Round 105

Hi Eric, I’ve really enjoyed your books over the years. Thanks much for all the info you’ve shared – very helpful and inspirational. One of my climbing goals is to sport lead into the 12s and my endurance is limiting me at this time. I’m really trying to focus on maximizing my economy of grip, movement (technique and pace) but I just get pumped stupid! Strength training has been paying dividends quickly but my anaerobic training seems to be taking much longer to show significant results. What are your thoughts on ARC training and integrating it into my strength training, campus training, bouldering and such? –David (Minneapolis, MN)

Hi David, Breaking through to the next grade requires a comprehensive effort–improving strength, endurance, technique, and the mental game. Working to improve climbing efficiency must always be paramount–climbing faster, smoother, and smarter–so that you conserve energy and make the most of your current physical capabilities. Therefore, going climbign (bouldering and on a roped) is more important than doing supplemental strength training. ARC training is an important “base” phase (to develop local aerobic adaptations) to a sound training Macrocycle, but remember that training strength and power is a whole another program (as I’ve outlined in the books). Increasing maximum strength has the bonus effect of improving your endurance! In doing strength training sessions it’s best to boulder first, then do hypergravity training (HIT system and weighted fingerboard), and conclude with just a few sets of campus laddering. Go easy on the campusing, and be sure to end these strength/power sessions before you reach complete exhaustion. Drop me a note when you send 5.12!  –Eric

I was curious though what your opinion was of how training for a half-marathon/marathon/ultra marathon impacts someone’s climbing levels. I’ve recently really started to enjoy running and I’d like to run a marathon sometime next year, but I’ve heard a lot of negative things as far as testosterone production and how catabolic long distance running is. Currently, when I don’t have a hurt pulley in my ring finger, I flash easy 12’s in the gym and have done up to 12c outside and the only reason I can climb that hard is because of How To Climb 5.12. Do you think running would be beneficial to maintaining that level of climbing? Harmful? Perhaps it’s good for route climbing, but detrimental to bouldering? –Chris (Atlanta, GA)

Hi Chris, I get this question a couple times per year. I always tell people to pursue the goals that most excite them…and if that includes long distance running, then go for it! (Even if it hurts your climbing a little.) Yes, logging massive mileage will take away from your high-end strength/power, so it will likely hurt max bouldering a bit. However, your skills will be unaffected—and your recovery ability on roped climbs (which is an aerobic function) will improve!—so I’m surely you’ll still be able to climb 5.12 roped routes throughout your marathon training. Of course, you’ll have less time to climb, given all the time you’ll be running…but you can do both. Good luck!

A question about elbow and finger pain: training intensely does make my tendons and joints feel pretty vulnerable (I’m 40 in a few months). For instance, right now I have some mild soreness in the bottom joints of my two left middle fingers. No sharp or debilitating pain that stops me from pulling hard but it’s been there for about two weeks now. Is this a mild strain….is it a mistake to train through it? And by the way, I’ve meticulously studied your books—thanks for them! –Will (New York, NY)

Hey Will, Mild pain is something you can often climb through…but it’s a fine line. You should take a week or two off if it becomes moderate or acute. Ice and Advil are fine postworkout, but avoid taking painkillers before climbing (a common mistake among climbers).  Taping the base of your fingers (2 or 3 snug turns) is a very smart thing to do—I do this before every serious bouldering or climbing session. Do a good warm-up of easy climbing, mild stretching, and some rubbing/massaging (fingers and forearms) before doing anything hard/stressful—this will help prevent injury.

Hi Eric, Thank you for making such a great resource available for people like myself who need an expert’s opinion. I have been dealing with an issue that has me quite frustrated. My forearms have a tendency to get flash pumped quite easily. To be specific, since flash pump might mean different things to different people, my forearms feel tight and do not loosen up for the duration of the climbing session – this causes me to be unable to squeeze at my maximum. I can even end up falling off my usual warm-up climbs. I have been paying very close attention, trying to identify the cause. I typically have to warm up on easy 5.10 even though my onsight grade is 12+ and redpoint is 5.13! And even then, I have some odds of my forearms ”locking up”. I basically have one good day for every two bad ones. Any experience with this issue? What’s my problem?  Thanks in advance and sorry for the long-winded question! –Sid (Wilmington, DE)

The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s biochemical–perhaps you are magnesium deficient or have low blood potassium levels. Either of these can cause muscles to “lock up” or fatigue prematurely—consider taking a magnesium malate supplement each day. Another possibility: Do you take creatine supplement? If so, this would be my first guess of the likely cause of your forearms prematurely pumping out and “locking up.” If none of the above, then you’ll just need to experiment with different warm-up processes in order to determine what protocol works best to maximize your sessions. Good luck!