Back in the days when I was a teenager (before I had status and before I had a pager), there was an entirely different approach to my climbing. As is common with the youthful sect, patience, planning, and strategy were not arrows in my quiver. I wanted to be on top of the boulder and I did not give a hoot in hell about conserving energy, utilizing prime conditions, or injury prevention; I just went for it.
That was a long time ago. Dre put it best when he said “things just ain’t the same for gangstas, times is changin’, young (gentlemen) is aging, becoming old G’s in the game and changin’ to make way for these new names and faces…” Not sure if the Doctor was referring to climbing, but it’s all the same to me. My body is older and slower to recover. Climbing hurts more than it used to. Working has taken over a larger portion of my time and rising gas prices coupled with a growing sense of financial responsibility have made tri-weekly trips to Chaos Canyon and beyond things of the past. So it goes.
I strive to maintain a high standard in my climbing, and I understand that to remain at the level I am accustomed to adjustments to my training routines, climbing schedule, and overall strategy need to be made.
Problem: When I climb too much my elbows, fingers, and skin hurt, among other body parts.
Solution: I climb less now than at any point in my career. However, when I do climb it is focused on specific goals. By decreasing the volume of climbing while increasing the intensity I am able to get stronger while limiting exposure to overuse injuries. Five hour gym sessions are no more, in their place are two hour training blocks that work a particular facet of climbing, be it power, core strength, finger strength, endurance, technique, or general fitness.
Problem: I can’t spare the time to climb outside as much as I used to.
Solution: Make it count! I used to go to my project whenever I could, regardless of conditions or freshness. Now I am more selective, only attempting projects on days when the weather will cooperate and I feel well rested. You have to give yourself the highest probability of success that you can; good temps and fresh muscles help a good deal in that area.
Problem: It takes my body longer to repair itself after a rough day of climbing than it used to.
Solution: Again, make it count! Proper stretching, a protein drink and decent meal after climbing go a long way towards not feeling like death the next morning. More importantly, and this is especially hard for me, make fewer attempts on the project and rest longer in between burns. Once you have dialed in the movement, there is no reason to try a climb if you do not feel with a high degree of certainty that you can send. If I still feel a little pumped or my skin still stings a bit, I sit back down and wait until I feel completely ready. Take the time to clean any part of your shoe that will touch stone. Is there a tick mark on the hidden topout jug? Better take a minute and put one on there. While there is something to be said about the power of sheer will and determination, in my experience this has gotten me up a boulder far less often than proper rest and preparation. Leave nothing to chance…
None of this is to say I am old or anything. Far from it. However, with every passing year I am more aware of the aging process and how it effects physical performance, and with that awareness comes an ability to adapt and progress. I eagerly anticipate the next ten years of climbing to be better than the first.