A few years ago my good friend and climbing partner, Naise, and I were in Joe’s Valley Utah playing on some truly amazing boulders (that was before we opened a gym and then had no time to go outdoors😢). Joe’s is hands down one of my favorite bouldering locations, boasting classic problems from V0 to V13, all within 5-10 minute easy hikes from your car. Such a cool place. Everyone is super friendly, great guide books that actually make sense (don’t ask me about the El Do guide book we bought 😤), and every once in a while, you get to climb with a legend!
OK, well we didn’t actually ‘climb’ with a legend, but we were parked next to the out-houses when a true climbing stud pulled up. Naise has this sixth sense for spotting his heroes, and so he runs over by me all giddy and stuff and says: “That’s Carlo Traversi”. It was surreal, almost like we had been best friends since grade school. Carlo drives by and we just nod, you know that cool nod that says, ‘ya, that’s right, we’re climbers too.’ I’m pretty sure he actually saw us!
Fast forward to last week. I’ve started a new personal training regimen and the stage I am in right now is calling for some ARC (aerobic restoration and capillary) training. Basically, I spend a full 15 minutes on the wall of the boulder room, working my arms up into a vein detonating pump while try to just keep the pain low enough that I don’t fall off the wall. To do this, I move laterally along the wall (called traversing). Anyway, a new member see’s me doing this (along with sweating profusely, shaking out every 5 seconds, trying to find rest positions and maybe crying just a little), and asks the only appropriate question: “What the hell are you doing?” (Actually, he was much more polite than that, but I’m sure that’s what he was thinking).
“I’m Carlosing”, I replied. (Get it? Carlo Traversi: Carlosing Traversing 😆😆).
OK, enough with the hero worship humor. What exactly is traversing or ARC training? Simply said, it is climbing just at your pumped out limit for anywhere from 15-45 minutes without coming off the wall. The key is to vary the difficulty and angle of your climbing to keep your forearms just at the point that you are using aerobic (as opposed to anaerobic) metabolism. At first, this can be difficult to judge, but with time, you develop the ability to ‘read’ your own body. Basically, the goal is to maintain effort at the point that you are breathing moderately heavy with a light to moderate sweat, but not to the point that you can no longer hold on the wall (ie: pumped out).
Now the cool thing is the effect of these workouts. If you are anything like me, more often then not, when I fall on a top-rope or lead route, the reason is not that the move is too hard; the issue is that my muscles are fatiguing (pumping out). In other words, I have made the turn from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. Once that happens, I begin to delete ATP stores (remember high school biology?), starve the muscles from much needed oxygen and glucose, and eventually (usually just a few minutes) become unable to hold a kitten, let along my body 30 feet off the ground.
What ARC training does, by keeping me just at that threshold, is that it stimulates my body to increase capillary production (the small vessels responsible for delivery of food to my forearms). It also trains my body to recover quicker between moves as well as develop general muscle conditioning. Finally, ARC training teaches me to improve my grip control and avoid over-gripping (lighter gripping blocks less of the blood flow) while also helping me develop pump-management skills. (For a much more detailed explanation of this, pick up a copy of The Rock Climbers Training Manual by Anderson and Anderson in our pro-shop. A must have for anyone wanting to train hard and smart).
And get this: just a few weeks of this and you will already begin noticing significant improvement in your climbing endurance. No, it’s not the sexiest kind of climbing and yes, it does take some effort and determination. But that’s how you become a Carlo Traversi. So come on, join the Carlosing movement. It’s what all of us cool climbers do. 🕶
(And yes, I know, his name is Carlo, not Carlos, but Carloing just doesn’t flow off the tongue as well).
Carlos on and follow your bliss,