School Work

View from my Campus
Despite being a little old for little school, I am a rather ageing student at that big school most people call university. To say that I came here by mistake is a little of an understatement, I was bored two years ago, and had such a small amount of work on I figured that I could fit a post graduate part-time MSc in Applied Sport Science in between my work.
To a certain extent I have proved myself right, however it wasn’t all that easy, but I guess most people my age make sacrifices to their families or loved one. The joys of being single is the sheer selfishness you can indulge in, shall I stay out till the early hours, hell yes!
Anyway back to my point because believe or not there was one, and it was about the lack of any blogging activity over the last few days. It is all down to school work I am afraid, having passed all but the units to do with my thesis, means that I only go to school to see my supervisor, which is where I was on  Tuesday morning, discussing my impending deadline to produce a prequel to my thesis, an independent study.
So I have been flat out writing up a research proposal based on the title, ‘The Interactive effect of Pre-Imagery Activation State and Individual Differences on the Efficacy of Imagery on Bouldering Task’.

Repairing Split Tips

Split tips are a small but very annoying injury that can end a day out climbing for all but the most hardcore climbers. There are ways to help aid the repair of a split tip as well as prevent them happening in the first place; and although you wouldn’t think it even the gnarliest of boulderers has more hand care products than Paris Hilton.

First a split tip, isn’t a cut or graze to the tip, but a weakness in the skin cause often through excessive climbing on small crimps and sharp holds. This tear in the skin to the sub-dermal layer, is both painful and bloody; and once you fingers have split, they often split again and again in the same place. To avoid this happening in the first place you can sand all the skin down on the finger pad after each session you stop any line of weakness occurring.

As well as sanding you need to get a good hand cream, so something with Aloe Vera, vitamin A and E, anything aimed at repairing and moisturising skin. Many climber have there own preferred brand, however Climb on Cream/Bars are a good start if you don’t fancy braving the hand care section of Boots.

In the event of a tip splitting there are several remedy’s, the first is to get some super glue, and glue it back together, this ‘patching up’ will often allow the day to be extended. I know many people will think I am crazy, but super glue was apparently designed for emergency surgery in Vietnam, as such it can easily stick skin together.

In order to cure it as quickly as possible, try avoiding really fingery problems for a while, but also really go to town on the sanding down the pad, it is extremely painful, but unless you get the whole finger pad down to the level of the split then the weakness will stay there. Again skin care products in association with this are critical. It will often take several days of sanding and moisturising to repair.

By the end of it your friends will be looking at you filling away at your finger tips thinking you’ve gone mad. However the damage we cause our hands through tiny holds and the drying effect of chalk, you’ll need to start looking after your hands if they are to do us justice.

An introduction to Interval Training for Power Endurance

A Pumped Climber shaking out wishing he’d done some Interval Training!

Interval Training is one of the most popular techniques for increase power endurance, or the amount of time we can sustain an extremely high power output. To help develop this the training involved repeating a routes a number of times at the top end of your climbing ability interspersed by resting intervals. However this isn’t the only way to improve your Power Endurance.

There are three main routes (See here for an overview of training basics):
1. Raising the point at where the Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation occurs
2. aerobic conditioning.
3. Becoming physically stronger

Whilst Interval Training will help you improve anaerobic endurance;it will not necessarily help with things like clipping quickdraws or improving technique when you are fatigued. Other methods like self-talk or imagery will help this I have another entry specifically on keeping good technique when pumped.

One of the many question I get asked as a coach is what grade of route should I start at? The answer is a typically political answer in that it depends on many things.

First of all find a route that is at your absolute limit, it may have taken you a couple of goes to link on lead but you should feel happy leading it, if fresh, if possible the route should be sustained rather than have one hard crux section.

On each session you are going to do a power endurance session, start by having a really thorough warm up. By this I mean climbing at least 10 routes that don’t make you feel pumped in the slightest, even it it means just top-roping the most basic lines. Only do a maximum of 2 Power Endurance training session a week to start off with.

To start with on Day 1, lead up this hardest route, and lower off, whilst timing yourself on the route. When you lower off allow yourself the same length of time rest as it took to climb the route. Then top rope the route, repeating the rest procedure until you reach failure. By failure I am talking you give 110%, you should feel like you are about to be sick. Often this first session you’ll make it up three times or less before failure.

On Day 2 you aim is to improve you performance from day one in terms of the number of repetitions of the route you can make. You should have the same aim of improving on the last time for each subsequent session, in that you are aiming to increase the number of reps until you reach around 6 reps before failure after a long warm up.

Once you have reach 6 reps on this one hard route, you can still apply overload through reducing the time you rest for (interval). Carry on this regime for a few more sessions, before adding more overload by changing the route you use to a harder one. You may find you have to step backward on this harder route in terms of repetitions.

-Climbing a route at your limit
-Rest for the same length of time as you climb
-Look to apply overload every session (Number of Reps, Reduced Rest, Increase Grade).
-Max of 2 sessions a week to start with.
-Have a mini goal to aim for during each session

Anti-Doping article

I have just written an overview of doping issues in light of recent activity in Ireland, including a historical perspective, and overview of what’s legal and banned, as well as a few relevant links over on my life in the vertical blog.

I was torn between putting it up on this blog and my more conversational one in the end I felt that due in part to its content I preferred not to place it here, due to my belief that I take on climbing as my DNA made me, whilst I would never criticise anyone for taking legal performance enhancing substances like Creatine, I believe that a good diet and proper training can lead to the grades that I am more than happy with.

Who knows one day I might change my mind, but for the time being I am neither greedy nor overly competitive. If you are interested in some background knowledge then jump across and read the article, I just didn’t want people thinking that I was an oracle of doping knowledge, as it was just one of the many topics I covered in performance physiology as part of the taught element of my MSc.

How to Train Type books

Over the years I have read many books about ‘How to Improve your climbing’, some of them have been very helpful, whilst others have been less so. Although there are some new books out like Coaching Climbing that is aimed at coaches helping young climbers train. Many of the activities in there are great for helping anyone’s climbing. However one of the best book I have read on the subject is a rather old book called performance rock climbing is a great all round book on training and skill acquisition. There are a couple of good book by eric horst on conditioning for climbers and training for climbers.

If however you want to learn about rope work techniques then consider getting hold of Libby Peter’s Rock climbing: Essential Skills and Techniques.

Alternatively if you were to get Climber Magazine this month you’d get an excellent training edition, with multiple articles by Training Guru Neil Gresham, as well as some other writers specialising in nutrition and sports injuries.

Overcoming Injury: A Psychological Perspective

There are many ways we can injure ourselves that will affect our ability to climb over the years i have sprained ankles, torn tendons and pulleys, strained shoulders, prolapsed discs as well as a few other random injuries. All have had an effect on my climb to a greater or lesser extent. Some were caused by climbing other weren’t, whatever the cause the main issue for any climber is getting back to climbing and then back to their previous ‘match fitness’. One thing that I would say is that eventually you’ll get there, although the road might be a rocky one.

Having accepted that you are injured the first thing you need to do is rationalise how it is going to affect you as a person. In simple terms think of it as listing how it might affect your climbing and your life, by listing all of the things you did before the injury that might be harder or even impossible in your current situation. Then list all the things you would usually do that won’t be affected or you could still do after the injury. If your lists are too big then consider consolidating it by choosing the ten most important factors in you life both climbing and non-climbing that the injury has effected.

For each activity rate out of 10, where you feel you are now, where 10 is the level of activity/fitness/strength you had before the injury. If its going to be a long recovery then repeating this process every week/fortnight/month will let you see how much you have recovered, even if it is a small amount. Often sport scientists will give this a graphical representation by drawing pie type chart and filling in each week the progress towards full fitness.

Have established you base line fitness during the injury period then there are several things you can do to work back up to fitness. As from a sport psychologist point of view one of the key things is to maintain a positive outlook, and use some psychological tools to aid you in this. In a recent study of imagery use in the recovery of an elite gymnast by Nicky Callow it showed how the athlete along with there sport psychologist used imagery to aid the recovery process, by progressively changing the focus of the imagery.

If your injury is acute then you might want to consider imagining the part of your body that is injured having lots of blood running through the vein, capillaries and arteries, imagining it warming up, and as you feel the warmth and blood flowing through the injury start to imagine your body starting to heal the injury, visualise it at a cellular level. You want to practice this type of visualising the body repairing the injury site until you can start to use it to a limited level, like all imagery use it for around 15 minutes a day. At the same time as this also consider doing very light work that exercises the area as much as possible, again all your really trying to do is promote blood follow, so even gentle massage and stretching will help, as will general CV work to get the heart pumping the blood.

Once you feel you can that the injury is getting to the stage that you can climb all be it extremely cautiously, then change the imagery to imaging the weakness getting stronger and stronger, along with visualising yourself climbing again. At the same time consider that you can also start to climb again, but very gently. I think there are two ways to go about this, one is very easy routes, which although requires little strength can often lead to you being committed to a hard move that might cause you to reinjure yourself if you are lead climbing. So either be very cautious or only top rope routes so you can lower off at anytime. The alternative is bouldering, as you can let go at any moment should the climbing prove too hard (unless it is a bad back, or lower limb injury your suffering from then consider the roped climbing options).

The final stage of recovery the imagery should be changed to visualising yourself climbing, but adding the seeing yourself climbing confidently to help bolster your confidence ready for when you start to climb at you previous level. Also make the imagery as real as possible by imagining yourself climbing real route from bottom to top. Accompany this with noting down mentally how strong the injured area feels, your body is a great feedback mechanism, if after a training session it hurts rest it for an extra day or so. Remember that a softly softly approach is key, as even after you think you have recovered, the injured area will still be weak for weeks if not months

Often staying away from certain types of activities will also stop reinjury, be it crimpy holds, bouldering, hard shouldery moves. Whatever your injury is consider identifying how you caused the injury, and how you can avoid reinjury. If the injury does prevent you from climbing then consider that there are other form of activities that will help you keep up a level of fitness. In the past I have join a JJB gym, where I could go and do some CV work, Light weights, stretch, swim and even do the odd Yoga session. Whilst it wasn’t climbing it still got me out of the house and doing something constructive towards my rehabilitation.

As climbers you could also take up hill walking, scrambling, mountain biking, surfing or any form of activity that got you into the great outdoor. As whilst it might not be climbing getting yourself out and active will help keep the injury blues away.

50% Off Coaching and Instruction

January is never a busy time for me as an instructor or coach, with the credit crunch and christmas starting to take a grip on many peoples fiances, I am offering half price courses in January, in the North Wales Area. Which means that you could get one at one coaching from £60 per day or £10 an hour indoors.

If your interested in a course then please contact me via and mention the 50% off blog offer.