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Are Paid Training Plans & Coaches Worth it? This Climber Decided to Find Out.

The author, a V3/V4 climber, tries to break out of a multi-year plateau by signing up for a training program.

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I am your common, average climber. I began my climbing journey at the ripe age of 26, and have been climbing for four to five years. But who’s counting?! Due to access, I mainly boulder indoors, but I try to go on as many outdoor trips as I can. You’ll never guess that I only climb around V3/V4, where I have found myself in the longest plateau of my life. I have been frustratingly skirting the next level for almost two years now, and in an attempt to improve my climbing, I’ve browsed, perused and taken advice from numerous climbers, all wanting to impart wisdom to their strength. So far, nothing has worked. I’ll be honest, I am completely disorganized, inconsistent and downright lazy. I need structure!

I live in the UK, and reached out to Tom Randall, the co-founder of Lattice Training, and he was more than happy to help a girl out. You might think that this is a review of Lattice, but it’s much more. I want to explore the value of coaching for a “gumby” like me and how it has changed my perspective on climbing.  

Ruoyi-He filming an episode of “Bouldering DabRats” (on YouTube) with Annie Martin, at the Yonder climbing gym, UK. (Photo: Lisa Bennett)

I first came across Lattice a few years back when I was looking for any semblance of a training regime to take my climbing to the next level. I downloaded the Crimpd app, developed by Lattice Training, and started scrolling.

Upon my initial scroll, I felt like the human form of a question mark. I could not wrap my head around all of the different exercises, climbing terms, and percentage signs. Why were percentages involved? It was overwhelming, and I never revisited the app again … until not long ago.

Apparently, I just needed someone to explain how to structure my training using the app, which is what I got from Tom. He sent over an initial assessment, which asked for details of my climbing history, body structure, time availability, and results from a short finger-strength and endurance test. The percentage signs were finally explained! I sent it all off, and a week later I received a personalized plan from Tom Randall himself (probably not). 

The whole experience was incredibly simple, and I received a training plan that was fully supported by the free Crimpd app. So here I go again. This time, however, the app was much more accessible, as I had all the exercises explained and laid out for me. Now, I just needed to plan them into my weekly schedule and remember to do them.

Lattice trains all abilities, elite but also average. Toby Roberts sessions at the Lattice Training headquarters. Roberts sent 5.14d at age 16, making him the youngest in the UK to do so. (Photo: Lattice Training)

My initial thought during my first training session was, “Wow, the warm-up is hard!”

A combination of cardio and strength, it was probably the hardest part of starting to train. First, I began with a five-minute cardio workout; Lattice suggested skipping! I could only manage 15 seconds for my first attempt before needing a break. Skipping was followed by body-weight exercises: an easy climb, some easy fingerboarding, and then a harder climb. It’s a lot to begin with, and I did not complete everything on my first attempt. But now, I can’t get enough. Having a structured warm-up has already improved my climbing ability just by being physically ready to climb hard. This in itself feels quite addictive. Gone are the days of a few jumping jacks on the spot, and hello full 20-minute warm-ups, because I know how much better and stronger I feel afterward.

The second thing I struggled with was the sheer volume of training. I went from climbing maybe two to three times a week for funwhich let’s be honest, is mostly sitting and chatting to matesto full-hour sessions. I have a session for conditioning using weights and a session for fingerboarding, practicing my max hangs and repeaters. I don’t think I had ever climbed so much in the space of an hour, so I struggled with maintaining the physical energy needed to complete my tasks. I had also rarely climbed alone, so the first few times training on my own felt quite lonely, and psych was low. Now, in retrospect it feels like a happy trade-off, especially when I can persuade a friend to join, and they will, because it’s like free training for them!

The last thing I found interestingly difficult was the lack of women in the training space. I had never trained seriously before. I had never used a harness, a pulley system, weights, and the 40-degree board in any other way than for fun. But there I was, walking into the training area, where there were only men performing heavy lifting and “serious training.” It was intimidating. It was hard to ignore the snickers from some individuals when I had to take weight off for my fingerboard sessions, and it was a constant challenge to make my presence feel as important as theirs.

Ollie Torr, a climber and coach at Lattice Training, shows proper form for one-arm hangs, which Ruoyi-He is working on. (Photo: Lattice Training)

I went into this training plan as a hater of training. I thought it was boring and tedious and most of all, intimidating. It seemed like there was a barrier between doing something for fun, and doing something seriously. What I’ve learned is that the barrier doesn’t really exist. 

Taking something seriously can also be fun. In fact, it has helped me enjoy climbing at a new level, and I don’t mean grades. I’m enjoying new aspects of climbing as I’m doing new things. I’m getting stronger, which means I can climb new things and do moves I couldn’t before. Every training session feels challenging but fun because what I previously lacked in imagination has been given to me. With a larger knowledge foundation, I can become more creative. A wonderful circle of knowing, learning and doing. But what Lattice has given me most of all is the confidence to train as a woman. The program gave me the tools I need to understand what I’m doing with all the equipment and with myself, and I feel more confident knowing that I have a plan I can focus on and can ignore everything else. 

I’m still training. I can feel myself improving. I have smashed some projects, and I am physically getting fitter. I can skip for more than 15 seconds now! While I am still working on a pull-up, my grip feels steadier, and I am currently learning to trust myself while attempting new limits on the wall with my newfound strength. Having plateaued for so long, my brain is still telling me that I can’t go for specific holds or moves because they’re too powerful or too hard.

Would I recommend the plan, or a coach? If, like me, you have plateaued and lack the knowledge to structure a training regime for yourself, then yes. However, there is a lot of self-motivation and discipline involved with the practice, which has been as much of a learning curve as the training itself. Overall, this has been a great opportunity for educating and even reassessing my relationship with climbing. It’s become something that I am actively trying to improve. There’s structure, and there is some friendly competition against myself. Climbing has changed from a hobby into a sport, and I’m feeling the psych.