Rock climbers are always looking for ways to improve their training and performance, but may not think that obstacle course racing can be an effective tool. More often than not, climbers end up reading the same handful of training books that say more or less the same things about training for rock climbing. However, looking outside of the rock climbing community has proven to be valuable for climbers. Rock climbing is an incredibly complex sport involving strength power, endurance, coordination, technique, and countless other attributes to be successful. Because of this, it can be difficult to pinpoint training techniques that will yield the best results. But there is an upside. Though it may be difficult to identify best practices, a wide variety of techniques are not only applicable to rock climbing training but maybe just what you need to improve! Obstacle course racing is an awesome example of non-traditional training that climbers are finding can improve their performance in three main areas: base fitness, coordination, and balance.
If you comb through enough climbing training plans you will find that almost all of them include literature on how to improve your base fitness. Base fitness often refers to your body's ability to utilize oxygen efficiently while exercising and is what an athlete's entire ability to perform is built upon. Climbers and obstacle course racers alike require excellent base fitness to perform at high levels and many training programs require that athletes return to base fitness at the beginning of training cycles. Obstacle course racing, much like rock climbing, requires a mixture of endurance and strength. When an athlete transitions from running to an upper-body challenge, you'd better bet that their body is utilizing oxygen efficiently. For this reason, obstacle course racing makes for awesome base fitness training for any climber starting a new training cycle or just looking to incorporate base training.
Modern competition climbing often requires climbers to perform crazy coordination movements. Climbers are forced to break their habit of climbing slowly and methodically when they find large volumes placed far apart on the wall. It can be difficult to know how to train for these movements, and climbers can lose a lot of skin by throwing themselves at the same move over and over again. Fortunately, many obstacles found in obstacle course races are much easier to repeat in training and can drastically improve an athlete's coordination. Obstacles like the Spear Throw may not seem like they would translate directly to climbing, but by mastering complex body movements through obstacle course training, you will be surprised at how much your coordination will improve!
Many obstacles in obstacle course racing require athletes to have a superior balance to make it across. Similarly, slab projects in rock climbing require an extremely good balance to send. If your local crag doesn't have much slab climbing or your local climbing gym doesn't pay too much mind to their slab wall, obstacle course racing training can be an incredibly effective way to increase balance in a way that will translate to climbing. Balance isn't just about your feet. Instead, good balance requires full-body engagement and lots of practice to master!
Obstacle course racing is also an effective way to stay in shape for climbing while you may be nursing a finger injury or taking some time off. So if you're staying away from climbing but don't want to lose too much strength, obstacle course racing can keep you in shape and even help you improve in areas you may have never trained before.
Still not convinced that obstacle course racing can improve your rock climbing? Check out your local ninja or obstacle course gym and talk with a trainer! We have only scratched the surface of how obstacle course racing can improve your climbing.