My bouldering season is winding up, whether I like it or not. I'd love to get in another trip or two, and I still can, but spring weather is moving in and leaving me itching for those feelings of managing pump, skipping bolts, and keeping focused over the course of 80+ feet of hard climbing. It's been a successful season on the boulders, though the goal of V10 has narrowly avoided a send on several occasions. Three V9's and a few iconic southern V8's did allow my passage, and those are more than enough to leave me smiling.
As the seasons change, so too does my training. My power is at an all time high, and I finally feel like I've discovered what it means to boulder. I bouldered like a boulderer, and less like a route climber. Of course, what that means for my route climbing is that I'll be much stronger... but on my first day back on the rope... it felt more like disaster.
Well before I tied in and clipped that first bolt, I expected I would be in for a beat down. I knew that the "rhythm" of climbing routes would take some work to rediscover. I knew that being pumped above a bolt would elicit worry and breaks in confidence. I tied in anyway, and it was worse than I imagined. I said "take" 15 feet up a 5.11. After nearly 4 months of only bouldering, I'd have been better off soloing the routes. Stopping to clip every few moves (I was in the gym... bolts every 6 feet) completely threw me off. Not only was I trying as hard as I could on every move, but clipping felt like the crux move on a V7. All I could do was hang on the rope, scratch my head, and make excuses. Where the hell is my crash pad when I need it?
By the end of the night I had barely eeked out a send on the steep 11 that had stopped me cold earlier, and narrowly repeated an 11 that I had warmed up on last fall. The one 12 I got on felt like 5.14 to link. A full day of rest later, I was back in the gym, beneath the lead wall, and tied in. I warmed up slow, feeling the rhythm of climb/clip/shake, and forcing myself to pause and breathe, rather than blast to the top. After taking a bolt-to-bolt run to remember a sustained mid-12, I was able to send it easily, downclimb the 10 next to it, and nearly send the 12 again. I finished off the session with an encouraging couple of rounds of "Diminishing Returns". Game on.
Fact is, training hard gives us certain expectations toward our performance. No matter how unrealistic, we expect that if we give it our all in the gym, we'll go outside and 100% of our work will transfer over to real rock and performance situations. I wish it were that simple.
If you're transitioning from bouldering to routes like I am, you can expect a little (or a lot of) frustration. When building your power, you teach your body how to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible to complete difficult moves. While this builds animalistic power, it is the absolute opposite of what we need to do to succeed on rope length pitches. Before you can go out and send the route of your dreams, you'll need to get comfortable up there, just as you've become on tiny edges above a distant crash pad. If you're an experienced route climber, getting comfortable again should only take a few sessions on the rope. If you're switching over to routes for the first time, set your bouldering ego aside, and prepare to be humbled.
As hard as it may be, resist that overwhelming urge to go out and get on the project you've been dreaming about. Mix it up by trying onsights well below your limit, and by doing routes you've done dozens of times, but in both cases, leave your ego on the ground. It's going to feel harder than it did when you were in your best route climbing shape. If you're new to routes, start even slower. Build up to where you think you should be by doing lots of routes a full number or even two numbers lower than your goal. The key is to move slowly, confidently, and pay attention to your breathing, and maybe most important, your rhythm.
This is easier said than done. You've spent all this time telling your body NOT to relax, but to try hard all the time. Now you're asking it not to try so hard. Talk about confusing! The trick here is where your focus lies. When you're bouldering, the send is only a few moves away. Here, you've done 20 moves, but you're only 1/3 of the way up this monster. Stop focusing on how hard you have to try for the next move. Instead, watch your feet carefully make contact with the footholds. Listen to your breathing. Feel your heartbeat. When you reach a clipping stance, don't immediately pull up rope. Hang out there for a second... relax... clip when you're ready. At a good stance, look around. Remember why you're up there, and why you love doing it. And know that you've trained all winter to try hard... but can save it till you really need it.
Find Your Rhythm.
Everything moves in it's own specific rhythm. The Earth, your heartbeat, Fred Nicole. I recently saw an interview in which Fred says that he's tried to climb fast, but he can't do it. Fred climbs like, well, Fred. Nobody else moves that way, and that's ok. Ultimately you should aim to move like you. Sure, practice climbing in several speeds, but when it comes down to it, move how you feel most comfortable. While on a rope it will likely be different than while on a hard boulder problem. Keep in mind that rhythm is not all about speed... but more the fluidity of each individual movement. It may be dynamic or static, powerful or graceful. What's important is that it's YOUR rhythm. Once you're inside it, the whole experience takes on a new synergy.
You've trained hard, and you have all the pieces at your fingertips. The performance will come, if you let it. Take a deep breath, relax your mind, leave your ego at home, and let's put this puzzle together.
In this episode I talk with a successful coach/climber team: Taylor Reed and Bella Jariel. Taylor has helped coach Bella to big success on the international stage. She's the USA Climbing Youth National Champion in speed climbing, as well as a qualifier for the US Youth Team in all 4 disciplines - Sport, Speed, Bouldering, and the Olympic Combined Format.
Five days. Five episodes. One theme. Common sense isn't always common practice.
Emily Tilden is a no-bullshit straight-shooter with a mental tenacity that is sometimes difficult to comprehend. She also has the often rare ability to vocalize why and how, in her ultra running, she is able to push through the wall that stops me at about mile #1.
The Process Journal is the simplest way to ensure that your climbing practice is producing the results that you're looking for.
In today's episode, I sit down with Kerry Scott, an unassuming, but very badass young lady from North Carolina. Kerry is a crusher. And she's not ashamed to "spray" a little.
Lantien Chu is the coach of a high school swim team that has won 21 consecutive state titles. I needed to know how she coached her team, how her team responds, and if any of those lessons could be applicable to climbing.
Pressure. No matter if it's a comp, a project, self-inflicted, or external - we all feel it. In these next three episodes I sit down with my good friend Angie Payne and discuss the pressure cooker situation of a World Cup comp.
We all like to call climbing an art form, but very few of us take it to the high degree that Jason Kehl does. From his haircut to his hold lines, his videos to his gym designs, Jason is anything but conventional, and that's exactly why he's so compelling.
For this episode we sat down in the Red River Gorge with coach and trainer Dan Mirsky to talk about the redpoint process, but the conversation went elsewhere, and essentially boiled down to: do what you're motivated and inspired to do, even if it doesn't make sense.
Tanner Wilson just went on his first extended road trip. Just before hitting the road, he changed his mind about his goals for the trip. Because of the new goals, Tanner learned several important lessons... ones that take most of us many trips and seasons to absorb.
Justen is an accomplished climber and coach who has worked with a veritable who's who of American climbing elite. Justen is known for his ability to get into a climber's head and coax more out of them.
JStar is one of the best sport climbers in the world, so it took a ton of courage for him to completely overhaul a training routine that took him to 14d (9a), but he did it anyway. We talk about the how and the why, what he learned from it, and where he's going from here.
When it comes down to it, a lot of us feel like we know the right answers, but aren’t sure which out of the seamlessly endless stream of "right answers" we should be using.
Meghan Baker is a recently married 43 year old mom (to a teenager), who works 50 hours a week, is a brilliant actress in local theater groups, volunteers, and still makes time to train for climbing. You think you are tight on time? Well, to be frank, you're full of shit.
Job, family, friends, hobbies, etc.. Trying to balance that with climbing, training for climbing, talking about climbing, thinking about climbing, and listening to podcasts about climbing is TOUGH WORK.
In this episode, Nate and I sit down to discuss the Top 3 Things We've Changed Our Minds About. Fact is, if you still believe all of the same things you believed last year, then you're probably fucking up.
In this episode, I have a really great conversation with V11 boulderer, mom, and physical therapist Carrie Cooper. We walk through her process, how she deals with the ego, and talk about what she's learning.
In Episode 17, I sit down with mental training guru Arno Ilgner. Athletes of all levels can benefit hugely from what we discuss during this podversation... the differences between being motivated by goals and being motivated by process.
Stoke is high with Dru Mack, and even though he comes about it naturally, we dig into how he brings that good energy, how he chooses partners that aren't energy suckers, and what being a good partner means.
In the Red River Gorge, "Omaha Beach" is everyone's favorite route to hate on. Locals love to depict it as a mindless jug-haul with no "hard" moves. In 2010, I decided to give this jug haul a go. I hung more times than there are bolts...
Are you allowing yourself to be too nonchalant with your projects? Are you allowing yourself to get intimidated by your goals and using that fear to exaggerate the process required to achieve them?
We measure our sport in numbers. A silly concept, really, but it's what we've got, and I've come to accept that. However, as an individual, I reserve the right to measure my own progressions however the hell I want to, and often times, the numbers don't quite reflect what I know to be the truth.
When someone who has been climbing half as long as you is performing as well as you would like to be, do you write them off as being "a natural?" Or, do you take an honest look at yourself and admit that maybe you haven’t been putting in the work necessary to become the climber you want to be?
In this episode I have a short podversation with Carlo Traversi, boulderer and National Sport Climbing Champion. He started in Yosemite as a traddie, and plans on taking it back to there; "Folding the sport over on itself," as he calls it.
In this episode I sit down with Alli Rainey, climbing coach, trainer, writer, and yoga instructor. Alli climbed up to 5.14 in vertical/technical routes before she decided she wanted to climb steeper routes... and then she had to change her entire approach to climbing in order to do so.
In this episode I sit down with my good friend Rannveig Aamodt, and talk about her impressive road to recovery after a terrible accident. We go deep into how that affected her mentality and her psyche to return to climbing, and to physical activity in general.
Many of you have seen the video of Daniel Woods sending the infamous "Bubble Wrap Project" at CATS in Boulder, Colorado. If you haven't, you should. But prepare yourself; this isn't the typical bouldering video. It's indoors.
You've picked your project, and now find yourself unsure of what on earth to do next. If you exercise a little patience, along with a few tricks and the right tactics, projecting something hard can be a rewarding process.
For those that have never undertaken a project, it can be intimidating just to decide on the right route. It's easy to get in over your head, and even easier to not shoot high enough. There are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to help make this decision.
My friend Nate Drolet, asked his belayer if she wanted half of his banana. Of course she did - who wouldn't? Rather than peel it and break it off with his chalky, dirty fingers, or dig in his pack for a knife, Nate snapped the banana in half. Clean break, right through the middle. Like a ninja.