Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Training for Climbing

Predictably, not much has happened over Christmas, climbing-wise. Things continue to heal, and pain is pretty much the current normal, but not worthy of much in the painkiller department.

After a couple of rubbish top-roping sessions, and a week of rubbish finger-boarding, I decided to re-evaluate. Top-roping had been going so badly because I was scared, and because I was getting upset when I got shut down by small left foot holds.

Finger-boarding had been going badly because as much as having a fingerboard set up at home is great, it's much harder to be motivated than training at a wall, and there are certain limitations to the "fingerboard climbing wall" meaning I was getting pretty tired.
I wanted a break, but not to stop altogether. And I needed to gain confidence on the wall. So the obvious conclusion was to replace training for climbing, with climbing for training, for a bit.

It wasn't immediately clear to me why I'd be scared top-roping. After all, I didn't get hurt on a rope, and I've never had problems with fear in any big way sport climbing (apart from when injured). But I think fundamentally, I'm terrified of hitting the wall, or banging the wall. And I'd been letting that get the better of me, climbing as statically as possible. Which is great for training, not so great for making it to the top of a route in one go.

Alistair made the mistake of asking me, after a particularly static climb, why I didn't "climb like you normally do". I think it just slipped out, and my first response was to swear at him. But although the obvious answer is that I don't have the physical ability I normally do (I don't know about strong people, but when I climb dynamically using power ALL that power comes from my legs thank you very much), he sort of had a point. It's not that simple, of course. I can't just flip a switch. But at the same time in order to climb normally, I have to let go a bit. I have to push outside my comfort zone and try things which feel uncomfortable- or they'll never feel normal.

Going outside my comfort zone isn't actually something I've got much experience in. Because I've never really felt scared of falling off with a trusted belayer, I've never really had to work at it. Of course, I'm not even dealing with leading yet, I'm still scared of top-roping. But with pushing comfort zones, it doesn't really matter how absolutely scary something is, so long as it's scarier than you'd like.

As regards getting shut down by moves, I think this comes down to remembering that learning how to climb with a weakest link that isn't everyone else's (fingers stronger than ankles...) can't always be about performance. But finger-boarding, on the other hand, is about clear gains and pushing performance, and I'd very much got into the finger-boarding mindset.

It's a great thing that recovery isn't binary. How would you stay motivated without the small improvements? But the problem with that is that you have to adjust to every stage in between initially broken and completely fixed. I have to accept that climbing and walking hurt, and that after climbing, walking hurts even more. But that since this seems largely to be as a result of muscular rebellion, and there's no long term detriment, that's just life.

Sometimes I get pretty bored of walking slowly and painfully. I can't imagine when climbing and walking will be normal. But most of the time you have to just get on with it, I suppose. So January is the month of climbing. In celebration of this, I've bought a month pass to the Foundry. This means going more than once a week is the goal. And I'm eternally thankful for Alistair's patient belaying when I can't belay him back.

I'm grateful that I could fingerboard at all, I suppose that's an advantage of going for a leg. And I'm grateful I can climb to the extent that I can. But I can't help being a little jealous of the August me, with her bouncy climbing and lack of fear.

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