Beware The Exspurt

Danger is everywhere.  I’m not talking about the kind of danger that we as rock climbers put ourselves into.  That’s a calculated risk.  I’m talking about the kind of parasitic danger that searches you out.  Unbeknownst to you, it attaches to your promise so that it might reap the glory.  If you happen to be a young lady of the fit, attractive variety, it’s a good bet that you’re already hosting one, maybe several, of these gym parasites.  Don’t be fooled.  Open your eyes.  More often than not, you aren’t the only host. 

While there are certainly varieties yet to be discovered, there are two main types that thrive in the chalky environment in climbing gyms: The Lurker and The Exspurt.

The Lurker.

How To Spot Them:

Identifying these wannabe coaches can be tough, but each has a few distinct characteristics that are easy to spot. 

The Lurker is often quiet.  Creepy even.  He lives in the darker parts of the gym, generally hiding himself in plain sight.  He’s probably fairly strong, but it’s doubtful that he’s advanced much in the last few years.  Expect him to be dressed normal, even All-American.  When he talks to you it will be hard to understand unless you lean closer, and he’ll convince you that his advice is heartfelt.  After you bite, he’ll become a physiologist, explaining that his techniques are somehow more “modern” than others.  It matters little what your climbing abilities are.  The Lurker will give you the exact same advice that he gives to all of his “hosts”, and it will undoubtedly be wrong for every single one of you.

Kentucky Exspurt

The Exspurt is a little tougher to identify.  He blends in more, camouflaging himself into the rest of the beta-spewing gym crowd.  The difference is, if you listen to his beta, you’ll get more of it.  And more.  And more.  If you pay attention, nobody else uses his beta.  He’ll often explain that the reason he can’t send the harder problems is that they are sandbagged, but he knows HOW to send them.  Once your guard is down and he’s latched on, he’ll begin to insist that you use his beta, even going as far as manually repositioning your hands and feet to “teach” you. 

How To Defend Against An Attack:

You’ve been struggling on a move for a few minutes now, and you’ve noticed him getting closer.  You’ve suspected him of being a Lurker for some time, but it’s only now that you feel in danger.  And then you’re trapped.  He’s making an innocent suggestion.  Should you listen?  Sure, why not?  Go ahead and give it a try.  It may very well work.  He’s probably a better climber than you, or he wouldn’t have the nerve to talk to you to begin with.  Here’s the key: say “thanks,” and then move on.  If you let him start talking, he’ll reel you in and in no time at all you’ll be doing some ridiculous workout that will do little to help you climb.  I repeat, MOVE ON.

The Exspurt operates a little differently.  He isn’t as good a climber as The Lurker, but he doesn’t know that.  He fully BELIEVES that his beta, however off balance and ridiculous, is absolutely correct.  Even if he is 6’2” and you are 5’1”, he’ll try and push you into his beta, or he’ll shake his head about how you’re doing it all wrong.  He’ll preach to you that the way everyone else is doing it is “awkward”.  Here’s the kicker: he only preys on victims who are stronger than him, so his beta may actually work for you.  Even though it is the most inefficient way possible, you’re talented enough to make it work.  He sees this, and keeps feeding you.  You see it, and keep trying.  Now you’re stuck, and your climbing will become all about raw strength and try hard, because he’s snatched away any real skill and efficiency you might have learned otherwise.  Here’s how to avoid it:


Sound familiar?

Here are the facts:  Climbing is a very complex sport.  If the Lurkers or Exspurts are attaching themselves to you, then you probably don’t need a “coach”.  You need to climb more.  You need mileage.  You need to watch better (read: better, not stronger) climbers, mimic their efficiency, and decide for yourself if that’s the way or not.  There is no “best” way to train.  The best training plan for any climber is an individualized one.  What worked for the Lurker will probably not work for you, and it’s long ago stopped working for him, or he wouldn’t have the need to push it onto unsuspecting bystanders. 

How To Rid Yourself Of The Pests:

It may seem that there is no way out.  Your climbing has reached a definite plateau, and you’ve injured your ring finger campusing or hangboarding even though 11c is still a distant goal.  There is still hope for you.  Simply seek other, more qualified advice.  If you regularly seek advice from climbers or coaches who you admire, or who you know are knowledgeable, your parasite will most often detach itself.  If they remain clinging, trying to convince you that any other advice you get is dead wrong, then let them stick around a bit.  Once they see you getting better by doing the opposite of what they tell you to do, they won't be able to get away fast enough.

Try it.  You'll see.

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