Take your climbing to the next level! - Learning from Tom Randall

Climbing coaching in Finland is still in its infancy but the demand is definitely there. More and more people are finding their way into the world of climbing and many are interested in improving quickly, not just by climbing but by training - and by being trained! Personal training scene boomed in the gym and fitness circles few years back and the same kind of mentality has started thriving in climbing. And why not? Training with a coach is a fantastic tool and an easy way to structure one's training, as well as to get visible results!

Check out tips for training from an upcoming blog post!

At Boulderkeskus we have excellent coaches with a long history of climbing and training. They have mostly been working with groups, the latest one being a small advanced group which started their training in May! Our coaches are enthusiastic, competent and motivated, as well as eager to learn more! Hence, we invited the world renowned climbing coach Tom Randall from performance profiling company Lattice Training to share his knowledge and experience on the subject. His pupils for the course were selected carefully and in the the end the group consisted of BK's own coaches as well as BK Climbers' junior team's instructors and was reinforced also with a friend from Kuopio's VOEMA climbing gym.

The happy group! Photo by: Henna Mäkinen

Coaching for coaching: Day 1

On day one, Tom and the group naturally began with the basics. They revised the principles of training, talked about climbers' physiology, how the body works when on the wall and which energy systems are working when during different styles of climbing.

Mysterious looking charts starting to make sense with the help of Tom Randall Photo by: Inka Gysin

As a charismatic speaker, Tom got the undivided attention of the group immediately. His teaching style is very involving - he does not just talk but asks questions and listens to his "pupils".  It feels that not only is he teaching them, but he also feeds on their ideas and motivation, learns from them. Typically the shy Finns are not the easiest group to get answers out of. However, everyone in the group was instantly at ease and the day involved some great conversations - it really says something about Tom's style of interacting with his pupils.

The multiple and varied conversations on training gave a lot insight to the coaches - and perhaps to Tom as well

The beef behind Tom's teachings and know-how is his one of a kind assessment tool. A big part of the coaching course included learning how to scientifically test and assess climbers.  Pairing the results of the assessments with the goals and the backgrounds of the climber is the way to begin.

To put this theory into practice, in the afternoon, the group got to invent tests to assess the aerobic capacity, leg power as well as core and strength of "a junior". Tom himself got to play the part of a junior and to be the guinea pig for our innovative coaches. We are glad to inform that he survived the tests ;)

Tom getting out of his shoes and into the role of "a testee"

Sharing knowledge for BK's customers as well
Even after the long and intensive first day, Tom heroically appeared in front of about a hundred hungry listeners to explain his views on training for climbing. Check the end of the article for a few of Tom's most important training principles!

Training for climbing by Tom Randall! Photo by: Inka Gysin

Coaching for coaching: Day 2
The second day consisted of building a training schedule. When it comes down to creating a good training plan, it is of utmost importance to see the big picture. Rather than immediately prescribing a specific hangboard routine, the coach needs to talk with the customer about their goals and targets as well as revisit their climbing history.

The group got to make up training programs for fake characters like Lady Gaga and John Smith with elaborate backgrounds: they got to know their climbing experience, their everyday life restrictions for training, their current levels,  goals, other restrictions...what have you! Just like in real life with a customer.

Coaching days were a flood of information - and included a stack of notes

At the end of the day, the whole group left the conference room with visible enthusiasm and eagerness to start creating training plans. When asking Tom how the group did, he replied with a proud smile on his face: "At the end of the day they were all writing proper, solid plans! Really good!"

Finding strengths and weaknesses by a Private Customer Workshop
On Saturday, 16 intrigued customers arrived to Boulderkeskus Herttoniemi to be assessed on their current finger strength level, aerobic function and recovery rate! Our coaches were ready to advice the customers on how to warm up properly and how to prepare for the upcoming tests. The atmosphere at the gym was excited but warm-spirited. The coaches did a great job in reassuring the “testees” just to do their best: no matter the result, as long as you try your best. The results were only for the climbers to hear which elements might need work and on which one has already worked enough on!

Coach Andreas is ready to assess

Most of the assessments started off with max hangs on the custom Lattice hangboard or by testing the maximum power on a pull-up bar with added weight. Last test was an endurance/ recovery test where the climbers got to hang 7 seconds on/ 3 seconds off as long as they could - also on the same Lattice hangboard, just with the weight reduced a bit.

Time to do some weighted pull-ups!

And the results? We had a gym full of completely pumped, exhausted but motivated and enthusiastic climbers! Everyone had a 15 minute chat with Tom afterwards about the results and how to continue their training, how to work on the weaknesses and which exercises they can already drop. Without a doubt, each and everyone of the 16 climbers left the gym with valuable information and added inspiration!

Going through the results

What does it take to be a good coach?
Tom felt that it was not much different working with Finnish coaches since climbers are climbers everywhere - they're relaxed and welcoming. The main difference he saw was that the Finns had a bigger hunger for expertise! He suspected that this was due to Finland being more isolated from and perhaps less familiarized with the world of climbing coaching: therefore the group was like a "big sponge that wanted to suck up all the information", as Tom would put it.

In Tom's opinion a good coach needs first and foremost to be good with people! They need to communicate well and make people feel comfortable. A good coach is also a good analyzer and lastly good at taking in large concepts - and then making it simple for the athlete.

Lattice training has gathered an impressive data collection of the assessments

The key tools for coaching are good academic knowledge and tactics as well as the instruments for actual physical and mental training. Experience will take a coach far and finally they will also need quality facilities and time. Without time there will be no results, perhaps not even a start.

And what are the key things a coach can help the climber with? In Tom's opinion, a good coach will be able to identify the climber's weaknesses and strengths, their realistic goals and then execute an effective plan for technique, strength training and whatever is needed to reach those goals. Coach needs to have the ability to motivate and provide inspiration. The coach is the caretaker and the one person behind supporting the climber in their journey.

Photo courtesy of Lattice Training

Why is the assessment such important as a tool then? "Assessments give you an objective starting point. Where the customer is now and how far they are from their goals. It is an item they can use for later...the whole coaching relationship can be seen as a journey. The assessment helps to see how far along you are!", explains Tom.

More coaching opportunities ahead for BK customers!
There are indeed bigger plans ahead regarding the coaching services at BK. We can proudly say that there will be a wider range of personal coaching options, training plans and assessments for all our customers in the near future! According to Tom, already the facilities at BK provide everything one needs for taking their climbing to the next level and soon with the custom training programs, this will be even easier. And the cooperation with Tom Randall and Lattice will definitely continue! Stay tuned for more info by our Facebook, Instagram and website.

Chocolate muffins to feed the hungry coaches

Read more about Lattice Training on their website, Facebook and Instagram or join their Facebook community group.

Text by: Inka Gysin
Images by: Samuli Tiainen (unless mentioned otherwise)