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  1. #1
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    Getting back after it

    Hi everyone, I'm 35 years old, and been away from climbing for 6 years. I was prepared for never reaching the level I was at before taking a break, but man, I never thought I'd be this far back. I'm tempted to jump in a push hard, but I don't think my body could take it this time around.

    Anyone with experience getting a second life as a climber have advice for getting back in to physical and mental shape without burning out or getting injured? Getting hurt never used to cross my mind 10 years ago

  2. #2
    Member Crag's Avatar
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    What happened while you off for 6 years? Did you remain active - i.e. not gain weight? Physically climbing is a HP to Weight ratio sort of thing. If you spent 6 years on the couch playing video games you're going to have a rough go of it. If you spent the 6 years being active both cardio & muscular then you just need to work on the mental aspects. Of course if the 6 years off meant marriage and kids then you'll have extra mental baggage to work through. I wouldn't jump in and push real hard at first at least not on lead. 2nd / TR anything you can get on. From there you'll know where your mind/body are. As far as not getting injured, can't offer any advice there.

  3. #3
    Member Loo's Avatar
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    I am getting back into it after a long break as well. I've always been active though, and Crag is right, that matters ALOT. My climbing ability is 90% back to what it was, and now I just have to work on that mental aspect for leading again. I started doing planks (on elbows) and got up to holding it for 3.5 minutes so far. Planks are great because you get your core and arms strong really fast, and it doesn't take alot of time or cost anything. I also have been doing an upper body dumbbell routine pretty regularly.

  4. #4
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    I've been away for 6 years because of 2 new little boys and a new business/job. So yeah, the mental aspect is probably going to be the most challenging for me.

    I have not gained any significant weight (like maybe 5 lbs or something) but the muscle loss is pretty profound. My strength is nowhere near where I remember it.

    I tried to get going last season with a makeshift climbing gym in my attic, but ended up pulling a muscle in my rib cage that ended my season before it even began. I want to work out as hard as I can to get conditioned and be mentally ready, but I don't want to get hurt again by being over optimistic about my conditioning.

    Probably the best course of action is to forget what I was leading before, and pretend to be a beginner, maybe a beginner who has some understanding of what it takes to improve

  5. #5
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    I'm in the same boat - 35 years old, but I'm only out after 3 years. I'm coming off surgeries to repair crap in my knee and hip and I can totally sympathize with the strength loss. It just sucks.

    On the physical side, the main thing I'm trying to do is get core strength and power/stamina back to where it was. Also, as my PT keeps telling me - and as you seem to have discovered - we're not 22 anymore with elastic muscles off the couch. Even though I HATE it, I have to stretch and warm up for 20 minutes before doing anything, otherwise I really don't feel well after.

    The mental side is harder...I have a kid on the way and a wife who doesn't climb, and for some reason I have to actually remind myself that harnesses and ropes don't break. I haven't tried to lead anything yet, and probably won't do harder than 5.4's for a while, or toprope on ice. So yeah, thinking like a beginner is probably a good idea - remembering how to be safe is the most important thing anyway.

    Don't know if any of this helps - just wanted to commiserate. Good luck to you man.

  6. #6
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    Ha, ha. Thanks for commiserating Half the battle is learning that we're not the only ones.

    That's some good insight from your PT. I should definitely be making more of a point of stretching out before and after activity. I think that would help a lot, both in terms of strength, and in technique on the climb.

  7. #7
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    I'm not a big poster here but this is something I can relate to. I spent about 12 years climbing a ton, ice about 50 days a winter, always looking around the corner for the next challenge, whether it was something out West or a link up of a bunch of routes wherever I was at the time. I also climbed solo a lot but had a few awesome partners that are still some of my best friends. I got married in 2001 and had the first of our three kids a year later and I went through a phase of more than a few years when I didn't get out often and when I did I was spooked at times. Some of that was due to trying to climb at a high level (for me) and some of it was simply times when I had a couple of free hours and would go out by myself and I found I just didn't have the head for solo stuff anymore. These days I'm lucky enough to still have a few very close friends as partners and I'm climbing a couple of days a week with them. I enjoy every chance I get to climb and even though grade wise it's not always rad climbing I'm enjoying it as much as I did back in the day. I think the key is to lower the expectations a little and be grateful for time out there. It's a great sport and can be done safely with the right attitude. Good luck to all of us who are juggling work and family life while trying to have some fun when we can...

  8. #8
    Occasionally a post floats by that grabs attention. Yours is such, in part because it asks two more daunting albeit hidden questions: Namely, "Why am I doing this?" and "How does one grow old?" Like so much of adult and American life, we seem surrounded by an infinite variety of uninteresting, slightly differentiated choice. Climbing, whatever its motivation, responds with a reprieve from such, offering gravity and consequence. To want to reconnect to climbing is a way of differentiating without needing to break ties with the present reality we all wake up to. The way there is maddeningly simple. You go forward slowly and apply a laser focus to each aspect of ice climbing that's lacking in your repertoire of thoughts, moves, and actions. Ice climbing, even though we rarely treat it as such, is a mediation on what’s possible. Fear is the great reducer, the filter through which we must all pass. The best way to conquer fear, at least as I’ve experienced, is to be ready for it.

    A couple of thoughts before passing the wand: Strength is highly over-rated. Endurance and flexibility and balance make for a very good ice climber.

    Clean up your diet and get rid of the garbage. So much of recovery and training is based around a healthy immune system. The fastest way to being healthy--improve your diet, eliminate stress, get more sleep.

    Stretch--lots. It’s the easiest, most effective injury prevention regimen out there, particularly after a workout or run. Before is great. After, sublime.

    Do simple workout routines. Make it easy. It's better to do a little rather than plan big and do nothing. Improvement is always a steep curve for me in the beginning. Allow yourself the patience you give your kids. Go forward with the knowledge that beginners don't have, which is knowing what awaits. Training for me is a classic bell curve with fitness, flexibility, and pain. Fear falls away with fitness.

    Trail run. Quit running on the pavement and pounding the life out of your soul and the soles of your feet. Trail running forces you to run slower and more attentively, improving balance as well as your cardio-vascular fitness. CV stamina trumps muscle strength reliably, particularly in ice climbing. Time yourself. Record yourself. Keep track of your runs/workouts so you can see improvement. Run the same loops so you have a reliable basis for timing. (Note: La Sportiva makes a great hobnail kit for spiking shoes and making running a mostly year-round affair.)

    Balance on ice is key. Slacklines in the backyard, where possible, are an amazing ice climbing training aid. Think of being on the ice, balancing on front points, putting a screw in with your left hand. Balance saves strength in the arm you’re hanging from.

    Finally, explore. Get out there. Use Google Maps, use Bing Maps, use whatever you can find to get the info so you can see the ice. So much of ice climbing for me is witnessing things few others have seen. Go to the magnificent climbs that are really out there. Go to the top of Mt Washington every chance you get. Climb Willoughby often. Find Goback Mtn. Do things that inspire you, things that are luminous--so much better to take three times to do something amazing than going to Frankenstein three times to do Standard and Dracula. There’s a reason they call it Standard. Exploring is training.

    Oh, one more thing. Learn to proficiently place screws with your left hand. That is, if your right-handed, of course. Reverse if otherwise.

    Again, explore. You’ll be richly rewarded. And be careful of dogma. I endorse nothing, approve of nada, encourage no one. Ice climbing is stupid. Really really stupid.

    Good luck. And post photos.

  9. #9
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    Heartfully agreed, Buckwheat and much better said than my own clumsy words.

    I would just add resting and recovering time. With age, resting and recovering periods become more and more important. Give yourself time to recover. Lower the intensity of the exercise if in doubt, otherwise you'll risk injury that will take you longer to recover from. Stretching, as said, helps a lot preventing injury and recovering after the exercise so take extra time to do it well. Changing the activity is also important for many reasons.

    And get out there. I cannot agree more with Buckwheat.

    Cheers, Antonio.

  10. #10
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    I don't post up often but being in my mid-30's and having a semi-hiatus after the birth of my daughter saw me in need of reconfiguring my training.

    I'd say the simpler the better. We all love to imagine doing stuff at the gym, etc. but with job, wife, child, etc. being able to sneak something in 30 minutes here and there will allow for consistency that will add up. That being said being specific as possible to relevant ice movements, etc will contribute to some muscle memory.

    Maybe give this a whirl and add to the number of circuits as your strength and conditioning allow.
    Doing the below workout with your boots adds some realistic weight.

    Pullups on tools - 8-10 reps then deadhang for 20 seconds
    Wrap a 5 pound leg weight around the head of your ice tool (I use my wife's ) for swings- 20 each arm
    Planks for 1 min and/or bicycle crunches. Doing either with your boots adds to the challenge
    Single Leg Calf stands with your boots over the edge of a stair with heel hanging off, slowly raise and lower. Do both legs till you lose your balance

    Repeat 4-6 times then stretch.

    Requires no equipment you don't already have if your a climber (except the leg weight)

    Welcome back to it!

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