Will Butcher has been the President of the Texas Rock Climbing team for two years and has quite an impressive climbing resume. He won sport climbing at CCS Nationals in 2014 and placed 2nd in 2013. He also won SCS Youth Nationals in in 2005, has been on the US National Team four times and competed at Worlds twice.
Read on to learn more about how Will and his team train for CCS.
School: The University of Texas at Austin
Year in school: December 2014 Graduate
How long have you been climbing: 12 years
Do you currently have a coach or were you previously coached in climbing:
I have been lucky to train with some of the most experienced and successful climbing coaches in the country. I trained with a youth climbing team called Team Texas in Dallas for 8 years. My coach, Kyle Clinkscales, is the head coach of Team Texas and was the USA Climbing US National Team coach for several years. At UT Austin, the UT climbing team has been fortunate to have John Myrick as our coach. Coach Myrick has been coaching climbing for over a decade and was responsible for the creation of the Collegiate Climbing Series in 2009.
How many days per week do you usually train and for how long:
During the fall, I would try to climb three days a week, for two or three hours each day. In addition, most Sundays the UT climbing team has a four-hour workout that includes running, weights, climbing, and a circuit workout. In the spring, we do not practice on competition weekends and focus less on cross-training and fitness and more on redpoint climbing, onsighting, and mental training. The key to training in college is balancing school, climbing, and all of your other priorities so that you can maintain some consistency in your training schedule. Climbing with a dedicated team, especially with a coach, can help you commit to your training schedule even when there are other pressures that might take you away from climbing. It can be frustrating to feel like you have hit a plateau or are falling back in your climbing because a busy week or two of tests or projects keeps you from climbing. Just as with everything else in life, it is important to know how to prioritize, avoid wasting time by procrastinating, and stay focused and motivated to make the most of the time you do put into training.
When does your team start practicing each year:
UT starts practicing in September each fall semester.
Describe a day of training at the gym:
The UT climbing team always begins practice by circling up to do our warm-up routine, which includes jumping jacks, pushups, finger flicks, and a few stretches. Each practice we have a different training plan organized by our coach. We always warm up for about half an hour on the wall before beginning our climbing training. Climbing drills include four-by-fours or up-down-up-down-up-down climbing for endurance training, redpointing hard routes at our level, points games to simulate competitions, and onsighting whenever we have new routes in the gym. In the fall, we usually also do circuit workouts for cross-training one or two days a week. Also in the fall, we do some climbing-specific exercises like climbing a rope, hangboard, or campus board workouts one day a week.
Describe some specific drills you do to train for your discipline (sport/speed/bouldering):
Sport climbing is my favorite discipline and has been the discipline I have focused on in CCS. Early on in the climbing season, I like to focus on building up my stamina by climbing a lot of routes in each climbing session. Once I feel fit, I like to focus on endurance by staying on the wall for a long time and doing a lot of consecutive moves and practicing resting on the wall. Four-by-fours are my favorite drill for this. To get the most benefit, lower quickly and don’t rest in between climbs. Learn to rest on the wall. Up-down climbing is also a great way to train endurance.
During competition season, I like to focus on hard climbing and onsighting. Redpointing hard routes until you send them and then repeating the routes until you can do them two, three, or four times in a row is great for building your discipline in climbing and can get you noticeably stronger, as you are climbing routes multiple times in a row that you initially had to project. The last session before any competition should be easier, and I like to focus on onsighting. Making up routes, linking existing routes, or having someone make up routes for you can be a good way to practice onsighting.
Will on the Men’s Final route
What exercises do you think have helped you to progress the most in your climbing:
Numbered climbing circuits are my favorite way to train for sport climbing. A hard circuit on a steep bouldering wall is great because it helps you train endurance, power-endurance, resting on the wall, and can help you build your strength over time as you observe your progress one hold at a time on a circuit. Also, as soon as you fall off, you can hop back on the wall and keep climbing or hop on a jug and rest. I think circuits are very motivating because they force you to focus on making it one more move, not necessarily sending a route.
Do you do any type of cross training (i.e. training that is not climbing-related, like running or swimming):
I like to run, and I think running or other aerobic activities are good for overall fitness, which helps in climbing, especially in endurance and stamina. I usually only run once a week or once every two weeks.
What is your competition day routine (i.e. stretches, mental prep, certain foods):
I think one of my biggest strengths in competition climbing is my preparation and execution on the day of the competition. Even when I am not the strongest climber competing, I can usually do well because I tend to perform at my highest level during competitions. It is fun to use the psych of the competition to climb better than you expected you could ordinarily.
My preparation for onsight competitions like CCS Nationals goes something like this:
My competition day routine begins with a good night sleep the night before the comp. I like to have a good dinner, go to bed early, and visualize success on the next day’s climb. This means visualizing having a positive attitude, not being afraid to fail, climbing smoothly and efficiently, getting to a crux move and giving everything you have to stick the hold – and sticking it!
On the day of the comp, wake up with plenty of time to eat a good breakfast, get ready, and make it to the comp venue.
My warm-ups are unusually long compared to a lot of other climbers. If I can get a short jog in, I like to start warming up by getting the blood pumping and warming up my whole body. Jumping jacks will do if I don’t have space to jog. Then I have a routine of a few exercises and stretches that I like to do. I do finger flicks and stretch my forearms frequently during my warm-up. I like to do a couple exercises to get my core engaged before I start climbing. Once my body feels warm, I will start warming up on the wall with a very easy traverse. I focus on relaxing on the holds and making efficient movements. I rest in between traverses and slowly increase the intensity until I have gotten a good pump. Then I rest and stretch for 15 to 20 minutes before I start warming up on worse holds and warming up specific moves. I make sure to warm up on different types of holds and moves, focusing on crimps, slopers, pinches, underclings, gastons, cross moves, static and dynamic moves, and moves on different angles. If you go back into isolation after looking out a route, try to find holds and moves that are similar to those on your route and practice those moves. After doing a few sets of hard moves, I like to do one or two moderate traverse laps to relax and feel confident before I climb. Then I rest for 15 to 20 minutes before I climb, still flicking my fingers and stretching to stay loose. In total, this warm up takes an hour and a half or two hours. If you are one of the first climbers in the session, start warming up early. If you are later, rest and go over the beta in your head until it is time to start warming up.
Will and his team warming up before a local competition
In terms of mental preparation, looking out the route and having good beta is a really important aspect. It helps to discuss the beta with your teammates and fellow competitors. For comp routes, there are often two or three ideas of how a tricky section should be done. Look out the route and know your beta, including alternative beta if Plan A doesn’t work out. While climbing, think about your beta in sections but always stay focused on getting one more hold. One hold is often what determines the winner.
How important do you feel climbing outside is for your progression:
Climbing outside is really important for keeping me psyched on climbing. I love competition climbing, but, for me, I train indoors to climb outside. Having a project outside can be really motivating to train specifically for that project. Also, when you can’t get outside frequently, climbing trips provide a goal in your training schedule and help keep you focused and psyched.
Will projecting a route in Arkansas
How often do you climb outside:
Not enough! One day a week outside is really nice and keeps me motivated. Weekend climbing trips are really fun, and longer trips outdoors always get me feeling stronger.
Thanks to Will Butcher for being generous enough to share his wisdom and training with the rest of our community!
Will taking first at CCS Nationals 2014