7 December 2007

Notes from my Training Diary

Feeling light on A Muerte 9a, Siurana
I don’t often talk much about my own training on this blog, but in my ongoing long term experiments on myself I’ve seen a really interesting trend this year.

I’ve always held the view that having a low body weight was really important for hard climbing, especially sport climbing. It used to be in fashion but then seemed to go out of fashion for a long while, perhaps because people were going about dieting the wrong way and ending up weak and unhappy! But I reckon being light should come more back into fashion again among anyone who wants to link more than a few moves on steep ground close to their limit.

My evidence? In the past 10 months I’ve been able to increase my grade from 8c to 9a. That’s a very quick progression at this end of the grading scale, especially for someone not so young these days. How did I do it? I lost 4.5 kgs.

Yes, it really was that simple.

Now, I should qualify that by saying the effect would not have happened had it not been for all other aspects of my training, tactics and approach being relatively close to optimal and my strategy for managing the weight loss very well thought through and researched. The dynamics of who would benefit from this type of adaptation, why and how and when to go about it is something I’ll be writing at length about (probably in a book quite soon).

But the basic message is clear – being light is pretty damn important for hard climbing.

If you feel otherwise, please comment below and I will argue you round!

18 comments:

Nick said...

"my strategy for managing the weight loss very well thought through and researched"

Could this strategy be shared??

ROBZ said...

I think it is important to be light in some cases but not in all. Look at that Dunn guy, he did loads of hard climbing including 9a and he was, well fat. I think you have to be healthy to be a strong climber, but i honestly reckon that everyone has their own genetic body composition that they can't escape and that should be the best composition for their climbing, e.g. Sharma = Big, Graham = Skinny, Ondra = small + light, etc

Dave MacLeod said...

Nick - Yes of course. I'm going to be writing a lot on this subject in 2008 - I'm preparing a book. But I'll have plenty more snippets from that on here too.

Robz - Ah thats where we disagree and I think you don't know the crucial details in the story. Dunne did not climb hard when he was fat. He lost loads of weight to do his hard sport routes. Sure he did some relatively hard trad stuff when he was fat, but think about it - if you can climb 9a thin, you can certainly still do 7c-8a on trad when fat. Your geneticsput a little inertia on what you can do to change your body shape but little more than that - you can change it. If you are heavy and you want to climb hard, you should think about changing it. Don't give genetics more credit than they deserve - dietary habits, your social norms and some other factors have a MUCH bigger impact.

My body is 27 pounds lighter than when I was 16 years old! I also used to think I was limited by genetics and couldn't get an ideal strength-weight ratio because of this. I was wrong.

Please keep the comments coming its interesting to hear your views on this

abarro81 said...

Tips on how to cut down weight whilst still making sure you're getting the intake of everything you need when training hard would be very interesting..
Do you use any supplements or stick to just eating well?
robz: i bet sharma doesn't weight that much though..

Brent Apgar said...

All in all I agree w/ Dave. However, I wanted to add a thought to the subject. I feel that my ideal climbing weight is in the 77kg range. I have weighed as little as 67kg and noticed that I was actually climbing a little weaker than when heavier. I attribute this to the fact that I have a pretty substantial positive "ape index" and had lost some of my ability to use it due to less muscle mass in my shoulders. I also know that when I have the extra muscle mass throughout my upper body I'm much less likely to injure my shoulders.

Mark said...

Dave - can you be clear about whether this is a weight loss you aim to maintain indefinitely, or just a loss for a period of say a month in a year to do some hard sport routes or whatever (this is what Jerry used to do), and allowing yourself to be a bit heavier for most of the time, for bouldering phases etc. I guess its unfashionable to concentrate on dieting because of Malc etc. making themselves ill, and it can be very hard to know where to draw the line. However, I agree entirely about Dunne - the whole thing about him being fat and climbing hard is total bullshit. Just look at his Scarpa blog where he emphasizes loosing weight as he is keen to start climbing again. Oh and Barrows, if you're heavy its cos of those abs which you can donate to me...

Mark said...

Oh, and Mcleod - am very pleased to see you're going to write a book on training for climbing as there's nothing really out there that's very good at the moment. Horst's book contains a lot of nonsense and also leaves a lot of stuff out.

james said...

so how did you loose 5kg?
more aerobic exercise, laying off the beers, forsaking the peanut butter?

Anonymous said...

Dave - as someone who has trained for climbing since age 12 (20 years now) I think your post needs more elaboration. When I was in my teens in the early '90s all the talk in the magazines was about weight loss (i.e. Malc and 'The Young Ones' eating broccoli etc). Climbing (and indoor climbing & comps especially) have become a lot more popular with kids since then. I know that I was obsessive about my weight as a young teenager because of what I read. And whilst I have tended to be light when I've bouldered/sport climbed my hardest, I do think you have to consider that this blog will be read by teenagers and you have not explained that perhaps dieting is not so beneficial for those who are still growing! By all means share with us how good diet can help you lose weight and improve your climbing, but it would be useful to elaborate a little. This may all sound obvious, but you might want to explain why, when, how and who should diet. Thanks!

ClimbingDane said...

In 2004 I had a trip to Thailand planned and desperately wanted to do my first 7a. I knew I was probably a bit too heavy at 80 kgs, so in preparing for the trip I lost 5 kgs, bringing me down to 75 kgs. The five kgs was lost in about 6-7 weeks, the diet ending a few weeks before the trip. The weight loss was acomplished via a low-carb diet, a little high-quality meat and lots of high-fibre vegetables combined with a lot of medium-intensive exercise.

The bottom line: I did not do my first 7a on the trip and in fact felt a bit weak. So no doubt I lost quite a bit of muscle too and the weight loss was probably too fast. I've since then kept my weight steady at 75 kgs and increased muscle mass again and have since then redpointed and even onsighted 7a. But the conclusion is that weight loss is not in it self a sure way to improve your climbing. It has to be done intelligently (loose fat, not muscles) and in a controlled way.

Dave MacLeod said...

Yes thats rather fast, but thats not the main problem! Low carb diets are pretty disasterous for anyone trying to lose weight but maintain form in a sport. This will have been the main reason for the feeling of weakness.

Next time, definitely avoid the low carb and stick to the standard proportions of nutrients in an athletes diet. They don't call it an athletes diet for nothing!

Mikkel said...

Hi, I have been reading about dieting in different places around the net. Going into ketose (low carb diet) is a highly recomended method where you supposedly dont loose any muscle mass. As I can understand here, you dont recomed it. Can you tell me why?

Dave MacLeod said...

Hi Mikkel, If you eat a low carbohydrate diet you cannot maintain enough training - less training means loss of muscle anyway.

Muscles need carb to work hard and improve at sport.

However, lots of climbers need to lose both muscle and fat. They have gained too much muscle often in the lower body from either/both inappropriate training or involvement in other sports. I gained too much lower body muscle from mountaineering and needed to lose some of this to climb harder sport routes. My body fat was low to start with and is the same now.

Mikkel said...

So how do you do it? :)

Dave MacLeod said...

To summarise the whole science of successful weight loss into a blog comment is not possible to do without glossing over the detail obviously.

But it boils down to moderation of food volume while maintaining standard athlete's (high carb proportion) diet, supported by lots of climbing specific training and little lower body hypertrophic training.

The detail of the strategies, both nutritionally and practically are more onvolved. Happily, I am writing a book covering these! You can find all the information you need here once it is ready.

DB3 said...

I stumbled onto the ideal diet for climbing after I discovered I have a condition where Im basically allergic to sugar and alcahol. I am 33 and have been climbing for about 5 years. Ive been living in an area where there isnt much decent climbing so I have been very training focused for over a year. Im normally around 90kg and 1.97m tall so dont carry a lot of fat anyway but trying to get down to minimum bodyfat by eating less previously has only worked for a short time, then I just get constantly hungry and go back up. 2 months ago I stopped eating all sugars including fruit juice and alcahol except for a sugar in my coffee. I eat 3 pieces of fresh fruit a day and veges and complex carbs in normal amounts and more quality protein and a little more fat (I was worried I was loosing too much weight after dropping to 88kgs in about a week.) In my view a no sugar diet is the only way to maintain really low body fat, because if you eat sugar your addicted to it plain and simple and you will give in to cravings. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041124155206.htm So how do I feel on this diet. Awesome. I work in a very physical job, arbourculture, where Im dragging branches and carrying heavy logs all day and every second day after work I do fingertip pullups with weight on my harness, Im up to 26kg on there for 3 x 6 reps and every day I train I add 2kg. I climb outside or at the climbing gym once a week also. So i cant say Im tired from poor nutrition. and Ive got veins sticking out of my abs and back which Ive never had before. And all this on eating a tonne of food and having a burger king double wopper and large fries practically every work day for lunch (no sugary drink tho-water only). Im up to 89kg now , from upper body muscle gained, and my campusing strength has increased dramatically. So there you have it, the perfect climbers diet. And once you get used to it you dont miss the junk food at all, although the booze is tougher to stay off. Enjoy

ninjaskillz said...

my problem is i do parkour as well, and i like training some gymnastics strength moves too. so i have to train my legs a lot (mainly 5x5 squats so hopefully strength gains than hypertrophey).

also im quite short (5ft7) and i weigh 72 kg, which isnt that heavy but relative to my height it is pretty bad! do you think the fact that im not a big guy could compensate for my bad weight to height ratio?

i would be interested how you would handle my situation, im lean so i cant loose much fat, and i need leg muscles?

i guess it may just be a case of being an average all rounder of a beasty specialist

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