Thursday, October 15, 2009

Forget footwork, get your grip stronger!

"Use your feet!"

"Work on your footwork!"

"Use your legs!"

You hear it all the time. Advice given to novice climbers from "seasoned veterans." I've heard it so much that even I, a newb, scream it at other newbs. Because I am very much still a novice, I remember how frustrating it is to hear that advice. Perhaps the intermediate/advanced climbers have forgotten what it's like to be a novice... with absolutely no hand strength.

Here's my take on the "work on footwork" spiel given to newbies...

So I've gotten that spiel many times. I mean I constantly heard it, from everyone and everywhere.

Then I took a break from outdoor climbing and did a couple of months of gym climbing. The next time I climbed outdoors, people were all like, "Wow, your footwork has really improved!" and "I've noticed you use your feet a lot better now."

So what changed? Did I go the gym and purposefully work on my footwork? Fuck no. I went to the gym and massively increased my hand/finger strength.

And guess what? It's a shit ton easier to "work on your footwork" when you're not so worried about losing your grip.

In other words, because I can grip holds more easily and for longer periods of time (and in some cases, grip things I couldn't before), I am actually comfortable enough to take a few moments to concentrate on my feet, maybe even experiment around with their placement.

So there it is, straight from the hip, newb to newb. Yes climbing does require high amounts of contact/finger/hand strength.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Acne Meds

I had really bad cystic acne once and got prescribed Accutane. That shit works. It works amazingly well. Not only does it get rid of acne, but it makes your skin really nice (gets rid of wrinkles and blemishes). It's more or less a miracle drug, imo.

Though I still have acne, it's not bad enough warrant the use of Accutane. I was skeptical of other treatments until Adam gave me a 3 month supply of BenzaClin. In two weeks time, I had beautiful skin! Amazing! And the nice thing about BenzaClin is that docs are much more likely to prescribe it to you than Accutane for normal acne vulgaris.

The downside to BenzaClin is that it bleaches everything it touches. Really badly. You can look in my closet and see all the shirts that it ruined or see all the discolored towels in my linen closet. See BenzaClin consists of two medications: benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin (an antibiotic). The former is what causes the bleaching.

So I finally make it to a dermatologist and tell him that I like BenzaClin, but hate the bleaching. No problem he says! He can prescribe the two active ingredients of BenzaClin as separate treatments: the benzoyl peroxide (the bleaching agent) as a shower wash, and clindamycin as a topical cream. So all I have to do is be sure to rinse off all the benzoyl peroxide before getting out of the shower and I'm golden!

He actually wrote me two prescriptions: benzoyl peroxide shower wash and something called Ziana. Ziana has the clindamycin, but also has tretinoin (aka Retin-A, another acne treatment). So in essence, my current acne treatment is just like using BenzaClin, but with added Retin-A.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Diet of the Month

I don't like the way I've been looking lately. I've been eating out and drinking a lot and getting noticeably softer. It's been getting darker earlier, so climbing after work won't be a viable activity anymore. Perfect opportunity to refocus on my fitness goals (i.e. spending more time in the kitchen).

I'm going to do my usual low calorie, high protein diet. It seems to be higher in fat than carbs, but that's not to say it's a low carb diet. My first two meals of the day are pretty carby.

It works out to be around 2100 calories a day. I have a theory that people just don't understand or want to accept how few calories they actually need. I always hear stuff like, "I can't workout while eating so few calories!" Shrug... I workout everyday (sometimes twice a day), climb 4 times a week or more (and not wimpy 1 hour sessions, but like 3+ hour sessions), plus I have a (relatively) large amount of muscle mass... and guess what... I can get by on less than 2000 calories a day.

Ok, I'll get off my high horse... here's the diet...

Muscle Milk and Oats

I've just recently discovered this. It's just a pre-measured cup of oats mixed with some Muscle Milk. Just dump in hot water and you've got a nifty little 300 calorie meal with 30 g of protein and 30 g of carbs. I buy it from Body Building dot com. It's like $2 per little container, which is a complete rip, but hey it's convenient. Buy here.

Cowboy Soup

This has become a staple of my diet. Basically it's just a shit load of vegetables and some steak. It doesn't seem like it from reading the ingredients list, but it smells and tastes fantastic. It's not bland at all. I top mine off with a dollop of Fage Greek yogurt and some Chalula hot sauce. This rings in at about 350 calories per pound (seriously, it's mostly vegetables). Snag this gem of a recipe from here.

Muscle Milk

Mix with water for an easy 300 calories and 32 g of protein. Vanilla is still mind blowingly good.

Grilled Chicken Salad

5 oz of grilled chicken on top of salad greens with half an avocado, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, garnished with 1 oz of feta cheese. I make my own dressing: balsamic vinegar infused with pomegranate, lemon, garlic, olive oil, Splenda. Surprisingly caloric at 400 calories.

Baked or Grilled Salmon

I just get the bag of individually wrapped and frozen salmon filets from Costco. Thaw and cover the filet with House of Tsang Szechuan Spicy Stir Fry Sauce, the pop in the toaster oven for 12 minutes. 400 calories including a lot of protein and good fats.

Muscle Milk Shake

I swear this could pass as a milkshake. Just take a serving of Muscle Milk and blend it with water, ice and half a frozen banana. We'll round this up to 350 calories.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Scared of Cedar

(this is a different climb from the topic of this post)

Damn, it's been a while since I've been that scared. It was "only" a 5.10d and was supposed to be our warmup. The short of it is that it just mentally fucked me. Twice I lost control.

Neither one of use had climbed it before, but deemed it easily doable considering some of the other stuff we've climbed. Tyler went up first. A few parts looked pretty hard and after trying a few times to gain the 4th bolt, he came down to rest and let me have a go at it.

That didn't bode well since Tyler is a much better climber than me. So already, I wasn't in the right place mentally. Oh well, I'll give it ago.

I struggled to even get to the part Tyler stopped at, but I finally made it. I noticed right off it was pretty exposed and I had cleaned all the draws on the way up, meaning there was only once piece of protection between me and death.

That's when I lost it. I started visualizing the carabiner bending and breaking. I started visualizing the narrow nylon weave tearing and ripping. Then I started imagining what it would be like if I fell from that high up, brains splattering on the rock far below.

"Dude, give a quick belay!"

"What's wrong?"

"I'm freaking out, I don't like being in just a single draw."

"I'll lower you to another bolt and you can just clip into that so you'll be in two."

Why didn't I think of that? Oh yeah, cuz I was freaking the fuck out.

Ok, clipped the previous bolt. Phew... that feels better. Always nice knowing there is backup. Time to press on.

So I get to the part Tyler was at. I look and feel around. I see the move and kind of try it out. Feels pretty good, I'm definitely strong enough to pull it. So umm, why am I not doing it? Dang, the exposure is getting to me.

Lately, when I get in situations like this where I'm not making the move out of fear rather than lack of ability, I think of a certain person. Then I imagine that person being disappointed with me. I know that's terrible motivation, but it works.

So I pull the move and climb up to the last bolt... and hate the clipping position. My feet are good, but a bit balancy. My right hand is pretty shitty and my left hand has nothing, but it doesn't matter since it will be doing the clipping. I'm super tense and tight and I'm trying not to move at all because of the balancy feet.

"Just relax, man. Remember to breath."

So I start taking deep, slow breaths. Wait... why are my breaths getting shallower and faster? The exposure is getting to me. I think I'm taking too long, I think I'm getting a pump in my right arm. My legs start shaking.

"Heh... uhh... I'm going to fall."

"Don't worry, I gotcha."

I haven't fallen in a long time. I've kind of forgotten what it's like. As I fall, I hold my breath. My body completely tenses up in a panic and I swear my heart skipped a beat.

It was a perfect fall. I fell into nothing but air and Tyler gave me a very gentle catch (i.e. a dynamic belay). I'm really grateful to have him as a climbing partner.

I collect myself and try again. I get to the same spot. It's still scary for me, but I manage to get a draw in the bolt. I start pulling the rope to clip it.

"Dude, don't give me any slack!"

"Alright, man I won't."

Ok, for those of you don't understand what just happened there, let me explain. I was fucking scared and was being completely nonsensical. You cannot clip without getting slack and I was trying to clip and telling him not to give me any slack. Of course, he understood what was going on. He told me what I wanted to hear, but also did what needed to be done (fed me slack).

I could not for the life of me clip the God damn rope into the draw. I fiddled for 15 seconds or so and just dropped the rope. I can feel the panic coming, I need to calm myself before the shaking comes. I take a few deep breaths and try again.

For fuck sakes, I still can't get the damn rope in there. Ok, now after two failed attempts, the fear overtakes me. I'm shaking and feel a fall coming.

"Fuck man, I'm going to cheat."

I grabbed the biner with my left hand and clipped it with my right... shitty. :(

I finish the climb and come down. My arms are uncontrollably shaking and there is a throbbing pain in my right elbow.

After the adrenaline wore off a little, I couldn't help but to smile... I felt so damn alive. I'm not talking about the sense of satisfaction from finishing the climb (it was a pretty shitty climb that I'm not proud of anyway), it was being up there doing something I haven't done before. It was new and different and unknown.

The climb will never be the same again. I've climbed it now (albeit poorly). The next time I try it, I'll know what to do, where to go, how to do it. The fear of the unknown won't be there. The internal dialog of "Can I do this?" will be replaced with "Meh, I've done this."

Tyler climbed it really quickly on top rope.

It's strange... the climb is well protected and not even that hard really. ...but still, it got in both of our heads.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Me, as a rope gun.

I went on a "climbing trip" this weekend. It was to Reimers Ranch Sat/Sun with camping at Pace Bend on Sat night.

I had been reading a lot about training for climbing (particularly mental training), so I definitely had an agenda for the weekend. I didn't want to top rope anything and on-sight as much as possible.

The Hit List

Not counting my warmups (which were some 5.9 on-sight attempts), here is my hit list (ratings from the Austin Rock guidebook)...

  • Dead Cats Don't Meow - 5.10c - on-sight attempt
  • Hello Kitty - 5.10a - on-sight attempt
  • Riemerama - 5.10a - on-sight attempt
  • T-Roofic - 5.10d - redpoint attempt
  • Hairlipped Dog - 5.10b - redpoint attempt
  • Water Ballet - 5.10c - on-sight attempt
  • Prototype - 5.10c - redpoint attempt
  • Wife in the Fast Lane - 5.10d - lead attempt

Though I botched every on-sight and redpoint attempt, I never failed any climb and I can honestly say, I did the best climbing of my life.

On Motivation and Pride

The book I'm reading (I'll refer to the author as my mentor) about mental training for climbing really has you examine your motivation and challenges you to define your self-image and self-worth outside the social norm of performance or comparative based achievement.

I'm not going to lie, I was bursting with pride that I was putting up the routes for my group... that the people following couldn't finish the route or needed the beta that I discovered while attempting to on-sight.

It's a good feeling for sure, but my mentor would say using that for motivation is drawing from a shallow well. If you base your self-image or self-worth (they are two different things, read the book) on performance or comparison based achievements, then you're just setting yourself up for a crash which will result in a destructive downward spiral.

So I found myself asking what drives me. Is it that my friends rely on me to put the route up? Praise me for putting up the route? Expect me to put the route up? That is the reason I'm most afraid of. I don't believe anyone should ever be motivated by other people's expectations.

I really am an introvert thus why I'm fascinated with this book which really is about self-discovery and introspection to unlock your potential.


Wow. Just like lead climbing is on a whole other level from top roping, on-sighting is again on a whole other level. On-sighting is lead climbing a route that you have never seen before, nor have any beta about. Oh and you can't rest on protection or fall.

I don't really know how to describe it other than climbing into the unknown. You have no idea where, when or if rest spots are coming up. Sometimes you see a hold a couple of moves away, but have no idea if it's good or not. Sometimes you simply climb yourself into a dead end. Instead of being told where to go and what to do, you have to make the decisions on your own. Sometimes these decisions can put you in a precarious position which might lead to a fall. Still, you have to make these decisions... and quickly or you risk pumping out.

Often times, I found myself eyeing a hold 2 moves away, but not having the nerve to go for it. I was afraid that the two moves would tire me out, then I wouldn't have enough energy to hold on to it if it turned out to be bad. I would do one move, then chicken out. Then go up again and look around for a bigger more obvious hold, not find one then come down. By this time, I'd be pumped out and have to rest on my protection... and that's how I'd blow all my on-sight attempts.

My Project

I have attempted on Wife on the Fast Lane (5.10d) 3 times before on top rope and failed every single time. I decided to attempt to lead it as my last climb of the weekend.

This climb is at the limit of my ability. It took everything in me (mentally and physically) to finish it.

One huge mental block I had to get through was expectation of failure based on my previous unsuccessful top rope attempts. If I couldn't finish it on top rope, how the hell could I finish it on lead??

The next mental block was fear. I had a very hard time controlling my fear while clipping the anchors. I knew it was a hard climb for me so my brain kept telling me that I was too tired or not strong enough to hold with one hand while clipping the protection. Also, I was scared to climb above my protection. With the expectation of failure, I didn't want it to happen while I was above my protection.

I fought through it though and finished. Partially because I didn't want to leave booty on the wall, partial because I asked a cute girl to come check on me and finish the route if I couldn't (then decided that I didn't want her to see me fail). Now I'm back to questioning my motivation.

Rope Gun

The guy or gal that leads all the routes, setting up the top rope for the other climbers.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Current Diet

I typically go on "food kicks" where I really get into a certain type of food, then get bored with it in a month or so. What that translate to is that my diet changes about once a month. Soooo... here's what I'm on this month.

Breakfast - 900 AM

If I plan on being performant (i.e. going for a tough climb), I'll eat cream of wheat with peanut butter and brown sugar. Otherwise, I'll have a serving of Muscle Milk blended with half a frozen banana or half a frozen peach.

Lunch - 1200 PM

A chicken wrap made with baked chicken breast, whole wheat tortilla, avocado, tomato, red onion, Fage Greek yogurt and Chalula hot sauce.

Post Workout - 300 PM

One serving of Muscle Milk. Sometimes I'll complement that with some almonds or a slice of turkey with a slice of swiss cheese.

Dinner 1 - 600 PM

Cowboy Soup is a staple of my diet. It's mostly vegetables, beans and steak. It tastes super good though and I don't seem to get tired of it.

Dinner 2 - 900 PM

Baked salmon marinated in some Asian sauce. I alternate that with pan fried lemon/garlic pepper encrusted tilapia with avocado on the side.

Bedtime - 1130 PM

One serving of Muscle Milk blended with half a frozen banana or half a frozen peach.

I'm not giving exact measurements in this post because everyone's daily requirements are different. I'm pretty small and workout everyday as well as rock climb 3-5 times a week. My portions are such that I eat about 2200-2500 calories a day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My current cardio routine

A couple of weeks ago I posted my resistance training routine, so now it's time for the cardio routine. I've always hated cardio and consider myself a cardiovascular wimp. I never thought I'd ever be doing this much cardio...

Every weekday (Monday - Friday) I run 4 miles when it gets dark (around 8:45 PM these days). I'd estimate my pace to be around a 9:30 mile. I pretty much just jog, but sometimes I run.

On Tuesdays I do Mike's spin class and Thursdays I do Ryon's. Both are at noon for 45 mins at Pure Austin.

On the weekends I swim a mile. It's always in a lake, not a pool, and I usually breast stroke half the way.

Of course, I'm out climbing about 16 hours per week, usually spread across the weekend and one weekday. Climbing is an interesting sport though. When I say I'm out climbing for 16 hours, the vast majority of that time is not actually spent climbing. Most of it is spent hiking, talking, tying knots, belaying, trying to stay hydrated and out of the sun, etc.

So to recap...

  • M-F - 4 mile run
  • TTh - spin class
  • SSu - 1 mile swim
  • 2-3 days per week - rock climbing

It sounds like a lot, but it's really not. Most of my nights are spent bored, reading on the interwebtubes. We should hang out... post a comment!