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How to make it to the 2020 Olympics

The 2020 games in Tokyo will be the first 'tester' year that climbing will be an Olympic sport! In addition to surfing and skating, the 2020 games will now have a total of 20 men and 20 women from around the world. For Tokyo, climbing competitors will be chosen based on their well rounded performance in the three styles of sport, speed and bouldering.

For those of you licking your lips, here are a few tips on how to get there:

1. Practice Your Diversity.

3 separate styles?! Being good at one thing has its benefits but for this season, practice shining at more than just your favorite bouldering problem. This leaves you more room to truly learn what it is to control positioning, dynamic stable explosion, and problem solving.

This also sets you up for more injuries… Focus on really diversifying your training to ensure that your injuries stay at bay. This includes staying away from hangboard and compressive moves as you first begin to build up your volume. Instead focus on positioning, learning better shoulder stability, and ensuring that you have what it takes with overall fitness to truly begin your training program. When I trained in college, we’d train tired for 3 years just to have the fitness and the skills to spend that 4th year at our level of dream competition. But it took adhering to a plan, following the ropes, and above all- avoidance of getting injured or sick!

2. Embracing Our First Steps as a Community.

As a community, most of us are thankful that our sport has been chosen. Others such as Ondra who is contemplating boycotting the 2020 Games are upset that the competitions are not broken in to individual styles of climbing. Laid out like gymnastics for its first year of the Games, we need to embrace our first year as an olympic sport. Regardless of if the ‘layout’ suits us, the 2020 Olympics will be good for our advocacy programs, our gyms, and our youth programs. With this first step, being an olympic sport now opens up the future of climbing to those who will have undoubtedly never seen it before. This will help us to hopefully make climbing LEGAL in Cuba as well as to open up many outdoor areas to which we have lost access. (Check out this link to see our current goals).

As a side chatter, some professional climbers are VERY unhappy about this first round. Others, including youth teams are soon to be in the position of achieving their dreams. Yes, it’s not perfect this first year, but if it goes off well this first year, this opens doors to allow other formats for the following years. See the chatter at the end of this blog post. Who do you think is going to qualify for the 2020 Games?

3. Get Backup.

Get a health care team. Include a good massage therapist (once a week if you are training hard, twice a week if you are injured), a physiotherapist (see them if you are injured or recovering from an injury), a good chiropractor (if your wrist is 'stuck' or your shoulder has lost its mobility), and a good sports MD (for the big stuff) in case you have an accident or want to ensure you are operating at optimum. Its not a bad idea to get in-depth blood bloodwork and urine testing to insure your body can handle all the training and that you aren't setting yourself up for issues down the road.

Get a training team. Friends that support you, buddies that agree to not ask you to skip that workout. Ditch the significant other if they aren't willing to help you to reach those goals. It's going to take teamwork.

Stock up on good friends. Some athletes train on their own, others need help. Regardless, if you plan on making a run for it, you need backup. You need a family who is going to support you, friends who would rather climb with you than ask you out for a beer, and a team who stands behind you when you need help. You might need a really good job that will allow you to work part time (the USPS is renowned for this).

I’ve had other friends who trained for the Olympics who worked full time and trained at night, and others who skipped the job and lived at home to train. Just keep in mind, you will need high quality foods and supplements that do NOT come cheap. The better the food (and the training) the better a body you can build. Living out of your car with no income might not be the best choice for this, unless you have a friend who cooks for you.

4. Get a Coach!

If you want to hit the 2020 Games by qualifying for it- You're going to need help. Self control and focus always need assistance but so do working on you weaknesses. Luckily for us, we can get a helper- And if they know you are making an attempt at the Olympics, they're going to take you more seriously. Great coaches can be found by contacting USAClimbing for your region OR check out my great list below:

Dave McLeod (UK E-Coach)

ABC Climbing (Boulder, Colorado)

Picking your coach depends on your needs, what you want your coach to provide, and if their coaching structure works for you. Structures can go up to $250/month for an adult. As for structured planning, It can get as in-depth or as hands-off as you'd like. Covering food plans, resting heart rates and the specifics of each session down to the shoe type, coaching can get very in depth. Depending on how you learn/train best, contact your desired coach and see what they might recommend and what their needs/strategies are. Keep in mind, they might be booked solid OR only take specific climbers with which they'd like to work. Don't be upset if your desired coach is already taken for the season ;-)

4. Affording It.

Competing in the IFSC Worlds is expensive. You’re going to need assistance with travel costs, training costs, and oh ya... food! You might approach companies to get help (and sponsorship)- My favorites are Cocohydro for drink mixes however you might find a company to sponsor you with almonds, avocados, nuts, supplements… Think BIG!!

You might need a really good job that will allow you to work part time (the USPS is renowned for this). Here's a link to an article on what others are doing... I have had friends who trained for the Olympics who worked full time and trained at night. Others skipped the job and lived at home to train.

5. Save Money by Cooking at Home.

Great food doesn't come in a box. Regardless of how you pay for it, save money by learning to cook at home. Don't worry, there are great cookbooks just for those who aren't gifted in this area. Just keep in mind, you will need high quality foods and supplements (that do NOT come cheap). A good tip is to skip the center of the market when filling up your cart, hit the meat and the vegetables and keep it together mentally to skip all the boxed crap in the center. You can make a deviation for cooking flours, noodles, and spices however.

Just remember, the better the food and the training- the better a body you can build. Living out of your car with no income might not be the best choice for this, unless you have a friend who cooks for you.

I highly recommend getting the following cookbooks to begin saving and to ensure you have quality foods that limit inflammation:


The Feed Zone CookBook



6. Live Small so you can Go BIG.

You’re going to have to change your lifestyle. No more eating out (unless its to save money- I highly recommend Nepalese, Thai or Indian food for overall food balance) and decide to skip those nights out with the boys unless you have one beer a week and head home to sleep. Stacking up training depends on sleep quality and volume and in what you put into your body. Foods high in sugar don’t fit that bill (beer, bread, crackers, bagels) as your main food source. Instead I recommend healthy nuts, meats and vegetables. LOTS of organic vegetables that is.

Cut the ‘other’ costs. You’re going to need the cash for travel, training and competition. Don’t buy new clothes but instead choose to repair your old ones. Don’t waste money on that new hat, or those new climbing pants. Wear out what you have and watch the earnings pile up. Of course, keep that rope new and ensure you’re resoling your climbing shoes when needed!

7. Learn to do your OWN Work.

Help your therapists and your body. Yes, you can also save money on working on yourself- but you have to keep up with it! Visit your local provider to ensure you know what needs maintenance and begin working on it at home. I’d recommend a weekly massage when training hard and if you’re hurt yourself- skip the training that aggravates the injury and hit up yoga and massage instead. Check out my videos to learn more.

All you need is a roller, tennis ball, can of soup, and a little elbow grease. Just remember, pushing super hard is not going to get you better any faster. Listen to your body and press lightly at first. If your work is super painful, its too deep and too hard. Use a towel over your roller OR choose to use it on the wall. Get tools here.

8. Get TRULY Fit.

2xday workouts and cross training are going to be your new best friends. You can’t spend all your time climbing to get truly fit. Work on core, hit the weights, get a true old school fitness plan. There are many great coaches who can help you out with that! Triathlete are healthy and in shape because they spread their training out over many different low impact sports (cycling, swimming and then running). Beef up your overall health so you can climb with a big healthy base… This includes strong legs, core, back, shoulders, abdominals… Get the point?!

Some cheap home rehab programs include TRX, AnimalFlow, and Kettlebell programs. You can also hit up the WOD for crossfit but watch the weights and the speed, these can lead to injuries in newbies and theres no reason to lift extra heavy weights and get musclebound.

9. Get More Info

Want to hear every last word on the 2020 games? Check out these links-

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