kind of a “short and sweet” intensity level.

Noted Results after 5 week program

  • Regained one arm pull up strength
  • Regained one arm hang strength
  • Did a V10 (in gym) in two overlapping sections
  • Did 2nd outdoor V9, Timmy’s Problem, in about 30 minutes at end of day
  • Did Monkey Bar Direct, V8, 3rd day on

Overall, I am very impressed with To2, and even more excited to continue working with them. If you’re deciding which plan to do, in my personal experience, it takes 5 weeks to get into the best shape you’re currently capable, then another 5 weeks to actually improve. So if you’re trying to go up a consistent grade, shoot for the 10 weeks. If you’re just trying to get into shape for an upcoming trip, the 5 weeks will get you there. Just remember, the 10 week plan will break you down so you really have to be motivated to stick with it.

Hope this helps those who are considering working with To2!

 

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Training on a Home Wall

If you’ve checked out my instagram at all, you might have seen that I have a little home gym. I had a request to post about how training on it has worked out for me.

First, let me paint a picture. I’ve always wanted a home wall. To me that was the pinnacle of indoor climbing. Your own facility, with your own rules, your own boulder problems, etc. I always envisioned something a little more grand, say like Steven Jeffery’s uber-dense wall, but living as a graduate student with the sky-rocketing rent of Seattle kind of limited the size of what I could afford. When I’m done being a broke student, and start house hunting, space for a real gym will definitely be a must. For now, I make do with what I have. The justification for building my current wall was to save money by cancelling my membership to Seattle Bouldering Project and to save time by being able to train whenever my schedule allowed. Now to add a few more brushstrokes, we should talk about my training. I’m currently working with Team of 2, doing a 5 week online plan. Side note: If you’re unfamiliar with To2, they are Justen Sjong and Kris Peters. They’re based in Boulder, and have trained Daniel Woods, Alex Puccio, Nina Williams, Alex Johnson, and many others. They now provide online training plans for climbers of all skill level. I’ll eventually post a review of my experience with them. Anyway, my training consists of hard climbing, hang board, TRX training, weightlifting, campus boarding, and theraband exercises. With my small woody, I can do all but the campus boarding. Let’s go through in chunks and I’ll explain how in/effective the woody is for everything.

Hangboard

For my hangboarding I do three exercises: assisted one arm pull ups, assisted one hand dead hangs, and weighted two hand dead hangs. All exercises are done on edges (there’s an argument for only needing to hangboard on edges which I won’t get into here). So until I no longer need assistance, I only need three different edge sizes. Instead of having a huge hangboard I opted for campus board rungs. Specifically, Atomik’s, because I got a full set of factory seconds at a huge discount! I have a 2″ for pull ups, 1″ for one arm hangs, and a 3/4″ for weighted hangs. The 2″ and 1″ are mounted at the top of the mini roof so I have plenty of space to flail my limbs for one arm pull ups as well as run a pulley system to take weight off.

Grey 2″ and blue 1″. Two bolt hangers to run pulley system

The woody works very well for hangboarding, and is the workout I do most consistently at home. The added benefit of being able to properly warm up by climbing beforehand is really useful for me; I’ve never found a good way to warm up the fingers on just a hangboard.

TRX, weights, and Therabands

With the same bolt hangers used for the pulley system I can hang a TRX. Well actually a knock-off because I’m not paying $200 for some straps. The “TRX” itself works great, but since my ceiling is only 8′ the range of motion for some exercises can feel awkward. For weight-lifting, I don’t do much, and what I do is mostly for injury prevention. I’m not trying to get swole or anything. I have a set of adjustable weight dumbbells, max 20 lbs. With these I can do shoulders, back, chest, and forearms. Therabands are easy enough: step on them, strap ’em on something, or just yank on them. Really no woody required for that one.

Climbing

Ok, so obviously this is the big one. The point of a woody is so you can climb. Mine fills out our second bedroom which is 9′ by 13′. It’s a main 45 degree wall that meets a 4′ by 4′ mini roof on the right and a mini 15 degree wall with a small vertical section connecting back to the mini roof.

DSC_1795
Main 45
DSC_1798
15 degree wall. More rungs for hangs, and various system holds.

Remember this is all under an 8′ ceiling. Due to my own poor planning, I only have about 4 holds that are useful on the roof, so that’s worthless. The 15 is too narrow to get any real movement out of it, so now it’s a pseudo hangboard station and minimal system wall. Last and in some ways least is the 45. At 8′, it’s plenty wide so movement doesn’t feel restricted, but at 8′ tall there’s not much room to actually climb: two big moves from a scrunchy sit start and you’re at the top. Not that useful. Because my hard climbing days consist of either projecting or doing a lot of problems, I don’t actually climb on the woody very often. Instead I go to the dinky climbing wall at school because it’s $45 per quarter. Oh and I still go to Seattle Bouldering Project once a week to do my campus board workout and have to buy a day pass. I would say my wall is a bit of a failure (b-but it’s still cool though, right?). I am technically saving money monthly relative to just keeping my SBP membership, but I think it would take me about 2-3 years of what I’m currently doing to break even with the total expense of building the wall.

To make the woody a little more functional, I’m already planning a remodel. I’m going to extend a 60 degree section off the middle of the 45, which will give about 11′ of direct climbing path. Add more vertical panels to vary the starting positions, and build out the side of the 15, to get some compression movement out of it. I’ll have zero room for storage, but I’ll figure that out later. I think once that’s done, other than campus boarding, which there’s no real hope for in my apartment, training on my woody will be self contained.

left side
Looking through the wall. Red are added sections
Looking in through the window. Red are added sections
Looking in through the window. Red are added sections

TL;DR: if you want to build a woody with minimal height, go steep so you can do more than two moves at a time…