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Online Climbing Coach

training for climbing

Updated: 2018-01-22T12:12:15.843+00:00


Edge Hangboard


I’ve just added the Edge hangboard to the shop. I’m excited to see this hangboard released which I’ve collaborated with Edgy Climbing Holds to design. I’ve used wooden fingerboards for 12 or 13 years and they propelled my standard in climbing beyond what I imagined they could (more on this below). So despite being on the face of it an extremely simple device, it is hard to overstate their importance in climbing training. I’d call fingerboards and fingerboarding the core exercise and equipment for strength in climbing. Something every climber ought to have in their home and use year round.My first fingerboard was a single campus rung which cost me a few pounds. I used it to go from being stuck at around 8b/V10 for quite a few years to jumping forward to E11/9a/V14 in the space of about a year and a half. However, it wasn’t just any old piece of wood! The rounding and finish was just right for pain free comfortable training, and so I could do more on it and get stronger. Since then I’ve used some of the more popular models of wood fingerboard which are also pretty good. I’ve also visited some climbing walls with some fingerboard models which I feel are just nasty. Perhaps you can get away with lots of training on these for a while, but they just make my fingers hurt and as such end up being counterproductive in the long run. Obviously you can still make something great to train on by yourself if you have the skills. The problem is most people don’t do it and just want to buy one. So when asked to help design the Edge, I tried to think of the things I’d always wanted to make a fingerboard that is just right.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; min-height: 12.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} First, I wanted to avoid plunged pockets. I’ve seen some climbers do exactly what I tend to do and use poor form by ‘nestling’ fingers against the sides of the pockets for extra advantage. After a quarter of a century of climbing, my index finger joints have become permanently twisted. It could be just normal climbing that does this, I cannot be sure. However, I wanted to ensure my core training tool could not contribute to this. So I wanted a fingerboard to have an open rung to force the user to use good form. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> Edge Hangboard from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo. p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; min-height: 12.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Second, I wanted three rung sizes, all with a carefully designed profile. I experimented with lots of profiles and settled on shapes that for me hit the right balance of depth, roundedness and finish and would most likely suit most folks strength levels. Some climbers have asked me about the rung depths which are 45mm, 21mm and 15mm, so that they might compare between other hangboards, but this does not tell you anything useful as the difficulty of hanging the rung is a function of not just the depth but the roundedness and texture/finish of the wood. I’m all for looking at numbers in training where they can be genuinely informative. However, in my view this is not one of those cases. Which brings me to simplicity. My overriding goal with the Edge was to make the design simple. Removing unnecessary complexity to me is a highly desirable goal in all aspects of training, including the equipment. Simplicity re-focuses the athlete on the important things like level of effort, strict form, completion of the training and listening to the body. Additionally I’m acutely aware through coaching many climbers that the somewhat garish appea[...]

Failure to sleep 8hrs = failure to train


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This is a fantastic lecture by Kirk Parsely on why you need (NEED!) 8 hours sleep per night, and why if you don’t get it, your training, studying etc is at best impaired and at worst a complete waste of time. Kirk lays it on the line. But if you don’t have the hour to watch it right at this moment, here are a few headlines that I hope will encourage you to watch it at the first opportunity:

1. The research shows that everyone settles out at 7.5 hours sleep or more. Genetic exceptions might be more resilient to short term sleep deprivation, but that’s all. They are still slowly breaking themselves by chronically sleeping less.

2. The sleep deprived adapt to feel like they can cope with the deprivation and perform normally. But the research shows that they do not. Their performance remains significantly depressed. They just don't realise it.

3. Are you sleep deprived? It’s extremely likely.

4. Digital screens, caffeine, light in your bedroom, noise in your bedroom are all problems. If you want to respond to your training, you need to address them. Thankfully, they are all fixable.

5. To sleep, cortisol must fall to low levels and melatonin must be released. Nutrition plays a role in both and you can easily manipulate this to make sure you have the raw materials to make what you need.

6. Can’t lose/control weight? It may well be the sleep.

7. Injury risk skyrockets for the sleep deprived. Dose-response relationship.

8. The bottom line - failure to sleep = failure to reach potential. It is therefore the foundation on which any training plan must be built. Don’t kid yourself otherwise.

Climbing masterclass dates at my wall


I don’t get much time to run climbing coaching sessions these days but I have just put up details of sessions I am running at my own wall in early December and over the Fort William Mountain Festival in February. These always sell out so if you are keen, do ring and book your place.In the past I’ve tended to run either full day coaching sessions for one individual or shorter group sessions. This time I’ve decided to try out a new format of full day group sessions/seminars. This way, there will be time for two climbing sessions in the day focused on particular elements of technique, training practice and additional exercises, as well as informal lecture/discussions over lunch and after the second climbing session to cover principles and practicalities of planning and customising your training as well as preventing and managing injuries.I’ll be running two separate one-day sessions on the weekend of December 3rd and 4th. 10am-5pm at my wall in Roy Bridge. Spaces will be limited to 6 climbers per day, £120 per person and climbers of all abilities are welcome. My wall is well suited to running sessions of this type folk operating at recreational grades right through to as strong as you like beasts!I’ll also be running another one day seminar on Feb 19th 2017, over the Fort William Mountain Festival, as well as more traditional three-hour technique masterclasses on Feb 18th (£60 per person for these).Full details and contacts to book a place are up on my events page here. See you there! allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" style="font-family: -webkit-standard;" width="640">Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

Reflections on beginning climbing coaching again


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="640">A few shots of my own training over the past few daysI built a large climbing wall at my house a year and a half ago, not just for myself, but with the intention of running climbing coaching sessions there. I knew it would be great to have a dedicated climbing facility that I’d set up myself, without some of the limitations of big climbing centres. Last week, as part of the Fort William Mountain Festival, I ran my first few classes - three hour masterclass sessions with groups of climbers travelling from as far as Belgium to join us.I hadn't run clinics earlier as I spent some of last year recovering from surgery and then just wanted to go climbing! So it was really interesting to be assessing and observing climbers again after a break for a while and gave me a chance to reflect on what patterns these sessions reveal about climbers and what holds them back or propels them into improvement. Here are three themes that filled my mind after the sessions.1. The ability to try hard still trumps everythingAs usual I met some climbers with good technique, some with strong fingers and some with good tactical awareness. But out of all the climbers on my sessions, I met very few who had trained themselves in how to try hard. And so they were not improving nearly as fast as they could be, even when they had already made other good training decisions. You can design a great training programme, show up and complete every session and immerse yourself in climbing tactics, but if you don’t know how to really try, where is the stimulus to yield improvements from that training?I think I was especially aware of this because we were in my own wall, where I normally train, uninhibited by anything. Some of the climbers I coached clearly had significantly stronger fingers than me, but I sensed that they did not habitually fight to the death on a routine basis.To gain strength, the body really needs to be pushed into it, especially if you are not that young any more. In my mind, a big overarching weakness of many, if not most climbers is simply the ability to get really determined to get to that next hold and hold onto it. Often when you put this point to climbers, they are confused, even a little unhappy about the suggestion they could be trying harder. But think of this applied to other core skills of climbing - Of course it ‘feels’ like you are trying as hard as you can, just as easy routes feel at your limit when you are unfit or sequences are at the technical limit of climbers who are not immersed in climbing day in day out. This does not mean this limit is fixed. The ability to focus physical and mental energy is trainable just as other skills are. The limit is not fixed.It is not just about delivering physical effort either. It is also the ability to make every single climbing session an immersion in deep concentration anticipating and then analysing each effort on each route, and comparing technical strategies for the moves with that of your climbing partners. Way too many climbers are resting their minds as well as their muscles in between efforts. If you start off by training your ability to focus and deliver a huge mental and physical effort during your climbing/training time, the rate of improvement rises. This helps to explain why two climbers who both climb the same number of routes per week at the same climbing wall improve at very different rates.A final point on this - often I find that it doesn’t always work for me to make this point about trying harder. Climbers sometimes consider me, as a professional climber and coach, to be somehow ‘a different animal’ and not subject to quite the same constraints. However, the great thing about group coaching sessions on a bouldering wall is that over the course of the session, as we work on problems, me offering technical pointers of the fine details of the movement that get you clo[...]

Review: Stonesmith holds


Some new shapes ready to go on my wall ahead of my first masterclasses at my place last week!I am seriously obsessive about holds, as any route-setter should be. Although you end up setting with a lot of holds you either don’t like that much or equivocal about, it’s always a pleasure both to set and to climb on holds you do. As I gradually gather holds for my own wall, it is slowly becoming a collection of rather fine holds I’ve seen in other walls or tried out.On the whole, climbing holds have improved massively and the industry is full of innovation. Despite this, I’m often still a fan of some old hold designs, especially when training for real rock - where an old school approach of fingery moves yields good results from training, at least for weaklings like myself.Which brings me to Stonesmith holds. I already have many of their holds on my wall at home and are some of my favourite shapes. As well as the nu-school innovative shapes, their training range also includes some very carefully designed shapes more designed for training which I love. It’s really an ideal mix - nice texture, a careful design that is nice to train on for long hours, but also nice and fingery.The differences between different manufacturers holds are obviously tricky to describe in words - they sit on a continuum of niceness to climb and set with and ideal texture. Stonesmith holds sit as far at one end (the good end!) as any I’ve tried. I’m glad to hear I’ll have the chance to set with more of them in the new Three Wise Monkeys climbing centre in Fort William next month.If you’ve got a wall, get some. I'm actually just off to order a set of their suspension training balls from their site just now. I've been meaning to get these for my poor weak thumbs for ages and wring this has galvanised me!Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

Video: Basic movement technique on ice


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"> Basic Ice Climbing Technique from Ellis Brigham on Vimeo.

Here is a short video I made for Ellis Brigham and my sponsors Gore-Tex and Mountain Equipment with my thoughts on basic movement technique for ice climbing and also using an indoor ice wall for training for ice climbing.

If you are like me, waiting for winter conditions to start shaping up in Scotland, you’ll no doubt be training like a demon and feeling fit. You need to be a little inventive to get the most out of indoor walls for training for ice and mixed. But it you go beyond just doing a few short top ropes and get a bit more systematic about using your time on the wall, you can do a lot to prepare yourself for the hard leads ahead when the forecast turns cold.

If you’ve not been training - it’s never too late to start!

Thanks to the staff at Ellis Brigham in Manchester for helping us have a good time shooting this video.

Tendon Pain - Could your diet be a problem?


Since publishing my climbing injuries book Make or Break earlier this year, this is the first important paper released into the scientific field during the year which has really caught my attention. Co-authored by professor Jill Cook (one of the tendon pain research big guns worldwide), it reinforces the idea I put across in Make or Break that looking at tendon injuries simply as ‘overuse’ injuries may at best blinker us to other important causes, and at worse be plain wrong.In this review, Cook explores the possibility that your cholesterol profile could possibly cause tendon pain. The evidence available shows association, not causation. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t ignore the data. Not only is it known that cholesterol accumulates in tendons, that people with the disease ‘familial hypercholesterolemia’ have much more tendon pain, but several studies show that various cholesterol parameters are associated with tendon pain.Influences such as this, if causation could be ultimately demonstrated, help to explain the apparently unpredictable individual variability in tendon injury, if you are looking at the problem solely as a result of training errors.So if we can’t ignore the data, we get to what we should do to improve our cholesterol profile. The paper points out that increased tendon pain is associated with the same cholesterol profile as cardiovascular disease, namely a lack of HDL cholesterol and an excess of LDL and blood triglycerides. Unfortunately, the world of medicine and public health is in a big fat mess when in comes to providing evidence based recommendations for how to improve our cholesterol profile. If you want to learn just how messed up the situation is, read Nina’s book. Apart from teaching you a few seriously important lessons about trusting both science and government, it might even save your life if it turns out to be right. No joke. Unfortunately the low fat, high carbohydrate diet (as well as the problem of the oils used in processed foods) that sportspeople are still widely recommended to eat may well cause just the bad cholesterol profile we are talking about (low HDL, high LDL, high triglycerides). Diet is not the only input of course.My personal hunch is that this line of enquiry will continue to yield evidence we should listen to. At a basic level, the idea that human tissue is unbelievably plastic, responding to training with precisely regulated growth and maintenance responses could go so frequently awry simply by doing some training does not add up. It seems likely to me that there are some things missing from the picture. This could be one of those things.I would urge anyone serious about their tendon health, their sport performance and their long term health to go right back to basics when it comes to diet and nutrition. It’s fair to say that the whole world of nutrition and health has been blown to bits in the past five years, and pieces are still falling back to earth. Meanwhile, some of the medical world and much of the public have yet to notice. And many vested interests are desperately trying to keep it that way. Personally, I have finally wriggled free from the paradigms I learned in University about sports nutrition and stand in a confused state of optimism mixed with distrust and scepticism. The problem is, we can't wait for better evidence - I have to eat something, in two hours time! So what to eat? I’m cautious about publishing my observations on my own diet and performance just yet. I will do when I feel a bit more comfortable and educated about what the hell is going on. But, I will tell you that I feel like I’m on an exciting journey!Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

Positive thinking is not necessary


On the crux of Fight the Feeling 9a in Glen Nevis. For a long time I thought I was just not good enough to do this route. In the end, that thought didn’t matter. Photo: Lukasz WarzechaA lot of folk ask me at my climbing talks about my mental tactics for climbing. They ask both about how I have been able to be confident, composed and tenacious on hard routes especially when they are badly protected. And they also ask about how I have been able to stay committed to progressing my climbing through setbacks of the hard routes I have attempted, or through injuries I’ve had in training or from accidents.In the past I have struggled to give a good succinct answer, because it’s not something I find I have to give much conscious effort. It feels like it comes naturally. However, I have come to the conclusion that this does not mean that this ability is something inherent to me. I now think that I have, by accident, adopted an effective approach. It is not a positive thinking approach.It’s a big subject and one I will explore in more detail on this blog in future. But for now I will try and summarise it.The cult of positive thinking, both in society and in sports psychology, is looking increasingly like it may be among several major diversions from the path of progress of sport and health in recent decades. As a short term strategy, it can have some transient worthwhile effects. Unfortunately, the longer term effects of relying on positive thinking as a mental strategy seem to go the opposite way.In my own climbing, I have often heard climbing partners, friends or even folk interviewing me express surprise at how ‘negative’ I sound about my chances of success on a project, or how my preparation is going. They worry that I am talking myself into failure by not thinking positively. I even attended a course (not by choice!) where the tutor taught us to rigorously identify and eliminate any negatives from our discourse about our activities. He wanted me to eliminate even the mention of falling. This struck me as ridiculous!I do think it is possible to talk yourself into failure and have seen it done many times by climbers capable of the climbs they feel have beaten them. However, it does not follow that positive thinking is the solution!The positive thinking paradigm, in summary, suggests that by using positive visualisation, we create an image that we are more likely to live up to in the real event. Unfortunately the research shows this approach is ineffective. Positive thinking appears to reduce motivation and self discipline. Moreover, it tends to kill the critical thinking that underpins learning of complex skills. A practical example of this is when coaching climbers to overcome fear of the most basic form of climbing fall - falling onto mats at an indoor bouldering wall. Unless you also consider what a badly executed fall looks like, how can you even visualise ‘good’ falling and landing technique. If positive thinking allows you to believe the fall will be fine when you jump for the last hold, the fall, should you miss, is that much more undermining for the confidence since you did not expect it.In my own preparation for climbing situations of all types, I have found that I take care to examine the negative outcomes as well as the positive. I look for the problems and the weaknesses. But all this focus on the negative does not mean that I think or talk myself into failure. Quite the opposite. I deal with the problems at the time when they should be dealt with - in the preparation stage.In this way, when I tie in at the foot of the climb, I know there will be no surprises, no confronting fears or unexpected doubts once I start climbing. All that is left is the effort. I find that the moment I step off the ground, I feel completely free to give my best effort without distraction or hesitation and in full acceptance of both goo[...]

Make or Break reviews coming through


Many of you have emailed to let me know that you found Make or Break to be very useful for dealing with your climbing injuries. Thanks for sending those, it’s good to know the effort of writing it was worth it.There are now a couple of reviews of the book around and below are a few comments from those and links to the full reviews. As ever, you can get the book in our shop here.Neil Gresham, writing in Climb Magazine:“...a modern bible for avoiding injuries...anyone who owns a pair of rock shoes owes it to themselves to get a last,there’s no longer an excuse for doing climbing and training wrong and getting hurt, now that this fantastic book exists.”“No stone has been left unturned and advice is given on everything from supportive nutritional strategies to sleep positions, non-sporting injury contributors and so on. I particularly like the chapter on managing injuries from a psychological perspective. Again, this is delivered with empathy from someone who clearly understands how demoralising it can be to have your climbing goals dashed on the rocks. But the most revealing section is surely the one on proprioception and correction of technique. I can’t think of many climbers who won’t need to take a rain check after reading this.”The full review was in Climb Magazine issue 122 (May 2015)Duncan Critchley, Physiotherapist, lecturer and pain researcher, Kings College London, writing for“This is the best book on climbing injuries by a large margin. The section on tendon injuries is one of the best I've read anywhere, clearly presenting what we know and don't know. It suggests specific treatment ideas but is happy to acknowledge when we don't know the best treatments or why treatments work. Many medical practitioners would benefit from adopting this humility. Make or Break is well designed and attractively produced. It even has an index. At £30 it is exceptionally good value for a medical text-book.”“Pain specialists know tissue damage is one factor of many contributing to pain and how we deal with pain. Mood, beliefs about pain and injury, health behaviours and social circumstances are important in determining who gets injured, which bit hurts and how much, and speed and extent of recovery. It is great to see the 'Know Pain' chapter start to acknowledge this, explaining how to interpret pain, and why pain is rarely an honest witness of damage. This is common knowledge in pain management but unusual to see it recognised so clearly in the world of sports and sports injuries.”The full review is on UKB here.There is also a review by Steve Crowe on here.Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

Make or Break: Don’t let climbing injuries dictate your success


For the past 4 years or so, I have been working on a book about climbing injuries. It spells out in detail how to treat them once you have them, based on the evidence from high quality scientific research and practice. More importantly, it discusses all the things we do in our climbing routine that cause our future injuries and prolong those we have already caused.I have titled the book ‘Make or Break’. This is because becoming an expert in understanding the causes and treatments of climbing injuries will be make or break for your climbing career. As Wolfgang Gullich said, “getting strong is easy, getting strong without getting injured is hard”. In my first book, 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes, I suggested that many aspects of training for climbing are not rocket science. Keep showing up, pulling on small holds, pushing the limits of your motivation and learning from others and you will get stronger fingers and get better at climbing.It will be injuries that will get in the way of your progress, and if you let them, they will dictate how far you get in climbing. The research suggests that nearly all climbers get injured at some point. Finger injuries are most likely, followed by elbows and shoulders. Of course there are countless bits of our anatomy that can break if suitably mistreated. When you get one of these injuries, you need to be the expert, because unfortunately you cannot rely on anyone else to make sure you recover. This is not because doctors and therapists fail to do a good job (although they sometimes do). It is because there is no single source of advice on the vast array of things you must do to make sure you recover well and prevent future injuries. The climbing coaches, physiotherapists, otrhopaedic surgeons etc. that you will see will all give you pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, but it is you who must put them together.Claire MacLeod dispatching our pre-orders the other night.During the process of writing the book, I have discovered many pieces of hard scientific information and subtle concepts I wish I’d known when I was 16. They would have saved me so much of the pain and psychological torment of injuries that climbers everywhere share at some point in their career. There are many strands of information in the book. It is a handbook on how to take care of yourself as a lifelong climbing athlete. In this blog post, I will briefly outline three messages that will give you a flavour of what you will find in the book:1. Tendons don’t like rest, or change.Surprisingly, sports medicine research still has a lot to learn about tendons and how they heal and respond to training. However, there have been several big steps forward in the research over the past decade or two. The only problem is, new knowledge in sports medicine takes years or even decades to filter through to the advice you receive. Consider the following quote: “In general, it takes approximately 17 years to get 14% of research findings adopted into practice. Moreover, only 30–50% of patients receive recommended care, 20–30% receive care that is not needed or that is potentially harmful and 96% may receive care with the absence of evidence of effectiveness.”I was shocked too when I read that. I was aware through my own experience that the advice I’d been given to recover from my own climbing injuries was often at odds with research I’d read. But to discover the extent of the lag between research findings and advice given to sportspeople is depressing. We only have one life and we cannot afford to receive outdated advice. Unfortunately, the internet hasn’t made the task of unearthing reliable advice any easier. Scientific journals remain hidden to most behind a paywall, while the same poor quality, outdated and non-specific advice drowns out the few reliable sourc[...]

My climbing injuries book is up for pre-order!


Readers of this blog will of course know that I have been working on a book on climbing injuries for some years. It has turned out to be a much bigger book than I originally envisaged. It has been a huge project, but in a few weeks I will reach the finish line. The book is currently with the printers and some time in the next few weeks, many boxes of copies will arrive at my house. The final stages were a rather exhausting process, but I’m excited to release it and potentially help healthy climbers stay healthy and injured climbers to get back to the fray.I’ll write a more detailed post about the content of the book when the stock arrives in early February. If you want to make sure you get a copy as soon as you can, we’ve put it up for pre-order in the shop here, and it’ll be in the post to you as soon as it arrives. I’ve also added the table of contents below so you have an idea of the breadth of the areas covered.My aim was to write the manual on how to stay healthy as a climbing athlete that I wished I’d had when I was 16. The first priority was to base my writing on the cutting edge of sports medicine research, wherever it was available. The second was to include all the diverse aspects of injury prevention and recovery, and then present them in a way that allows you to see them in the whole context of your efforts to stay injury free. As with the world of training, too many injury texts focus on or overplay the importance of just one aspect of sports medicine.Having spent around 4 years researching, thinking and writing the book, I do feel that if I’d had access to the information contained in it when I was a teenager, my health and climbing achievements over the past 20 years would have been significantly better. I hope the book can make this difference both for both youngsters who have yet to experience injury, and battle scarred climbers like myself.Below is the table of contents, so you can get idea of the scope of the book. You’ll find the book in the shop here. Section 1: Make or breakWhy the treatments you have tried aren’t working, and what to do about it.How to use this bookThe real reasons you are injuredStress and injuryThe reason you are still injuredThe language problemThe practitioner problemThe sports medicine problemThe missing linkExceptional use: the luxury of doing your sport badlyPreventionYour visit to the doctor’sSummarySection 2: Know pain, or no gainPain and how to read itSeeing the patterns in your painWhat is healthy soreness?Understanding your painGoing beyond reading only painSummarySection 3: Removing the causes of injury for prevention and treatmentAre you only treating symptoms?What was the real cause?The big four: technique, posture, activity, restCorrecting techniqueCorrecting postureActivityHow to restWarm-up and injuryLifestyleNutritionSection 4: Rehabilitation of climbing injuries - treating both causes and symptomsAcute rehabilitationWhen to move beyond acute careGoals of mid-late rehabilitationModern understanding of tendon injuries and recoveryTherapeutic activity - basic exercisesTherapeutic activity - climbingProprioceptive trainingWalking the line of rehab ups and downsTherapeutic modalitiesSurgeryDrug and other emerging treatmentsWhen to stop rehab?SummarySection 5: Psychology of injuries: dealing with the anguish of injuryFace it: it really is that bad!Take heartFinding motivationSection 6: Young climbersWhat young climbers should knowToo much, too young: a warningWhat parents and coaches should doSection 7: The elbowGolfer’s and tennis elbowBrachioradialis/brachialis strainOther elbow injuriesSection 8: The fingersDifferent grips in climbing and consequences for injuryPulley injuriesWhen and how to tape the fingersPainful finger jointsFlexor unit strainsDupuytre[...]

Hyperhidrosis and climbing


Over the years I’ve heard from a few climbers who suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) of the hands. For obvious reasons, the condition is a major hindrance for rock climbing and causes much torment for sufferers who love the activity but are constantly hampered by severely sweaty hands.I do not have the condition myself, but I definitely have more sweaty hands than average and I find that my indoor climbing performance has always lagged as much as a number grade behind my outdoor climbing grade. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to deal with the condition as a climber, having dripping hands with the slightest exertion. Hopefully, most sufferers will already know about iontophoresis, but in case not, I thought I should write this post.I am grateful to Bob Farrell who got in touch last year to let me know that discovering the treatment had completely transformed his climbing. He went from a state of despair about how to enjoy rock climbing to being able to enjoy good friction and dry hands on small holds, both indoor and outside in warm weather.The treatment involves passing a small electrical current, supplied by an iontophoresis machine through the hands, for 15-30 minutes or so. The hands (or feet) have to be placed in a water bath to apply the current. Despite its remarkable effectiveness, its mechanism of action is still unknown. But it blocks the sweat glands in some way, temporarily. Several treatments are required to see the benefits, and top-up treatments are needed every few days or weeks (with individual variability) to maintain the effects.But those effects appear to essentially solve the problem for a great majority of sufferers. Although I have not tried the treatment myself, it sounds from Bob’s experience and the evidence from other non-climbing sufferers, that all affected climbers should definitely try it.It is available, at least in some places on the NHS. But most sufferers who try the treatment and have good results seem to just purchase their own iontophoresis machine and do their top-up treatments at home. Machines cost £3-400 for a standard model. There seem to be few side effects, although if you have cuts in your fingers from climbing, these will burn during the treatment, with the workaround of just excluding the cut finger from the iontophoresis bath during treatmentI hope this post provides some help to sufferers who have yet to hear of the treatment.Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

And another point about fear of falling


I’ve posted on this blog several times about fear of falling, and of course written a whole book section on it in 9 out of 10. But further elements of this complex issue of mental training continue to challenge so many climbers, certainly if the number of emails I get on the subject is anything to go by.One aspect that just came to mind while reading another of these is the issue of focusing your mind too much on the problem of fear of falling in the process of trying to address it.So the problem of excessive fear or anxiety in leading may arise subconsciously.  By the time you realise that it is actually a big limitation with your climbing, it may already be quite a large and engrained issue. So you need to stare it in the face and look at the roots of it to first understand its origin and then change your habits to reduce and eliminate it.But the subtlety of how to approach this effort seems to be important. I notice that some climbers seem to view their fear of falling as a foe in which they are in a constant battle with. Given the time and difficulty involved in overcoming fear of falling for a proportion of climbers, I can completely understand why it must feel like this. Nevertheless, viewing it along these lines could become self-defeating.Fear is a healthy and and entirely natural human emotion. Again we have to go back to the difference between the actual risk, and the fear we produce from it. Sure, we can swallow fear in a moment of truth. But this is not a training strategy. The training strategy is to alter the inputs that result in the fear. You’re not trying to squash the fear, you’re trying to change how you think, plan and act on the rock so the fear needs not arise. The fear inputs can be reduced either by resetting your sense of what is actually fearful, such as by gaining familiarity with practice falls, or by reducing the sense of uncertainty about your position on the rock, by learning all the countless tactical tricks of leading.Although you must face the problem directly to get to this stage, you must be careful to maintain attention on the pleasure and satisfaction of leading, as opposed to a constant battle against fear. When people have asked me about the boldest leads I have ever done, I’ve always come back to the same basic idea that the desire to experience and complete the climb simply overwhelmed any fears I had, no matter how serious they were.You must give active energy to thinking about why you are motivated to have the experience of leading difficult rock climbs. What positives are there. When these elements are front and centre in your mind, the fears are naturally pushed to the side, or rather put in their place.Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

When the regime gets harder


My (latest) board. The result of a decade and a half of relentless work and saving. But worth it.Andreas emailed to ask about keeping up progress in climbing when your routine gets harder for various reasons. He refers in passing to cases such as injury. Since I have whole book on this subject now in production, I’ll leave this to one side for now. But on his mind is a baby soon to arrive (brilliant news!). Having a child is obviously a huge challenge in maintaining the other aspects of your life. Some things have to change, as they should, and as you will want them to. In many cases, your old way of life will be abandoned altogether and replaced with a new one. A better one, if you deal with the challenge properly.With regard to how to keep your climbing standard high in your new, time pressed routine, here are the three number one priorities:Build a board.Build a board.Build a board.Did you get that? If you don’t feel you have space to build a board in your house, move. If you don’t feel you have the power to move because of work or other issues, solve those issues. Take the power. There are of course some workarounds such as hiring a garage in your street etc, but they are poor solutions because it’s the fact that the board is immediately accessible and you are immediately accessible while using it that underlies it’s utility.In the early days of parenthood, the odd 45 minutes here and there may be all the free time you have. You can easily fit a high quality training schedule into this timescale, but certainly not if you have to go anywhere else to access the climbing wall, even if it’s only 5 minutes drive. So just get it built. Andreas referred to a comment in 9 out of 10 where I was talking about maintaining a base level of fitness with one session per week. It’s true that you can do a lot in one session a week, as I have done during various busy periods. But my point here was that doing something, even if it’s a little training, is much better than giving in and doing nothing, as many people do. I was not trying to recommend one session a week as a medium or long term solution for training. It is nothing more than a workaround for people who choose (choose is the key word) to fill their entire waking hours with activities other than climbing. For most people, this is a temporary issue related to work trips, although some climbers carry on with a schedule like this indefinitely. That is their choice.For most with a busy schedule, an aggressive problem solving approach, resourcefulness and an understanding of your priorities are all you need to create a routine that allows time for work, rest, family time and plenty of training on your board in the spare room. If you introduce all the solutions and there still isn’t time, well you’ll just have to work less, wont you! (I’m kind of talking to myself here). 9 of of 10 climbers obviously doesn’t deal with every conceivable circumstance and individual routine. But in it I repeatedly make the point that you have plenty of options, and often more than you think, if you are willing to see them and accept the change and challenge that they bring. If you struggle to think outside the box and your thinking is full of ‘I can’t’ type of thoughts, get a coach to tell you straight. If any of this was easy, it wouldn’t be so rewarding when we crack it.Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

One thing out of your comfort zone


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640">Video above: One thing out of you comfort zone, each day.Una on Twitter was asking me about recovering leading confidence after a bad fall. She felt she was still struggling, even following the advice in 9/10. Was there anything more? In a practical sense, not really. The advice I laid out in the book about progressively exposing yourself to more and more challenging leading situations is the easiest, if not only way to do it. But that’s not to belittle it. For some people, it can be an enormously difficult thing to do.Therefore, the response is to take it seriously as such. A huge problem needs a huge response, in the form of dedicated and relentless application of training over a long period. Here are six common pitfalls with building up leading confidence after a knock:Expecting too much. The apparent unfairness of confidence is that it takes many exposures to build it up, but a huge chunk of it can be wiped away in one go with a bad fall. Patient application of the training is definitely required. No perceptible difference may be noticed for many training sessions. The other problem is that it is harder to measure than pure finger strength. Even if you are making gains in mental confidence, you might not notice until this add up to something quite substantial.Measuring the wrong thing. Lots of people measure the success of their training based on time. “I’ve been working on my leading for two months and I’ve not noticed any changes”. However, if you were only leading for two sessions per week, that’s only 16 training sessions in two months! The result may have been different with 5 sessions per week.Failing to complete the training. Practicing leader falls indoors is just one small part of gaining leading confidence. If you are training for something like trad climbing, you need to have plenty of safe falls, as well as real trad leading. Lots of it. One without the other tends to be ineffective. Yet a lot of climbers complain of lack of time and opportunity to get on real rock, especially at this time of year with dark nights and poor weather. Unfortunately, this is the excuse that separates those who succeed and those who fail. We are training mental confidence in leading - the climbing standard does not need to be high, the rock doesn’t need to be dry and the sun needn't be shining. Get a headtorch and a Gore-Tex and go climbing! You think people don’t do that? Sure, it’s great if you live somewhere like Scotland where you can go mixed climbing all winter - a perfect training ground for leading confidence (people were quick to cite it’s effect on me when I downgraded The Walk of Life from E12 to E9 a few years ago). It’s true that winter climbing makes climbers mentally tough. But if you can’t access this, just go to the crag and climb at the level you can in whatever conditions you find.Kidding yourself. A big problem with training your leading confidence is kidding yourself that you are going out of your comfort zone when you are not. Recently I climbed with a chap who was climbing well but leading confidence was his main weakness. He was more than capable of taking proper leading falls and building up a ‘go for it’ attitude in his outdoor leading. But when backing off from a lead, he said “I need to go back to the climbing wall and do more practice falls”. They won’t work. He was choosing them precisely because he’d already mastered that level. They were now inside his comfort zone, an easy option. Finding the right intensity of experience to build up your confidence is not easy. But it is just as ea[...]

Changing the architecture


One of the important findings from the world of behavioral science is that willpower is a finite resource. Sure, some seem to be able to show more of it that others. But regardless of inherent or learned capacity for it, everyone can run out of it.The understanding comes from fields of research such as why apparently smart people eat badly or fail to exercise, or other such dangerous behaviours. Moreover, they do so in full knowledge that these behaviours are bad news for almost all aspects of their life and despite their stated intentions to act differently. The idea is that since willpower is finite, if you spend all of it forcing yourself to work long hours, there is none left to help you choose healthy foods or turn your phone off and get some sleep.Making sure you spend your willpower wisely is the obvious first line of attack. But so often, people don’t feel able to change their routine to allow for this. Topping up your willpower ‘account’ is the second line. You can do this by making sure you are well slept, well fed and surrounded by supportive people, among other things.The third line is more of a workaround than a solution. But it is better than nothing. You can change the choice architecture. In other words, you can set things up to make it harder to make the bad choices and easier to make the good ones, acknowledging that when you are tired and worn out, your good intentions will go out of the window. Some examples:If you don’t have the biscuits in the cupboard, you’ll not reach for them ‘just tonight’. Instead have you chosen healthy food at the ready. In moments of good willpower, prepare them for your future willpower starved self. Wash your fruit, put it in a nice bowl or do whatever you need to make it more appealing and convenient to choose.Cycle or walk to work. Once you are there, you have to get home the same way! Make it easier to choose by ensuring you are fully kitted out with clothing to keep you warm and dry for bad weather. Make sure the bike and kit are ready to go by the front door so there are no excuses in the morning when you are running a bit late and bleary eyed.Choose your workplace and house based on your chosen training venue. Make sure you’d have to literally drive past it on the way home to excuse yourself from training.If you climb with a partner who habitually leads and sets up a top-rope for you, climb with someone else or instruct them to refuse to lead for you under any circumstances. Better still, climb with partners who would mercilessly rib you for even suggesting that you skip your turn to lead. The shame would be less painful than just attacking swallowing your leading phobia.If you need to get stronger openhanded, set your wall accordingly (see photo above). Don't have a wall? Make one!Everyone can think of instances in their own routine where they habitually make poor choices. In 9 out of 10 I described many of the big and important ones, but the number of decisions we make that influence our performance is huge. Try to think of ways you can make it harder for your future willpower starved self to make the right decisions at those crucial moments in everyday life.Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

8b - 8c+ How?


Over on my personal blog the other day I was talking in passing about a period in my life about 9 years ago when I took my best sport climbing grade from around 8b to 8c+ in about a year and a half. On Twitter, Sean picked up on this and thought that would be a good subject for a blog post. Here is the short answer:I started fingerboarding.But it’s not as simple as that. So here is the long answer. I was replying to Sean in 140 character stylee that I would explain but there are no secrets and the explanation would be nothing that isn’t in my book 9 out of 10. However, personal stories are always helpful if you highlight how the results link back to the underlying principles.You might be tempted to take my short answer above and think if you just fingerboard, you too will climb 8c+. It’s unlikely to say the least. That’s because basic strength may well not be your weakness. I think it’s fair to say that most climbers would say they feel their strength level is a performance weakness relative to technique. I’ve spent much of my climbing coaching career repeatedly trying to convince climbers otherwise. In fact, in almost every climbing wall on a busy evening you’ll see climbers with enough strength to climb 8c+, but will never even get close to this grade.What was slightly unusual about my background in climbing was how little I time I spent in climbing walls during that period. I climbed outdoors, year round. My staple diet of climbing was trying super technical projects at Dumbarton Rock. I really valued the fact that they could be cracked by exploring every subtle detail of the technique used to climb them in place of brute strength. When conditions allowed, I’d be teetering about on hard mixed routes, mountain trad, sport climbing, sea cliffs, etc, etc. I had built up a huge depth of experience as a tactician. In other words, if a project was 100% of my strength limit, I’d still have a 100% chance of succeeding on it. Fear of falling, redpoint nerves, mistakes on the lead, finding the best sequence were all things I’d put huge volumes of hours into developing. One thing I hadn’t really done was trained strength properly.Training was only half on my radar really. I was just a climber having a whale of a time going outside and having adventures trying new routes in places I loved to be. But when I decided to sacrifice some of that to up my level a bit, my strength level was so poor that I had rapid results.I decided to start in June 2005. The inspiration to start was realising I could climb the Requiem headwall if I really wanted it badly enough. Six days a week, I started the day with around 40 minutes of fingerboard (the same routine I published in 9 out of 10). Then I went round to the Dumbarton boulders and did endurance circuits for another couple of hours, followed by a ten mile run. Sometimes I’d go for a second run late at night, at a relaxed pace, just to wind down. At the weekend I went climbing in the mountains if the weather was good. I worked before and after my training, at home of course - a working from home job with flexible hours is a good catalyst for climbing performance.I didn’t vary the training all that much for many weeks at a time, although the ‘real’ climbing days were as varied as ever. But I did start gently with the fingerboarding, building up very steadily for the first 6 weeks. And that was against a background of already doing a large volume of bouldering for a decade beforehand. Without these factors, I’d likely have got injured, not stronger.After three months I went back to an 8c project I’d previously failed on and was comp[...]

Mental training, 3 simple mantras


Natalie Berry stepping out on her first E4 trad lead.There are now several books available on the difficult subject of mental training specifically for climbers. If you add in the wider sports psychology literature out there, you could read yourself to death on this subject. And yet I’m not convinced that all that literature has made as much impact as the equivalent literature on physical training.As I observe climbers these days I see more and more physical strength and fewer tough performers who can get the most out of themselves when it matters. Why is this? It’s debatable. Maybe it’s because mental training is inherently less quantifiable, so less likely to get done? Maybe it’s because the cognitive habits we form are so hard to break and the impact of a book on it’s own is rarely enough? I also sometimes feel that the complexity of trying to explain performance psychology makes the literature hard going, maybe even self-defeating for some.While writing on this subject elsewhere, I thought of a few simple messages I tell myself while preparing to climb or actually on a climb which distill these complex ideas down to a tool you can use in the heat of the moment. I hope they are useful to at least some of you:“If it felt easy, it wouldn’t be hard, and I’d want to try something harder”“Nobody cares about this effort except me. So relax, you’ve got nothing to lose by just trying and trying hard”“There are no prizes for holding back”Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

Four reviews


Every so often I write the odd gear review for this blog, mainly of gear that I already like and want to share, and occasionally I’m asked to write. Here are 4 things I’ve seen over the year that I have tried and liked.Boot BananasI was given a pair of Boot Bananas at the Outdoors show in London and they have lived in various pairs of my shoes and rockshoes ever since. Like a majority of folk, my shoes are boufing (Glasgow slang, in case you didn’t know) and I’ve tried quite a few things to make them less anti-social. Deodorising spray is the closest I’d come to a solution. But the effects on the smell seemed pretty short lived and it was a faff to keep a bottle of it handy. Boot bananas are simple shoved into the offending shoes and a mixture of various deodorisers (including charcoal and baking soda) do an excellent job of killing the odour. I found them to be more effective than spray or anything else I’ve tried. Their practicality was even better though - you just shove them in your street shoes while you put your rockshoes on, and vice versa at the end of your session. Well worth £13 to put an end to offending your own nose and more importantly your family and fellow climbers.YY Belay GlassesYY sent me a pair of their new belay glasses to try out which are very well made, with attention to detail and crucially a robust and secure carry case for throwing in your sack for a day at the crag. Not being a serial sport climber, it was a while until I got to use them and it's the first time I've used a pair of belay glasses. Perhaps it’s because I’m not always sport climbing and generally train on a bouldering wall that when I do it, the ‘belayers neck’ is that much worse. As expected from just looking at their good construction, they did the job perfectly and are now flung in my sport climbing kit along with my Gri Gri and quick draws. If I was going to buy a pair of belay glasses, I'd definitely get these ones.Bouldering EssentialsDavid Flanagan’s new book Bouldering Essentials is aimed at those just starting out in bouldering. It makes sense that there is a reference there for the large numbers of boulderers coming into climbing by introduction at the large bouldering centres in most cities. The does a good job of listing those basics you need to know from types of hold to how to fall and various other things you’d otherwise have to pick up in a peicemeal manner through experience. However, I’m not too sure it’s something I’d have read as a beginner. I found myself reading through wishing the information had been written by some of the famous names in bouldering, with some anecdotes that would have brought those lessons and tactics alive and made them easier to relate to. But if you are the type of person who likes the facts and techniques listed in a direct way, then you’ll find them here and you'll love it. It was nice to see a section on bouldering destinations which will no doubt start the imagination for some boulderers just starting out in their local bouldering centre.TransgressionEva Lopez is one of the famous names in the world of training for climbing, and someone who has demonstrated the value of her own wisdom, climbing 8c+ at the age of 42. The Transgression is her own brainchild and a beast of a fingerboard. But it’s a bit more than that. The concept isn’t hard to understand. It’s a resin fingerboard with progressively smaller rungs, going from big and positive right down to a very thin 6mm. It comes with a well thought through recommended program to follow and several c[...]

Holds finally going on, and venturing outside


Some holds going on the climbing wall at last!After a month straight of 16 hour days on average, my climbing wall is finished. Well, apart from getting all the holds on. I must admit that after completing the build and various other jobs that needed doing at my place, I was a bit too broken to even climb on it. I just wanted to sleep! But now there are some holds going on it I’m getting more and more excited as it turns from a building project into what I had originally envisioned - a brilliant place to train.However, rather than jump straight on it, I opted to take advantage of the dry weather and head to the Outer Hebrides for a couple of days new routing and prospecting with Calum Muskett. We did a handful of new lines from E3 to E5 and I worked on this immaculate 40m wall of perfect Gneiss that has been on my projects to look at list for a few years. It was just as good as I hoped, if maybe a little hard.There were a couple of different ways you could go. The best, and hardest looks upwards of 8b+ climbing with adequate gear. But the crux is super hard. On the first day I was climbing all day in a Citadel jacket and still had numb hands in the wind. In those conditions I could get some purchase on the crux crimps, but couldn’t see how to use them. The next day it was much warmer and I needed a bit of help from the rope to stay on, but did get a sequence that may work. So now I have something great to direct my training, and an excuse to get the ferry back to Harris pretty soon.A very very hard project to go back to.Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

4 new titles in the shop


We’ve just added four great new books and DVDs to the shop. The first three books are all major contributions to the literature on improving at climbing and I’d recommend getting hold of all three. Well done to the authors of all of them who have made a great contribution here and no doubt these books will be the first step to many hard ascents and goals realised in the future.Gimme Kraft: The Cafe Kraft gym (Kraft = strength btw) in Nurnberg, Germany has gained a great reputation for coaching a string of fantastic climbing talents over the past few years, most notably, Alex Megos who became the first climber to onsight 9a. Their coaches have put together a new book and DVD detailing the principles and exercises they have used to help their talented young climbers become super strong and fit beasts.So the book is very focused on physical strength and endurance training, both on and off the climbing wall. It provides a great and easy to follow manual for sharpening up weak areas in your strength. This is particularly useful since it can be hard to choose or adapt core strength routines from other sports for climbing.Both the book and DVD show clearly how to do the basic strength and endurance exercises and the DVD contains many interesting interviews with climbing legends about training and climbing performance. Training for the new Alpinism: Steve House and Scott Johnston’s new book on training for alpinism is a much awaited and weighty addition to the available literature on training for climbing. It is the first book to focus solely on alpinism and brings the field right up to date. It is very much training focused (as opposed to skills focused), which is both it’s greatest strength and weakness.It contains clear and extensive sections on the basic principles of sports physiology, but with the discussion relating directly to climbing in an alpine setting. So you no longer have to learn and then adapt the principles used in other endurance sports to effectively plan your training regime. It also has great and focused sections on strength, mental skills, nutrition, altitude, schedule planning and choosing your training goals. It also contains some fantastic contributions from other world class alpinists, sharing what they have learned about the most effective ways yo improve your alpine climbing.Its focus on physical rather than technical skills training means there should probably be more than just this book in your training library. However, it joins a collection of titles that are essential reading for climbers who are serious about improving.The Trad Climber’s Bible: The skills for trad climbing are about as broad as in any sport. This is especially true if you wish to climb in many different settings - hard, technical single pitch climbs, big walls and and alpine faces. The Trad Climber’s Bible comes at the challenge of passing on these skills from a different angle from most instructional manuals.I jumped at the chance to order it in for the shop simply because it was authored by the American trad legends John Long and Peter Croft. I was fascinated by how they had approached the challenge of writing about trad skills. They have written the book in a narrative style, with many stories and anecdotes from their combined 70 year experience of pushing their limits on trad all over the world.Some of the sections, such as those on ‘fiddling’ and ‘embracing the weird’ made me smile as they highlighted the sheer range of unusual skills that are no[...]

Engaging the brain during your climbing sessions


Every day I get emails from climbers who have had success in their climbing after reading 9 out of 10 climbers. Thanks to everyone who lets me know how they are getting on. It is great to know the book is helping climbers get more out of their sport. This morning, Franco emailed to tell me of his recent improvements since implementing some of the ideas in the book. But he picked up on the challenges of concentrating during your climbing sessions, so that some actual technique learning takes place.In 9 out of 10, I discussed the fact that some climbers progress in their technical skills much faster than others due to how they approach their climbing sessions. Some are pretty passive, without much mental recording, review replay of the details of their movements. This is understandable. There are lots of things we get out of our climbing sessions; relaxation after a stressful day’s work is one of them. One of the ways we can relax is to completely clear the mind and just enjoy the movement over rock without consciously thinking about anything.I’m not saying this is bad for technique. In fact, this type of approach is one ingredient of successful technique learning, in order to make already learned movement patterns quicker and more automatic.But if we want to improve, we cannot ignore the hard part of learning new techniques which requires deliberate recording and reviewing of movements and a real conscious effort. If you are tired and in need of a de-stress, you can have the best designed training program ever, but no progress will be made while the mind is not fully engaged.How can these apparently competing needs be squared together?There are some suggestions in 9 out of 10 obviously. But I just want to reiterate the point that this is all much easier if the problem solving and movement experimentation mindset is part of the joy of your climbing sessions, rather than something that gets in the way of it. This issue of conscious review of movements feeling like a chore is less of an issue among climbers who boulder, since problem solving and repeated attempts are more centre stage in this discipline. So my first recommendation to those who mainly climb routes is to give bouldering a proper chance. Go to a good venue or boulder wall and climb with others who ‘get’ the activity. Sometimes it only takes one good session for the bouldering ‘lightbulb’ to go off in your head and suddenly you connect with the whole game of refining sequences and making subtle changes in position and force to achieve huge differences in how the move goes.During your sessions, if you would like to have some switch off time to relax and shed the day’s stresses, there are plenty of strategies. Just be inventive and do what suits you best. For some that might be allocating particular sessions to technique training and others to purely mileage and relaxation. Being realistic about what you can achieve might help you organise your sessions better and get more from them. For others, splitting your sessions up and allocating your ‘best’ hour after a long, chilled out warm-up, to a short but effective session where you put in some real mental effort. Or perhaps you can get the required relaxation in other ways. I often sit for 30 minutes and just drink tea at the climbing wall before starting, just to forget the other stuff buzzing around my head, and allow myself to get into rock climbing mode.However you choose arrange your climbing so that you are ready to put in s[...]

The difficult question of sports injuries and disillusionment in youngsters


This good website has some interesting information on the size of the problem of young sportspeople getting injured. Injury rates are going up, to uncomfortably high levels. A serious sports injury is not just a short term issue for a young climber, runner or other sportsperson. It’s one of a few important reasons why so many youngsters drop out of sport before they even finish their teens.It’s so obviously ironic that parents and coaches both take satisfaction from encouraging kids to take part in sport to foster a lifelong habit of activity and enjoyment. Yet overdoing that encouragement is one of the main reasons behind them ultimately dropping out or getting injured. The number one reason youngsters give for deciding to quit their sport is pressure from parents, coaches or the setup of their sport. So, whatever we are doing, it’s wrong.Lots of coaches are still wrestling with the idea of whether formal competition in sport is a good idea for kids. There doesn’t appear to be any straightforward answer to that question. The best answer might be ‘it depends’. If the environment is optimal, competition in sport may be quite healthy, if unnecessary. However, it rarely is optimal. There are potential sources of problems everywhere. Therefore, being realistic, maybe no competitive sport until beyond adolescence is better? That is definitely still an open debate.It’s difficult for parents even to realise how pivotal their role is. For instance, who can blame parents for subconsciously rewarding competition results instead of effort, balance, maturity, sportsmanship and science based training in sport? The very best coaches in professional sport can hardly seem to achieve this, even though they should know better. It’s a tough challenge for parents to assume the role of sports philosopher, role model, coach, sports scientist and sports medic. On the other hand, if you are going to invest time, effort and expense in encouraging your child’s path in sport, you might as well do it properly, in a way that doesn’t leave them either injured or disillusioned and out of sport for good at 13 or 14.It’s difficult for coaches too. Reliable and useful information on training program design and injury prevention is extremely hard to come by. Moreover, coaches often don’t have enough time with youngsters to provide individually tailored training. In this situation, I think it’s important that they emphasise to both parents and youngsters that the advice they give has limitations, and if they want to make sure they are training safely, they should consider  training themselves to be informed self-coaches, or hire in some more personalised coaching.In climbing, we are about to enter a dangerous period (in the UK at least) since some new coaching qualifications are coming on-stream. Qualifications, generally speaking, are of course a good thing. However, there can be problems if parents see the word ‘qualified coach’ and don’t think any more about what the qualification means. It’s possible to be a qualified coach in many sports on surprisingly little experience, and unfortunately, depth of knowledge. Parents should be careful to make themselves aware of the level of skill and experience of those coaching their children. Start from the assumption that the coaches are not suitably experienced or resourced to prevent injuries in youngsters, and that you’ll need to consult a range of sources to ensure the best chanc[...]

Venezuela Jungle Jam DVD in the shop


Finally, we just got our copies of the new film from the crazy Belgians in the shop: Venezuela Jungle Jam. Nico Favresse, Sean Villanueva and their climbing partners are the undisputed kings of making expedition climbing movies. They are also pretty much the kings of making badass climbing expeditions. It’s a killer combination.Their previous films Asgard Jamming and Vertical Sailing have been very popular with you and for good reason. They are two of the most fun climbing films you’ll ever see and full of all the ingredients of great adventure - big characters, thrills and spills and unexpected funny moments. Venezuela Jungle Jam is the latest in the line! It’s already picking up a string of awards on the film festival circuit. In this film they are off to the amazing 500m sandstone Tepuy of Venezuela to deal with sweaty jungles, wild animals, loose rock, falls, overhanging big walls and, always, jamming on the portaledge.The climbing looks challenging, in just about all the ways it could (apart from being cold). The scenery is gob smacking and as you’ll just about see in the teaser (it really is a tease) Sean’s superb sideways plummet off a ledge is another one of those ‘oh my god’ moments we almost come to expect from these guys. Brilliant stuff. The DVD is 58 mins plus extras, Subtitles in English, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Polish and German.I’ve also just added the Distilled DVD now we have our DVD stock, so you have the option of downloading it, or getting it for your winter partner for Christmas!Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]

New titles in the shop


I’ve just added a couple of new books in the shop. Both are must reads for anyone keen for inspiration and information on climbing, but both are very different. The last book is a long awaited guide to some of the finest lumps of rock in the UK.First up is Julian Lines autobiography ‘Tears of the Dawn’. I imagine most of you will not need introduced to Jules, who has been the ‘dark horse’ of the bold trad and free soloing scene in the UK for the past 15 years or so. I’ve done a couple of his routes myself such as Firestone E7 6c in Hell’s Lum which is archetypal of his climbs - no gear, not really any holds either. Just a deep breath and a lot of trust in the frictional properties of thin granite smears. Many of the nailbiting adventures he’s had over the years involve free soloing, by himself on the quiet mountain crags of the highlands. But he’s also well known for his deep water soloing exploits, not to mention jumping off cliffs and paragliding. He’s hit the ground from a long way up too many times to mention, but is either a very lucky man or has bendy bones. It’s a great window into the mind of an solo adventurer, but very much the opposite of an Alex Honhold type of character.Next is The Art of Ice Climbing, a lovely book which is part coffee table inspiration book, part technical manual. It’s a great production with interesting historical and new photography throughout. It has excellent advice sections on sharpening ice tools, screws, ropework and techniques for ice climbing. I think just about any ice climber would learn something new here. In the past there have been some great books on ice climbing that every climber should have on their shelf. I reckon this is the latest in that line.Lastly, I’ve added the new Torridon bouldering guide which is finally out by local activists Ian Taylor and Richie Betts. It’s great to see this guide finally out. The rock at Torridon is the best I’ve climbed on in the UK. It’s truly amazing stuff, and many of the problems are amazing natural lines too. The guys have done a great job producing this guide which contains around 250 problems to go at, and of course many first ascents still waiting to be explored.You’ll find all of these, along with the rest of the best climbing books, films and gear out there in the shop.Dave MacLeod My book - 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes[...]