1. Taking avoidable detraining periods – No training at all is bad news. You lose all the gains you worked so hard to get. When life gets in the way for a spell, maintain your current level with just a little strength work squeezed in. Even a couple of 30 minute sessions on the fingerboard without even leaving the house will prevent the slide back to the bottom of the ladder again.
2. Vary everything – The whole idea of periodisation isn’t just about making sure you make time to work on the different performance aspects (feeding the goose). It’s just as much about avoiding the dreaded ‘accommodation’ where your body just gets use to the same stimulus every year (starving the goose). Unless you mix up everything you can about the training there will be no more golden eggs. What to mix up? Train on different walls, on different angles, different problems set by different setters, on different rock types, crags – you get the picture. If you find yourself saying ‘Oh yeah I remember doing this problem last year’, there is the problem you need to fix with your training.
3. Get hung up with measuring ability with past milestones. This is a subtle psychological issue so it needs a bit more detail. Read on.
Lots of climbers get hung up on maintaining a certain level on their favourite type of move, exercise or even certain routes they do regularly. Sure, it’s good to have measures to give you reference points of where you are. But watch out – often your benchmark strength tests are matched to your best performance attributes. What’s the problem? At best, using your favourite performance measure gives you little information about the performance attributes you are weakest on. At worst, it allows you to keep kidding yourself you are actually improving, and keep avoiding facing up to the aspects you don’t like working on or are pitifully weak on. If you do this, you don’t have a true measure of your climbing ability.
If you want to know where you are at with your climbing/training level and make god decisions about what to focus on, go to the crag you are worst on. Try the problems on the board/angle you just can’t seem to master.
Remember, the bigger the hole in one are of your climbing performance, the bigger the positive effect you will feel when you finally take the bull by the horns and attack it.