In previous years I've tried to return to the sport and quickly failed, I've lost the psyche or become injured through a lack of base fitness. 2017 was different, this was the year I managed it. If there is one thing I have learned over the past year it is that climbing is an exceptionally hard sport to return to after a break. You need psyche, a strong base of fitness and to have had the realization that things will never be the same as they once were - they will be different, and that's ok.
I spent the first half of the year getting my body into the right kind of shape to train. A period of constant conditioning; core work, TRX, cardio and climbing, lots of climbing. I didn't rush it, the movement came back as the body lightened and tightened. I could feel there was something there underneath, a previous strength that I'd forgotten I'd had, but also something more - new strengths from years of other sports that were starting to show their worth in climbing. Time passed in six week training cycles, each more taxing than the last. With each cycle came a new exercise, campusing came back into my life through six weeks of 1-3-5-7-9. I found myself becoming reacquainted with the Beastmaker initially through six weeks of repeaters and max hangs on the 35s and larger holds. After six months the summer arrived and with it came the base level strength for me to start pushing my body harder, further.
So I upped the ante.
The only way I would be in good shape for the climbing season was if I started to push my limits. Each cycle and with it each session, was built around progress - and it started to work. 1-4-7 went down on large and medium. The power was returning. I constantly assessed my weaknesses and ran some lock off tests on the bar. To be strong in climbing, you need to be strong open - Malc's words were in my head as I set about them. Could I stay locked off under the bar fully open at 90 degrees? Would my shoulders stay parallel under the bar or would they close and leave me perpendicular to it? They closed, I knew they would, my stabilizer muscles weren't strong enough - so I trained them. Six weeks of 90 degree lock offs under the bar, twice a week at the end of a session using a finger to stop the rotation. At the end of the cycle I could hold it for 10 seconds, that was progress.
1-5-8 went down.
I'd not done that in nearly seven years, I screamed as I caught the eighth rung for the first time. This was it, I was getting back into shape. The cycles continued, slowly the finger strength came back - I started to be able to hang the back two in the small Beastmaker pockets, only for a few seconds at first but it was a start.
The strength was accompanied by steady weight loss, by October I'd lost nearly 18 lbs. This wasn't dieting like I'd done in the past, this was a simple and more healthy approach. I'd been watching what I ate, protein and veg and no carbs after six. No need to be too skinny, just a manageable and healthy weight. The cycles and weight loss continued and by late December I was in good shape, 25 lbs lighter and hanging the back two in the small pockets for ten seconds.
A large campus rung one armer went down.
I couldn't believe it, both arms with ease. I was well and truly back in decent form, all I had to do now was put it to the test on rock. There is nothing quite like living in a city with rock right on your doorstep. Central Park isn't a world class venue by any means, but it has good quality granite and some classic testpieces. When I lived in London it was tough to get any rock feel - you were hours from rock. This added pressure to any trip to perform and to be frank mentally I could never handle that pressure - my life at the time was unstable and as a result so was my mindset. On trips I over gripped, couldn't relax and never fulfilled my potential.
This time I swore to myself things would be different, with rock on my doorstep I could make sure I had good feel and climbed well. As holiday season approached I hit the park with a good crew, a couple of classic V6 went down with ease, then a V8. I noticed something was very different - I could execute. In my previous life I'd always struggled with this aspect of climbing, I had a crazy high pressure job and a personal life that wasn't conducive to success on rock. I'm a different person now, in a different career - but most importantly this year I got married. My wife truly changed my life in so many ways, and it turns out she changed my approach to the sport I love. Climbing no longer defines me, it is also not an escape from a home life I didn't want but a fun addition to a life at home that I can't wait to return to.
A V10 went down.
A few days before Christmas I hit the park with a training partner Brayton, a true local of the NY climbing scene. I'd done the V8 version of the classic Koma's Roof and wanted to tick the V10 sit, the V10 adds one powerful move off double undercuts into the V8. It's lowball, sure, but it's one of the classics in the park and I wanted it. Thirty goes later I tapped into the power that had returned over the past twelve months, executed and was stood on top.
The perfect way to end the year.
I'm back, but this time things are a little different.