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Plice works!

November 30, 2010

Wes gets after it during a session on his plice.

This year’s fall season was a bit of a bust for me in terms of training for winter, and while I’m getting by on my base fitness just fine, I definitely did not start the season where I hoped to be in that department.  A combination of work and too many other things going on, and then just getting going on it all only to get a nasty flu virus that took me nearly a month to get over put a dent into my training plans.  I’m making up for it in earnest now, but the season is already underway.

My close friend and climbing partner Wes Bender, is facing similar time constraints this year, primarily due to the fact that he’s now a proud new dad (congratulations buddy!).  His solution was to build a plice.

Plywood ice (hence “plice”) is a specialized ice climbers variation on a simple climbing wall, designed with one purpose – to build sport-specific endurance for ice climbing.  The idea was recently popularized by Will Gadd, a pro climber in Canmore that required it for a marathon ice climbing event he was doing as a charity fundraiser.  This year, it seems to have really caught on if his blog posts are any indication.

Looking at them initially, I was skeptical about how much benefit one could get out of them.  I was interested, but at the same time I thought to myself geez – these things aren’t even overhanging, how is one supposed to get a real burn without doing short little laps on them all day?  What’s the point?  At least, that’s the way I was thinking (I naturally gravitate toward wanting to emphasize power in my training, and a lot of my workouts more closely resemble Crossfit routines with a bit of a climbing twist to them).  I generally find any sort of endurance training for my forearms boring, unless it means just going climbing.  Our local climbing wall is a zoo and I find it hard to train endurance in the bouldering cave without getting bored quickly.

So when Wes finally convinced me to come over and get a session in, I was pleasantly surprised at just how much benefit one could get from one of these.  Wes rattled off the routine of laps and sets he was doing to me, and being cocky, I told him we were gonna be jacking that up a bit.  I ate my words pretty quickly, and a typical ego-driven training session ensued where we did our best to keep one-upping each other, cranking more laps per set than we initially committed to doing.  And at the end of it all, our forearms were delightfully cooked, and I was so pumped I was actually scared of falling off the thing near the end of the session.

On my way home, all I could think about was building one of these rigs for Jenn and I to train on.  With our local ice season now underway, I was thinking I’d wait until next season, but then I reasoned it would still have a place and get serious use this season too.  When I first began taking rock climbing seriously as a student, I mounted a small fingerboard in the kitchen in my apartment and was on that thing at every opportunity.  Every time I walked past it I cranked a couple of pull-ups or a dead hang for a few seconds.  On the way to the shower in the morning; in between moving pots around cooking dinner; at commercials during my favourite TV shows; while I watched the shows instead of sitting; right before bed.  After 6 months I went from climbing 5.9 to hard 5.11.

I plan to use this thing the same way:  on the way to the car for work in the morning, on the way out to walk the dog, on the way back in, right after work, just before bed, when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night – all of it in addition to hitting the gym, skiing and climbing as much as I can.  As soon as I finish another wood-working project in the queue, I’m going use up some scrap lumber and tie one of these things to that tired old tree in our backyard.

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