Monday 26 May 2008

Waiting for the body

Emulating the wisdom of Pusspuss. That cat knows how to do rest days.

You could see in my last post I was attempting to make myself feel a little less beaten with a bit of positive talk. Thanks for your comments on the post. It’s hard to explain, but feeling really beaten and slapped by a project is actually a great and essential thing to happen. It’s a strange feeling to be depressed from retrograde progress on the route, but pleased about this happening, all at the same time.

I guess the best way to describe it is to think of it as taking one step back to make two forward. Psychologically, it’s the real, in your face symptoms and prospect of failure, fatigue and pain that are the strongest calls to action. They make you get up and fight back like nothing else. That’s the mental aspect – so everything is good there. After a rest day, the ‘fire’ is back. That sounds cheesy, but that’s the best way to describe the return of a burning, impatient drive to run back up the mountain and rejoin the battle.

Physically, things are a bit different. I have to wait for my body to catch up. Because I am training properly for a single goal again, short term performance is removed from the priority list. Many climbers at a medium level fail to see off their ‘career best’ project because of this issue. Climbers want to their bodies to perform at their personal best level, every session, all year long. At an amateur level this is fine, but when the demands get heavier, some short term sacrifices have to be made.

To make real progress in physical training, you have to really work yourself. If you have been training long enough to handle it, this means daily work and feeling pretty wasted all the time. Feeling a little down in the dumps is totally normal during this time. When the time draws close to cash in on all this heavy work, we do something called ‘tapering’. Basically this means just going easy on yourself for a few weeks and allowing your body to fully recover and refuel from the effort. If you get all of this just right, the result is that you feel utterly bionic and destroy performance goals that were unimaginable before.

The really interesting stuff for me is to judge the intensity just right over the months of heavy work. Too little and it won’t be enough to do the route. Too much and I get injured. It’s a pretty fine line to walk and the messages from the body that inform you of which side you are veering on are not so easy to measure.

Tapering time for me begins whenever I can link Echo Wall on a toprope. If that happens some time this summer, things will get exciting. Until then, it’s time to go and put in some more hours at Sky Pilot.


  1. Anonymous27 May, 2008

    Hey Dave.
    Keep up the good work and also stick to taking a resting day from time to time - nothing is worse than running into massive overtraining, although balancing the highline between overtraining and training not hard enough is a tricky one.

    Your inspiration serves as a motivation for me to climb more and more trad - shaking body included. Since grown up on plastic walls and still a nasty little beginner (climbing for 1 1/2 years) I produce tramendous amounts of adrenaline on e.g. a clean F5b here in Germany. I'm aiming at climbing a 10 degree overhanging crack checking in at F7b, where I assume the first few moves to be the hardest. Any hints on how to learn to believe in abilities and gear? I started doing routes with massive runouts recently in order to get more confident and a little more bold but still...

    Back to work... Felix

  2. Anonymous27 May, 2008

    sorry, a typo in the previous post may be irritating. Of course it as a F6b (UIAA 7) - I am not yet at the point of even thinking about F7b...

  3. Anonymous28 May, 2008

    Hey Dave!

    We have a little write up on the 15th Annual International Climbers' Festival in our website. Come visit our forums. Might be interesting to you.

    Thanks for your time!

    Cute cat!

  4. Anonymous28 May, 2008

    hi dave,

    why don't you stay at the CIC, so you don't have to walk all the way out and back in again? am sure you've already thought of this, just wondering if not then why?

  5. There are some reason why I can't stay at the CIC, well four reasons actually, in order of importance:

    1. I have to do my dayjob! I have to work in the morning and evening running my webshop and coaching service.

    2. I have to do my other training. I need to train in between going to echo wall and there aren't any good boulders in the Coire suitable for training on.

    3. I only live 2 miles from the CIC hut (1 hour walk) it would be silly to stay in the hut when my house is so close.

    4. The CIC is a building site at present, being rebuilt. So it is closed anyway.