Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Warrior Way for Young & Old

I have been a dedicated lister to the "Jocko Podcast" since the first episode. I heard about Jocko Willink through the podcasts of Sam HarrisTim Ferriss and Joe Rogan. I read the book Jocko wrote in partnership with Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. The words both spoken and written coming from Jocko seem to have hit a certain core need in people who are craving direct, clear, no feel-good crap to confront and overcome challenges and problems in their lives.

His most recent book, Way of the Warrior Kid; From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy SEAL Way came out today, 02. May 2017. The Ebook magically appeared in the middle of the night on my iPad after I had pre-orderd it a few weeks ago. The book is a young adult book, but as Jocko has pointed out, there is a lot in its pages for adults.

I was strangely apprehensive about starting in on the book. I did not know why, but I found out as I read through it in about an hour this morning. Why am I reading a kids book? Why, without having any children, did I even buy it? Superficially, I justified the purchase because I do have a long-standing climbing group of young teens and I work on a regular basis with kids. I also thought that perhaps as a teacher, my wife could make use of the book personally and as material for her ESL courses at the international school where she teaches.

The book brought up some childhood emotions. There are a lot of young people who need a character like Jocko's "Uncle Jake" in their life. The young boy in the book, Marc, at the story's end is full of gratitude for the help his Uncle Jake gives him over their summer together. Jake responds by telling Marc that he did all the work to enable his transformation and begin his warrior path -- and what is a most interesting message for us adults -- Jake explains to Marc that in reality Marc did not need his Uncle, he just needed to do something about what was causing his deficiencies in fitness, nutrition, learning, etc.

This is the message to take home as an adult: If you wanted an "Uncle Jake" figure in your life that never materialised in your childhood, as an adult it does not matter, it really does not matter now! You can be your own Uncle Jake to your childhood self and take care of these lagging issues such as your nutrition, fitness, health, mental outlook, etc., by taking action and doing something now.

Another subtlety in the book is that the path Marc takes to being a warrior does not involve acquiring anything that is outside of himself. He doesn't need new running shoes, a set of weights, some weapon, intruding parents -- what he needs he already has in its raw, untapped form. What he needs to do is to do!

Further, there is no examination for the reasons why Marc is in the situation he is in. We don't have someone commiserating with Marc about his predicament. Why? Because it is a waste of time and energy that can be better put to use by taking action! Taking action now to combat your inadequacies and shortcomings that every single one of us has.

So as an adult, do the people you choose to surround yourself with challenge you to do something about your predicaments, encourage you to take action and believe that through your own work that you will overcome? Or are you in the middle of a circle of people that are giving you "emotional support" that involves commiserating, complaining, blaming outside factors and telling you in so many words to learn to accept your fate? Worse are those who disguise their negative influence that pulls you down as "good, rational advice" or "friendship".

Though I am not a parent, I follow the principles in Way of the Warrior Kid in my relationships to the young people I work with in climbing courses. I treat young people with respect, I value their emotions and feelings, but I do not allow them to escape from confronting obstacles, responsibility and fear. There is a mastery and balance in the application of this that is different for every young person and in every situation -- which the reader sees in effect with Uncle Jake's interactions with Marc. I always try and find ways to challenge young climbers, whether with body weight strength training, warming up, coordination, fear of falling, 100% ownership of the safety of their partner, and many other climbing-specific situations.

In the international alpine community, we are all tremendously saddened by the death of Ueli Steck. It is easy to think of all the great accomplishments of such a god-like alpine phenom as being due to natural-born gifts, an extraordinary upbringing or environment, or other "special" things that make him different from you or me. That thought dismisses the role of hard work, the smart application of logical problem solving for oneself and the willingness to suffer through short-term failures and re-adjust time and time again. It dismisses the strength and stubbornness of character built up over years of experience to get to a level of mastery in physical and mental performance. This fixed-mindset thought and belief lets the believer of such off the the hook -- it is not your fault that you are not like Ueli Steck. 

Canadian ice climber and friend of Steck, Will Gadd wrote this insightful tribute to Steck on his Facebook page. It explains that Ueli worked hard and made himself into what he was. Do not mis-read, "it is not your fault that you are not like Ueli Steck", to mean "it is not your fault that you are not Ueli Steck". Ueli showed us all what we as unique individuals can aspire to and, like him, make our lives in to something that is more than what we believe possible.

So, I am saying that it is your fault if you are not like Ueli Steck. It is also my fault when I'm not like Ueli Stick, or anytime I retreat in to a shell of protective self-pity and choose to shirk away from directly confronting issues within myself. In this New York Times option piece about Steck's death, the Jonathan Griffith (Griffith's tribute) photo of Ueli climbing the north face of the Col du Plan held a special meaning for me. I soloed that route three years ago. Looking at the exposure in that photo of Steck, I thought, "did I really do that?" and that the clear consequences of a mistake are blatantly obvious.

The point here is not that I'm some hardcore alpinist, it is that ten years ago I never would have considered that I could solo climb a route such as the north face of the Col du Plan. In my twenties, such a thought would have never entered my mind. I am clearly not of the alpine caliber that was Ueli Stick, but I aspire to be of the highest caliber that I can be. The only way to do this is to do this. Simple. Plain. Unexciting.

That message needs to be transmitted to kids and adults alike. Without the sugar-coated niceties. We need this because it is what works and it is what is best for us as individuals. Way of the Warrior Kid does this. It does this without violence, aggression or diminishing other people. It does it without criticism, belittling or shaming.

Something else that has inspired me after reading Jocko's book is that I know I want to be the "Uncle Jake" to kids. Whether I am climbing with them, swinging the kettle bell in the playground, skiing with them, whatever. I want to especially serve young people in my interactions with them that reflects the attitude, spirit and wisdom of the Uncle Jake character because, even though we all must take action for ourselves, a bit of encouragement never hurts and this is what the world needs.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fat Adapted

Fuelled from fat
There are always two things that people who are with me in the mountains climbing, ski touring, ice climbing, etc., and even while sport climbing at crags or on multi-pitch routes comment on. First is how small my backpack is and second, that I do not eat or drink much.

I do long days out often with just a litre bottle or thermos. I train a lot in a fasted state and many times with nothing to eat or drink - these can be four, six or even more hour-long endeavours  If I am doing a course or guiding a tour, I am generally too busy to eat anyways. However, I will on colder days have some nuts or high-quality dried sausage with me. In summer, nuts and raw vegetables.

The concept of being "fat adapted" is something that is making the rounds in a lot of sports endurance circles now. The idea is to get your body to utilise its fat stores at a greater and greater amount for work at an aerobic level. You are already carrying the potential energy with you on your body, so why not use it? In the alpine disciples there is great stuff on Steve House and Scott Johnston's website that supplements the information in House and Johnston's book, Training for the New Alpinism.

Perhaps one of the first to bring the ideas of training and eating for metabolic fat addaption was Dr. Phil Maffetone who coached a number of legendary Ironman athletes and ultra-distance runners. The more recent appearance of the idea of fat adaption has been the term "fat burning" seen in the diet books of those advocating 'paleo', 'primal' or 'ancestral' ways of eating as well as those who recommend ketogenic diets to readjust faulty metabolisms and cause body fat reduction.

Training the chicken for fat adaptation, everyone wants it now!
There is a ton of material on the webs, social media and in bookstores about this. It takes a bunch of patience and experimentation to see what works for you as an individual alpine athlete. The biggest hurdle for most however is to have an open mind about eating and training that often is very radically different from what you believe.

I have slowly figured things out for myself and now know what works for me to keep me able to train injury free across multi-alpine disciples and perform well. Unfortunately, most do not have the patience, discipline and determination to take this responsibility on themselves.

There was a time when I bought into the hype of the hawkers of sports nutrition products, energy bars and gels, re-fuelling, pre-fuelling, carb loading, protein-to-carb ratios, on and on. It wasn't until I just got fed up with it all - it wasnt't working, my body composition was not optimal, I wasn't recovering or sleeping well - and took the steps to figure it all out on my own, for myself, and only using my own experience as a yardstick for what worked and what did not. I also had to open my mind to completely new and enlightened ways of thinking about eating and training.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Are You a Bodybuilder?

Are you a bodybuilder? Then why are you training like one? This is my thought when I see climbers and other alpine athletes stuck in the fitness industry ideal of resistance training, cross-training, supplemental training, etc. 
Way too many people think that somehow doing bodybuilder movements will then translate into better climbing. Many have adapted the concept of training body parts from large commercial gyms and the fitness business media. So that their non-climbing training is based on doing some form of resistance exercise for a specific body part. 

I have nothing against bodybuilders per se, however, bodybuilding and fitness model training protocols will not be the best methods to improve your performance on the rock or in the mountains.

Athletes need to train their bodys as one holistic integrated part. Athletic qualities are universal and involve accurate movement, patterning the movement, increasing the movements range of motion, increasing the strength at the ends of the range of motion, then focusing on developing speed, power and quickness.

This is so obvious when you say or write it, however every time I am in the climbing gym I see someone doing bicep curls.

Bodybuilding is not a performance sport. The point is the aesthetic development of your physic, not whether or not your physic performs well. Looking good naked does not mean you will climb 5.12a/7a+ or not.

When you train climbing, you are either improving your skills or you are improving your climbing specific fitness. The aspects of fitness that apply to climbing are predominantly, 1) finger strength and, 2) body composition.

Yes, you can use climbing to improve your body composition. However, body composition is without a doubt, first and foremost an issue of nutrition. Additionally, it makes no difference if excess muscle or excess fat limits a climbers strength-to-weight ratio. It is both excess.

All climbers are concerned with increasing their strength-to-weight ratio. You can 1) keep your strength and lose weight, 2) increase your strength and stay at the same weight, 3) combine weight loss with strength gains. So the optimal situation is to lose excess body fat and make your muscles stronger but not not bigger. Then, when you get to the right level, start slowly, painstakingly and with a long-term view incorporating climbing specific finger strength work.

I believe that until you are climbing at around the 7b / 5.12b you do not need to do any supplemental training for your finger strength. Why? because you will progress much faster by simply climbing with as much variety as possible. All the necessary finger strength will develop as your climbing skills improve. More importantly, you are allowing the critical adaptations to take place in your tendons, ligaments, joints and bones - which progress much, much slower than muscle gains. All other muscle adaptation will nicely proceed as your climbing skill moves up to the level of 7b / 5.12b or so.

Thursday, March 30, 2017 Multi-Pitch Courses in May

Kalymnos multi-pitch climbing,
Last rope length of "Wild Country", Kalymnos (Tolendos island)

Get an early start on the European multi-pitch sport climbing season. Learn and practice rope technique, efficient team movement, safety, self-rescue, etc. has spaces available In May for all types of multi-pitch climbing activities.

Kalymnos offers exceptional sunny, dry, all-day climbing weather from May in to the first week of June. Courses are guaranteed. The long multi-pitches on Kalymnos' neighbouring island Tolendos are an all-day pleasure, from approach, climb and descent.

All my courses and programs can be found on Kalymnos Multi-Pitch offerings.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Kalymnos Klettern 2017, "Kalymnos Primal Climb"

Kalymnos Kletterkurse
Partnercheck nicht vergessen!
Meine neue Website über alle meine Sport-Klettern Aktivitäten auf Kalymnos ist da! "Kalymnos Primal Climb" hat Informationen über Kletterkurse, Privatunterricht, Personal Training, Multi-Pitch Sportklettern und zwei weitere innovative Programme, die ich von Mai bis Oktober 2017 anbieten werde. Klicken Sie hier, um zur "Kalymnos Primal Climb" zu gelangen.

Lass mich wissen was Sie denken! Bitte, kontaktieren Sie mich wenn ich Ihnen in irgendeiner Weise helfen kann.

Kalymnos Climbing Courses 2017, Kalymnos Primal Climb

Kalymnos climbing courses
Another day in a climbing paradise!
My new website for all my activities on Kalymnos is up! Kalymnos Primal Climb has information on sport climbing courses, private lessons, personal training, multi-pitch climbing and two other innovative programs that I will be offering from May through October 2017. Click here to go to the website.

Let me know what you think! Contact me if I can help you in any way.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Looking Back

austrian alpine ice climbing
Climbing in Cogne
Here it is the 5th of March. I haven't posted anything since mid-December. I justify this by thinking of  a quote from Mark Twight who said once you start spending more time writing and talking about your alpine exploits then that is a clear sign that your going downhill and moving into Poserville.

Don't want that to happen, so no posting. Solves that problem pretty nicely.

But ... I get so much from reading some good stuff from people and I would like to think that I can contribute a small bit. So, once again I think I'll try to do better. Life is however taking action and doing, not talking about it or writing about it.

I have been doing a lot of ice climbing this season, which makes up somewhat for the dismal season in Europe in 2015-2016. Here is one of the best things I came across recently related to ice climbing from Will Gadd. I have really learned so much from him through his book (which is now getting a bit outdated - hey Will, how about doing a new version???) and the great things he has posted through the years on his blog and website.

The week before Christmas I was in the Aosta valley ice climbing. I spent Christmas in Chamonix, but unfortunately there wasn't much snow and no ice around, so I went back through the tunnel to Aosta for a few more days post-Christmas.

Then I began a pretty heavy schedule of activities for the Salzburg Alpenverein: a handful of ice climbing courses, an avalanche course, an off-piste ski technique day and a ski touring course. In between all the courses there was a mid-February trip to Cogne for almost two-weeks of ice climbing. In the past couple of weeks I have been on my skis either ski touring or free-riding just seeming to find adequate snow conditions.

In addition to all this stuff, I have been trying to keep my sport climbing fitness up to speed with indoor training (It is not really going so well!) and keeping up with my clients who have personal training with me climbing indoors.

It's funny to think about it but a number of times I feel like I'm not doing enough, or I could be doing things a bit better. Scrolling through some of the photos on my computer, I realise that I have had an active few months and I don't know how I could have done more. Just goes to show you that never being satisfied, or thinking that you could do better, is part of the human condition.

Rope technique for ice climbing

Lisa climbing WI3+ during a beginner course

Wolfgang training technique during an intermediate course

Beginner Course group in Maltatal

Demonstrating "swing like you mean it!" during course work

Manfred concentrating while on first ice lead

Obertauern off-piste ski technique
Ice climbing technique day in Gastein valley

Route planning in Lillaz cafe (Cogne)

Top of the Kesselspitze during a ski touring course