Friday, May 27, 2016
I REALLY used to dislike cardio. I mean I had a serious disdain for the whole activity, the intense sweat, the shortness of breath, the constant monotony of being on a machine. I tried to take it outside, and run, but I was big, the concrete pavement hurt my knees and I live in the Atlanta Metro area. The Atlanta Metro area has some SERIOUS air quality issues. Running outside at the wrong time made me feel like I had been sucking on a tail pipe. So I stuck to indoor equipment. The thing is most of the time I was ready to give up after about five minutes. That's when I discovered this little gem of a mind trick.
I realized that every time I got on a piece of cardio equipment (usually a treadmill), I'd get to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds and want to get off. My head would be hurting, my knees began to whine, I was out of breath, the sweat started pouring from my brow, and my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. In my head the cursing would begin. I would just tough it out, call myself a wuss. You know the typical macho crap that you see on all those workout posters. When I reached about 7 minutes miraculously my head would be clear, my knees didn't hurt, my heart and breath evened out and the sweat only bothered me a little.
Now usually I'd only last another 7 minutes from that point and then cool down (I was almost 300 pounds at the time...), but I figured out something. If I could get past the initial 5-6 minutes I could do my cardio! I further went down the road of, its only 5 minutes! That's not so much! Anyone can do 5 minutes that's not so bad!
Fast forward 10 years (or so) and I still use this trick today! I've run a half marathon using this trick. In fact I used it this morning! I was 45 minutes and 6 miles in to a run on the treadmill. I didn't want to do anymore. I was tired, and I could already taste my after workout refuel. But I said to myself, come on Alex, just do five more minutes. It's five minutes, that's not too much longer! I ended up doing that a few more times pushing myself to 9.5 miles over and hour and ten minutes! Maybe that's not super quick, but believe me its one of my better times!
The best part about the trick is that it doesn't just work for exercise it works for your diet and climbing too! I did a juice fast a year or so ago. I used the same trick with the mindset of "It's only a week. I can do this for a week! It's not that long!", and you know what? It wasn't! I ended up doing it for two! I've used the same trick when sending my first 5.12. I was pumped out of my mind and wanting to yell take down to my belayer. I told myself to just try to make it to the next bolt. Then to the next rest. Next thing I knew I was two moves (or one giant lunge in my case) from the anchors. So if you're dragging don't feel like exercising, sticking to your diet or just struggling up a route, just break it down to a tiny time frame. It will make it seem much more reachable and much less harsh.
Friday, May 13, 2016
I didn't come to climbing by the normal routes. I wasn't a child who grew up with outdoorsy parents. I wasn't enrolled at the local climbing gym to burn off extra energy. In fact I would go as far as to say that as a child I was the antithesis of an athlete. I went to college in Florida where the closest thing to a mountain is a sand dune between you and the beach and in total honesty I came out of college tipping the scales at a whopping 320 lbs (That's another story altogether...). The reality is my relationship with climbing didn't even start until I was in my thirties had two kids and had dropped 160 lbs.
The funny thing is it was actually my youngest that got me started. At age four he was a little bundle of energy. One day at Lifetime Fitness he noticed the rock wall. Never a shy one he went running in. I may have been slightly misleading about his age to the staff there but he got on the wall, and of course like all kids wanted his daddy to try too.
The thing is I have a small issue with that whole heights thing. I'm even worse when it comes to descending. At that point in my life, elevators bothered me. Still I gave it a shot. For the next few weeks I'd keep coming in with little man. I started doing a circuit setup there. Every day I'd get a little further.
One day the director of the wall approached me and pretty much dragged me onto a rope. In that moment I decided that it was time I faced my fear of heights. Drawing on my geek heritage I recited the mantra against fear from Dune, and up I went.
I haven't stopped climbing since. Sure I probably spend more time in a gym than outside climbing (being a father and working a job that occasionally demands 100+ hour weeks pretty much killed the ability to go on week long dirtbag excursions). But that's not the important thing.
The important thing is I found my passion and I'm acting on it. I make the time for it, even if that time involves waking up at 5 am after going to bed at midnight and waking up twice to deal with the kids. Am I ever going to become a legendary climber? Probably not. Am I going to love every minute up on that walk? Your damn right I am.
Monday, May 2, 2016
You arrive at the climbing gym ready to get a little practise in. Your climbing partner arrives at exactly the same time you did. Fantastic the day is starting well! The gym looks fairly empty, so no lines for routes or problems. This day just gets better and better!
You grab your shoes and get situated under a route when your partner comes over. "Dude, didn't we do this route last week?" Looking up the route does look somewhat familiar but you hadn't slept much last week, and your memory of what the hell you actually climbed (or even that you climbed) last week is hazy at best. You remember flailing on a bunch of routes, and crushing one of them, but you don't remember which ones were which. You shrug at your partner and say "its just a warm up" and pull onto the wall.
By the time you and your partner finish the climb, a rain storm has rolled in and the gym has gotten crowded. The lines for routes are problems are 3 deep. You both crushed the route, and now you do remember this being the route that you totally crushed last session.
In a previous post I talked about the importance of actually keeping a log for climbing. Climbing like any training has benchmarks and milestones and ultimately, like any training, can be much improved with data. By keeping accurate measurements in your climbing log you can identify training practise, route setters, and body compositions that work, those that didn't, and areas of improvement. The key factor though is what the hell should you actually keep in the damn thing.
1. Date/Time and Duration
No brainer right? Being able to link up calendar days to your climbing allows you see when you did what, and how long you are training on any given day. All this can then roll up to weeks months and years (hopefully decades), which gives you an even better idea of your progress and maybe even plan to adjust training schedules and volume around yearly events (like holidays).
2. Personal Measurables
Lets be honest. Performance in climbing is very much tied to power to weight ratio. Meaning body weight, body fat percentage etc all matter. The thing is though, everyone is different. Some people climb better when they're carrying extra weight in muscle. Some people don't. And some of us just need a helpful reminder not to the donuts brought into the office. Keeping a log of this can help you figure out your optimum body composition.
3. What the hell are you doing?
Did you lift weights? Do 4x4s? Campus? Fingerboard? Run? In the case of weights keep track of exercises, sets, repetitions, and load. With running, how far? how fast? What did your campus workout look like? There are a metric ton of fingerboard workouts out there, did you do one of those?
Those ones are the easy ones to document. What about routes and problems? Well lets discuss that next, because even if you aren't in training mode, and are outside you should write that down.
4. Route/Problem beta/info
Lets face it not all grading is equal. What one person feels is V3 can feel like a V6 for someone else based on the problem type and strengths of the climber. So just writing the grade of the problem is useless. Instead look at writing down the Crag/Gym, Name (if available for nothing other than a unique identifier in the gym. failing the name some other unique identifier, "the pink one in the corner"), Route Setter (if available), angle of the route, types of moves and holds, type of problem (technical, powerful, sustained etc.), did you flash it? Redpoint it? 3 tries? 10? Only got half way before slipping off that damned sloper for the 17000th time? How long did it take? Lead, or Top Rope? Any tweaks to your body during the climb?
5. How did you feel that day
This sounds all touchy feely, but it is absolutely critical. Climbing is as much mental as it is physical. There will be days when you can walk up to a wall tie into the pointy end and fly up the most sketchy looking route. Other days you're head is filled with other crap, and getting clear on the wall is an exercise in futility. Sometimes your body just doesn't feel right.
Keeping track of what you felt during and after the climb helps you figure out other things you need to work on. Did you take 4 times on a climb because you got gripped with fear above the bolt? Did your hamstrings feel super tight when you went for those heel hooks all day? Is your tendonitis flaring up? Incorporating mind and body awareness lets you uncover things that may be holding you back and possibly help you identify days where you should probably take an extra rest.
After reading this I'm sure you are thinking that this is a whole lot of data to keep, and your right, it is. One of these days I might get around to actually writing an app to keep all this stuff in it, the thing is usually I'd rather spend my time climbing. Fortunately there's an indiegogo campaign for a climb tracker called The Whipper that starts on May 3rd 2016. That will begin to track some of this. There are other apps like MyFitnessPal for body composition, food, water intake and exercises. Keeping all and looking back will help give you a good picture of where you are and plan how to get where you want to be.