Round 78

Q: Hey, so I’ve gotten to a pretty satisfying point in my climbing ability, and obviously I will continuously get better, but I noticed the other day that my eating habits are less than optimal. I’ve seen those “extra-endurance” powders that you can add to drinks, do those help at all? Any advice on nutrition in general? –Clayton (Utah)

A: Hi Clayton, Diet/nutrition does play a secondary role in performance (and recovery), but climbing technique, mental skills, and fitness are WAY more important. But you may be able to gain a few percent more in performance (and even more in recovery) by leveraging nutrition. I’ve written 2 chapters on these subjects in my book, Training for Climbing–you will learn all the key strategies in these chapters. It’s impossible to distill this complex subject in a short email; but a good place to start making a nutritional change is by taking a daily multivitamin, drinking a good sports drink during climbing and immediately after training (Accelerade is an excellent drink mix for climbers; Google it), and drinking a whey protein shake first thing in the morning and before bedtime (to provide high quality protein). Of course there are hundreds of other “sports supplements” on the market, but most don’t live up to the claims.

Q: I am building a HIT strip wall in my garage and I am trying to figure out the angle. I am using the instructions from your book How to Climb 5.12, and it says a 50 degree past vertical wall will be a good angle. I got an angle finder and found 50 degrees, but I am confused because you say that 55 degrees is significantly harder. On the angle finder 55 degrees seems more vertical…can you help me out here? ). –Brett (Oklahoma)

A: Hi Brett, 50 degrees past vertical is ideal for the HIT strips. By “55 degrees” I mean 55 past vertical, so that’s 5 degrees steeper than 50 degree wall (thus harder. Go with 50 past vert (5 degrees steeper than 45 degrees). Put on some good footholds, such that it’s NOT technical to climb up and down the strips. Also, the HIT strips have a lot of texture (ideal for commercial gyms), but it’s too much for a low traffic home wall. Therefore, I suggest you sand down SLIGHTLY the texture where your fingers wrap over the pocket holds. Do not remove any texture where your finger tips contact the strips. Also, I like to tape my middle fingers (x method) when training HIT with added weight. I suggest you just do body weight for the first few months…and please go easy on your first few workouts. As a climber of one year you can really get strong fast–you can also get injured fast. Add in training days on top of climbing, and injury becomes an even higher threat. So be cautious, warm-up well, and avoid climbing to complete failure (when many injuries occur). Rest more than you feel you need to. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Q: I have never climbed but want to begin. Since I have weak fingers, I have bought a fingerboard to train on. Right now, I can only hold my weight for 1 second (on the 3-finger grip); I can do pull-ups on jug holds, but finger strength is very weak. My question is how can I improve my finger? –Steve (England)

A: Hi Steve, Do you have an indoor climbing wall in your town nearby? If so, begin climbing there 1 to 3 days per week. The fingerboard is a great tool, but it’s not really appropriate for extensive training for a true beginner–you could easily injury a finger tendon using the smaller holds or pockets. So, for now, only do pull-ups and hangs on the larger holds, but take a pass on any other training on the small finger holds. Instead, go to the climbing gym and learn to move over the rock with your hands and feet–this will help you develop climbing technique AND finger strength in a safer and more fun way!

Q: Hello Eric, I was interested in your thoughts regarding optimum weight for a climber. As I am sure you know very thin climbers tend to have strong fingers and tendon strength but often lack the power to do very physical moves so they get by using momentum, flexibility and always finding a foot. My body weight has changed many times which effects my climbing style. I am 6’2″ 192 currently. In the past I have trained and dieted to reach 170. I climbed the same grade at both weights but I actually prefer being light simply because I enjoyed looking for feet and using my core strength to be more precise. I also seemed to have more goes in me when I was light. Downside is overall your whole system feels weaker and you only feel like you can hang on holds not pull. Being Heavy I have more lock off power, can throw further and can do a pull-up on just about anything I can hang on. But I don’t seem to have endurance on my side or the feeling of being light as a feather not to mention my tendons don’t like the extra weight. My question to you is have you personally tried dropping weight in the last month of your training cycle/peaking to gain a little more edge. I have found very little in this subject. I am curious if I lose 15 lbs for only the last month or 2 of my season will jump a grade or possibly get weaker due to the weight loss and my body adjusting to weight. Note that the weight loss will have to be all muscle as I have really no fat at either weight. Anyways, Great job with the website and take care. –John (California)

A: Hey John, Great email and great understanding of things. As you’ve found out, weight is a tricky subject. Personally, my weight varies between 168 and 160, so my swings are not as great as yours. Still, I notice the same effect as you. I just can’t stay at 160 very long without losing power and eventually feeling weak. So I like to train and climb most of the year around 164, then increase running to lighten up for a period of a few weeks…trying to peak for a specific route. So my advice is to intuit what’s best for you…perhaps only dropping weight if you need to for a specific route. Ultimately each climber must find what works best for them–there is no “perfect” weight nor build to be a hard climber. In your case, my guess is that being around 175 or 180 might be a good place for you settle in. Not sure if any of this helps! But I wish you good luck and great sends!

Q: Eric, Your past advice has been very helpful and I am looking forward to reading your new book. I do have yet another question: I am training for a huge climb in the bugaboos this summer (All Along The Watchtower on North Howser). It’s very long and hard (20+ pitches, 5.12-). In the past I would simply train for a route like this by trad climbing as much as possible and nothing else. Do you have any other suggestions for me to get ready? – Mark (Colorado)

A: Mark, Wow, I’d love to do that route with you! The Bugs has been on my to-do list for a long time. Anyway, you are right about climbing for volume to train for such a route. Also, working with your partner on speeding up belay transitions and all-around efficiency is very important (to save a lot of time). As for other conditioning, I feel that doing some running for a few months before such a trip is a big help for building stamina and helping you perform at elevation. So maybe consider building up to doing 3 or 4 long runs per week. Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip, and let me know how that route is!