Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Done and dusted

So my Rocklands trip is over. I had no expectations thankgoodness as I came back completely empty handed (even minus the finger skin) but damn did I have a good trip. It was great to see old friends and catch up. I also finally went to a RockStock and even got up on stage to perfom "Bohemian Rhapsody" with the rest of the Beeg Phive. And we were robbed - should have won given that it was supposed to be an air guitar competition...
Pic: Me on Springbok (7B) at The Sassies. Photo by Calvin Kemp

As for the climbing, well that took a back seat. I am still battling with my index finger in my left hand so am only at about 85% strength and really battling to commit on snatches. However I was quite pleasantly surprised as I was far better than I should have been. Came close to sending Caroline (7C) in a session which was only ended by the hole it put in my finger. I touched the hold on the Oral Office dyno (8A+) and was  close to sending Sunset Arete (7C). Born in to Struggle (7B+) was ever so close (although I would have sent on my underwear attempt had I not realised the intentions of my spotters planing to steal my clothes). I came back feeling refreshed and rejuvinated and repsyched! I still need to train alot but there is hope.

Focus areas for now are improving my low lock-off strength (i.e. triceps) and get my lefthand finger strength back up to 100%. I had a good session at the Scree on Sunday and managed to put Tiger Nigthmare (stiff 7B) to rest so that is a good start. Maybe there is still some hope for this season?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel

At last I seem to be getting in to some semblance of shape. One final week to go!

A morning trip to Redhill on Sunday helped me to finally get some much required rock time -  and I was quite pleasantly surprised with what I could manage. Jimbo had only been once previoulsy to Redhill so was keen to get a taste of what it had to offer. I decided on a circuit of the classics.

We started on Baby Fingers (7A) at Vanilla Sky which was a reasonably tough warm-up but we soon both ticked that off. Next up was Entropy easy exit (7B) and Anarchy (7A) at the Mushroom area which were also quickly dispatched (my ascent of EEE being my hardest this dismal year so far). Next up was Dark Lord Sharon (7A) and Four Singers (7A). I also demonstrated the last move of Shark Lord Darren (7B) for Jimbo who managed an impressive pseudo flash (after having just done DLS which he by the way also flashed). We then did a quick ascent of Vajra (7A+) before seeking a less windy spot.

As a final warm down I showed Jimbo Rodan (7A) - a very long and pumpy roof problem. He soon dispatched that. I resorted to trying it from 2 moves in to avoid the opening crux and manged to complete it too round off a perfect mileage session. He then did a final warm down on Vanilla Sky (7A) while I spotted.

Jimbo remarked that that given the quality and density of the lines we had just sample he was amazedthat it had taken him 16 years to get around to it. Guess I did a good job of converting another Sport Climber to the darkside :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The first hurdle

My 8A scorecard makes for depressing reading but is a very real reflection of how slack my climbing for 2010 has been. I have now managed 3 days of training in a row (a 2 month record) and positively am unscathed. After a schooling by Jimbo at $ity Rock, the ego took a bit of a hit but the ambassador did mange to console me over a couple of draughts and also introduced me to complex training which has left my upper body aching this morning. Basically you do a set of repeaters or encores (i.e. strength) and then follow that up with an explosive power excercise like campusing. Think I will work this in to my last minute training as I can feel that it has worked me and can only be beneficial.

Todays a rest day and then tomorrow I will be back on ith training.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Getting the ball rolling

Right at last! My psyche is returning after some promising training sessions. My finger still hurts alittle but hell, it is winter and the temps are good, I can always rest later.

My recent focus has been on geting in to condiction rather than focusing on any specifc routine. Given my tweaky figer this has been a little difficult. Training has revolved around the following:
  1. Frenchies on the Beastmaker 35 degree slopers - great for core and general contact strengthand not too tweaky. Dom feels this is also a really good finger strength tool.
  2. One arm hangs - 20 degree soper and Beastmaker jug - just trying to get my body strength up again.
  3. Uneven pullups - I have a small bachar ladder which I use to place one arm on and then the other on my Beastmaker. Good for developing the arm strength that I don't seem to have.
  4. Encores on the small Beastmaker crimps - if I drag hold the small crimps it dosen't hurt too much. Good for finger strength and also lock-offs.
  5. Systemsboard - Good for developing contact strength, body strength and a little power resistance, with a pinch of core strength and locking off. Been focusing on crimps and pinches but it is still early days.
  6. Bouldering - it has all been indoors recently which is a real shame given how good the weather outside has been! I have mostly been focusig on very easy climbing to condition my finger and body. Possibly time to push it up a gear.
  7. Pushups - great for developing the opposition muscle set and also a little core and genral body strength
11 days to Rocklands...

Friday, July 23, 2010

False dawn

The temps are low and the action is seriouly heating in in Rocklands. Alas, I haven't even made one trip there yet but that looks all set to change soon. I had high hopes for this season - my pre season conditioning was much better but the glimmer of hope soon faded with a tweaky left middle finger that just dosen't want to improve. After being a serious contender I think I will need to settle with just reaching the finishing line this year.

Harris, Dom and I are all starting to get suspicious about our Beastmakers. We all seem to share similar finger ailments and hangboarding seems to be the common theme??? The trick seems to be to hold yourself back because as soon as you start to push there is a high chance that injury will soon follow.

Given the above I have had a slight climbing hiatus over the last month or so (somewhat Soccer induced as well)  trying to rest up but it hasn't helped so I have resorted to gritting my teeth and fighting on.The finger injury has been a goodopportunity to focus on developing other weaknesses. That said one night a week at $ity Rock does not make 8Bs fall (for me at least). On the plus side according to Kerry (my body alignment therapist), I am supposedly in really good shape? Maybe things are about to turn? I did manage to do a one arm pullup on M2 (on my right only though) so maybe my weakness perception is just psychological. All I can say however is that the Big 5 reunion is happening in 2 weeks and I need to be fighting fit for that so the count down has begun..

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Slow -mo-tivation

A month of on and off sickness coupled with soccer driven excuses have meant that I have been completely slack! My finger injury hasn't helped - an easy justification why not to train. Having made some good early progress on Pandemonium almost a month back I now find myself back to base level strength.

On the flip-side, the possibility of a Rocklands trip in the near future is doing wonders for the resurrection of psyche. That alongside seeing big Dom crush the Scree on Sunday means I have to pull some finger soon especially if my ambitious goals for the year are going to be achieved.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

I have often been through stages where I have trained for long periods by myself. At the end of these periods I have often thought that I have made a real break through in strength only to realize that this is not at all true when I am completely schooled on going out with someone else. I hadn't realized until reading this post that it is quite a common misconception in general and is called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

So the learning is training in isolation is dangerous if you benchmark yourself mentally against what you think is good performance. Malcolm Smith seems to have been fairly successful in training in isolation so it is definitely possible but just be careful not to over estimate the effect.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Edelrid Mantle Crash Pad

I just got my new Edelrid Mantle crash pad and can’t wait to get out and use it; especially given my current projects is a serious highball! The pad has some great features that are very useful hence me choosing it. The most impressive for me is that the 2 halves can be zipped together either on the length or width of the pad giving you more versatility than normal (especially useful if you need to pad out a traverse or long roof problems). In addition the Edelrid guys throw in a Sit Start launch pad which is something that sets this deal apart from other crash pads quite nicely (The Edelrid Dead Point and Crux crash pads also come with a Sit Start launch pad).The logo on the pad is made from a  carpet type material which is perfect for cleaning your shoes on before going for that hard send.

 Pic: The Edelrid Mantle Crash Pad

Some more technical info: It is 10 cm thick using 2 different foams to offer optimal cushioning and absorption. The outer material is strong ballistic nylon which provides a robust and water-repellent shell (useful for wet Rocklands and Topside days). As I said above the two halves can be zipped together either on the long side (120 x 115 cm), or on the end (230 x 60 cm). The Mantle has sturdy shoulder straps and indestructible aluminum buckles.

 Pic: Me putting the Edelrid Sit Start launch pad to use

Monday, May 24, 2010

Down with the sickness

I am good at setting goals for myself and disciplined enough to stick to them. But unfortunately when I really get in to training I tend to push it too far - the result being a forced lay-off due to tweakiness or flu. Having been in a great space for the last 3 months I succumbed to both forcing me to find ways to tread water for a while - i place I really dislike!

Reading this blog post has made me more thoughtful about what my indicators are and if it is possible to stop before it is too late?

Urban Ninja lists the following:
  1. Sugar – when I am close to the limit, I crave sugar.
  2. KFC – nothing beats a Boxmaster Deluxe Upsize with a Chocolate Shake when I am feeling on the edge. Its a sure sign I need to back off.
  3. Erratic sleep – I will be dead tired by 8pm and ready for bed but when I get to bed I sleep badly. My body is so broken I can’t sleep properly. This happens to me a few times a year, but that’s only because me + music + forests = totally overdoing it.
  4. Hiding from the world – I will go into a cocoon when I am overdoing it, avoiding people, socializing and crowds of people. Insert me into society and I tend to be short and upsetting to those around me.

 Pic: Sourced from Urban Ninja - Lance pushing it.

Some obvious ones for me are general lethargy, lack of psyche and tweakiness (Shoulders, elbows and fingers). Lack of sleep is definitely another, and often pre flu/cold I have an unquenchable thirst. Any others?

Whats difficult I find though is to judge when to stop or when to push through, especially with tweakiness. From what I have read it is often better to drop intensity then to stop altogether as light exercise stimulates blood flow which helps recovery. This is currently the approach I am testing so for now no more beastly BM sessions with repeaters - strictly a diet of 35 degree slopers and bouldering on holds that aren't too painful.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Power fitness supplements

Over and above my 2 system board sessions I also have included 2 power fitness supplements using my Beastmaker. The first is more power endurance focused using the Ethan Pringle 20 minute moderate hangboard session. The second using repeaters is pure power fitness and focuses on finger strength.

My current repeater routine is as follows:

          Grip  (Hold - Style - Weight)
  1. Front 2  (Small pocket - Repeater - none)
  2. Middle 2  (Small pocket - Repeater - none)
  3. Back 2  (Back 2 pocket - Repeater - none)
  4. Half crimp  (Crimp rung - Encores - none)
  5. Full hand  (35 sloper - Pullup x5 - 6kgs)
  6. Crimp  (My mids - Pullup x5 - 6kgs)

So far I am finding this routine quite hard and am failing on go 4 for the 2 finger repeaters, but that was second day on after bouldering the day before so a little rest may help.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Power endurance redux

Initial reaction to my thoughts on power endurance using a system board has been mixed but I have come to a realization that it is mostly a semantic issue. To overcome the confusion I am now calling my original power endurance “power fitness”. Using this term it becomes my evident as to what my objective for this phase is – i.e. to maximise my ability to access full power for as long as possible. This means that I have more strong attempts on a problem in a day.

After bouncing some thoughts this week I am starting to get a clearer picture of what is required. Moreover a week in to my new system board routine is showing me that I am on the right track for my overall objective for this cycle. However I do feel that there is a need to include some hangboarding and have therefore also included a Ethan Pringle hangboard session to maximise focus on true power endurance and a repeater session to focus on finger strength specific power endurance.

The routine currently goes as follows:
Monday – System board session
Tuesday – Ethan Pringle session
Wednesday – System board session
Thursday – Repeater session (done on Friday if I feel tweaky)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Power training

After I have laid a foundation of hypertrophy the next step is to maximise recruitment. Getting the balance right is tough because you want to be at your strength limit to ensure the intensity is there but at the same time the exercise needs to be simple enough so that your failure is not due to engram issues or technique. For this reason my preference is to use a hangboard as this probably one of the most specific and simple tools available to a climber. This also means that performance is easily recorded and tracked.

Using advice I have gained from the Beastmaker boys, my preference for this stage is to utilise one arm hangs where possible using a pulley system to allow all manner of grips to be trained (note – I am currently unable to do a one arm hang on back 2 no matter the weight I take off so I am forced to use 2 arms). For me the golden number is 5 seconds; I can’t recall where I got this from but it is now my standard. My routine exists of front 2 and middle 2 hangs currently on the medium pockets and a full crimp hang on the middle crimp on both left and right arms. I allow myself 3 minutes rest in between repetitions and sets. My intended progression is to work up to a point where I need less weight off and then move towards using smaller grips and eventually drop down to one finger grips.

Although this routine seems simple, the basic nature of it is also beneficial as you can isolate each grip type and focus in on pure power. Results are also highly measurable which is motivating - where one arm 2 finger hangs seemed impossible at first I have since been able to manage a 2 second middle 2 hang on my right arm without any weight taken off which is real progress.

I have been toying of adding in system board sessions using a weight belt. I have only tried this sporadically to date so still need to test its long term benefit but theoretically it would be a useful way to work other grips (i.e. pinches, compression etc). My current plan however is to use the system board for power endurance and general strength rather after having completed my hypertrophy and power cycles.

*If you have difficulty in understanding my reference to grip types then refer to the Beastmaker website.

What constitutes power endurance?

My recent internal mental debate has centered around “what is power endurance”, “how does it apply to bouldering” and what is the most effective way to train it? For sport climbing where the level of moves may not be as intense, using interval training could be sufficient as long as you get the circuits rights and don’t rely too heavily on using the same circuit where practice effect starts to lead to diminished returns. Bouldering on the other hand requires more power and less of the endurance… Some solutions include repeaters (see the Beastmaker website) and the “Ethan Pringle” (EP) session both of which use a hangboard. I feel that both of these are great tools, and I have used them extensively but their long term benefits I feel are limited given their simplicity and highly isolated focus. Given that my previous hypertrophy and power cycles exclusively focus on hangboarding, my feeling is that using a hangboard for my power endurance cycle as well would limit the trainings overall transference to rock performance. I do however feel that it is a crucial supplement which I inject in to my training from time to time.

At the end of last year my power endurance training focused on repeaters and the EP session. At that time I had just completed Boogie Nights (18 move power endurance problem) and had been training specifically for that so my power endurance was at an all time high so currently I am somewhat undecided on how best to approach this. Since I haven’t fully utilised my system board yet my decision has been to focus on this for the current power endurance cycle. This will allow me to cover a greater spectrum of movement and hopefully a more rock applicable power endurance also biased towards bouldering and not sport climbing. I have settled on 2 sets of 20 system board routines/problems which focus on an array of movements and grip types (crimps, gastons, layaways, underclings, pinches and compression). I am attempting to do 2 repetitions for each problem by this could prove too much! The rationale for the 2 sets of problems is to accommodate for the practice effect I referred to earlier. In addition I will supplement these sessions with a repeater session at least once a week.

 Pic: My system board

Thoughts on hypertrophy

Hypertrophy forms an important part of my training cycle; it is the foundation for the rest. My current view based on Steve Dunning’s thought below is that you should be looking to do 25 second hands on your chosen grips. He suggests that “the principles of strength training with regards to static (isometric) contractions is very different from that of concentric and eccentric contractions. The duration of a static contraction in order to achieve the required overload for an increase in strength is in the region of 25-30sec, according to the majority of reliable research”. To date I have only completed 2 hypertrophy cycles and am still learning.

I currently include only the following grips as they form the basis for everything – Front 2, Middle 2 and Back 2 (For the last cycles I have used the medium Beastmaker pockets for F2 and M2 and the big back 2 pockets for B2). Steve Dunning suggest doing between 2 to 5 repetitions per grip. At present I do only 2 repetitions for each grip with a 3 minute rest in between which feels sufficiently taxing but will need to reassess this for my next cycle. Given that hypertrophy is more about building a foundation my thought is that it is better to add more repetitions than to use smaller grips to build intensity at this stage.

The training conundrum

In the past my training has always been somewhat haphazard consisting of one or all of the following at any time – 1) go to the wall and climb till you drop 2) campus always trying to beat a personal best 3) get on rock where possible, and 4) master a specific problem and then try to burn your friends off on it. While this approach worked to get me up to 8A, as I have got older and gained further responsibility I have had to look at how to gain efficiencies in my training which necessitates that I have a detailed plan for my training.

The old approach used to work purely because I was getting enough volume, but as the “corporate call” has strengthened this approach’s effectiveness has diminished; the goals I have set are just not possible to achieve with a diet of only one day training and half a day bouldering per week. Work hours dictate how frequently you can get out which has meant that I have had to adapt my training around this.

My Beastmaker was the catalyst for my training paradigm shift. Suddenly having a decent training tool at home made a world of difference allowing greater flexibility to fit training in to my busy work routine. Moreover a whole new addiction arose – hangboarding performance is highly measureable so my background in research soon dictated that I meticulously captured data from every session. This was highly useful as it showed me where my strengths and weaknesses were and allowed me to plan a course of action.

While my learning /training curve was steep (5 months later I sent my hardest problem ever) I realized there was a danger as this type of training is highly specific and in isolation would not be a long term solution. I did however enjoy the measurability and flexibility of hangboarding so had to factor this in to any new tool. Enter the system board! In the past I have toyed with the idea of using a system board and have liked its simplicity (Emile’s system crimps at UCT’s old climbing wall were also one of my favorite training tools). It allows for a greater variety of hold types than hangboarding and as well as very simple engram training. The added benefit is that one panel system board is easy to fit in to most houses which was once again a priority given that the key for me is having it at home.

So what have I learnt from this process?
1) Have a plan – Put together a plan based on your goals and stick to it for the long term. Broadly I try to follow a 3 month cycle of Hypertropy, Power and Power endurance. 2 months is sufficient to get in to good shape, but the final month is necessary to fine tune.
2) Routine flexibility – You need to be able to training regularly and frequently so find practical solutions to allow this.
3) Measurability – Record what you do so that you can see your improvements and identify relative strengths and weaknesses. It is also useful to have old benchmarks which you can use to measure your current ability.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A fresh start

Having collected my thoughts, I have decided that the best way to map my progress forward (and to get me to stick to it) is to put it down on paper. Firstly I am an ambitious person (always have been and am aware that this is sometimes detrimental to my performance). I am also stubborn, and am easily inclined to keep hammering away at something until I achieve great success (If you need proof read this article). However great success (must be read with a Borat accent) is motivating, and last year’s ascent of Boogie Nights was a personal watershed. It was also a journey where I learnt much about my mettle and had to fight back from injury to achieve something that in the back of my mind at times doubted I could even do. Yet I stubbornly kept on trying…

Pic: Me on Boogie Nights, Topside. Pic by Tristan Firman

This year after 2 months of dedicated training I now find myself in some of the better shape of my climbing life and would like to use this springboard to achieve bigger and better things. I still however need rock time (and finger skin) to complete my conditioning. Only one more month completes my 3 month training plan and hopefully starts a memorable year of cranking! In the typical Streaky my goal this year is even bigger and more outrageous than last year’s, but hell it has worked for me in the past so why not again.

So what is it? After last year’s experience I have decided that I want to have multiple focuses rather than one specific problem. Given that climbing for me is also a social pursuit – hiding under a steep boulder which no-one else wants to try isn’t always the most fun way to spend your time even if it leads to great success and ultimate reward. Therefore I have set myself the broader goal of an 8B and another 2 8A+s. Top of the 8B pile is Black Shadow. I am yet to try it but it is a stunning and inspiring line (and supposedly a little soft also helps). As for 8A+s, well there are a few I am currently working on. Entropy is top of the list, and although There and back by Emile Esterhuizen is not the most inspiring, I fell off the last move last year (a common Streaky trait) and therefore would like to complete it. Others that I still need to try are Dark Harvest and Black Hawk Down and depending on my time in Rocklands, Nutsa could also feature.

Pic: JuzH on Black Shadow, Rocklands