Making gains in the gym is fantastic! It makes all the long training sessions and unsuccessful climbing attempts worth it and leaves you hungry for more. But then, amid all your training plans, you have to travel. Whether for work, family events, vacation, or other obligations, traveling will take you away from the rock climbing gym, and the fear of losing those hard-fought gains might creep up.
The good news is that traveling is that, for the most part, those fears are unfounded. If you’ve been training hard or climbing consistently, the rest will benefit your climbing in the long run, and after a few climbing sessions back in the gym, post-trip, you’ll feel right back to your pre-travel self. You may even feel stronger as you’ve allowed your body to recover from the compounded systemic fatigue resulting from consistent training.
However, it’s also hard to go from working out consistently to nothing. Travel anxieties may creep in, and you find yourself itching to train. The good news is there are plenty of ways to train for climbing while traveling that don’t require a rock climbing wall or even a portable hangboard! Depending on your accommodations, travel plans, and comfort level, we’ve curated a training guide to help you maintain those gains and overall fitness while traveling. Remember that if the content of your travels already involves increased physical activity, then be mindful of adding climbing training on top, as the added fatigue it will bring may do more harm than good. Or, in other words, when you feel tired, rest!
How to Train for Climbing While Traveling
There are two main ways to best train for climbing while traveling. Try to incorporate both for a well-rounded program. The first is dependent upon access to a portable hangboard, sturdy door frame, or any edge from which it is safe for you to hang. If you don’t have access to these, no worries. Focus on the second training method; you’ll benefit from maintaining your climbing strength.
Note: The only caveat is that if you travel for 2+ weeks, we suggest investing in a portable mini longboard or block. Without loading your fingers for two weeks, you will likely notice the effects upon returning to the gym for the first week or two. While the finger strength will return quickly, the portable hangboard will help minimize that reconditioning period upon return.
Training Method #1 - Finger Training
Tools Needed: Portable Hangboard (i.e., Tension Block, Frictious Block, Metollius, White Oak, etc.) or a stable edge (i.e., of a doorway).
Anytime you are sitting or have a hands-free moment, pull out the portable hangboard and pull on it, creating tension with your foot pushing against the cord for hanging.
Or, if you have 20-30 minutes and a doorframe, you can complete this workout.
Start with warmup pulls or hangs, easing into more intense effort. Hang/pull for 5-10 seconds until your tendons feel warmed. Then, choose one of two exercises: max effort pulls or repeaters. Repeaters will target the power endurance in your tendons, and max effort pulls will target your overall pulling force.
Pull or hand for 5-7 seconds, rest for 3, and repeat for 3-5 minutes or until fatigued.
Rest for the same amount of time you pulled/hung for, then repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.
Max Effort Pulls:
Pull as hard as you can or hang with as much force as possible in your fingers (adjust the weight by keeping your feet on the ground).
Work for 5 seconds, then rest and do the other hand (if doing one hand at a time).
Complete for 4-10 sets, with 2-3 minutes rest between. During your rest period, jump to training method #2 to maximize your time while traveling.
Training Method #2 - Calisthenics Training
Tools Needed: Access to YouTube and enough space to comfortably perform exercises lying on the floor or moving between standing and sitting.
When: Every other day if possible. Either during the rest period of the finger regime or as a stand-alone.
Calisthenics training is a useful option for traveling and maintaining strength because the movements are body-weight based, just like climbing, and are simple yet effective for targeting strength, power, and body tension.
The easiest way to knock out a calisthenics workout is to open YouTube and search “calisthenics workouts for climbers.” Search the results for a video that fits your available time and desired intensity. You could also search “yoga for climbers” or “yoga for strength.” Many search results are excellent for supplementing climbing training and perfect for doing while on the road.
Aim for a workout targeting critical climbing muscle groups: shoulders, triceps, core, hip flexors, back, delts, and chest. Or, target one area at higher intensity one day while traveling and another the next.
If you prefer to construct your workouts, choose a handful of exercises from the list below and perform 8-12 reps each in a circuit format. Do 3-5 rounds of the circuit.
Handstand holds against a wall (go for 30 - 60 seconds)
Cross-body mountain climbers
Side Plank with Hip Dips
Training for climbing while traveling comes down to being consistent and intentional. It can take less than 20 minutes, and you only need yourself! Customizing the training plan to your schedule, fitness level, and comfort can be as simple as training in the gym. Hopefully, this helps ease any anxieties and gives you confidence to maintain your gains and fitness over your gym hiatus. Let us know if you have any other questions, comments, or suggestions below!