The Training Diaries: Sapna Desai

Sapna Desai is a Junior at the University of Virginia. She took 3rd in Sport Climbing at CCS Nationals in 2013 and 2nd in 2014. Read on to find out how Sapna trains for those pumpy endurance routes.


How long have you been climbing: I’ve been climbing for almost 8 years.
Do you currently have a coach or were you previously coached in climbing: I climbed under a couple different coaches from 8th-12th grade, but I don’t have a coach anymore.
How many days per week do you usually train and for how long: I try to get to the gym 3 times a week, but most of the time I only make it once or twice. Depending on what gym I go to, I spend anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours.


When does your team start practicing each year: We start practicing during the first or second week of the semester.
Describe a day of training at the gym: Since I don’t get to the gym as often as I’d like to, I spend most of my time at the gym projecting and climbing fun routes. If I plan on training, I generally warm up for about 15 minutes, hop on any new routes that have been set, and then do a workout (4X4, 2-on-1s, pyramids). Lastly, I’ll get some endurance climbing in on some medium-hard routes. If I have time or I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll end with campusing, abs, and pull-ups/hangboard.


Describe some specific drills you do to train for your discipline (sport/speed/bouldering): For sport climbing, endurance is key. My favorite workout for sport training is probably 2-on-1s, which is when you climb 3 routes in a row, the first 2 a little below your onsight level and the last one something that you can send with some difficulty. 2-on-1s are great because they force you to pull hard moves after the pump has set in. Bolt climbs and laps are tedious, but they build up my endurance pretty quickly. I also do pyramids to strengthen my power endurance.
What exercises do you think have helped you to progress the most in your climbing: I think endurance workouts benefit me the most. I don’t really enjoy building my power unless I have a solid endurance base. Modified Horst pyramids have been the most advantageous workout. They really focus on power endurance since you climb hard routes for specific intervals with timed rests.


Do you do any type of cross training: Nope. I definitely should, but I don’t.
What is your competition day routing: I don’t have a particular routine for competitions. I normally warm up for about 30 minutes before climbing, pretty much all on easy stuff. I stay about 1-2 grades below my onsight level when I warm up on boulders. I also like to have a pretty long rest, at least 15 minutes, before I actually climb my route. I always eat a tasty meal before climbing and snack on protein bars and gatorade in iso. I am a pretty chill and relaxed person, so I don’t really stress about competitions. For me it’s basically just getting to climb beautifully set routes before everyone else does, so I just have fun with it. I’ve never been good at taking competitions super seriously, which I think might be one of my strengths.


How important do feel climbing outside is for your progression: I don’t think outdoor climbing is very important for actually climbing stronger. This mentality is probably because I grew up climbing in Florida where rocks aren’t a real thing. I have definitely felt that training indoors is much easier and more beneficial, but I think climbing outside is super enjoyable. It’s also a ton of fun and keeps the climbing psych alive!


How often do you climb outside: I get outdoors about once every month in the fall and less in the spring. Climbing outdoors is a huge time commitment since there aren’t a lot of places super close by. I prefer to take one or two longer trips a year and spend a week climbing outside opposed to trying to get a day of outdoor climbing in every few weeks.

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