Antifragility Training

The concept of antifragile, as developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in a 2012 bestselling book of the same name, has been successfully applied to science, engineering, management, and finance.

The basis of the theory is that if something is fragile, it breaks from stress. If something is sturdy, it withstands stress. Antifragile is that which gains from stress. So how does this apply to summertime climbing training?

New England weather can be fickle and rain can turn that trail run you had planned into a gym session. That gym session you had planned might get crashed by friends who want to go swimming or play frisbee. Do it. Embrace the unpredictability, the randomness, the chaos. Allowing yourself to be spontaneous can be very energizing and can still help you meet (and exceed) your fitness goals.






(Images: Alpinist Kevin Mahoney keeping stimulated and changing up the routine during his off season. Photos by Ross Henry.)

We can incorporate the tenets of antifragility training to get workouts in and still enjoy our ‘dog days’ of warmth and sun. The key is to provide enough stimulus to your body to make it adapt. The more that your body has to react to, the more it will be ready for. We can break this down in multiple ways, namely workout time, exercises, and intensities:

Free yourself from a schedule

Teach your body to be ready for stimulus at any point in the day. Do some push-ups and a core workout before breakfast. Skip a night of beers and do a late night gym session (who knows, you might meet that person you were hoping to meet at the bar!). The more your stagger your workout, the more prepared your body will be for anything you throw at it.

Change your exercises up more often

Don’t just do the same pull-up, push-up, and core workout. Put some deadlifts, TRX, or overhead presses in there. Find more bodyweight exercises that you can do at home or at places you’ll be traveling to where there isn’t a gym. If you go to a friend’s camp for the weekend, have a 15 minute workout planned out that you can do a couple of times while you’re enjoying the woods. If you only have trees and a dirt road, do an interval of sprints and campusing on branches!

Be intense

Keep applying stresses to which your body will adapt. Do more pull-ups than last time or add weight. Do more push-ups than last time or elevate your feet for greater intensity. Instead of a 3 mile jog, do 2 miles where you sprint for 100 yards every 4 minutes. Instead of 8 top ropes that you know you can do, try 4 harder routes that you’ve never been on before. A good rule of thumb is that if you think you can do it, then you can. If you think you can’t, then don’t.

Challenge yourself to embrace the spontaneity this summer – your antifragile body will reward you for it!