One of my climbing friends, who shall remained anonymously known as ‘Chris,’ has a small book into which he is amassing a collection of autographs and other artefacts from some of the world’s best climbers. Along with some incomprehensible sketches and dark insights into the mind of a very drunk Johnny Dawes, are some responses to the question, ‘what is the secret to your success?’
I have studied this book to try to gain some helpful tips on how to improve as a climber. Pete Robbins suggested not having a girlfriend but I have already failed with his mantra. Michele Caminati’s secret is a pint a day but I couldn’t stop at one and ended up having some uncomfortable dizzy moments half-way up routes. Steve McClure’s diet of chocolate gave me diarrhoea, and the Haribo diet from Katy Whittaker did the opposite.
I had previously thought that butter is the secret to power and strength until Chris revealed quite convincing evidence to the contrary. Faced with the stark reality of being wrong my entire climbing career and with some actual real Science, I turned to several alternative methods for improvement and finally I believe I have found the answer. There are many terms used on the climbing forums, such as Anaerobic Power, Anaerobic Capacity and Periodisation, but the most popularised seems to be ‘TRAINING.’
For the last few months, in an attempt to get fitter and stronger I have been following this ‘training’ regime. I signed up to the local gym, a very modern Virgin Active, on the premise that I would spend the majority of the time ‘training’ in the sauna and hot tub. However, Lena keeps threatening celibacy until I climb 8b, so I have actually started to use the weights and machines. Having never used a gym, I quickly came to the realisation that I have no idea how to use weights and ended up spraining my ankle tripping over a 5kg dumbbell. I then turned my attention to fingerboarding, a technique that according to Dave Macleod ‘makes weak people strong.’
I’m not going to bore you with the details but each day I try to hang on my fingerboard using a variety of different holds to gain fingerstrength – I think these are known as Repeaters. Also included in the plan are far too many press-ups and sit-ups to try and build up my weak shoulders and core. These prove most difficult as Maisy, our furry, cute terrorist, will lovingly lick your entire face when given the opportunity.
On May 10th, Lena and I are travelling to the tiny Greek island of Kalymnos, for tzatziki, loukoumades, raki, swimming and a little bit of bolt-clipping. I am hoping that my ‘training’ has been working and that I can push myself to levels I have not yet achieved.
So in conclusion, I am now a convert to ‘training’, and no I don’t think it is a dirty word.