Unfinished Business Part 2: Insurrection – New Post on RCTM.com!

Check out my new post on “Unfinished Business Part 2: Insurrection” over at RockClimbersTrainingManual.com:

“In July 2012, Mike and his family took an extended road trip through Colorado, visiting a number of crags, included the ultra-scenic and oft overlooked Independence Pass. I spent that entire summer re-habbing an A2 Pulley Strain, so I was not climbing, but the family and I visited the Pass one weekend to hang out. Mike was working a classic 5.13+ face climb established by Tommy Caldwell called Before There Were Nine, located on the right end of the overhanging central shield of the Pass’ proudest cliff, The Lower Grotto Wall.  I wandered up to the wall, and between burns Mike and I gazed at the large swath of flawless, unclimbed granite to the left of his project, fantasizing about a potential directissima through this shear and stunning wall….”  Continue Reading

Unfinished Business Part 1 – New Post on RCTM.com!

Check out my new post on “Unfinished Business – Part 1” over at RockClimbersTrainingManual.com:

“In 2011, Denver climbing activist, king of psyche and all-around great guy Luke Childers bolted a stunning arête at The Armory, a compact crag at the top of Clear Creek Canyon.  Clear Creek is quickly becoming the epicenter of sport climbing on the Colorado Front Range, largely thanks to guys like Luke who have a knack for finding great new lines on supposedly tapped out cliffs.  After finishing off American Mustang at the end of March, I had a few more climbing days to spare before beginning my summer training cycle.  I was really psyched to check out Luke’s Armory arête, which looked to me like the best unclimbed line in Clear Creek . I was stoked when Luke generously encouraged me to have at it….”  Continue Reading

Slideshow in Golden, CO, May 14th @ 6:00pm!

I will be presenting a slide show at Bent Gate Mountaineering’s Community Night on Wednesday, May 14th.  Festivities run from 6:00-8:30pm.  Here’s a Google Map of the location.

I’ll be talking about how I evolved from a novice climber to my current level, and key ascents that inspired me to improve along the way.  In particular I’ll be talking about some of the hard milestone climbs I’ve done recently like Mission Impossible.  There will be loads of SWAG–Trango has been extremely generous and will be giving away a Rock Prodigy Training Center as well as a few rope bags and other goodies.  There might also be a very special RCTM celebrity guest (TBD).  It promises to be a good time, and I hope to see you there!

Mark_Anderson_Facebook_Poster

Announcements! – New Post on RCTM.com!

 Check out my new post on “Annoucements!”  over at RockClimbersTrainingManual.com:

“We are very pleased to announce a new feature of RCTM.com — a user forum! This will be a great tool for interacting with each other, and will hopefully facilitate the development of a vibrant international “Community of Interest” in rock climbing training. For now, the forum is hosted on Pro Boards.com, which is a great forum site with lots of functionality. We have a link to it in the menu bar at the top of the page (or you can click here)…” Continue Reading

Bonus Climbing – New Post on RCTM.com!

Check out my new post on “Bonus Climbing”  over at RockClimbersTrainingManual.com:

“…Lately it seems like my eyes are generally too big for my forearms; I’m continually selecting objectives that turn out to be harder than I expect, and take longer to send than I’d hoped. More often than not I have to extend the length of my seasons to send my projects, if I send at all. This season has been a nice exception from that trend! I was prepared to spend the entire season on Mission Impossible, but instead I sent on my third outdoor day. That left me with ample ‘fitness capital’ to expend on my endless list of potential objectives….”  Continue Reading

Mission (im)Possible! – New Post on RCTM.com!

Check out my new post on “Mission (im)Possible!”  over at RockClimbersTrainingManual.com:

“Last spring I climbed Mission Overdrive in Clear Creek Canyon, a linkup that begins up Daniel Woods’ 5.14c(/d?) test-piece Mission Impossible, and then traverses right at mid-height to catch the upper half crux of the canyon’s mega-classic 5.13d Interstellar Overdrive.  At the time I was curious to investigate the complete Mission Impossible, but the remainder of my season was already booked solid.  After returning from St. George in mid-January I decided to focus my attention on Mission Impossible…”  Continue Reading

Hangboard Resistance Data Analysis

As promised, here is some hangboard resistance data from my recently concluded Strength Phase.  This was my first full phase using the Rock Prodigy Training Center.  I thought it would take a while to get the loads dialed in correctly but I was able to get pretty close to the right resistance during the first workout.

RPTC Grip Identification

I trained the following grips, in the order listed below, performing 3 sets of reps (7 reps for the first set of each grip, then 6 reps, then 5), except where noted.

Grip Order Table

The below chart shows the resistance added to body weight during the final set of each grip (the Large VDER is omitted since this is a warmup grip and the resistance rarely changes). 

This chart shows the resistance added (to body weight) for the third set of each grip, for each workout.

This chart shows the resistance added (to body weight) for the third set of each grip, for each workout.

If I complete every rep of all 3 sets for a given grip, I add 5 lbs (to each set) during the next workout.  For example, during the first workout, MR 2-finger resistance was:

 -10 lb. for the 1st set,
    0 for the 2nd set and
+10 for the 3rd set.

During the first workout, I completed all reps of each set of that grip, so for the next workout the goal resistance was:

   -5 lb for the 1st set,
  +5 lb for the 2nd set and
+15 for the 3rd set. 

So you can infer from the above chart that if the 3rd-set-resistance increased between workouts n and n+1, then I succeeded in completing the prescribed sets (at the prescribed resistance) during workout n.  If the 3rd-set-resistance did not increase, you can infer that I failed to complete all reps during workout n.  I almost always complete the first two sets of each grip, so one can further infer that if I failed to progress, I failed on the third set.

Some interesting “conclusions” can be drawn from this data. 

  • You can see where I started to plateau, between the 6th and 7th workout.  After the 7th workout I struggled to make progress between workouts on most grips.  I’ve experimented with trying to burst through this plateau by performing more and more workouts, but it never seems to work.  Usually by the 10th workout or so I won’t see any more improvement (I’ve done as many as 12 workouts in a phase)                          
  • The earlier grips in the workout progressed much more than the later grips.  The most improvement over the course of the phase was seen in the Mono, Thin Crimp, and MR 2 Finger (the first 3 grips completed).  The least improvement was seen in the Pinch, IM 2 Finger and Small VDER (the last 3 grips).  This is typical in my experience, and this is why I suggest working the most “important” grips early in your hangboard workouts.  Here is another way to look at this phenomenon:
This chart shows the total improvement in Third-Set-Resistance over the course of my Strength Phase.  The grips are shown in the order performed.  As you can see, for the most part the grips performed early in the workout improved the most, and the grips performed at the end improved the least.

This chart shows the total improvement in Third-Set-Resistance over the course of my Strength Phase. The grips are shown in the order performed. As you can see, for the most part the grips performed early in the workout improved the most, and the grips performed at the end improved the least.

  • The Pinch grip was a disaster!  After the second workout I flatlined, then after the 6th workout I actually got worse! This is somewhat exaggerated because after the 6th workout (and several straight workouts of failing on the third set), I purposely reduced the resistance in the hopes of jump starting this grip.  That worked once (workout 7), but then I plateaued at a lower level.  Part of this is because this is the last grip of the workout.  However, you might expect that I would at least get better at managing fatigue, and thus would show some improvement.  You certainly would not expect that I would regress.  So what is going on here?  Each workout is a little bit harder (overall) than the preceding workout.  This is because initially the loads applied are conservative, so early in the Strength Phase many sets are completed with relative ease, leaving more energy for the later grips in the workout.  Later in the Phase, the loads applied are much closer to my limit, and I really have to scratch and claw to complete each set of every grip.  Thus I’m much more tired when I arrive at the last few grips of a given workout.  The amplitude of this effect increases each workout within a phase.  So while the loads applied in this example are more or less constant, the apparent difficulty of completing three sets at those loads is increasing each workout.  A question worth asking is, does training this grip improve my pinch strength, or would I be better off ending my workout after 5 grips?  I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think it does make me stronger (or at least better at managing fatigue), even though the accumulating fatigue prevents me from capturing that improvement “on paper”.

Moving on, the first chart I posted illustrates only the load applied during the third set of each grip.  There are many other ways to slice the data.  During each set, I strive to perform a certain number of 7-second dead hang repetitions (7 for the first set, 6 for the second set, 5 for the third set).  Often I reach the end of the third set, having completed each rep without failing.  In these situations I usually try to perform a 6th rep at the end of the third set (in rare instances I will add extra reps to the second set, but only if it feels really easy).  On the other hand, often I fail to complete all of the prescribed reps.  For example, I might complete the first 4 reps of the third set of a given grip, but my fingers fail 5 seconds in to the 5th rep.  Capturing these variations and plotting them provides slightly more fidelity into apparent plateaus:

This chart shows the total "Time Under Tension" (TUT) for the 2nd and 3rd sets of the Pinch grip for workouts 2-6 (I omitted the 1st set TUT because it was a constant 49 seconds for each workout).  The load applied (-5 lbs for the 2nd set, +5 lbs for the 3rd set) was constant for these five workouts.

This chart shows the total “Time Under Tension” (TUT) for the 2nd and 3rd sets of the Pinch grip for workouts 2-6 (I omitted the 1st set TUT because it was a constant 49 seconds for each workout). The load applied (-5 lbs for the 2nd set, +5 lbs for the 3rd set) was constant for these five workouts.

The TUT for each workout in the above chart “should be” 42 seconds for the 2nd set (6 reps times 7 seconds per rep) and 35 seconds for the third set.  As you can see, there was a good deal of variation between workouts despite a constant applied load.  The problem with looking at the data in this manner is that it only works when the load applied is constant.  Another option is to look at the “Volume” of a given set.  Qualitatively, Volume = Intensity x Duration.  However, coming up with a practical quantitative Volume formula can be challenging. 

The most simplistic method is to simply multiple the hang duration (TUT) for a given set by the load applied.  However, the load applied is only a fraction of the load on your fingers.  It makes sense to add body weight into the formula (so Volume = (Body Weight + Load Applied) x Duration.  The below chart shows this data for the 3rd sets of the IM 2 Finger grip.

This chart shows Volume, defined as Volume = (Body Weight + Load Applied) x Duration, for the 3rd set of the IM 2 Finger grip for the entire Strength Phase.

This chart shows Volume, defined as Volume = (Body Weight + Load Applied) x Duration, for the 3rd set of the IM 2 Finger grip for the entire Strength Phase.

The problem with the above metric is that it “values” duration much more than load.  It’s easy to achieve a high Volume figure by using lower loads and performing extra reps.  For example, during the first 5 workouts of this phase, I managed to complete all 5 reps of each 3rd set, and then at least attempted a 6th rep.  During the last five workouts I only completed the 5th rep once and never attempted a 6th rep.  As a result, the “Volume” on the left side of the chart (the first five workouts) is greater than the Volume on the right half.  This is not what we want to strive for as athletes.  We want to strive for higher loads, more so than extra reps, so it would be nice to use a Volume formula that “rewards” higher loads.  Another option is to consider the Volume of the entire grip, not just the Volume of the 3rd set.  This method gives you “credit” for the extra load used later in the phase in the first two sets of each grip.

This chart shows the sum of the Volume for each set of the IM 2 Finger grip.  The formula for this chart is Total Grip Volume = [(Body Weight + Set 1 Load Applied) x Set 1 Duration] + [(Body Weight + Set 2 Load Applied) x Set 2 Duration] + [(Body Weight + Set 2 Load Applied) x Set 2 Duration].

This chart shows the sum of the Volume for each set of the IM 2 Finger grip. The formula for this chart is Total Grip Volume = [(Body Weight + Set 1 Load Applied) x Set 1 Duration] + [(Body Weight + Set 2 Load Applied) x Set 2 Duration] + [(Body Weight + Set 2 Load Applied) x Set 2 Duration].

The Total Grip Volume method of calculation is an improvement.  The Volume for workouts 7-10 is greater than that of workouts 1-3, but it still implies that my workout 5 performance of 5 reps of 7 seconds and 1 rep of 6 seconds at +30 lbs. is “superior” to my workout 10 performance of 4 reps of 7 seconds and 1 rep of 4 seconds at +40 lbs.  Maybe it is, but I can tell you the latter seems much more difficult to do, and it would be nice if the “Volume” calculation captured that.  So there is room for an improved Volume formula.

Finally, for the “fun” of it, below is the Total Workout Volume (the sum of the above volume calculation for each grip):

This chart shows Total Workout Volume = [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip 1 + [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip 2 + ... + [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip n.

This chart shows Total Workout Volume = [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip 1 + [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip 2 + … + [((BW + S1AL) x S1D) + ((BW + S2AL) x S2D) + ((BW + S3AL) x S3D)]Grip n.

At least it seems the Volume is more or less increasing each workout, and this shows some indication of a plateau appearing around the 9th workout.

I know I’m not the only spreadsheet nerd out there, so if you have a novel way of analyzing your training data, please share in a comment below!

Shelf Anchor Replacement Wrap Up

The inaugural Shelf Road Anchor Replacement Weekend was a big hit.  We had a lot of volunteers and a lot of fun.  We replaced tons of mank hardware at The Bank and Cactus Cliff, and built a fence at the Bank Campground for the BLM. Anything we can do to maintain positive relations with landmanagers like the BLM is time well spent, but the main objective was hardware replacement. 

Much of the hardware at Shelf is getting to be 30 years old, so I think its really important that we take a pro-active approach to upgrading hardware whenever we can.  Fortunately there are guys like Bob D’Antonio and the American Safe Climbing Association working to make that happen.  In addition to Bob, Bruno Hanche and Derek Lawrence were instrumental in pulling off the event, providing hardware, and upgrading anchors.  Bruno in particular has spent several consecutive weekends at Shelf with Bob, working their way around the area, replacing hardware.

A fraction of the hardware replaced on Saturday

A fraction of the hardware replaced on Saturday

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present a slideshow on Saturday night.  “Untapped: The New Wave of Shelf Road Free Climbing” detailed my efforts over the last few years to push the upper end of difficulty at Shelf Road.  It was an interesting logistical challenge, since the show was at the Bank Campground, where there is no power and basically no facilities of any kind.  Trango lent me their projector, which I was able to run using a beefy Black and Decker 500 Watt inverter hot-wired directly to my car battery.  I built a movie screen by stapling a white bedsheet from Goodwill to a rectangle constructed from four 2×4’s.  It gets really windy at Shelf, so I was worried about the screen.  I brought a pile of rope and stakes to rig up the screen, but we found we could mount it quite nicely with a few screws to the new fence we constructed that morning 🙂

Once we got all the construction completed the show went off without a hitch. There was a great crowd, and I got a lot of good questions and compliments after.  Unfortunately I was too distracted to get any pictures of the show.  If anyone has any, please let me know!

Kate and Logan giving back at the 2150 Wall.

Kate and Logan giving back at the 2150 Wall.

The next morning the heads of state were already planning next year’s event.  I’d love to see this turn into an annual affair, and considering the massive number of routes at Shelf, it will realistically take many years to completely upgrade all the sketchy hardware.

Off To The Printer

The Rock Climber’s Training Manual has been sent to the printer!  That means as far as my contributions are concerned, the book is “done”.  According to the guys at Fixed Pin, it normally takes about 3 months from the time the book is submitted to the printer until it arrives on bookshelves. 

The cover spread.  Mike took the cover photo of me on To Bolt Or Not To Be at Smith Rock.  The back cover includes some awesome feedback from our early reviewers.

The cover spread. Mike took the cover photo of me on To Bolt Or Not To Be at Smith Rock. Click on the photo to read the awesome praise on the Back Cover from our early reviewers.

Once the printer has the electronic file, they scan all the pages to ensure everything is of sufficient resolution for printing.  Then they will select 16 “representative” pages and print these all (in color) on one giant sheet of paper, which they will air-mail to Fixed Pin.  This will give us one last chance to review the colors and make sure everything looks “right”.  If we see any problems, we highlight them and send the sheet back to the printer.  Once they get the green light, they’ll configure the press to begin printing books.  Once the presses start running, the first book off the press is over-nighted to the publisher, and we have one last chance to “stop the presses” before the full run is completed. 

Once the books are printed, they’ll air-mail a small quantity of books (which are mostly used for promotional purposes), and the rest are boxed and put on a ship.  A large portion of the “3-month” process is consumed by the cargo ship crossing the Pacific Ocean.  If we’re lucky, the books clear customs without any snags and then they will be ready for distribution.

If all goes well, hopefully we will see it in stores/online by Valentine’s Day; tell your sweetheart: nothing says I love you like a climbing training book 🙂

Where There’s A Will, There’s a Way to Weigh Less

Performance rock climbing is all about strength-to-weight ratio.  We tend to fixate on the “strength” side while ignoring the “weight”.  Perhaps because the strength side of the equation seems actionable, and the weight side is all about restraint.  The reality is that losing weight is probably the easiest thing a climber can do to improve.  Unlike strength and technique, body weight can be improved substantially in a matter of weeks.  However, many people just feel powerless to affect their body type.  There is also now a bizzare element of social pressure to discourage any form of dieting, or even any interest in healthy eating.

There’s a story circulating right now about former NFL Offensive Lineman Matt Birk.  Birk recently retired from football and sought a lifestyle change for the sake of his health.  He dropped 75 pounds over the course of eight months.  I found the before and after photos pretty inspiring; he looks like a totally different person:

Matt Birk, before and after.

Matt Birk, before and after.

I didn’t start paying attention to my weight until 2011, and that is probably the single biggest training mistake I’ve made in my career.  I would weigh myself before hangboard workouts, but that was just to better understand my training intensity for that day’s workout.  I never weighed myself during my performance phase.  And I used to eat garbage, mostly.  When I first got out of college, I would routinely consume an entire 12-pack of Dr. Pepper cans over the course of 2-day weekend trip to the Utah dessert.  My staples were pizza (usually frozen/cardboard) and spaghetti.  At the time I felt I was pretty fit and healthy (amazingly), because I excercised all the time.  While exercise certainly can help, its very easy to wipe out hours of exercise in a few minutes of over-eating.  Furthermore, often excercise increases your appetite, making dieting much more difficult (these days, when I’m trying to get lean, I limit my exercise to a few brisk walks throughout the day.  I save the intense cardio work for the months when I’m not concerned about my weight). 

This picture was taken around 1999.  I'm on the left.  Definitely not lean and mean.  When I look at pictures of myself from this period its easy to see why I was struggling to climb 5.11

This picture was taken around 1999. I’m on the left. Definitely not lean and mean. When I look at pictures of myself from this period its easy to see why I was struggling to climb 5.11

Any serious climber should have good muscle definition throughout their body.  If you don’t, you could probably stand to lose some weight, and the amount may surprise you.  For me, the difference between my mom thinking I’m skinny and actually being skinny is about 10 pounds.  Anyone with hangboard experience knows that’s a huge amount of weight to your fingers, and so, a tremendous variable in climbing performance (obviously the amount will vary from climber to climber).

If you’re already lean, you may be able to trim a significant number of pounds by shedding un-needed mass in your lower body.  If that sounds like you, see this post.

The rest of us just need to go on a diet! It’s easy to adopt a fatalistic attitude, but the fact is we have a great deal of control over our destiny.  The human body is amazingly “plastic”, meaning it can adapt and change to suit different needs.  Even for those at the advanced age of 37, like Matt Birk ;). 

There are many healthy and reliable ways to lose weight, but I think the biggest barrier facing most climbers is simply that they don’t believe its possible, or important. A lot of people think that weight loss can only be accomplished through copious amounts of suffering and self-denial, but making a few simple substitutions in your diet can go a long way. Our upcoming book has an extensive and thoroughly researched chapter on Weight Management, so I won’t go into too much detail, but here are a few quick tips:

  • Get a scale and use it daily; it can be very motivating
  • Eat lots of veggies, and most fruits are ok too
  • Protein and Fiber are your friends; eat a reasonable amount of LEAN protein each day (not a full rack of pork ribs), and eat as much fiber as you can stand
  • Avoid eating foods high in carbohydrates (basically anything that tastes good when you’re already full)
  • Don’t drink anything but water

For example, instead of whatever you normally eat for lunch, try a salad of spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and tuna, dressed in a modest amount of balsamic vinagrette.  You could eat these foods until your stomach is on the verge of exploding and still loose weight.  For dinner, eat a lean piece of grilled chicken breast or grilled fish, with sides of steamed vegetables (like brocolli or sparagus).  Skip the rice, potatoes, bread, etc.  If you crave lots of sweets like me, load up on fruits (watermelon is king, but canteloupe, grapes, apples and pears are good options too).

If you choose to go on a diet, remember there is a point of diminishing returns.  Your body needs energy to perform well, and constantly starving yourself will inhibit your performance more than an extra pound of lost weight will help. Experiment with different healthy weights until you find that “sweet spot” where you perform at your best.  For me, I’ve gotten down to 139 pounds in recent years, but I find I perform the best around 143-145 lb.  At that weight I’m more energetic, I have a better attitude, and I’m still resistant to illness and injury.

A leaner me, in 2013, age 35.

A leaner me, in 2013, age 35.

Excessive, persistent dieting can lead to injury and illness.  Most serious athletes will “cycle” their weight management on and off, as with physical training.  That’s great news for people like me who love food!  That means you can have periods of enjoying life’s many treats, and periods where you buckle down and send (that said, “yo-yo dieting” can wreak havoc on your metabolism, making weight loss extremely difficult, so keep your variations within reason). 

When I’m ARCing and hangboarding, I eat pretty much whatever I want within reason (although I have a fairly healthy diet now, even when I’m not on a diet).  I aim to stay within 10 lbs of my goal weight, but otherwise I will eat (and drink) whatever I please. During my power phase I begin adjusting my eating habits, with the goal of reaching my ideal sending weight near the end of my performance phase.

Weight is a tremendous factor in performance–as important as strength.  Fortunately its actually pretty easy to manage once you learn how.  If you have any other tips for healthy weight loss, please post them in a comment below.