29 December 2009

Rehab for Golfers elbow for climbers

Loads of you have been asking for more info on the rehab work I’ve been doing on my elbows of late. I’ve been really impressed and heartened by how effective it’s been. The first thing to say is that rehab only works inside the bigger picture of treating an injury, i.e. correcting the cause and taking other steps to lower the overall stress on the affected area. The other steps are changing many different things in your lifestyle and routine outside of the climbing, but also some of the tactics within the sport routine.

To handle all of this is much more than a blogpost obviously. Hence I’m back to working on what was meant to be my first book - about the whole picture of preventing and treating climbing injuries. In this post I’m sticking to just the headlines of the rehab work:

First off I’ve been doing hot/cold water immersion to increase blood flow. In the past I’ve used just cold on my hands which seem to handle this better and evoke the Lewis reaction faster. The elbows seem to respond slightly better to hot and cold alternately. I’m presuming for now this is because they are not body extremities by comparison and not geared up for profound and rapid vasodilation but have yet to investigate this. This is just my experience though, I’ve not yet trawled through more sources of evidence, and there seem to be individual differences at work too. So try both and follow what has the best effect. I’ve been doing it daily, twice a day when I have time, and for as long as I can manage. Really the more you do, the more the effect. But 30 minutes of 5 minutes alternating hot and cold water seems to have an excellent effect.

Next, the tendon strengthening work. I’ve been doing eccentric wrist curls which stimulate the tendon more strongly than the muscle tissue to grow. I started off using quite a heavy dumbell arrangement, but have since found it easier and more practical to simply use force from my other hand!

I’ve also been massaging the tendon and flexing it under no resistance. Finally, I stretch it probably 30 times or more during a rock climbing session (i.e practically between every route/circuit/problem).

I’m finding that the combined attack on the injury seems to be creating a strong enough reminder to kick it’s lazy ass into making a bit of progress. It’s still reluctant as hell though, and a week off due to illness has been enough for the elbow to let me know it’s missing the TLC during training!

18 December 2009

Dream Holds Dumbarton basalt review

Scott from Dream holds lent me some of his new range of Dumbarton Basalt holds to try out a while ago. If you remember my previous review of Dream Holds initial ranges, they make the holds from lumps of the real rock they imitate, the texture of the rock being an amazingly close match as well. In general the holds really do feel like climbing on the rock types they imitate and this has an effect on the way you move (good for training for real rock obviously). The Dumby range is the latest rock type to get the Dream Holds treatment.

Out of the range, about 6 or 7 of the holds were brilliant - really like the actual experience of pulling on the real Dumbarton basalt and make excellent problems. It’s nice that some of them are big (area wise) so matching is common just like on real rock. Indoor climbing is  normally much more laddery and therefore boring without really good problem setters. The only problem for me was, the rest of the Dumbarton range were not so nice shapes and I found myself struggling to make nice problems with them. Like the rest of the dream holds, I think part of this comes down to where they are best suited: My board is 48 degrees overhanging and very intense bouldering. The Dumby holds that do suit this (the big flat pinches are best) are superb, but the rest would be interesting and most suited to low-mid grade climbing wall routes rather than bouldering. In my opinion they’d make infinitely more fun and mentally challenging F5-7b routes than your average boring blog ladder that was just like the last.

I must say the Dream Holds team has done an impressive job getting the texture right. It’s really is just like Dumbarton! - slick and unforgiving of unchalked hands, skin friendly where it’s not sharp edged (I filed some of them down) but with a nice friction too.

The range still has the feel of a first generation product (understandably, because it is!). I still feel the main prize out there - when they figure out a viable way to mould artificial holds from real holds on famous routes/problems. Not only would the shapes be nicer, but it seems to me they would be much more marketable as well! I’d certainly part with cash to train on replica holds from famous routes around the world. 

If you want to see the Dumby range, it’s here.

12 December 2009

The book is here

Stock of my book has arrived with us and we are dispatching it now. Hope you enjoy the read and it helps get you to the next level in your climbing!

Some of you commented on my last post asking how long copies take to arrive in the US. We dispatch by Royal Mail (via airmail if it’s outside the UK). Their estimations for delivery times are here. They quote within 3 working days for Europe and within 5 for the US. It’s always an estimation of course. We are dispatching same day right up to Christmas.

9 December 2009

9 out of 10 climbers is here soon

Our stock of my book 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes is printed and currently being shipped to us. We've just put it up for pre-order in the shop now. With any luck the DHL man might be at our door with a pallet as early as tomorrow and we can start dispatching. Thanks to all of you who pre-ordered already! I know some of you are after a copy in time for Christmas and so it should be in plenty of time. We are dispatching around 11.30am every day until Christmas, worldwide.

I’m very happy to see it out and I’m pleased with it as a representation of much of what I’ve learned in 16 years of study in climbing improvement. It’s always been a big satisfaction in my climbing life to take what I’ve learned from sport science and half my life observing, experimenting, and measuring every last thing that makes climbers climb better. I’m expecting that the ideas in it will polarise a few readers. It does attack some of the fashions in the sport of climbing, and the wider world of sport and improvement that are working in the wrong direction for improvement. Engrained habits die hard and folk don’t let go of them easily. So I’m quite direct. Expect some further discussion of the details of the book over on my climbing coach blog as the reactions come in.

Some more info on what’s contained in it is on it’s page in the shop and you can get an order in here now if you are keen to read it. For now though, here is the list of contents so you can get a feel for the information thats in it.

9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes: navigation through the maze of advice for the self-coached climber


9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes
Barking up the wrong tree

Part 1 - Creatures of habit
Stuck on the basics
The first thing to understand
The first thing to change
Fail, and prepare to succeed
If only I knew now what I knew then
Too embarrassed to climb?
Is this grade a success or mediocre?
The first generation was the freest
Starting from scratch
The truth about famous climbers
Know your enemy - your tastes
Don’t get stuck
Creatures of habit

Part 2 - The big four: movement technique, finger strength, endurance, body mass
The biggest lesson from sport science
You cannot break the laws
How to learn technique
Record, replay, review
No one does drills, right?
The structure of climbing technique
The need for momentum
Types of momentum
The issue of height
Don’t just push with your feet!
Counterintuitive aspects of climbing technique
Precision really matters
Trying to make the hold bigger
Don’t overrate strength
Bouldering is number one
But I don’t like bouldering!
How to boulder to show off, or get strong
Board heads
A good bouldering session
Fingerboard rules
To crimp or not to crimp
Making sense of Haston and Oddo
Making sense of Ondra and Sharma shapes
How light do I need to be?
How to get light without pain?
Steps for losing and maintaining a lower weight for climbing
Who needs to pump iron to climb hard?
To the wiry
To the beefcake
To the tall
To the lucky little ones
When you really can blame your tools
Campus boards hurt almost everyone
Climbing is not a cardiovascular sport
Where is climbing endurance?
Endurance activities
Understanding fatigue symptoms
Endurance rules

Part 3 - Fear of falling: the real problem, probably…
The only way
Falling technique
Practice indoors
Practice on sport climbs
Building falls into your daily climbing diet
Practice on trad
When you just can’t fall off

Part 4 - The other big four: attitude, lifestyle, circumstances, tactics
I’m young, spoon-feed me!
Why mid-teens drop off the radar
“I can’t do that” he said, mistakenly
Too old to improve?
To find time, make your time work harder for you
Do you really want to be an athlete?
Tactics often trump training
What the warmup does
Tuning in and out
Managing the ‘psyche’ level
Do you really want it to be easy?
Be thick skinned at all times
Does flexibility really matter?

Part 5 - What’s next coach? Planning your improvement
Think curves, not lines
So jump off that plateau, if you can bear it
Regimes - how much can you handle?
Over-resting or under-recovering? 
A kid’s regime
A student’s regime
A family/career hustler
The wannabe pro
The confused and disillusioned
Same old routine, same old results
Cracking bad habits is tough
Rules of the training day
Rules of the training season
Annual rest and recuperation time

Summing up

Various commenters on my main blog have been curious for me to elaborate a little on some of the section titles that sparked their interest which I've done here.

5 December 2009

Being injured

Those of you who read this blog will know I've been complaining about an elbow injury for about a year now. IÕve still got it (in fact it's recently got worse) after this long because I haven't worked hard enough to get rid of it. Until the past three weeks it's really been no problem. Being careful with how I take care of myself has meant it's not affected my climbing hardly at all. In fact it's been rather good for my climbing as injuries often are (by improving my technique and tactics for recovery). My climbing this year has been in a long phase of development, a mix of trying extremely hard projects at around the 9a+ (or equivalent) level and doing easier routes quickly such as Present Tense (E9). Sadly though, my hope that the injury would eventually see itself off hasn't materialised. And now that the rest of my body is ready to step up my level of training again, I'm finding the injured tendon is not.

So It's time to step up the rehab and get serious. I'm fed up with this thing in the background all the time. The first time I got a finger injury at age 16, I was terrified of it. I was terrified to do anything to it in case I made it worse and permanently damaged it. This was a good thing because it forced me to put the hours into educating myself about what to do with it. After four months of experimentation, I was no longer scared of the injured tendon. So I worked it harder and harder (with rehab) and recovered.

Right now, I have the same situation with my elbow problem. I don't have direct experience of applying an aggressive rehab schedule to the tissue, so it's kind of scary. I don't want to get it wrong. Natural I suppose. It always seems to take being forced into action to overcome this. So here I am on a climbing trip, feeling strong but injured too. So I simply need to get over it. The last few days of doing this and jumping into a dedicated program of activities has been superb. I've lost my fear of this tendon and It's really responding to the work much faster than I expected it to. Great!

It's hard to swallow, but return from injury is often the best period for athletes in general. Long spells of training uninterrupted by injury often result in staleness and plateau. But injury forces you to either fail, or respond by looking deep into the technique and training to tease out errors and to understand that the body needs exceptional care if it is to sustain exceptional performance.

Lessons so far:

My previous regime of training by bouldering outdoors almost exclusively had it's limitations for pure strength, but really protected me from injury through it's variety of rock angles. I've gone too much the other way with repetitive steep bouldering on flat overhanging panels. This is still what I need to get stronger still, but mixed up with other things more than I have been.

My body might be better suited to 9a+ or harder if it was a bit lighter. Whether that brings other problems of it's own is another matter.

To absorb more training than now, I'll need to pay better attention to the quality of recovery - 70+ average hours per week working and resultant poor quality sleep has proved to have a cost.

Some other manual work will have to be done with more care so it doesn't contribute to the overall training load on particular parts of the body.