Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Chalk from FrictionLabs.

Chalk is chalk, right?

I've long known that this statement to be false.  As a gymnast, I entered climbing with a preconceived notion of what chalk should feel like.  That makes me something of a chalk diva.  Even before I was an uptight sport climber, I knew when chalk was wrong.  So many of the climbing companies got it wrong.  I won't put them on blast... they didn't know any better.

Furthermore, I've read about 500 reviews of new chalk products... colored versions, scented versions, block chalk, liquid chalk, chalk in a ball, chalk in a sock, chalk that feels like rocks and chalk that feels like baby powder.  They all say the same thing.  It's the STICKIEST CHALK EVER!

They were all full of shit.

Know how I know?  Because FrictionLabs hadn't been invented yet, that's how.

First, I'll tell you what Friction Labs tells me as to why their chalk is better:

"All climbing chalks market themselves as Magnesium Carbonate, because that's what dries moisture the best.  They mislead you in to thinking it's only Magnesium Carbonate when the truth is that they all have significant amounts of Calcium Carbonate and other fillers.  Calcium Carbonate - the same stuff as chalk board chalk - just gets slimy when mixed with moisture.  When you sweat, keeping your hands dry depends on having chalk that has high amounts of Magnesium Carbonate and low amounts of Calcium Carbonate.  We had an independent lab test our chalk against the most popular options to see what they're made of."

As you can see, FrictionLabs clearly out performed the other brands tested.  Well, out "scienced" anyway.  (science nerds can see the entire study at FrictionLabs)  This graph don't mean a damn thing when it comes to performance.  

Which leads me to my extremely scientific, chalk wasting, test methods.

Why chalk wasting?  Well, riddle me is one to apply one type of chalk to the right hand, and another type of chalk to the left hand, without contaminating either by rubbing the hands together?  Well, you rub them on your pants and get chalk all over the place.  At least that was my solution.  Maybe yours will be more elegant.  

At first fondle, FrictionLabs did appear to be drier and better textured than the other brands I was comparing it to (many of which I'm not even sure what were... I just gathered chalk from around the gym... though I'm positive nobody had FrictionLabs because they all acted like they'd never seen chalk before).  Feel is important, though mostly psychologically.  What really matters to me is whether or not it's going to stay on my hands or if I'm going to need to be in my chalk bag every 5 moves.  

So I repeatedly made a giant mess to chalk up both hands, and then did 2 problems on the system board.  1 problem and it's mirror image, so that each hand was using the same holds.  Then I would stare at my hands like any boulderer who just fell off of a problem that they just KNOW they shouldn't have fallen off of.

Want to know how many times FrictionLabs looked better than the competition?


The photo to the right is not of my hands (my forearms are way more Popeye-like, duh).  It's Brian, getting the same results that I got.  2 minutes before this photo, both hands looked exactly alike. The only difference is that this time I applied the chalk so that we didn't make a gigantic mess.

The common theme amongst the other Team Power Company testers?  "It stays on my hands way longer."

 So it's true, it works better.  Now what?  Where do I get it?

Not so fast.  You've got choices to make.  FrictionLabs sells their chalk in 3 different "textures".  All of the chalk is the same... but each variety is a different amount of chunky.  I'm a Bam Bam fan.  Gorilla Grip will do in a pinch.  Unicorn is way too fine for me.  I would like to see it in block form, as I do enjoy having a big chunk in my chalkbag when I'm route climbing, and only one or two of the Bam Bam sized chunks were even close to big enough.  But that's me.  Some of you are weird and like chalk without chunks.

Does that mean I'm switching over from my beloved Frank Endo?  Yes and no.  Like any other product, quality comes with a price.   FrictionLabs is sold two ways... you can buy a 10 oz bag for $25, or you can subscribe to get a monthly shipment of 2.5 - 7.5 oz for from $8 to $14.  For comparison, a single block of chalk is 2 oz.  

That's considerably more out of my pocket than I spend on my Endo, but then again, it outperformed Endo by a decent margin.  

My solution?  I plan to keep a stash of FrictionLabs Bam Bam around at all times.  When I'm in redpoint mode or trying a hard flash, it will get the nod.  If I'm just warming up, it stays in my pack.  I'm actually considering carrying a second chalk bag to the crag, specifically for FrictionLabs chalk, so that I don't taint my sending chalk with other varieties.  

Is that OCD?  Maybe, but do you know any successful climbers who aren't?

Let's face it. 

Chalk Matters.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: Winter (Medium 4 and 8) and Noah (Small 3) from Kilter Climbing Grips.

Give me a choice between two equally useful items, and I'll always opt for the simpler version over the one with all the bells, whistles, and embellishments.  Of course, give me something with elegant, clean lines that out performs the over complicated, and I will sing it's praises.

When it comes to climbing holds, I'm currently singing the praises of the brainchild of shaping luminary Ian Powell, Kilter Climbing Grips.

I've been a fan of Ian's shapes since before I knew they were Ian's shapes.  Grips like the Comfy Crimps and Hueco Patina Flakes from e-Grips, a company founded by Ian in 1996, have long been in my go-to bucket for training problems. He's an OG in the shaping game, and he's easily one of the lead dogs in the current, much more saturated, scene.

Kilter offered to send me a few sets of holds for review, and I simply gave them my angles and the grades that we usually train on, and shortly after, a box arrived, containing some of the nicest, simplest shapes I've seen in some time.

Though Ian is certainly recognized in part for his beautiful artistic designs on holds (such as e-Grips Tribal and Drop Art series), and he was one of the first to add embellishment to the non use part of a hold, the grips they sent to me are very much a case of form follows function.  A quick look at Kilter's website, shows that with the exception of their Sandstone line, which very well may be the most beautiful representation of my favorite stone that I've seen, the entire Kilter line follows this theme.  In fact, while you might expect that a prolific shaper such as Ian would have thousands of shapes to choose from, I appreciate and admire the curated selection of complete lines of holds that Kilter is rolling out.  It's obvious at a glance that care and thought went into the somewhat minimalist nature of the brand.

Inside the box in my living room floor were 3 sets of holds, representing 2 of the Kilter lines, Winter and Noah.  The Winter grips came in sets Medium 4 and Medium 8, and the Noah set is Small 3.

After I'd made a Christmas morning mess of my living room, I set about fondling the grips (and like any other kid on Christmas morning, imagining the cool moves I was going to be using them for).  Immediately evident was the texture.  Distinctly less abrasive than nearly any other hold I've used, these are the absolute only holds that I didn't feel the need to sand lightly before affixing to the wall.  These grips are the perfect texture for training.  Enough friction that you can utilize it on slopey edges, but smooth enough to save your skin during those particularly hard sessions.

Lets take a look at each set.

Winter Medium 4

Winter Medium 4 comes with 10 different grips.  They are all about hand size, and low profile, so they take up little wall space.  There are 4 small pinches and 6 "hooded" edges that vary from slightly slopey to slightly incut, making them useful on our 30 degree wall for problems ranging from cruxy V4's to sustained 3 or 4 move V10's and harder.

There are a couple of interesting things going on in this set that I don't find with regularity in commercial holds.

First, depending on how you orient the pinches, they can be useful several ways.  The pinches are essentially opposing hooded crimps, positioned in such a way that all 4 can be used comfortably with either hand.

Skinny pinches are one of my weakest areas, unlike many of todays gym bred mutant climbers, so the 4 little pinches have particularly highlighted that weakness.  For instance, in the photo above and to the right, the hold that my left hand is on has become the bane of my existence.  I can move dynamically off of it, but in a different problem that crosses to the hooded edge at about 11:00 from my face, I can't hold it for quite long enough, while Taylor makes the move look V3.  Because of this, they've appeared regularly in my limit boulder problems as of late, and likely will for some time to come.

Second, the edges have an upturned "hood" on the sides of the edge.  The Kilter website describes them as "open slots", which is a great way to frame them.  This feature serves a few functions.  First, it forces a little more accuracy on big deadpoint moves, like the one shown in the photo to the left.  Second, it makes getting into a full crimp a little tougher, and doesn't allow the climber to wrap the corner of the hold with a thumb, almost as if it weren't a protruding hold at all, but an inset.  Third, when one of these hooded edges is used as a foot, as they are in our tracking problems, the climber can't simply slide a foot down the wall and catch the corner.  To make the most of the hold as a foot, the climber will have to very purposely toe into the edge, as in stepping into a slot or pocket.

Winter Medium 8  

 Winter Medium 8 comes in a set of 10 grips, all of which are about 1 pad deep and range from a generous 3 fingers wide (the most incut of the set) to a solid 4 finger width.  While a few of the holds are just barely incut, they mostly are perfectly flat, a feature I don't often see on gym holds.  On our 30 degree wall, these, much like the Winter 4's, can be found on problems spanning between V4 and V10 or harder.  They become particularly challenging when oriented in any way other than horizontal, forcing the climber to have to really control tension, balance, and body position to make use of them.

I'll be perfectly honest... these were my favorites the minute I pulled them from the box.  The clean simple shapes appealed to me, but what really sold me is that someone had created a full pad flat edge with the perfect edge radius.  Not so slopey that you're really only getting half a pad, and not so sharp that it's going to become painful after a few attempts.  Frankly, I'm not even sure how that balance was achieved here, but I've learned not to question genius.

When I began to put them onto the wall, I adhered to my normal policy of not "setting" problems, but instead making choices based on a general rough sketch of the type of movement a hold location and orientation could provide. It became clear very quickly that when I turned one of these grips into a vertical orientation, as a sidepull or gaston, shit got serious.  With the utter lack of any sort of incut on most of these holds, fighting the barndoor requires more from your body, and less from your crimp strength.  Also, I immediately saw their use as a friendly, distant, "I'm never gonna get there, more or less latch it" type hold.  There's no reason to hold back going to these, so you might just get there sooner than you think.

Noah Small 3  

 Noah Small 3 comes with 20 small but incut grips that somehow keep the same great radius on their incut edge that is found on the flat and slopey Kilter grips.  This set ranges from about 1/2 pad to full pad, and on our 30 degree wall can generally be found on problems ranging from hard V2 or 3 up to V6.  For harder problems, these holds would really shine on a steeper wall, but are perfect for our V4-V5 climbers at this angle.

Several of the holds in this set have a feature that I found myself wanting to use on the wall, and directing the movement that way every chance I got.  They have an incut, scooped "hood" on one side, creating a chance for the climber to use the corner of the hold almost like a pocket.  I see it outside all the time, but never indoors as subtle as Kilter created here.  When those holds are turned just right, climbers discover the feature immediately, and unlike many of the holds that I've used in this manner outside, it's friendly, so you can really dig in.

The fingertip incuts in this set have become my favorite warmup grips, as well as holds that I'm not afraid to dive toward when I need a jump problem that forces me to control a swing.  For Red River training, they are an absolute must for 4x4 style interval workouts.

I see our V5/6 climbers trending more and more toward the Noah Small 3's every session.  They aren't quite big enough to call "finger buckets", forcing try hard even though the holds are friendly and incut.  Not to mention, several of the grips are so small as to force 3 finger usage (or even 2 for those of you with sausage fingers), which requires more precision than your average incut hold.  To add to the need for precision, the "landing" surface behind the incut is comfortably uneven.  When hit just right, your fingers sit just perfectly snuggled into place.  If you're a little off, you're going to have to try a lot harder to pull through.

If you prefer sloppy footwork,  moves that require no precision, and texture that eats your skin, then these Kilter grips are definitely not what you're looking for.  However, if you're searching for new, interestingly simple shapes that you can add to your wall without sacrificing the skin that we so often do while training, then you've found the holds you need.  They've quickly become favorites on our wall, and I find myself going to them again and again due to the need to learn how to use them effectively, rather than just get better at holding onto a miserably tiny hold.

Kilter Climbing Grips are obviously crafted with an eye toward the movement that they encourage.  My biggest complaint (and one that I often make) is that setters and hold companies focus on bad holds and big jumps, rather than on quality, difficult movement.  After all, it's often the space between the holds that is hardest to navigate, not the holds themselves.  Ian and Kilter are aware of this, and have created a line of holds to reflect this seemingly lost idea.  Add to this the best texture in the industry, skin friendly edges, and grips with no wasted space, and you can't lose.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Goals Not Met: Freedom and Transworld Depravity.

Photo by Taylor Frohmiller
I was through the middle crux for the first time from the ground.  The hardest moves were behind me, with only a V5ish mantle and a 12+ish headwall guarding the chains.  And it was wet.  Not damp wet.  Soaked wet.  Dripping wet.

I'm still not sure how it got that way.  It was dry the day before, and I'd decided to hedge my bets on the better temps and better sleep that I could get.  It hadn't rained.  But there it was, dripping from the mantle onto my face, mocking me.

50 feet prior, at the big rest before the business, I'd had a conversation with a new friend on a neighboring route.  She had read my "Don't Squash The Banana" post, and it resonated with her.  I hung out there talking to Katy Dannenberg, shaking out, laughing, and generally relaxing, all the while discussing commitment.  And then I was climbing, her reassuring voice just beside me as I stuck the move for the first time.

Drip.  Drip.  I was this far, my first real chance at sending, and I had to commit.  The entire Motherlode had congregated in the cave, anticipating the battle.  The wet V5 above me had gotten into my nerves, and I desperately needed a plan.  My next shake, The Basketball, had water streaming from it.  The terrible Tooth hold above it was smack dab in the middle of the waterfall.  However, I could see that the line of holds out right was dry.  If I could just get out there, I could recover on the first two good edges before launching into the final terrible crimps.

The mantle never felt easier.  I didn't hesitate, just executed.  Instead of my normal knee scum/hand jam/layback rest on The Basketball, I kept moving, barely making the hard lateral reach off of The Tooth to the incut edges I intended to rest on.

Both incuts were filled with tiny, taunting puddles.

Photo by Taylor Frohmiller
I tried to recover, but my mind was spinning.  12 feet from victory, past the wet rock, and I was going to fail.  Many of my best friends were watching.  My fiance was on belay.  I had battled my heart out to get to this spot.  Knowing I would have no opportunity to dry my fingers before taking the worst of the grips, I committed once more.  I crimped hard, pasted my foot on the good smear, lunged, and I fell.

The moans of the gathered crowd echoed throughout the cave.  "Do over!", someone shouted.  "You were robbed", Dan Mirsky told me, "but at least now you know it's possible."

And then the weather turned toward summer, without so much as a glance over it's shoulder at me.

For weeks it was a mind fuck.  I was 2 moves away from a long time goal, and I had the experience of reaching it... I just didn't quite close the deal.  Did I want to get back on it?  Was there any reason to finish it?  Was it really the experience and the progression I was after, or does the number itself mean anything to me?

For nearly a month, I wasn't sure I'd go back.  However, while standing in the shower after a gym session, I came to a realization.  I really loved climbing on that route.  Sending it is essentially a formality, and I'd already had the send "experience", but I WANTED to go back and climb on it.

It had long been a goal to climb 5.14 by the age of 40.  As my 40th came and went, several people asked me if I was bummed not to make good on my goal.

Photo by Taylor Frohmiller
Goals aren't made to be met.  When I meet a goal, I celebrate by moving the bar higher.  It's become incredibly cliche to say that it's all about the journey, and I'm not so sure I completely agree.  It isn't only about the journey.  For me, it's about a chase.  It's about being eluded.  It's about some chunk of rock showing me who's boss until it decides to allow my passage.  It's about reaching past my own perceived limits, and realizing that I can change my own perceptions.  So no, I'm not bummed at all.  Quite the opposite.

21 days after my random deadline passed, I climbed 5.14.  After 8 years of sport climbing, with 65 5.13's under my belt, Transworld Depravity, a Bill Ramsey masterpiece in Red River Gorge's Madness Cave, decided that I'd grown up enough, and it allowed me to climb from bottom to top without falling off.

In the end, I never had to really fight.  While I'm usually vocal, this time, other than deliberate breathing, I didn't make a sound.  As is often reported, it felt eerily easy.  Like I could do it again, and maybe I will.  Maybe not.  There are cracks to be climbed.  Big walls to be freed.  Music to be made, and books to be written.  Another house to build.  Other climbers, still reaching for their ultimate goals, to help train.  So many other worthy opponents.

First, I'll set a few more ridiculous goals to fail at.

Lowering off after the send.  Photo by Lee Smith.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guest Post with Aicacia Young, RDN: How To Delay Muscle Fatigue

I won't bore you with the details of why I haven't posted in two months. Instead, I'll just say that it's been an action packed start to the season and I'll update you shortly.  For now, I'm going to hand over the writing reins to a lovely young lady by the name of Aicacia Young.  I figured you could all use a brief break from my snarky, blunt, punch you in the face style of writing.  You might recognize the name from an earlier post about her recent e-book, Rock Climbing Nutrition:  The Essential Food Guide For Climbers, which you can buy HERE.  Or hopefully, you've already discovered her information packed website, Climb Healthy.  I've already asked Aicacia to talk to me about nutrition for our "The Specialist" column, so be on the lookout for that in the near future.  

Now, on with the show.  

How To Delay Muscle Fatigue

By Aicacia Young, RDN
Last month, some of you asked about the connection between diet and forearm pump. And since I'm about to take a trip back to the amazing and utterly pumpy, Red River Gorge, I figured it would be a fitting post for sending season.
In this article, I will explain the causes of muscle burning, muscle fatigue, and muscle swelling (aka getting SWOLE). All of these factors work together to create that "pumped out of your mind" feeling you sometimes notice after a tough climb.

Let's blame lactic acid, right?!? 

Many people tend to believe that muscle burning is the result of too much lactic acid, but since my purpose in life seems to be pissing off the masses, I'm going to explain to you why this is not the case - according to SCIENCE.
Professor Matthew Hickey, who earned his PhD in bioenergetics and currently serves as the Director of the Human Performance Clinical Research Lab at Colorado State University, says, "The bottom line is... there is no lactic acid in human beings."
Before you start yelling at me, Hickey explains that your body is actually producing lactate, the alternate base to lactic acid, and you keep producing it 24/7.
He goes on to say that lactic acid doesn't really show up until you have a blood pH below 6. Intense exercise can send your blood pH down into the high 6's, but a blood pH below 6 will reserve you a comfy bed in the hospital

So what causes the burn?

There is actually a difference between the muscle burn that you feel during intense exercise and true muscle fatigue. The burning sensation, or acidosis, that you feel after a round of weighted squats or 4x4's is actually an accumulation of hydrogen ions in the muscle tissue.
Scientists used to believe that lactate was the cause of muscle burning because it accumulates in the muscle tissue along with hydrogen ions, but they have since realized that they were following the wrong trail.
Lactate also leaves the cell along with hydrogen ions, but the liver can actually recycle lactate and break it down into glucose for more energy. So, it's the hydrogen ions, and not the lactate, that cause the burning sensation in your muscles.

Why can't I hold on anymore?

Since the body contains a network of complex systems, there are many factors that contribute to muscle fatigue. a muscle can no longer contract in response to a stimulus.
During exercise, muscle fatigue occurs when
This is why you can eventually fall off jugs if you keep climbing while extremely pumped. Your forearm flexors can no longer contract, even though your brain is telling them to, and your hands can open up on holds that once felt solid.
Just like the engine of a car can malfunction for various reasons, there are a number of factors that can cause your muscles to stop contracting properly. If you think about a car that won't start, it could be an electrical problem (i.e. the alternator can't generate the energy to start the engine), a fuel problem (not enough gas), or an engine problem (i.e. sludge buildup).
In the same way, there are two main causes of muscle fatigue: neural fatigue (weakened electrical signals) and metabolic fatigue (too much or too little of a given substrate).

Neural fatigue

For new climbers or climbers who don't train regularly, a common cause of muscle fatigue is actually neural fatigue. This condition is characterized by a nerve's inability to generate a sustained signal after prolonged exercise.
When you engage in any form of training, you train your nerves, as well as your muscles, to generate stronger and longer-lasting nerve impulses. This is why the stronger you become as a climber, the harder it is to completely exhaust your muscles.

Metabolic fatigue

In addition to neural factors, muscle fatigue can also be caused by metabolic factors, including:

  1. Not enough muscle glycogen = not enough carbohydrates stored before exercising to make ATP
  2. Too much inorganic phosphate (more research needed) = normal by-product of muscle contractions (see video)
  3. Too much ammonia (NH3) = by-product of intense exercise and protein metabolism
  4. Too much potassium outside the cell = exhausted Na/K pump weakens electrical current needed for muscle contractions
  5. Too much heat = normal by-product of strenuous exercise

    How to prolong metabolic muscle fatigue

    Of course more research is needed in the world of exercise physiology, but for now, there are a few things you can do that may prolong muscle fatigue.

    1. Insufficient muscle glycogen

    If you're burning through your stores of muscle glycogen too quickly and just plain running out of fuel, you can better prepare by consuming carbohydrates before climbing.
    You don't have to carb-load like it's a marathon and stuff your face with bread and pasta, but keep in mind that carbohydrates are your primary fuel when climbing. See my article "How to Eat on Climbing Days" for more specifics.

    3. Ammonia accumulation

    One small study of 11 male subjects suggests that consuming an 8% carbohydrate-electrolytes solution during prolonged intense exercise (like a full or half day of climbing) can reduce the negative effects of ammonia accumulation (and therefore prolong muscle fatigue), but more research is needed to confirm their findings.
    *Translation: Consuming a source of easily absorbable carbohydrates during exercise may help to prolong muscle fatigue.

    4. Potassium accumulation

    If you remember your basic chemistry courses, then you may remember the term "sodium-potassium pump" or Na/K pump. If you think about shooting a slingshot, then you know that the further you pull back, the harder and faster the slingshot will shoot forward.
    The further you remove the slingshot from its state of equilibrium, the more energy it generates surging forward. In the same way, the sodium-potassium pump in your cells generates a powerful electrical charge needed to trigger muscle contractions.
    When your Na/K pumps become exhausted, that crucial electrical signal gets weaker and weaker, leading eventually to muscle fatigue. Luckily, this is something that you can improve with diet and proper training.
    • Consume plenty of potassium on a daily basis
    • Consume plenty of magnesium on a daily basis
    • Climb regularly
    • Consume carbohydrates before exercise
    • N-acetyl-cysteine supplements may be helpful for trained individuals
      If you happen to be potassium-deficient, then you will likely encounter muscle fatigue much faster than your well-nourished counterparts. In order to avoid a potassium deficiency, try to include plenty of potassium-rich foods in your diet on a daily basis.
      Potassium deficiency can also be caused by magnesium deficiency, so be sure to consume magnesium-rich foods in your diet as well. If you do have a potassium-deficiency, then continue to exercise as you increase your intake of these minerals.
      Exercise has been shown to help improve potassium muscle stores, and trained individuals are able to regulate their potassium levels more efficiently than untrained individuals who do not engage in regular exercise. So keep climbing.
      Carbohydrate consumption before exercise may also improve potassium muscle stores, as the two appear to be directly related.
      Finally, the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) appears to help delay fatigue, especially in the limbs, during prolonged exercise. One study from 2006 found that NAC was capable of delaying muscle fatigue by improving potassium regulation in trained individuals.
      Unfortunately, this study used intramuscular injections of NAC, which isn't really practical for any human beings, but this review from 2008 confirms that NAC can play a role in delaying muscle fatigue in trained individuals.

      5. Hyperthermia

      Too much heat does more than just make you sweat and grease up all the holds on your project. Climbing in hot climates, without acclimating properly, can lead to faster dehydration and muscle fatigue. It also makes you grumpy... or is that just me?
      If you're going to climb in the sweltering heat, make sure you acclimate and hydrate properly. You can also help lower your body temperature by drinking ice cold fluids and placing cooling packs on your body. The other alternative is to flee from the heat altogether and learn how to climb with numb hands, but who really enjoys that?

      On-the-wall tricks to fight forearm pump

      One of the main causes of forearm swelling is restricted blood flow. If you think about the position of your wrists while you're climbing, you are almost always in an extension position.
      Constant extension will make it more difficult for blood to flow in to your fingers and out to your heart. It's very similar to pinching a hose when you want to stop a stream of water.
      When you make it difficult for blood to pass through your arm to your fingers and back out to your heart, then it begins to build up in your forearms - and you begin to look like the hulk. (This is when you should take pictures of your forearms if you're looking to attract a mate.)
      According to Eric Horst, climbing trainer and author of multiple training books, the best way to combat this restriction in blood flow is to flick your wrists between moves and shake out your hands above and below your head.


      Phew! I just drowned you in knowledge, so hopefully you found it somewhat helpful.
      If you are a new climber or even an experienced climber who has never really trained for climbing and you'd like to improve, then you might want to consider a basic training program (like these), as you most likely experience neural fatigue while climbing.
      If you're an experienced climber with trained nerves and muscles, then it may be time for you to focus on your diet and possibly consider supplementation. So in order to recap:

      • Consuming carbohydrates (starchy vegetables, fruits, grains, etc) before a long day of climbing can help build up glycogen stores
      • Consuming carbohydrates during a long day of climbing can help reduce the effects of ammonia in your muscles and blood
      • Consuming roughly 4.7 grams/day of potassium (for ages 19+) can help increase the efficiency of your Na/K pumps
      • Consuming the recommended intake of magnesium for your age can help prevent a potassium deficiency
      • Taking 1800 mg/day of an oral NAC supplement (like this one) may delay fatigue in well-trained climbers
      • Acclimating and hydrating in hotter climates can help delay muscle fatigue
      • I'm your favorite and you love me the most

        Hopefully this has helped you understand the role that proper nutrition can play in your climbing performance. To download a shopping list of potassium- and magnesium-rich foods, click HERE!

        Sunday, August 24, 2014

        The Top 5 Bad Gym Habits of Route Climbers.

        Here at The Power Company, we don't often talk about the differences between climbers who choose to mostly climb on routes and those who choose boulders.  I'll go ahead and call that neglectful on my part, because there are some fundamental things that are different about the two.  We'll talk more about those differences in a later post, but for now I want to focus on a difference that wasn't obvious at first, the fact that while in the gym, for the most part, boulderers are closer to training the "right" way than route climbers are.  Since internet readers have a tendency to automatically jump to extremes to discount everything they read... let me note here that I said "for the most part".  No, of course this isn't a hard and fast rule, but it happens too often to dismiss it.

        To paraphrase several readers of Jaime Emerson's excellent site, B3 Bouldering, "Why 5?  Why not 10?  Why not 20?"  And to paraphrase Jaime's answer, "Because it's my site and my list."

        Any more questions?  Ok then, on with the show.

        Going Climbing.

        Let me start by saying this... if you go to the gym just to have fun, with no desire to improve, then you should go and do exactly that.  You should climb.  Do whatever you want.  Treat it the same way you do when you go outside.  Just climb.  
        If you want to improve, you should definitely not go to the gym to just go climbing.  If your goal is to treat the gym as "training" for climbing, then you'll have to structure it differently than you do your outdoor sessions.  If your normal routine is to warm up, sample a few climbs, see how the project "feels" today, and then do 3 laps on the same 5.10... STOP.  Do something different.  Anything.  Spend the night working on a project.  Spend it on vertical topropes instead of leading the roof again.  Go bouldering.  And whatever you're doing, try hard.  Learn something and take note of what you learned.  This doesn't have to be an endless treadmill.  If you do it right, it could get you somewhere.

        Staying In Their Strengths.

        When I look around the climbing gym, it's always the same people on the same angles.  The crimp masters post up at the near vert walls.  The compression junkies find all the biggest slopers and stake out the aretes.  Those opposed to footwork are campusing up the steeps.  It never fails.  Hooray, you did another 45 degree V9 sloper rig.  Good job.  But why do you keep telling people that the 15 degree techy balance problem is awkward and stupid?  Because you suck at it, that's why.  Which is precisely why you should be doing it.  
        It's true, your hardest outdoor sends will likely be the ones that suit your strengths.  However, the level of return you'll get on climbing solely at a particular angle or always on a particular grip will diminish rapidly.  Paying closer attention to your weaknesses will make you a better climber.  No question. And what happens when your ultimate compression project ends with a runout, techy headwall?  
        You'll wish you had spent more time on those awkward, stupid problems. 

        Counting Pitches, Discounting Quality.

        Often when I ask people how their session went, I get an answer that details the number of pitches they climbed, as if they're in direct competition with Alex Honnold or they're training for the 24HHH.  There's no mention of how hard they were trying, whether or not they learned anything new, or if they made progress on something.  Only a confirmation that they reached their arbitrary number of scheduled pitches for the session.   
        Again, let me say this:  If your goal in climbing is to get in a predetermined number of pitches each time you climb, and that is enough to make you happy, then by all means, keep doing it.  I wish my goals were as simple to achieve.  I envy you.  However, if you want to improve at rock climbing, then somewhere along the line you got bamboozled into believing that a certain number of pitches is directly related to getting better.  It isn't.  
        Well, that isn't entirely true.  Sometimes it is directly related.  When you are a beginner, or new to route climbing, then it may very well be to your benefit to get in lots of pitches.  If it's early in the season and you're getting your route legs back under you, I'll give you a pass.  But if it happens every week, your pass is revoked.
        Instead of concerning yourself with number of pitches, try paying attention to the quality of the pitch, and the quality of the rest between pitches.  If you're cramming 24 pitches into a 3 hour session, it's likely that you aren't rested well enough to give 100% to either your physical, mental, or emotional performance on 23 of those pitches.  If the desire is to improve, I would rather see someone give 3 high quality attempts at a hard project or a climb that exploits their weaknesses than send 15 pitches at the same grade they've been climbing at for the past 5 years.
        Quality, not quantity.


        While I used to be a staunch traditionalist (ethical midget), I now see the truth.  There is a time and a place for saying "Take" and sitting on the rope.  While working out moves.  While warming up.  For (actual) safety reasons.  
        There is also a time and place when "Take" should be completely removed from your vocabulary.  While in redpoint mode.  While onsighting or flashing.  While training.
        If you're on a rope for training, it's likely that you're doing one of two things... an "ARC" type workout in which you should never get near the point of failure, or a workout that requires reaching failure to affect adaptation.  In either case, unless for safety reasons, the word "Take" has little place.  
        The gym isn't only a training ground for the physical aspects of climbing.  Perhaps more important for many of us, the gym can be where you get to hone your mental and emotional skills.  Learning to go for it in the gym can make for much more productive days outside.  For the many of you who find that several days are spent on your project just convincing yourself to make the next move or clip, it can be a major shortcut to sending.   
        Use it when appropriate, but when you're ready to go hard, forget the word entirely.

        Ignoring Bouldering.

        I used to be you.  I "trained" solely on routes.  I mean, I wasn't a boulderer, so why waste my time on bouldering?  Essentially, routes are a bunch of boulders all stacked on top of each other.  Sometimes those boulders are stacked in your favor, sometimes they aren't.  In every case, sending depends on how efficiently, if at all, you can do the moves.  It all comes down to strength and power.  If the hardest moves on a route are at your utmost limit, it's unlikely that you'll send, and the best way to get better at harder moves is to try them bouldering.
        You can absolutely work on difficult moves on a rope.  However, even if you've mastered the art of trying 100% despite the fall potential, you've climbed a number of moves just to get there.  You'll use energy to pull back up the rope.  It takes more effort.  It takes an excessive amount of time. Stop wasting time and energy, and work on hard moves right on the ground.  There is no better way to get stronger.
        I've heard many route climbers claim that they've never been shut down by a move, so there's no reason to train bouldering.  Either you're abnormally strong, or you aren't trying routes that are difficult enough.  I'd guess the latter.  Even if you've never encountered a move that you can't do, gaining more power will make all those moves seem easier.  You'll be less depleted for that last move showdown, or you'll have more left for the pump fest following that first bolt nerd gate.  
        More power can't hurt, but less power certainly can.

        Thursday, July 31, 2014

        The Strawberry Roan

        Entering the techy crux and the heady exposure.  Photo by Adam Amick.

        I've mentioned before on here that last summer I teamed up with good friend Leif Gasch to try and put down a famous unfinished Todd Skinner project called The Strawberry Roan.  There isn't much I can say about it that Leif hasn't already said better than I can over on his blog, but I will say these words before you click on the short film below that we made while working on the route.

        While I fell on the last hard move on my last attempt at the route, the experience of working on this route with Leif was far more important than clipping the chains.  From hiking up there the first time and standing under the most perfect arete I'd ever seen, to working out improbable sequences, each of us with different beta, and watching Leif send at the eleventh hour, finishing with a standing ovation at the Lander bar afterward, it was an amazing adventure.  One that meant the world to me.

        And that The Strawberry Roan isn't going anywhere.  It's not gonna fall off.  This ain't Rifle Mountain Park.  :)

        Tuesday, July 29, 2014

        Ebooks for Climbers... Nutrition and Strength

        While I've not had the opportunity to read either of these books, I definitely plan to (and review them both), and wanted to let you all know of their existence, so you can check them out HERE.

        Rock Climbing Nutrition: The Essential Food Guide for Climbers, written by Aicacia Young, RDN, is of particular interest to me.  I grew up in a culture of canned and processed food.  It was less than a decade ago that I ate fast food EVERY day, often times two or three times a day.  I've gotten much better at monitoring what I put into my body, but it's a part of my climbing that could certainly use help, and I look forward to getting into this book.

        You Can pick up Aicacia's book HERE.

        Strength:  Foundational Training for Rock Climbers, written by respected trainer and legend Steve Bechtel (and with a cover shot of OG hardman Andy Skiba, the first American to climb V12), is sure to be filled with practical, no nonsense advice about ways that you can gain functional strength for climbing.  Steve is a friend of mine, and one of the most knowledgeable people I know.  I'm making the assumption that I'll likely learn a thing or two once I get to dig into this book.

        You can pick up Steve's book HERE.

        Knowing what my schedule looks like, it could be a while before I get to reviewing either of these gems, but I wanted to give you guys and girls the heads up so that you can get your hands on them at the start of this training season.