What do the Euros know that we don’t? How did they get so good?
—Jack Roads | St. George, UT
We can’t lump all Euros together, but in countries like France and Austria, an abundance of training information is being circulated from the National Academies that train the competition teams. This info trickles down to the average gym climber.
That said, the top Euros don’t necessarily possess any secret knowledge, they just actually do the things that so many of us simply sit around and talk about. They write down all the important exercises and routines, and tick every single box, including those that take a little discipline, on a regular basis. It is so easy to sell yourself a comfy version of the training picture that only includes the nice, easy, fun bits. Getting out of bed early on a cold morning to do a cardio and stretching routine doesn’t always fit into that version! Neither do boring antagonist exercises that prevent injury, or gym circuits that build endurance. The routes are right in front of you, but setting and completing circuits requires effort and thought — in a word, discipline.
Another key component to the Euro approach, if I may generalize, is doing things in the right order to maximize productivity. An example would be starting with a rest phase, then doing general conditioning to develop the fitness to train, then moving on to building a base (mileage sessions on routes and circuits) and finally sharpening up by adding power endurance and power work, all followed by a taper — reducing the intensity of training in order to peak for the start of a season or a climbing trip. For most climbers, training is a bit hit or miss and we’re never really quite sure where we are in our fitness cycle. The penalty for this approach is that you plateau or, worse, get hurt.
Finally, the Euros have a leg up because climbing is generally practiced at a higher level. In France, nobody would even take notice if you onsighted a 5.13, so higher grades aren’t as intimidating as they are in other places. Those of us who start on trad are often taught to be fearful of harder routes, but to improve you need to get on hard sport climbs regularly and get your butt kicked. The Euros understand this and they don’t waste time being psyched out by grades. In summary: Be disciplined and aim high — that’s the Euro way.