Muscles For Water And Rock

I was reminded this weekend that swimming muscles do not translate directly into climbing muscles.

Oh, my shoulders and torso can crank for hours, but above grade 7 climbing is all in the fore-arms (at least on the overhanging limestone we have here in Tky). Hours of aerobic ‘catches’ in the sea don’t make for an inverted rock-holding grip. My climbing brother pointed out to me that climbing is an almost totally anaerobic sport- requiring incredibly quick lactic acid processing in those muscles. And muscles and joints that will be pulled on from every imaginable direction- you don’t notice until you wake up the next morning and can’t move certain parts of the body.

My friend had not climbed for months either. His approach to this first day was to jump on some intense route and push all his buttons before he burned out- push fear and muscles and joints all at once.

I, on the other hand, wanted to approach this more in a TI way- to break down all the intimidating elements of being out of climbing shape and approach only a few of them at a time. I started planning my at-home conditioning routine in my head while I belayed his jerky thrust up a wild 8+ layback route. He made it to the 5th bolt before pumping out completely, then I followed on top rope to work out each move until I pumped out at the 3rd bolt. It was perhaps a ‘wimpy’ thing to do (to top rope it) but I denied the external pressure and chose to follow my strategy instead. I stopped after my muscles were depleted, but I was not thrashed- and that is also part of my strategy for a long life of fitness. (Thrashing is not good for longevity).

Well, if I trained to climb like I train to swim I’d be a decent climber among my friend’s climber community. There is simply no replacement for climbing to get in good climbing shape and skill refinement. And the same for swimming- dry land stuff is ok, but ultimately swimming (and swimming without the gizmos) is what it takes to be a good swimmer.

So whatever the passion is… get out there and do it! The necessary muscles and skill don’t come from wishing.

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