Checking The Vitals

The campus board set up in NYC  

The campus board set up in NYC  

So this is it, this is where it all starts.

After one month of conditioning it's time to get back into training. The spring temps are slowly creeping across the East Coast of the USA and I can't wait to pull back on some rock again. Since I decided to chalk up again I've been taking it slow and steady, basic power pulls and 5 sessions a week of bouldering pyramids - flashing everything up until my current flash limit and then working my way back down again.  This mindset has also helped me start to get the technique back, well what technique I had.  

My body has felt in really good shape over the past month, my climbing conditioning came off the back of a two week trip of pumping surf in Costa Rica and nothing works you more than paddling into heavy waves.  As well as living in NYC over the past four years, I also spent one year in Sydney where I surfed almost everyday.  I don't believe that climbing really helps you become a better surfer, but from what I've seen over the past month surfing that much definitely makes you a better climber. Surfing has changed my body shape, given me stronger shoulders and lats than I have ever had before and coupled with regular yoga, drastically helped my flexibility and balance.   There is no doubt surfing works your body - it just doesn't touch your fingers. 

So yesterday I spent half my session running a basic strength test to find out where I'm at.  

The Vitals 


I've previously dieted hard, too hard. As a climber with a bigger frame I've always battled with keeping my weight down. Despite keeping me fairly lean, the years of surfing has bulked me up, so from last week I enlisted the help of a good friend from London, Mark Ireland. Mark is a former professional rugby player turned personal trainer. He laid out a sustainable diet plan for me which in a little over one week has seen me drop from 177.7 lbs to 171.1 lbs.  Previously my dieting was always in a less than scientific, unsustainable and ultimately unhealthy way.  This time around the target is sustainable, healthy fat loss and it's working. Gone are a lot of the carbohydrates and the booze and the pounds are dropping off.  If I can continue this I will be down to my target training weight in no time. 


Five years away from climbing is a long time. I figured it was long enough to lose a lot of the specific strengths you build while training.  Sure surfing has kept the body strong but does that help you with basic power? Or locking off? Or finger strength?

It turns out it does.

On my old stomping ground of the campus board 1-5-7 on the large and medium went down first go without much effort. Rather than pushing it too far I moved to the Beastmaker where I managed a one armer on the main rung, a full set of repeaters and encores on the 35s, a 10 second non nestled hang on the 45s and back two six second max hang on the small pockets.  

What was interesting was not only how much finger strength I had retained over all these years, but how easy throwing 1-5 felt.  It felt easier than ever before and I believe it can only be down to the power which years surfing and training in a pool with resistance paddles has developed in my lats.  Full lock encores and power pulls are deeper than I've ever managed before too. 

If you've ever tried surfing you'll know that brutal burning feeling deep down in your lats, in muscles you didn't know existed.  Too often in climbing we continue to train to our strengths, using the muscles we have trained for years to do a job that other muscle development could make easier - ultimately seeing slow improvement.  Where training to our weaknesses and using other sports may lead to substantially faster improvement. 

Now, when is that next swell due to hit NY...






Neal Mann

New York City