Round 61

Q: Hey Eric, I have a quick question regarding medial epicondylitis. Well first off, I am taking a month off to try to heal up my tendonitis, but I’m wondering if there any exercises that you would recommend to keep myself in shape that would not affect my elbow. It seems even when I do push ups or even shoulder presses I have slight discomfort. Thanks for any help you can give me. –Kyle (New York)

A: Hi Kyle, For medial elbow pain you don’t want to do any pull-ups or other arm exercises that cause pain. You might focus on running a few days per week, abs, and other general conditioning exercises. Most important, however, you do want to do twice daily stretching and cross-fiber friction massage (both muscle and tendon) on both sides of your forearm–this helps align scar tissue during healing. But I’ll tell you, medial is a tough injury to overcome, so break from climbing longer than you think you need to and start back very gradually. I’d take a full month or two to ramp back up to your top level of climbing. Initially, focus on roped climbing on medium and large holds, only progressing to steeper smaller stuff when you are sure you are pain free. For some climbers medial takes many months to resolve. So be careful and hopefully you can get through this in short order. Finally, you can start doing rehab exercises for the forearm–pronators and reverse wrist curls–as illustrated in my books. But most important is the twice daily stretching and massage.

Q: Thanks for your help in the past. I believe I have bought and read all of your books. You have helped me go from 5.11 to even a couple of 13a redpoints. I just acquired a Treadwall, and I now hope to train every other day. I am soon to be 45 and need at least 48 hours to recover, so I’m wondering how to best incorporate the Treadwall into this training/performance scenario? My weaknesses are onsight climbing and power–I haven’t bouldered to speak of outside but I am pretty weak bouldering in the gym (V4 to soft V5). –Jerry (Ohio)

A: Hi Jerry, Thanks for the kind words…I’m happy to hear about your improvement. I turn 45 next month, so I know where you are at recovery wise! If your main physical weakness is power, then I’m not sure that a Treadwall is the answer. Bouldering and perhaps some hypergravity/campus training (careful introduction) are the ideal exercises for improving this constraint. Treadwall is more of an anaerobic endurance tool, which makes it great for training for those long pumping routes at the Red. But if one-move max ability is holding you back, then bouldering and power training is the best way to address this. Anyway, you might consider cycling two weeks strength/power and two weeks anaerobic endurance. Or you could alternate the focus every workout (although I think that’s slightly less effective). I probably didn’t answer your question exactly as you desired…but I hope you find some value in the above!

Q: Hi, my name is Mike, I’m 20 years old, 6’2″, and 160 lbs. I just heard about a rock climbing competition coming up in 6 weeks, and I would really like to try to win the intermediate division within it. I’ve been climbing a lot through college, and if I continued my current training regiment, which is light workouts at a normal gym once a week combined with climbing at the rock gym as many days as I can, I would maintain at my ability, and probably improve just because I push myself when I climb. But, I’m athletic and used to rigorous workouts, and would appreciate your advice on how to increase power and upper body strength to maximize my improvement in the 6 weeks in order to be sending super hard when it comes time to perform in the competition. –Mike (USA)

A: Hi Mike, I can appreciate your enthusiasm, but you must be careful not to overtrain. I realize that you are in great shape, but still your tendons can only take so much abuse before you develop finger, elbow, or shoulder problems. I suggest that you never climb more than 4 days per week–think quality over quantity. Similarly, maximizing your ability is always more mental than physical….really there’s no training program that will make you a lot stronger in 6 weeks. However, improving mental control can make a HUGE difference in 6 weeks. Learning to control muscular tension, anxiety, pressure; and learning to focus and climb more precisely and efficiently can make a huge difference in your apparent strength (less wasted in nervous tension, overgripping, inefficient movement, etc). I’ve just finished a full book on this subject, but it won’t be out until next winter…. Anyway, read the mental chapter in Training for Climbing for some ideas on what to work on. For example, you could benefit greatly by putting yourself through a mock competition in which you have to attempt routes via the exact same format as the real comp. Get a couple friends, and put together a mock comp setting in which you each go through the exact process of the upcoming comp. This gives you a large mental edge heading into the real comp. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Q: Eric, I am reading your book, Conditioning for Climbers, because I have a desire to become a better climber. I am just getting back into climbing after taking a ‘maternity leave’. I stopped climbing at around 7 months pregnant, and my son is now 7 weeks. I need to first loose extra weight and work on my general fitness. I am trying to determine my caloric needs for weight loss, but I’m breastfeeding so I cannot just use your formula. What is a guide for my necessary caloric intake under the circumstances? –Kate (North Carolina)

A: Hello Kate, Congrats on the birth! My wife had two babies and climbed both times to about 7 months as well. Anyway, I personally would not advise any significant “dieting” until after breastfeeding is done. I think your best approach is to work on the weight loss from the other side of the equation; that is, by ramping up physical activity as fast (and much) as you can. Obviously, a new-born places great limits on what you can do. What we did was to purchase a Stairmaster for our home, this way my wife could get on that during brief napping periods. Or, perhaps, you might be able to get a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or something similar to use at home. The goal would be to do up to four 15-minute sessions per day. Scattering these brief workouts throughout the day will really get your metabolism up. Also, basic free-weight training is great. Consider purchasing some 5, 10, or 15 lb dumbbells and do a variety of exercises 3 or 4 days per week…also doing ab exercises and pull-ups when you are able. As for diet, I’d keep eating as much as you feel you need to, but of course avoid excessive sugars and saturated fats. The bottom line, I think you need to intuit the “formula” for your calorie needs. I’m sorry if this isn’t the advice you were looking for….but I hope you can find some of the items above to be useful.

Q: I’ve been climbing 6 months and I can now toprope up to 5.11d, yet I can only boulder V0 and V1. Shouldn’t I be able to boulder at around V3? This happens at all the gyms I go to, so it’s not a misgrading thing, right? One of my partners says it’s because I’m so skinny. –Tom (Canada)

A: Hi Tom, First, for someone only climbing 0.5 year you are doing great! In climbing, skinny is usually a good thing–less weight to lift up the rock! However, they might be commenting that you need to develop a little more muscular strength; after all, bouldering does often take more muscle power to get through steep sections. Still, technique is paramount–learning to move efficiently with optional body position is key. This is largely a matter of climbing a few days per week for many years. Make improving technique your constant focus and you will continue to improve for a long time. Meanwhile, you could do some supplemental training to muscle up a bit–check out some of the articles in the Training Center….also my book Training for Climbing would be very helpful.