In Office Training & a Note on the Minotaur

Since my wife gave birth to our second child two months ago I have mainly been trail running. I was training for a “mountain race” called The Minotaur and with the new baby I didn’t have time to train for climbing as well. So after about 10 weeks off I am wanting to get back to climbing and with our, once again, baby inclusive lifestyle I am looking for new and more convenient ways to squeeze a bit of training into my day.

So in addition to doing playground workouts with my toddler I have been building various “climbing bombs” to hang in my office. This is helping me squeeze in some lunchtime workouts. So far I have balls, 2″ pipes, and jugs with multiple tie offs to allow for offset hangs.

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I am planning to make fat pinches out of a piece of 4×4 and a single pad crimp as well to round out the collection. These will probably replace the 2in pipes I made, which I don’t think are close enough to any typical climbing holds to be beneficial. I will post photos of these when they are done.

With these holds I reworked the “10 minute workout” that Metolius publishes for use with its rock rings to work with the holds I have and to minimize swapping holds. My workout is shown below if anybody wants to use it or make recommendations. For being only 10 minutes I find it gives me a pretty solid pump. It isn’t a bouldering session but as a way to fill my lunch break it beats facebook. I generally warm up by doing pushups, dips, and squeezing some theraputty.

Time (minutes) Task Hold
1st minute 3 pull-ups Jugs
2nd minute 10 seconds bent-arm hang Jugs
15 seconds Dead Hang 2 pads on
3rd minute 2 Offset Pull-ups 2 pads on
2 Offset Pull-ups (other way) 2 pads on
4th minute 20 seconds L-Hang 2 pads on
10 seconds lever 2 pads on
5th minute 5 Pull-ups 2 pads on
6th minute 10 seconds Offset Hang Balls and jugs
10 seconds Offset Hang (other way) Balls and jugs
7th minute 15 seconds L-Hang Balls
15 seconds Dead Hang Balls
8th minute 20 seconds Bent Arm Hang Balls
10 seconds Dead Hang Balls
9th minute 20 seconds L-Hang crimps
10th minute 10 Pull-ups or front lever to failure crimps
7-3 repeaters pinches & crimps

 

Side note: The Minotaur was a great time (even if there was no 5th class climbing involved, it did have about ~6000ft of gain in a ~20km loop) and I would recommend it to anyone interested in either scrambling or running. If you are curious about the race or terrain they have some photos on https://www.facebook.com/meettheminotaur/

It was a really neat experience to try to do this much scrambling as fast as you can, without having to do any route finding or messing around. It made for a really great day out. At the finish line the general consensus was that it wasn’t even type 2 fun, it was type 1 fun. People finished smiling and sat down in the sun to drink kombucha, eat snacks, and chat. I will definitely be there next year.

If you have any recommendations for rock ring workouts or how you workout in your office or thoughts on mountain races, please comment below. I would love to hear from you.

 

UPDATE, October 4, 2017:

I made an addition to my training tools over the weekend: Pinch Blocks with a 3/4″ crimp and updated my workout above to include them (I have stopped using the pipes. I found they felt tweaky for my wrists). I am now also finishing this workout by doing 7-3 repeaters on one or two grips.

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Wall Update

I have been climbing on the wall for a few months now. Usually once or twice a week in addition to whatever other climbing I manage to squeeze in, and now that the weather is getting nice it is really motivating to be able to open up the garage door and get some fresh air while climbing. It’s not climbing outside but it’s pretty sweet for a tuesday night.

I digress. I think that climbing on the wall through the winter usually at temps of around -5 °C the chain stretched, that or I am wearing it out faster than I would expect. Either way come spring time some of the planks weren’t quite getting pulled around in time to make it onto the return guide on the back of the wall and it was stalling. So I had to cut the return channel a bit and bend the return guides out a little more by hand, shown below. Bending by hand didn’t make for that pretty a product, but things are running again and I didn’t have to tighten the chain.

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Guide flange cut longer and bent out further. The bend started at the slotted hole previously. The black goo on the boards is a combination of wax (lube) and mill-scale, it’s not a problem.
The next version of this design will definitely have longer lead ins like this from the get go. It will help avoid problems and I see no trade off in doing it. I will climb on it like this for a couple more months then check the chain to see if it has stretch significantly. If so I might consider going to a heavier chain than the #40 I am currently using.

Also, I had added the slotted hole so the lead ins would be easy to bend by hand, but with a crescent wrench it was pretty easy to bend the longer ones by hand. So next time there will be no holes and they will be a lot sturdier.

I am putting on 200 to 400 feet per session and I am guessing I have put at least 6000 feet of mileage on the wall and there are no serious problems cropping up so I think it is doing pretty well for a prototype.

Update: Guard and Holds

I now have holds (not just hunks of 2×4) and the finger guard on the wall. Video Here.

Having had the wall running for a few weeks now, I can say that I am pleased overall with how it is functioning, no break downs yet, and that it is proving a usable piece of exercise equipment. It hasn’t supplanted my trips to the gym but I no longer feel any impetus to go to the gym without a ready partner. And I genuinely can squeeze in a 1/2 hour climbing workout when I don’t have time to go to the gym, just as I had hoped. So I am climbing more.

I only recently acquired a decent stash of holds so up to this point the “route” on my wall has been pretty hard and I haven’t been able to do any endurance training. The upside of this has been to demonstrate to me that the wall is a VERY effective anaerobic endurance training tool. I can get a mad pump on in about 5 minutes, without any trouble. And interval training on the wall is alot of fun.

Given the response to my last video I elected to get the guard finished rather than leaving it in the corner to rust. The brush on the guard isn’t as stiff as the ones I have used at my work so the guard will need a little tweaking to compensate for the sagging brush. As is it still keeps your fingers out of the pinch point but I am losing valuable inches of climbing room.

Success!

With the bigger motor I can run the wall at 15 feet per. minute (fpm) with no problem, without a climber on the wall. I might be able to go faster but I haven’t tried it yet. I guess having tripled the available torque was a safe bet.

15 fpm is a quick but not a super fast climbing pace. For the endurance and interval workouts I have tried so far it is certainly fast enough. I will play with it and post an update when I find out what its top speed is.

I made up a simple plywood bracket and hung all the power supply and driver, off the gear box. This kept all the wiring nice and tight. You just have one power cable and one control cable running up to the bundle of stuff up top. It would also make things easy to enclose if you wanted to make a weather resistant version. For now the controller is sitting on a paint can next to the wall but I will be building a bracket to put it up around face level.

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My bundle of electronics at the top of the wall. Not pretty but entirely functional and it definitely could have been worse.

 

And here is a video of me climbing the wall at 14 fpm. It starts slow and ramps up to full speed by about 20 seconds into the video.

Electrical/Software Design

My new, massive NEMA 34 motor and driver arrived in the mail a little while back. This thing is going to have enough torque to drive the wall no matter how much drag there is in the tracks! (3x current motor)

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New motor and driver setup

I was going to build a simple tone generator circuit with a 555 timer and a big control knob to adjust the speed. Using the rough design below.

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Basic wall controller circuit. Scribbled out on the back of some other work.

But while I was digging parts for this circuit out of my junk electronics box I came across my old handyboard. I built this thing more than a decade ago and have hardly used it, but as the name implies it is actually handy…. or it should be.

I started programming it to control my treadwall and found I wanted a little more functionality than it normally offers. So I wasted two weeks trying to adjust the timer output from a non-standard pin. ugh. But it is now set up how I would like and ready to go. Just not as handy as it could have been.

Right now the available menus look like this:

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I did add a big control knob for adjusting speed and other options as an additional means of user interface as well as using the start and stop buttons on the handyboard. I will likely add another button too, cause it feels like it needs it.

I am thinking I will add a motor to adjust the angle of the wall in the future. At which point it will be really cool to add workout modes that adjust the wall angle automatically.

I would love to hear ideas for additional workout modes. Please comment with suggestions! Include ideas for workouts that change wall angle if you have any.

Testing Update

A quick update: I did more testing last night after adjusting a plank and managed to get the wall up to 10ft/min; a very reasonable climbing speed. Ultimately, i would like to get it running up to 15 or 20ft/min.

I suspect that the stalling issue I had recently was due to a change in temperature as much as issues with the planks. Basically, the small, low torque motor I am using only has to overcome the friction in the gearbox. It doesn’t need to really drive anything, but when the temperature drops and the oil becomes more viscous that drag in the gearbox increases.

At 10ft/min the motor is turning at 600rpm, and having a torque curve like the one below, I am guessing it is putting out, at most, 200 oz*in of torque at that speed. So very little torque.

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I think my options for dealing with this are: lower oil viscosity, use a lower ratio gear box, or a higher torque motor. The use of a lower ratio gearbox might seem counter intuitive but if we go from a 60:1 gear ratio to a 15:1 ratio the motor will be at the same operating point and the wall will be moving much faster. Since the motor isn’t really driving the wall, it just needs to overcome the friction in the gearbox, which will be comparable, this should work. In the end I will probably end up trying all three options.

The 60:1 gearbox wasn’t my preferred choice when I was designing the thing i was hoping for 20 to 30:1 but it was at princess auto and it was cheap. I guess this is what happens when you compromise on your design.

More Testing

This week I pulled out and trimmed a couple of the planks that rubbed badly and things seem to be running smoother. I also did a test run with the wall set to 30° overhang. Aside from the climbing being really hard (I seriously need to buy some holds with texture) it ran pretty well.

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Me climbing on the wall, set to overhanging. Thanks to my shoe for taking the picture.

On the back side of the wall the chain was dragging on the cross members (due to the previously discussed lack of a track on the back side) but it wasn’t noticeable. I still think I will try to fix this in the near future, just to prevent undo wear on any components.

I am very impressed with how solid the thing feels with the wood in place. I had added more bracing to the design after playing with just the frame, but now I think I will take it out.

BUT when I put the wall back to vertical the damn thing seems to stall before ramping up to full speed. I’m not sure what the problem is but I’m guessing it is just a tighter fitting plank binding. I guess we’ll see.