A New Approach

There's no doubt I'm back climbing, my skin is sore and my feet are still reeling from being stuffed back into my Five Tens. 

Over the past year I've tried to return to climbing a couple of times and each attempt has fallen flat through injury. Each comeback has felt the same, and anyone who has had a layoff knows the feeling well - that first week at the gym is brutal, your  body floppy, fingers opening on holds you used to consider finger jugs, forearms pumped on problems you'd previously not even consider a warm up, and the thought of climbing anything past vertical seems ludicrous - all those beers and time on the sofa has left you with the body tension of a jellyfish.

It's embarrassing.

It was that way for me last year - but something has changed. Until this past week I'd climbed once before Christmas and then barely at all since June. But as I ran circuits of boulder problems in each session of 2017 something was very different, the body tension was there, there was no pump and I was flashing V6 problems across the horizontal roof. There is only one thing that I can credit with this - TRX.

Since June I've done between 4-6 TRX sessions every week and it shows. I'm heavy, way too heavy - at the start of the year I weighed in at 187.4 lbs. The lightest I have ever been while climbing is 146 lbs, currently if i was a boxer I'd be in the light heavyweight category and at 5'10" that's not a good look for bouldering and especially not good for my fingers. Despite this weight my TRX training has left me with some of the best body tension I've ever had and exceptionally strong upper body.  

I can't recommend TRX training highly enough.

Starting a return to climbing in good physical condition is a complete change for me and its made me think differently approach how I approach bouldering. I took five minutes out from a session to write an honest account of where my weaknesses and strengths lie - to then help me build a training regime around it. I'm taking a different approach this time. I've never been short on power and the TRX regime I've followed seems to have improved that - less focus on methods I would have traditionally used such as campussing and a more refined focus on TRX and overall body conditioning. I'll still use the campus board, but just not as much as I used to. 

If I'm honest with myself I have three real weaknesses - my finger strength, flexibility and skillset. My climbing style has always been basic and to pull off some of my projects I need to climb better on rock - so mileage and different styles of problems will be key. I'll be hitting one mileage session a week, focussing on different techniques I'm less strong on. The beastmaker will play a key role in my coming regime, particularly the max hang sessions Dave Mason has laid out for me in the past. Finally I'm adding daily yoga, there's no doubt in my mind this will change my climbing completely - I've seen huge gains from it in the past. 

First though I've got to get to my my training cycles and they are two months off - I'm due to start in March. I'm taking January as a mileage month - flash and second go problems only, the February as a month of actual bouldering before finally hitting the train. Luckily winter has well and truly hit the east coast so its the perfect time to get fit. 

If there is one thing multiple comebacks teaches you - it's don't go too hard too soon.  


Neal Mann

New York City