Sunday, 14 August 2016

Rapid Learning Curve

Calum Muskett entering the crux of Rapid Learning Curve E6 6b, Elgol, Isle of Skye.

In my last post I mentioned that I’d spent a fair bit of time on my board in the past few (wet) weeks and had prepared myself a detailed training program to prepare for the autumn’s sport climbing challenges. With a break in the weather forecast, I met up with Calum and Gabby and we headed for Skye to try and climb something in the Cuillin.

As is the theme for this summer we were met with drizzle and mist on the drive over Glen Shiel and onto the island. What a surprise. After tea and regroup in Broadford we diverted to Elgol and saw off the two E6s there, Rapid Learning Curve and Hovis. After doing these the midge defeated us. It was good to climb some actual rock but after driving home to Roy Bridge I couldn’t wait to try out my new campus rungs I’d spent the previous day making.

I had needed to take a couple of rest days from training as my Brachioradialis was complaining from rather relentless dead hanging routines. So as well as the usual ton of work to be done I took a bit of time to make a proper system/campus setup on my 45 and 15 degree boards. Foot-on campus style anaerobic intervals is never something I’ve really tried, probably because I’ve never properly trained endurance before! That might sound silly but it’s actually true. I’ve nearly always spent 60-80% of my time just going climbing outside year round, and in the periods where I’ve done more sustained stints of climbing indoors, it’s normally just basic strength and bouldering, with a bit of normal board endurance circuits of 30 moves upward.

Even the start I’ve made in the past couple of weeks of doing more regular endurance work has made a bit of an impact. It’s a nice feeling and its definitely spurred me on to enjoy the program I’ve set through to the end of October. I’ll keep the blog updated with progress and lessons learned along the way.

I did have some resin system blocks on my board already, but I did find them a bit harsh on the skin and didn’t end up using them that much, except for tooling at the start of last winter for a few weeks. It was on my to do list to replace the whole setup with quite positive but still fingery campus rungs that would be super skin friendly for maximum anaerobic burn and minimum skin pain. I’m hoping that if I use them in combination with my cadre of ‘real’ climbing circuits, they will come into their own, both for the intensity and the skin friendliness, since I have only a handful of rest days each month now. I’m still finding looking over my program a little scary at the same time as being exciting.

My campus rungs, about 40cm apart, with pinch blocks below (desperate for my weak grip!) and big holes for tooling in when December comes around. Not bad for an afternoon’s work.

I’m actually still not totally finished the plan either. I’m still trying to pin down the nutrition side of it, which is predictably taking a lot of work. And I don’t always feel like I’m getting closer to settled decisions. I say ‘decisions’ rather than ‘answers’ since there are very few solid answers in sports nutrition. The more solid others claim to have answers on sports nutrition, the less I trust them. So my work in progress nutrition plan contains many calculated gambles. Seeing if they work out will be a fun and fascinating exercise which will include eating a lot of really good food! I’m particularly proud of my workout drink schedule at the moment.

Fresh strawberries and milk, blended up. Not a bad delivery vehicle for my EAAs and circuit carbs.


  1. Dave, I'd be curious to hear what you specifically do to mitigate brachioradialis pain, as I've also been struggling with that for a while now.

  2. Here here!
    But check Daves book page 126
    Also found glut training, jumping up onto a bar and slowly dropping and warming up properly to be good.

    Ben Crawford

  3. Are you still playing with a ketogenic diet Dave and using that as a basis to tweak or have you moved away from it now?

  4. BB - As Ben says, my notes on dealing with Brachioradialis pain start on Page 129 or Make or Break. Although sticking to the principles in the first part of the book are critical too - overly rapid progression of training will greatly exacerbate the effect of training errors, as will poor recovery practice (probably the cause in my case).

    Rock Monkey - I tried going back to some limited carbs to support my endurance training, and also to see the effects generally and have so far found it to be highly problematic for me. I doubt it would be the story for others (whether you believe this to be related to insulin sensitivity, gut microbiome, genes etc or a mix of all of these factors). I am still trying to settle on the minimally effective dose of carbs to support sport climbing training for me. For every other aspect, for me at least, the less carbs the better is my consistent finding. Once again, I stress this is for ME and could be quite different for others.

  5. Thanks for the reply Dave, I completely understand your reinforcement of it working for you and that others shouldn't be lead by this. The nutrition and well being area is a very interesting one which I've spent many, many hours 'researching'. The only thing that is completely clear to me is that there is no single answer for everyone (yet) but there is still much to be learnt and understood. Whilst what works for you may not apply to me I'm still very interested in your 'experiment of 1' as I enjoy your scientific yet realistic approach to learning. Keep up the good work!
    p.s. Thanks for the work you put into Make or Break and your other injury related posts, I've found the elbow tendonisis content very helpful.
    P.p.s sorry if that all comes across a bit 'fan-boy'.

  6. I'd like to add my own data point to the nutrition part of this thread, stressing also this is something I arrived at unscientifically and don't imply should apply to others.

    I've really gotten into smoothies the past several years. For one thing, I'm a vegetarian (not vegan) and so am in search of ways to consume protein. I make a smoothie mix that includes: 1 whole orange, frozen fruit (always mango, various others), yogurt, baby spinach (raw), a dash of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), hulled hemp seeds, turmeric, soy milk, a whole banana, and a large scoop of high quality whey powder. I consume this approx. every day for breakfast or lunch. For a while now, I've also started taking it to the crag. I freeze 12 oz of smoothie in a plastic bottle and put it in my pack in the morning. In normal summer conditions it will be thawed and ready to drink midday or early afternoon. I've found it an effective source of energy and liquid at the crag that contributes to hydration and is easy to digest while still fairly satiating. This is a main part of my at-the-crag nutrition and has become integral to my routine.

    Like Rock Monkey risking the "fan-boy" part, Dave I continue to appreciate your thoughtful and methodical approach to climbing and training. Good stuff!