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All posts by Mark Anderson

Three Reasons to Train for Climbing

Many people are stoked to go to the crag week in, week out, and climb the same routes year after year.  For some folks climbing is just recreation, not sport.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I don’t consider watching TV a sport.  I don’t seek methods for improving my TV watching (although I did get a Tivo a few years back, and that pretty much revolutionized my TV watching career), I watch TV for the pure fun of it.  I’m happy for those who approach climbing with that attitude, I wish them all the best, and thank them for leaving the hard routes that much less crowded.  Other people would prefer to see some form of steady improvement over the years (and perhaps a large percentage of the first group are truly part of the second, but they’ve become frustrated after spending years stuck at a plateau, and simply accepted that its not their destiny to climb beyond the level they’re currently at).  If you’re like me, and you want to improve, its just a matter of deciding how to go about doing it and following through with conviction.

Take it from someone who spent a long time climbing

5.10, routes just get better as they get harder

Now, there are many paths to climbing improvement, and they are not all the same.  If you’re a hard worker and you have your head on straight, I think its quite possible to experience slow and steady improvement by simply going to the gym or crag on a regular basis.  If you’re willing to put the time in, its probably not necessary to follow a structured training regimen.  On the other hand, I believe there are some significant advantages to following a designed program.

In my experience, there are basically three primary reasons to “train” for climbing.  First and foremost, because it works, in the sense that most of the time, if done properly, it produces steady improvement over time, which is pretty sweet.  In some cases, it will produce radical improvement in a pretty short period of time.  Check out What I Know About Training for some evidence to back up that claim.

Second, it reduces the risk of injury.  Training prepares your muscles and connective tissue for the stress they will be exposed to once you get out on the rock.  If done wisely, this preparation is controlled and quantified to maximize that amount of stress your body can withstand without doing harm.  In the process, training teaches you to get a feel for exactly how much stress those structures can handle before you need to back off.   Not only does training reduce the risk of injury, but it provides a framework and methodology for recovering from existing injuries.  Once you convert to the mindset of an athlete in training, although you’re still likely to suffer injuries from time to time, they will rarely hold you back for long, because you will become an expert in listening to your body, identifying weakness, stressing weak tissue to stimulate growth, and managing rest periods to maximize recovery.  “Training” and “Rehabilitation” are really just different words for the same thing, and you will become an expert in both.

Third, training saves time.  In fact it saves lots of time.  Nothing is more inefficient, in terms of time, then going to the crag and climbing random routes in an effort to stimulate tissue growth.  With a good training regimen, you can identify exactly the areas you want to stimulate, and apply stress exactly where you want with no wasted effort.  With the proper equipment and a well-conceived program you can work every grip position to failure in less than 90 minutes. Good luck doing that at the crag!  Plus it can be done without a partner, at the gym or in your basement, any time of the day, any day of the year, regardless of weather, work schedules, etc.

What I Know About Training

When I started climbing, I was pretty much a regular bumbly.  I went through season after season of little to no improvement, without really understanding why.  Every time I flirted with a breakthrough I wound up injured and right back where I started.  I assumed that all those people climbing 5.12 or harder were simply genetically gifted, born with elite finger strength.  I was a pretty decent athlete.  I wrestled in high school, and made it to the Quarterfinals of the State Tournament my senior year, so I had a decent amount of upper body strength, good body control and balance.  I ran cross country in track and college.  I knew how to work hard, and how to follow a training program.  Yet when it came to climbing my ceiling appeared to be mid-5.11.

Me as a bumbly, c. 1996

When I graduated from college I moved to Albuquerque, NM, and finally got my first climbing gym membership.  When I first entered the gym I struggled to climb V1 boulder problems, but after a few weeks I was shooting up the grade scale.  I remember how proud I was to climb my first V4, then a V6, then POP!  There went the A2 Pulley in my left ring finger.  Hmm, a minor setback, but I was young and my body healed quickly.  Three months later I was back at it, another V6 in the bag.  One day I went to repeat the problem just for fun.  POP!  There went the A2 Pulley in my right ring finger.  Bummer.  That summer, the same story again.  I worked my butt off to get back to where I was, and then seemingly without warning I re-injured my left ring finger. 

Finger strength is less of an issue now:

Enough was enough.  I had never been so frustrated.  Three consecutive seasons ending in serious injury.  On the advice of my brother Mike, I picked up a copy of Dale Goddard & Udo Neumann’s “Performance Rock Climbing”.  I read it cover to cover in no time flat.  The metaphors in the book spoke perfectly to me.  This is what I was searching for.  Long story short, in the ten years since I first began following the concepts in that book I’ve gone from a limit of 5.12a to 5.14c.  From three pulley tears in a little over one year to zero in over ten years of doing moves much harder than those that initially resulted in injury.

That’s not to say I haven’t had setbacks; I’ve had plenty, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount in the process.  But the point is, I’m not a genetic freak.  I didn’t climb 5.13 when I was nine years old or go from zero to 5.14 in less than a year.  I have a good work ethic, but basically I was a pretty average climber for a long time.  Then I started training.  I didn’t become an expert overnight, but with a lot of trial and error, a lot of research and networking, I’ve learned a tremendous amount, and the results of these efforts have far exceeded my wildest expectations.  Many others have had similar results.  I personally know three other climbers that have elevated their game from Gumby-hood to 5.14 following the same basic program that I follow, and many, many others that have made it to 5.13.  It takes some time, some hard work, and perhaps some sacrifice, but I believe firmly that any climber willing to put forth the effort can see huge improvements with the proper guidance.  I hope to share some of that insight here, and if you’re willing to give it a shot, I think you will be happy with the results.

Welcome to my Blog!

I avoided the siren’s call to create a blog for many years, but now that blogging is passe, it seems like the appropriate moment for me to jump on the bandwagon.  Hopefully the climbing community will find this page useful. 

About My Blog

My intention is to cover three main topics: 1) Strategies and methods for training to maximize climbing performance, 2) My random thoughts about any and all things climbing related, be it “style”, “ethics”, what’s hot, what’s not, cool new crags, products etc., and 3) Obligatory spray (bragging about my personal climbing accomplishments).  If I’m lucky, I will accomplish these three goals and provide the reader with the occasional laugh at the same time. 

Why “Lazy H Climbing Club”? I’m fortunate to live in an amazing little spot in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just west of Denver, Colorado.  We have a 2.5 acre lot that came with a small, delapidated barn.  The barn had the name “Lazy H” scrawled across the top in wooden cut-out letters.  My first order of business when we moved in was to convert the Lazy H into a miniature climbing gym. Hence the name.

About  Me

For those that don’t know me, I’ve been a climber for about 20 years or so.  I enjoy all forms of climbing, and I’ve been pretty successful at every type of climbing I’ve pursued.  As an alpinist I’ve climbed Denali’s Cassin Ridge, Devil’s Thumb, and the Greenwood-Locke on Mt. Temple’s North Face.  In the realm of Trad climbing I’ve freed Yosemite’s El Capitan, and climbed numerous 5.13s.  As a sport climber I’ve redpointed 5.14c and on-sighted 5.13b. 

 

Despite these statistics, I’m pretty much a “regular Joe”.  I have a beautiful wife (Kate), a 14-month-old son (Logan), a mortgage and a 40-hour-a-week desk job.  I love climbing, but I also love having the things that most “normal” folks enjoy.  I love the NFL (Go Bears!), I watch network sitcoms, and I destroyed the competition in the College Football pick ‘em contest at work (witch included plenty of fat mid-westerners, with nothing better to do than become College Football experts).  I’m an avid cyclist, having ridden the entire Oregon Coast and, my proudest cycling feat, pedaled from my house to the summit of Mt Evans (14K+’ of climbing, 90 miles, round trip).  How have I managed to balance my personal life with my climbing career?  Hopefully this blog will help shed some light on that subject.  If you have any specific questions regarding training or tactics, please don’t hesitate to ask.  It always helps to get some feedback on what your audience is looking for.

Happy reading!

Mark Anderson

Alias

Mark Anderson

Hometown

Evergreen, CO

Motivation to Climb

Stunning rock features and beautiful lines of impeccable stone draw my attention and captivate me. In my experience, the most beautiful lines at any crag are usually among the most difficult. Such formations inspire me to become the best climber I can be, so that I can experience the best routes around the world, and walk in the footsteps of the legendary protagonists of our sport.

Most Memorable Climb

In 2004 I made the first onsight ascent of The Free Route on the Totem Pole in Tasmania. The climb is located quite literally at the edge of the world, ascending the most dramatic free-standing tower you could imagine, shooting up over 200 feet out of the heaving Tasman Sea. It was just me and my wife, alone in the middle of nowhere. I can still taste the sea spray and vividly recall the sense of joy at pulling onto the summit block.

Favorite Climbing Spot

Variety is the spice of life, and so I like to climb on all types of rock. My favorite place to climb is the new crag I haven’t been to yet. I love to travel, and climbing has taken me to countless amazing places around the globe. Despite my wanderlust, I still think Smith Rock, Oregon is the single best crag I’ve ever laid mitts on. It has some of the most dramatic landscape on the planet, and world class sport and trad climbs at every grade from 5.6 to 5.14.

Bio

I’m an “all-around” climber, having climbed on four continents, established numerous first ascents, freed El Cap, summited Denali, red-pointed 5.14c and on-sighted 5.13b. I enjoy unlocking new ways to overcome the physical and technical challenges that climbing presents. I love contemplating, developing & testing new methods of training, and I recently co-authored The Rock Climber’s Training Manual for Fixed Pin Publishing. I enjoy helping other climbers unlock their physical potential by providing training guidance and coaching. My wife Kate and I have two children, Logan, who turned three years old in January 2014, and Amelie, born in the summer of 2013. As a “weekend warrior” I face many of the same obstacles as most regular Joes, and I hope that my success can help fellow climbers aspire to new heights. My family and I live in the beautiful mountain town of Evergreen, CO, and I frequent many of the Colorado Front Range crags. I enjoy establishing new routes of all styles, and in the last few years I’ve put a lot of my energy into developing cutting edge sport routes at some of my favorite crags.

[full bio]

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