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Date: December 31st, 2015

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About Dave MacLeod

Dave MacLeod is one of the most famous climbers in the world, having put up many first ascents of sport, boulder, mixed, and trad climbs. Honestly, I’m not going to do him justice with a short introduction of his climbing and career, as he’s accomplished so much in his 37 years. So here’s his Wikipedia page. Please read it – it’s fascinating.

What We Talked About

  • His climbing career
  • How he’s trained for different projects
  • How mixed climbing helps him to train for sport and trad
  • The mistakes most climbers make in their training
  • Excelling even when the pressure is on
  • How he deals with fear on scary routes
  • His secret diet (exposed! woohoo!)

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  • Link to the TrainingBeta Podcast on iTunes is HERE.
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Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast, where I talk to climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and today we’re on episode 39 with Dave MacLeod, who I’ve been trying to schedule with forever. I’m so happy that it actually happened because it was a great interview, in my opinion. We’ll get to that in just a minute.

Before we start, I want to let you know that FrictionLabs has sponsored this episode, which I really appreciate. They’re my favorite chalk company, for sure. If you guys want to check them out you can do that by going to and they’re going to give you some really great discounts on their chalk so you can try it out yourself.

Okay, so a little update on me and Seth. I was out last week and I was thinking about not even doing a podcast this week because things have been a little bit crazy. We moved, but besides that, Seth actually had his other shoulder done/repaired. He went into surgery this Monday, December 28, 2015.

He had exactly the same thing that happened, almost, to my shoulder. This shoulder for him is going to be a much faster recovery and it’s because they just did the tenodesis, which is where they take your biceps tendon off of your labrum and they put it onto your arm instead so it’s not tugging on your labrum. He had a big SLAP tear and so they sort of cut it down so it wouldn’t bother him as much. He had a bone spur and they shaved that off. He had bursitis and they kind of just got rid of all the inflammation, and his biceps tendon was fraying so that’s part of why they took it off the labrum and put it on the arm.

I’ve been sort of nursing him and helping him go through the recovery process. I’ve been getting a lot of questions, actually, about our shoulders so I just wanted to touch base on that and tell you guys a few things. Our surgeon is Dr. Tom Hackett and we go to him because he’s one of the best in the country, maybe the world. He’s in Vail, Colorado. Luckily for us he’s so close to us.

A few people have asked me, because I’ve mentioned my body worker, and his name is Steve Melis. He has helped my shoulder tremendously. I mean, like, I don’t know if I would be climbing very much if it weren’t for him. He’s a chiropractor but mostly what he does is soft tissue work. It’s absolutely excruciating.

I’ve tried all kinds of massage. I’ve tried a lot of different body workers and this is definitely what’s worked for me the most. It is like having somebody basically – not basically, definitely – put you into tears sometimes and screaming pain, and that’s – I don’t know, no pain no gain? For me, at least, it’s definitely, definitely worked so if you can find somebody in your area, if you have issues like I do, somebody who does really, really deep, very precise body work/soft tissue work, that’s what’s worked for me.

Again, the guy’s name is Steve Melis, if you’re in the Boulder area. He is at Pro-Active Chiropractic.

So, that was kind of a mouthful but that’s where I’ve been and I guess now I will just get right into this interview. I’ll talk to you on the other side. Here’s Dave MacLeod. Enjoy it!


Neely Quinn: Alright, welcome to the show, Dave. Thanks for being with me.


Dave MacLeod: It’s a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.


Neely Quinn: Yeah. So for anybody who doesn’t know who Dave MacLeod is, can you just give us an introduction to yourself?


Dave MacLeod: Sure, yeah. I’m a professional climber. I live in Scotland, in the Highlands of Scotland. I’m 37 years old and been climbing just over 20 years. I do all the climbing disciplines to as high a level as I can. I’ve done many new routes in all the disciplines in places all around the world, and I guess as well as for my own climbing, people also know me for my blog, which I’ve written for many years. I’ve written on training and improvement at climbing and also the two books I’ve written. The first one was Nine out of Ten Climbers Make the Same Mistakes, which is sort of about training but really it’s just improving at climbing in general, and my second book, Make or Break, which is about climbing injuries.


Neely Quinn: Alright. That was a great introduction. Thanks.

Okay, so let’s go back a little bit to your climbing. You have – I was researching you last night online and you definitely have a really diverse background and really diverse accomplishments. Can you talk about maybe some of your highlights of climbing?


Dave MacLeod: Sure, yeah. Maybe some from the different disciplines.

I’ve never been a strong climber but I think I don’t have a great build for climbing to start with. I also started climbing quite late, when I was 15, so I’ve never been super strong. For me, personally, the climbing that I’ve done that I’m most happy with was climbing 9a on bolts and Font 8B+ on boulders. That – to gain enough strength to actually do that, has been the hardest thing for me and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into figuring out how I can get strong enough to do those grades.

I’ve done a few 9a’s, one or two in Spain, and a couple of great first ascents close to home, in

[unclear] and I also really love bouldering. It could be my favorite discipline. I love traveling around Scotland, around the Highlands, and I’m always getting first ascents because there’s just not so many climbers here and lots of new rock.

I’ve done many first ascents up to the Font 8B+ in the Highlands, which are some amazing lines, but I also really enjoy going to places like Switzerland. I’ve just been in Magic Wood bouldering for a month there, so I really enjoy that.

I guess I’m probably best known in climbing for my trad. Out of the routes I’ve done, I’m probably best known for my route Rhapsody, which was the first trad route in the world to get the UK grade of E11. At the time – it was several years ago, it was 2006 when I did that – it was a step forward in the UK at that time, at least, because it was 8c standard, sport climbing standard, on trad but a bit runout from the gear. There was a big fall.


Neely Quinn: Yeah. I heard you took a 70-foot fall and kind of hurt yourself on that.


Dave MacLeod: Oh, just a little bit, yeah. It wasn’t actually super serious, that route. It was just very hard climbing, very bouldery. It’s actually quite relevant to what we’re going to talk about, I think, because when I started that project my top standard in sport climbing was about 8b, maybe I had done a couple 8b+s and I could do maybe Font 8A bouldering, so a reasonable standard but not world class by any means by a long stretch, even at that time.

During the process of actually working it, my level increased quickly and we can go into talking about what I was doing with my training and all of that, but I think the thing that really made me push myself and break through to another level was having a really strong project that was close to home. It was five minutes from my house and I could just walk over there and try it and I ever expected to do it. I always thought it would be a project that someone else would do but I just didn’t mean to work on it, because I just wanted to try stuff that was too hard. I just really enjoy trying projects that I’m not yet good enough to do and finding out if I can make any progress on them.

Eventually, I started to get closer and closer to that project and got [unclear] and had all these big falls that were all captured on film into the film E11, which I guess a lot of people have seen, both online and on DVD back in the day, so people know that quite well.

I guess I’ve also done a lot of first ascents in winter on mixed climbing to high standards. Mixed climbing here in Scotland is a very traditional style of climbing. Almost all the routes are done onsight, ground-up, and for the routes to be in condition we wait for them to be pretty wintery and plastered in snow and ice, even the steep ones. They’re quite fierce, they’re quite adventurous, and scary.

A lot of people come from all around the world to climb here in winter because it’s such an unusual discipline but I think it’s really good for making you a sound leader in all the disciplines. I’ve definitely felt when I’ve done hard trad rock climbs, especially the long ones or on big walls, that the experience you have in winter really stands you in good stead, to be able to keep a cool head for a long time. Like, you’re often doing three- or four-hour leads for one pitch and so you get much better at just keeping a cool head and staying relaxed. It’s great.


Neely Quinn: Yeah, it seems like it would make you more comfortable with being uncomfortable.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, exactly. That’s right.

So I guess that’s what I’ve done. First ascents in all these different styles and I switch between them maybe a few times a year. For instance this year, well actually this spring, I spent most of this spring on crutches, just training with my feet off after some surgery. Then I was doing big walls in Norway, doing first ascents on a big wall. In the autumn I’ve been bouldering and just last week, after finishing up a boulder project, I’m back on tours and training for climbing in the next two months.


Neely Quinn: [laughs] Well, you’re never going to get bored.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, exactly. I mean, for me, that is one of the attractions of climbing is that the diversity of switching from one discipline to the next. The experience of doing it, the places you go to, the people you climb with, all those things.


Neely Quinn: Yeah. So when you’re doing mixed climbing, and actually, I’d like to ask you more about mixed climbing because I’m not super familiar with it. Could you explain, like, maybe give us a highlight of one of your favorite routes and tell me what it’s like and what kind of tools you need to use?


Dave MacLeod: We’re just using leashless ice tools. You know, with two handles on each tool. You’ve got to be careful not to drop them.


Neely Quinn: Right.


Dave MacLeod: So, you’re hooking on rock and often in winter, in Scotland, we try to choose lines that have a lot of turf or a lot of drainage in summer. The turf, when it’s frozen, is great stuff to climb on. It’s very secure and it feels very, very good to climb on. Often there’s a bit of ice around, so you’re climbing using turf placements, hooking in the rock, torquing in the cracks, and a lot of it is big, steep chimney lines and cracks so it’s really athletic, really sort of thrutchy, powerful climbing. You’re making powerful lock-offs between the tool placements and you’re torquing your axes into the crack, and it’s really physical.

Sometimes, if you’ve been leading a pitch for three or four hours and you’ve just been continuously pumped for all that time, it’s just so absorbing. You’re just kind of lost in your battle of this pitch and you get to the belay and you’re just totally exhausted and sink into your belay and wait for your partner to come up. It’s a really rewarding climbing style.


Neely Quinn: Oh my god. Three or four hours?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah. My longest lead in winter for one pitch was my hardest route, called Anubis, in [unclear]. I really did the first ascent of it in summer and then it was about E8 standard on trad, so it was about a 7c+ or 8a route, but with not that great gear, especially on the crux. It was a dangerous section. I did it in summer through this roof, but it had a very, very thin crack that you couldn’t use for your hands. I remember as I was doing it in summer, I thought, “I wonder if I could do this in winter and hook that crack with tools?”

So, I came back in the winter and I did it. It took me a few field attempts at first, and when I got going I had this brilliant lead where I was just teetering my way up it, continuously for about five hours. I felt like I could fall off about every move. It was an amazing feeling to get to the belay and just be like, you kind of made it all work for five hours and you managed not to fall off in that time, even though you felt so close to falling off for such a long time. It was great.

I didn’t have anyone that was going to be able to second me on it, so I had this great experience where – it was a 40-meter pitch, and – I got to the belay and I pulled up two ropes through all the gear and I tied them together and lowered them back down, then clipped the rope through the belay and just carried on up the next pitch. I didn’t have any rack left but the next pitch was easier so I just had the belay clipped and I climbed until the knot came up against the belay and then untied and then soloed the rest. It was just amazing to be up on the upper part. Easy climbing on ice, you know? Just soloing and climbing up it by myself and going on to the top and the plateau and the top of [unclear] totally alone. It was a really cool experience.

Neely Quinn: And this is why you do what you do.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, I came back in June and that’s when I got all my gear back. [laughs]


Neely Quinn: You know, speaking of free soloing, you have done some impressive free soloing.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, I haven’t done many solos. I actually had a discussion with my – it’s my fourteenth wedding anniversary tomorrow…


Neely Quinn: Congratulations.


Dave MacLeod: Thank you – and before I got married I had a discussion with my wife about soloing, and I kind of agreed that I wouldn’t really do any, so about three or four times since then I’ve said, “I’d really like to solo this one route and is that okay?” and she said, “That’s fine.” So, I don’t really do soloing but I’ve done a very, very few, and the few that I have done have been very special routes.


Neely Quinn: Yeah, it says in your Wikipedia page that you’ve completed solo climbs up to 8c.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, well the 8c that I did was a route in Spain. I think it’s downgraded to 8b+ now, which is definitely fair – yeah, it’s 8b+ – but it’s not super, super long, but still definitely soloing.


Neely Quinn: Yeah.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, so that was really good. At that time I was preparing for a route called the Echo Wall in Glen Nevis. It was a route I was training for for quite a while. I was just really trying to up my level in preparation for doing this really scary trad route. Echo Wall was graded 8c, with all my [unclear] gear on [unclear], you know? It was a very serious, serious route.

I was doing all this prep for it and I was in Spain, sport climbing, and trying to get fit but I also wanted to do a bit of soloing, just to feel that I was able to just keep totally cool. I’d done this 8b+ and I decided to solo it and it went very smoothly, as soloing must. [laughs]


Neely Quinn: And so, can you tell me a little bit about the trad climb that you just mentioned, that you were training for?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, Echo Wall. So, after I did that route Rhapsody, at Dumbarton Rock, I was kind of on a mission of looking for something similar. I realized that out of all the disciplines, that was probably what I was best at at the time, was doing these redpoints of hard trad routes that were really serious. I found that I could keep a cool head, even when it was very little gear or no gear, and as I was getting fitter as well I could climb 8c+ or 9a. I thought if I could find something that was serious, hard climbing, but also in the mountains then I could probably make the very best of my abilities in climbing and make a really good first ascent.

I always remember walking under this huge arete on Glen Nevis on our way to the ice climbs, so I went up and checked it out. I could see it was very hard. I worked on it for quite a long time, to try and be able to just do the moves and do the link-up on a top rope, and I could only just do that. The gear was almost nonexistent, so I had a lot of preparation to build myself up psychologically, to be confident enough to lead it.

I also went through some periods during that prep where I debated that I wasn’t going to do it because I felt it was too serious and not worth it. When I went through that feeling and I said, “No, it’s okay. It’s very serious and I could fall off it and I could kill myself if I fall off of it, so I’m not going to do it,” but in having decided not to do it, I thought, “No, is it that definite? It’s really quite important to me. It’s important spending my whole adult life doing, this pushing my climbing. It’s very important to me and this is a really special route and it’s a fairly special opportunity for me to make the most of my abilities,” so I decided to temporarily increase the level of risk that I would accept.

I led it, but I was very fit when I led it. I made sure I was in excellent shape and the conditions were perfect. When I actually went and did lead it it went as perfect as you could imagine a lead to go, really.


Neely Quinn: Yeah. You must have very brave belayers.


Dave MacLeod: Yes, that’s a good question, actually. Among the climbers that I know in the UK that are into that style of bold, hard trad, we often have interesting discussions between us about belaying. A friend of mine – in fact, you should interview him for one of your podcasts in time – he’s called Kev Shields and he only has one hand. We climb quite a lot together and he’s one of the boldest climbers that I’ve ever met.


Neely Quinn: One hand? Does he have a prosthetic or something?


Dave MacLeod: No, he sort of has a stump and part of his thumb, so he just kind of hooks that over the holds. He climbs quite hard even on steep ground but he tends to climb really bold slabs quite a lot. Like, hard, bold slabs, you know?

We’ve belayed each other. He belayed me on Echo Wall and I’ve belayed him on some very scary trad routes as well, where it’s proper that you’re [unclear] – like, both of you are terrified and you know that the consequences could be very bad. In fact, I’ve carried him back from the crag with a broken ankle and he’s carried me back from a crag with a broken ankle. [laughs]


Neely Quinn: [laughs] That’s not very funny but – that’s terrible.


Dave MacLeod: It’s interesting to know that I often find that I’d much rather prefer to be leading than belaying for one of these routes, because at least you’re in control of what’s happening. If you’re just holding the rope you’re just hoping that this person is not going to blow it.


Neely Quinn: Right, especially if they’re up there for hours and hours like you.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, that’s true, yeah. For the long leads you’re just more concerned that the person’s invested such a lot of time into this lead, you know? It’s like a marathon or an ultra-marathon. Several hours of pushing yourself and you just need to blow it for a second in the concentration and you’re off. Especially in the winter, where you wait a long time for the routes to be in condition. You get your one chance and if you don’t do it now you have to wait till next season and it might be in condition for a day next season. [laughs]


Neely Quinn: Okay, so that brings me to another question. The burning question of mine, which is about your head. You seem to really excel when there’s a lot of pressure on you. Do you want to talk a little about that?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah. It’s hard to say where that comes from other than just the experience and my background in the type of climbing that I’m exposed to. Maybe there’s also an aspect of the culture of the climbing here in the UK. When I was in my late teens I was starting to kind of move through the grades. I was really influenced by some of the films that were around at the time, like Hard Grit, which you might have heard of. Seeing all these guys doing these really bold routes and talking about how they could try and keep cool and keep their mind in a bubble for long enough to complete these routes.

That idea just really appealed to me. Probably because I was a teenager and I could climb so I enjoyed the feeling of everything. The court from hard grit was [unclear]. I liked to do dangerous routes safely and that’s just perfect, you know? A summary of what you’re trying to do. The feeling that you’re confident, you’re safe, but you’re in this situation where you’re only just on at the same time but you feel in control. I guess it has an addictive feeling and I’ve done it ever since.

The thing is, I know that I’m not a teenager anymore and I’ve also fallen off and really badly hurt myself several times and had long recoveries. I’ve had three surgeries in the past three years so I’ve been through the works. Now, I find that my appetite for doing bold routes has not diminished at all. It just hasn’t changed. I still, if I’m on a trad route and I’m aware that the next section is kind of committing and the gear’s not good, so I kind of can’t afford to fall off, I still have that feeling, “Well, right. That means I want to do it.” [laughs]

It’s confusing to me to know why I feel that because I also coach a lot of climbers and I’ve talked to a lot of others about their confidence and people that have big confidence in leading. I also do have confidence in leading in certain situations so it’s a very big subject. I feel that the practice and the long apprenticeship in doing trad day in, day out for so many years has just given me an appetite for it so I actually enjoy the feeling of that bit of fear. If you enjoy it you seek it out, and therefore you do the training by exposing yourself to it and it all just snowballs and you gather experience.

In that aspect, in combination with this systematic – doing all the right things of how you actually increase your boldness on trad.


Neely Quinn: Sorry for the interruption here. I wanted to let you guys know that FrictionLabs is a partner of TrainingBeta. I love their products and actually, the founder of FrictionLabs – one of the founders – is Kevin Brown. We actually went to high school together a million years ago in Wisconsin, but anyway, their chalk is also great. I actually refuse to use anything else at this point. It’s got a higher content of magnesium carbonate, which means things feel/holds feel stickier when you’re climbing. I feel like it sticks to my hands better than other chalk and there’s still chalk on my hands even if I don’t chalk up during a climb and then come back down, which is a big deal for me because I need all the help I can get.

If you want to check out their chalk for yourself go over to and some of the discounts are almost 50% off of their products. I highly recommend it, and now I’ll go back to the interview.


Neely Quinn: I read a blog post that you wrote called ‘Positive Thinking is Not Necessary.’ Do you want to talk a little about that and how it plays into your mental capabilities?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah. So, I did sports science at university and did a master’s in sports science. We did a lot of sports psychology and at that time, the whole paradigm for how to use your psychology and mental strength and toughness, both to motivate yourself to train but also to be resilient during a performance, was all about positive thinking. It was all about if you believe you can do something first, then that thing will actually happen.


Neely Quinn: Right, like using imagery beforehand and…


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, and so I fully bought into that until pretty recently, actually. What I observed over the years was that over so many performances at my limit in climbing I gradually began to realize that my mental state was in a whole spectrum of places, from feeling really strong and confident, feeling like, ‘Yes, I can do this. I’m gonna make this happen,’ to being the exact opposite and being in a terrible place where I was distracted by all the things going on in my life, or not feeling good about myself or my climbing or the conditions or whatever. Despite not feeling good or feeling like, ‘Really, there’s no way I’m going to do this route on this attempt,’ you would somehow still do it.

I think people that believe in positive thinking for sporting success maybe don’t take enough note of those times, because it’s easy to just ignore it and say, “Oh I was just lucky and I managed to just pull off that redpoint or that onsight anyway, even though I didn’t feel that good.” Or maybe, “That did feel good, because there is no way I think I’m going to do this, because I feel weak, I feel tired, I feel like it’s not happening, I feel frustrated or angry or whatever and I still did it.”

Gradually I’ve began to question this idea that positive thinking was necessary and then, from doing some other reading outside of sports psychology, I understood that there was actually a movement to say that it’s unnecessary and that feeling positive is more a symptom of good preparation, if you know what I mean. It’s not the cause of a good performance. It’s how you feel because you’ve done a good preparation, so how do you end up in that state where you are performing well and you also feel like you’re going to perform well? I think you don’t need to do posed visualization or tell yourself that you believe that you’re a good climber or you’re strong or you’re confident, but just that you need to focus on the actual practical aspect of how you go about becoming stronger or more confident or better prepared, and then once you actually do that then the positive feeling naturally falls from that.

The opposite side is if you start out by believing that you can do something and when you start to go about trying to prepare for it and you realize that you’re actually miles off it, then it can actually be self-defeating. For instance, I was doing a talk recently and I was talking about this route, Pacencia, on the Eiger. The hardest route on the Eiger. I hadn’t really done any alpine big walls before and it was a route that was done by Ueli Steck. Ueli is obviously an amazing alpinist, one of the best alpinists in the world, and this is his home mountain and his hardest route on it. I turned up at the bottom of it not having climbed for six weeks and just feeling so unfit and my mind was elsewhere with other things going on in my life.

I was saying, like – you know, imagine you were going to stand in front of the mirror each morning but you’re going up to the Eiger and saying, “I am as good as Ueli Steck. I am going to wipe the floor with Ueli Steck.” It’s ridiculous. [laughs] You would just totally think that that’s ridiculous. You’re totally unfit and you are nowhere near the best preparation for it.

I started climbing up this route just expecting to fail, but we didn’t fail. I completely forgot about worrying about whether I was going to do it or not and just focused on the next pitch, and the next pitch, and the next pitch, and the next pitch, until we got to the top.


Neely Quinn: Right.


Dave MacLeod: And that was an effective mental strategy.


Neely Quinn: Yeah, and that’s what I took from that blog post. You said that, basically, the most important thing is focusing on what you can do right now and executing it.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, exactly. That way it’s really quite a simple idea and I also really like the idea that – and in some of the reading I’ve done, people come back to some of the ideas of the ancient Greek stoics. Some of their ideas are a little bit more weird, but one of the ideas they had was that rather than positive thinking and only visualizing the things that would go right, that you should also visualize the things that would go wrong, and don’t be afraid to do that. Don’t be afraid to think about, ‘What will happen if I do fall? Will that gear hold? What if it doesn’t hold?’

When we’re doing these headpoints in trad, we’re constantly thinking, like, ‘What happens if I land there? What happens if I land there? That’s a leg break, or if you hit that boulder that’s going to be much worse.’ They’re not scared of that because the time to do that is when you’re standing on the ground before you start the climb. The problem with positive visualization is you think of it all going great but when you get up on the lead and when it doesn’t go great, you’re in the moment and there’s nothing you can do so it makes you panic. You’re like, ‘Hang on a minute. It wasn’t supposed to go like this.’ If you get to that potential panic moment on the lead and you’re like, ‘I’ve thought about this. I knew I was going to feel really scared so I’m just going to take a deep breath and take a moment, or maybe make a very decisive decision to slap for the hold, or slap for this hold or that hold or place that piece of gear, or whatever,’ then you’re more likely to execute despite being scared than just go to pieces.


Neely Quinn: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. It’s a very realistic way of going about it.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah.


Neely Quinn: So, speaking of you going and doing these climbs and potentially breaking body parts, do you want to talk about some of your injuries and maybe a little bit about your book Make or Break?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, sure. Well, in the past couple of years I’ve had a couple of really bad injuries from falling off. The worst injury I’ve ever had I was doing a new 6b+ on bolts and I was getting lowered off and the rope was just a bit short. My climbing partner didn’t notice, I didn’t notice, and I got lowered off the end of the rope and tumbled down the crag about 20 feet or something and just smashed my ankle to bits. Oh god. It changed my life.

I had two surgeries on the ankle and a lot of recovery and a lot of periods where I wasn’t really sure if I was going to regain my fitness. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to walk at all. I certainly can’t run anymore, but that’s fine. I’m not too worried about that. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to climb or go in the mountains. It’s sort of seeming like that’s cool. I’m going to be able to do that now but a lot of uncertainty. That was from a simple accident so yeah – be careful when you’re sport climbing. There’s only a few things you’ve got to get right but get them right.


Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s ironic that you were doing, in theory, the safest form of climbing.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, naturally, but aside from that over the whole time I’ve been climbing – I started climbing when I was 15 – I got my first finger injury when I was 16.


Neely Quinn: Of course.


Dave MacLeod: Then I injured my elbows, I’ve injured nearly all my pulleys in all my fingers over the five years that followed, and I just quite quickly realized that I was never in a state where I was completely injury-free. [laughs] I was either just recovering from an injury or just got a new one and thankfully that’s not the experience that maybe most climbers have.

Most climbers will get some injury at some point, and still a good proportion of them will get many injuries and especially the climbers that are very involved in it, they’ll quite often agree that, especially as time goes on, you get to a stage where you’re rarely completely injury-free. It’s always old battle scars on your body that start to complain.

I was realizing that there’s always so many times when you’re about to break barriers in your own climbing and rather than the details of training, it’s the injury that stops you. You just can’t train because you get injured and you’ve got to stop training or reduce your training and back off, just as you’re about to do your first 9a or something like that. It’s very frustrating.

Right from that very first injury I had when I was 16 I had this defining moment, I think in my life, when I went to my local doctor and I said, “I think I’ve hurt my finger. I have no idea what’s wrong with it but I’ve hurt it from climbing on small holds and I don’t know what to do.” He said, “Take six weeks off, take some ibuprofen, and go get better.” I said, “Oh okay, I’ll get better. Six weeks.” It’s a long time to deal with when you’re 16 but I was like, “Okay, I can deal with it for six weeks,” and there was absolutely no change in the injury. I went back to the doctor and said, “I waited for six weeks and I’ve done the treatment, which is not do anything, and what do I do now?” He said, “Just take up a different sport.”

I remember being completely confused and I didn’t know what to say. I remember walking away from the doctor’s going, ‘What? I know that cannot be right. Surely that cannot be – I don’t know anything about medicine but that cannot be the best option available.’ I thought, ‘What can I do? There must be more information that I’m missing,’ so I went to the university book shops and I sat and I read the medical textbooks in there and I learned a little bit more about how you treat sports injuries.

Well, I managed to definitely improve the rate of my pulley tear at the time and it’s – really, since then, I’ve noticed you’ve got to take control of your injury recovery and your health into your own hands. If you leave it to someone else, medical or otherwise, then you’re taking a big gamble because there are a lot of brilliant medics out there who are specialists and will know exactly how to treat your injury, but the chances of you actually putting yourself in front of that expert are not always that great. You might find that the advice you’re getting is substandard.

One example of that is if you go to the hospital – like I have done, turned up at the hospital with a suspected broken ankle, and they look at it and they say, “It doesn’t look that swollen. It doesn’t look that bad. We’ll probably not x-ray you.” If you tell them you’re a professional athlete and they say, “Okay, we’ll x-ray you. Oh yeah, it’s broken.” [laughs]

How you’re treated depends on who you are and what your objective is. A lot of medical treatment is, for good reason, a balance between the most invasive and the most intense treatment. It requires a lot of motivation. They are around a lot of people who aren’t athletes and who aren’t motivated, simply enough, to do the treatment that you could be doing. Whereas, you’ve got to be totally straight with any medical professional you see to say how motivated you are and how important it is to you to recover from this injury. Even then, that’s partly what made me want to write the book, because even then that cannot be enough.

If you go and see someone, say a junior physiotherapist, he might not really understand your injury. You know, say you have a recurring elbow injury and they don’t really understand climbers because they don’t really understand how our injuries develop. They might offer you some short term treatment, like some – I don’t know – the treatments they all offer are pretty basic. They might encourage you that if you don’t respond over several months, they might then encourage you to just accept the injury and reduce your amount of training, whereas if you saw the very best person in the world they might offer you something completely different, a lot more intensive. That might be the key to your recovery.

Unless you say, “I want to do the most,” and then they actually are big enough to say, “Well, I’m probably not the best person to treat you. You should be going to see this person and this person and this person as well as me.” Not enough medical professionals do that, I think.


Neely Quinn: Yeah, I think a lot of professionals don’t know who those people are.


Dave MacLeod: That’s true. Yeah, that’s very true. Certainly, from my own injury experiences, I’ve put a lot of effort into seeking out the professionals, finding out who the best person in the world to treat you is. You might/people might think, ‘Well, that’s an awful lot of effort.’ Say that expert or that surgeon is in a different country? At the same time, if you have quite a serious injury, like you injure your shoulder or something and you can’t climb, over the course of a couple years of receiving substandard treatment, you’re going to spend a lot of time receiving that treatment and probably a lot of money as well. If you’d just gone to the best person in the world it might actually be cheaper and a lot quicker if you’d just gone straight to that person, get their advice, and recover the first time. In my mind it really pays off, especially for something so serious like – you only have one body. You’ve got to take really good care of it.


Neely Quinn: Yeah. You go into a lot more depth into all these topics in Make or Break.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, I do. The first half of Make or Break is primarily about instilling that idea of taking personal responsibility for your path to recovery and just sort of explaining the limitations of the sports medicine industry and where it goes wrong and how to navigate it to make sure that you get the best possible care and advice.

A big part of that is for people to understand that it’s much better if they become the expert, if they can do the raw research themselves on their injury and know the options and then have a one-to-one discussion on an equal level with the surgeon, to say, “Well, according to the research, for my level of injury and my level of performance and involvement in this sport, it looks like this is the best option. Do you agree?” They might say, “Yes, I do agree,” whereas otherwise they might have offered you the default, which is the minimal treatment to start with.

It just makes it much more likely that you will get the best care. That’s the first half of Make or Break, and then the second half I go into the detail of tendon injuries and why tendons get injured and what is currently known, which is not as much as you would hope, about why tendons recover and heal. The best advice that I could find from reading the research for recovering from all the specific injuries, from elbows to shoulders and fingers, lower body.


Neely Quinn: You also wrote a blog post recently about how diet might be affecting tendon injuries.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, well that was just a quick heads-up for very, very early research. I’m also interested in the way our medical research is and where it’s going for our training and nutrition. Obviously, I try to follow it as much as I can. That’s one thing that flagged-up, is this idea that people who have abnormal cholesterol – that’s not necessarily high cholesterol, but that’s partly what they measured – just an abnormal cholesterol profile tended to have more tendon injuries. That’s just an association, not causation, but it’s something that is worth flagging-up. Hopefully there will be more research that would show causation, but it fits into a picture that abnormal cholesterol and changes that happen, depending on what diet you eat, affect many aspects of your health and it looks like tendons may be one of them, which would maybe make sense.


Neely Quinn: Yeah, knowing that a lot of the heart markers are affected by inflammation, maybe that’s the correlation there. Who knows?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, that’s right. That subject of diet and lifestyle and inflammation – general, systemic inflammation – and its effects on the body in all sorts of ways is something that seems to be very controversial. Lots of people are really arguing and at odds with each other on what might be the causes of increased inflammation and how that increased inflammation causes problems with health, recovery, performance, all of these things.

Yes, this is definitely something that’s worth paying attention to. In recent years I’ve become more and more acutely aware of how important things like diet are to performance.


Neely Quinn: Yeah, and you wrote on your blog somewhere that you weren’t willing to talk about your own diet. Are you still at that place or are you ready?


Dave MacLeod: Oh, I don’t know. It seems silly to not say but I’ve run a bit of an experiment on myself in the past two months. I’ll give you a little bit of background to it. So, I used to/I’m not naturally a very light climber. Actually, my body fat percentage is on the high side back from when I started climbing, especially now that I’m quite experienced in climbing and my technique is reasonably good. I’ve trained for two decades. I’m still getting stronger but at a very slow rate so I find that my weight really affects my performance level. That’s not the same for everyone.

There’s obviously people with many different body types and metabolism. There are some people who are unable to change their body weight no matter what they do. They can’t seem to get any performance benefit from losing weight so this is not for everyone. I want to make that totally clear, but for me my climbing grade is definitely affected by my body fat percentage. I’m always trying to get it to be lower and it’s [unclear] on the high side of other climbers that are climbing at my standard. I’ve always tried to lower it.

There’s almost any tactic out there that will temporarily change your body weight and your body fat percentage. The trouble is that not many of them are good for maintaining that. That requires constant starvation, basically, which is not really a good way to spend a lot of your adult life. What used to always work for me was fasted running but now since all my ankle injuries I can’t do that anymore.

In the past couple years I have found that my weight has kind of crept up a little bit. It really affects my climbing standard and I’ve gone around in circles trying all those different methods of weight loss and I’ve found that even the methods that used to work quite well for me seem to be more and more ineffective. I was thinking, ‘Why is this happening? This doesn’t seem to make sense, that I would be constantly trying to eat less and not feeling like I’m actually losing weight. Feeling like I’m even maintaining my weight, really. This is not making sense.’

I had been aware of a new wave of research into very low carbohydrate diets and I was interested to try it. I had kind of an aborted try about this time last year but I basically didn’t do it properly. I didn’t fully commit to it. It did work for me temporarily but I wasn’t suitably motivated for it. I did it for about a month and then stopped.

This October I decided I would have another go and I did it properly this time and I’ve found the results to be – at this point, which is fairly early days – I’ve found the results to be excellent.


Neely Quinn: So are you talking about a ketogenic diet or just…


Dave MacLeod: Yes, I feel like a ketogenic diet.


Neely Quinn: Super high fat, very low carb, moderate protein.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, and because I studied it in university, high carbohydrate diet is essential for sports and performance. That is the paradigm and I would have been firmly in that paradigm until recently. The idea that you would turn that completely on it’s head still seems bonkers to me [laughs] because I’m so conditioned to feel that there is only one way.

I would say at this point I’m happy to be confident in the idea that there seems to be more than one diet or strategy that works and you can go to the opposite extreme of high fat or low carbohydrate – whether it’s ketogenic or not – and it certainly seems to work for weight control and it certainly seems to work for good performance. That’s both for endurance and for power sports.

Whether it’s the best strategy, I think it’s too early to say for me, in my experiment.


Neely Quinn: I’ve had a lot of people ask me about keto diets so I’m going to spend a few minutes here. I’ve actually tried it myself and I felt like I was dying, literally, so I stopped very quickly.


Dave MacLeod: How long did you do it?


Neely Quinn: I only did it for a week because my heart was doing weird things. I couldn’t stand up without almost passing out. It was really bad. Then somebody wrote a blog post about me because I had written a blog post about it and they were like, “With your body type you’re probably not going to do very well with it because you need carbs, blah blah blah, because you have this much muscle fiber.”

What I always tell people is that it really depends on your body type and it really depends on the individual. Then a lot of people said to me that I didn’t do it long enough, that I needed to wait three weeks, so what are your thoughts on that? How long did you – did you feel bad in the beginning?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, yeah, for fully two weeks I felt awful. I would have said that you were probably only halfway or not even halfway through the adaptation. You were probably in the very worst place and even during the adaptation I think it’s very crucial to do certain things, as I discovered. It’s important to eat a bit more salt than you normally do. I found that, as I was making the adaptation I realized – I was actually in Magic Wood, bouldering, when I was doing the adaptation – I switched on the day that I traveled to Magid Wood and so I had the first week adapting as I was actually trying to boulder and I found that I felt okay but I had headaches. I felt that I only had 80% power. I felt like I didn’t have real power and I had bad headaches. I felt a little bit of the same thing in that I felt a bit faint standing up, just a little bit. All the things you should feel – that’s the adaptation that your body’s making a complete switch in its metabolism. It’s quite a big deal.

Halfway through the second week I started to feel better, especially when I started to eat more salt. Then I felt absolutely brilliant after that and I felt really good in my climbing and really strong. That worked out by me actually climbing things that I had tried before and couldn’t do. I obviously felt lighter because I was lighter, but I also felt strong. I didn’t feel any problems, and actually I had a whole other series of benefits that I wasn’t expecting such as I didn’t feel hungry all the time. That, for me, was a fantastic benefit that I wasn’t expecting.

I’ve been trying to maintain as much of a dispassionate approach as possible, to be very skeptical about it and really look for the problems because I don’t want to/I want to minimize what you’re vulnerable to, the bias you have. If you do a certain diet you are biased to believe that it’s good and it’s going to work.


Neely Quinn: Or in my case, biased to believe that it’s bad.


Dave MacLeod: Well, really, for a ketogenic diet, to judge it it needs to be for at least a month because the adaptation lasts several weeks. If you even take a little bit of carbs you are almost back to the start, so you’re just going to be bouncing along the bottom until you have a good two weeks’ worth of no carbs.


Neely Quinn: Two questions: you’re not able to run right now but have you actually been able to test it out with endurance exercise of some kind?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, sure. Climbing in the mountains, walking up mountains with a big sack on, going road cycling, mountain biking, all of these things.


Neely Quinn: What food are you bringing?


Dave MacLeod: That’s the thing – for days that I’m up for six to eight hours or more, I find that I’m not really that hungry. I know that that is quite difficult to believe and I find it quite difficult to believe as well, but I feel like I don’t need to take food. Today, for instance, I was out in the hills running around filming. I was actually filming a runner and so we were kind of running to different locations and all of that, and I didn’t take any food. He was saying to me, “Do you not need to eat something before we go?” and I was like, “No. I won’t.” I didn’t eat anything.

I found that in Magic Wood as well. In the morning I made two boiled eggs to take with me and I go off into the forest for six to eight hours and I’d come back and I’d go, “Ah, I forgot to eat my boiled eggs.” [laughs] That, for me, is unbelievable. Before that, if I did a sport route I’d be like, “I need an energy bar after every sport route.” I’d just eat so it’s really quite striking. When I’m on it for a long phase I take some eggs, I take some chicken, I take some yogurt, and that kind of thing.


Neely Quinn: In general, what are you eating when you’re not out climbing? Eating nothing?


Dave MacLeod: Generally, eggs and salad for breakfast. Yogurt – natural yogurt – with high fat, which is quite hard to find. High fat yogurt with low carb, but you can find it. A lot of cream because I drink a lot of tea and I put cream in my tea. I eat a small amount of berries, like strawberries, and raspberries, and blueberries with lots of cream, and I eat a lot of meat like chicken, beef, lamb – just a lot of different meats.


Neely Quinn: Do you go for the really fatty cuts?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, yeah. I’m not naturally a big fan of fatty meat so I’ve been trying to adjust – again, it’s like a paradigm shift, you know? It just feels so wrong to take so much fat. I’m still trying to get my head around it. I do try to eat the more fatty cuts because it’s a bit of a problem for a ketogenic diet if you eat too much protein. It can interfere with the ketosis a little bit.


Neely Quinn: It can convert some to sugar.


Dave MacLeod: Well, I’m not quite sure if it converts into sugar. I think no one is quite certain about that, whether it’s just  because the protein itself spikes insulin or the protein is turned into glucose in the liver. No one is certain about the mechanism but it does seem to interfere.

I would stress, I would stress, this is an experiment I’m running on myself and I’ve only just started it. It feels good for me at the moment but I want to run the experiment for a long time before I really feel confident that I would like to stay in this strategy. In the moment I feel brilliant on it.


Neely Quinn: Okay, that’s great. I appreciate you sharing. I’m glad that you did.

This is so funny. This is not what I was expecting us to talk about but it’s really interesting stuff. Let’s talk really quickly about your other book, Nine out of Ten Climbers. Do you want to just give me a run down?


Dave MacLeod: Well, Nine out of Ten is really like a behavioral science book rather than a training book. Although I do get into the details of what exercises you can do on a climbing wall and how you should use a finger board or a campus board and all of the nitty gritty of training, the basic point of the book is to worry less about those details and stand back and look at the bigger picture of your behavior.

The idea to write the book came from traveling around the UK and running coaching sessions with all these different climbers and seeing the same things, over and over again. For the vast bulk, climbers are a medium level who climb regularly but they’re not world class climbers. It’s always the same things. For instance, in a lot of my sessions people would always say, “Can we do a little bit about how to use the finger board? Because I would really like to know the best exercises to use.” “Yep, that’s fine.” We’d go over to the finger board and say, “Do you have a finger board at home?” “Yes, I do.” “How often do you use it at the moment?” “I’ve used it twice.” That was, by far, the most common answer. “Why have you only used it twice? You’re not going to get strong on it from that many times.” They would say, “Well, it’s in my basement and it’s out of the house. It’s a bit dingy down there and dark and cold, so it’s not a very appealing place to spend time.”

My stance was that hanging off a finger board, though some people have some ideas about the best way to use one, is it’s quite hard to go wrong just hanging off of small holds. You can definitely go wrong if you don’t use it. [laughs]


Neely Quinn: Right.


Dave MacLeod: I was encouraging people to change their climbing routine in order to sort of swim with the tide of where that’s taking you. For instance, if you go climbing at the climbing wall and you hang out with the guys who are doing the bouldering and are talking to each other about the detail of moves and they’re working really hard and they’re super-motivated and they all climb 8C, then you’ll climb 8C, too. It’s almost impossible not to because if you do the training they’re doing, if you do the same sorts of things, you’re motivated and you try hard because everyone else is trying hard, that’s the norm so you do as well.

If you put your finger board in the kitchen or in front of the telly then you’re much more likely to use it. If you can’t do that, if you make your training environment a nice place, somewhere you want to go spend time, then you’re much more likely to use it and actually get strong on it. Once you get to that stage the details are pretty simple stuff, you know?


Neely Quinn: And you talk about those in the book?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, I do. Talking about finger boarding and talking about how to manage your climbing season and your climbing year to make the most of the strength gains. For instance, some people will do a block of using a finger board for a few weeks – like say, maybe four weeks – and then not use it again. That doesn’t really fit too well within the nature of gaining strength. Strength is something that increases very, very slowly so you need to be doing it for a large part of the year. It’s actually better if you mix in a bit of strength work for a much larger part of the year, even while you are going out climbing.

In the summer, for example, I might be doing mountain trad or big wall. If I go on a big wall trip you’re climbing every day and you’re completely exhausted and your body is fit but you’re losing a lot of your strength because you’re not doing that hard, really hard, pulls on small holds. I try to keep bouldering. I’ve got my really good climbing wall in my garage and I stay on the finger board. I wait through the summer, even though the winter is the bouldering season.

Strength takes a long time to develop. You’ve got to keep reminding the body all year, whereas endurance – you can gain endurance in a matter of weeks, so it makes sense to do your block of endurance in your six weeks before you’re about to go on your sport climbing trip or off on a big wall trip or something like that. Those kind of ideas.


Neely Quinn: Do you want to talk about how you trained specifically for Echo Wall?


Dave MacLeod: Well, Echo Wall was a very bold trad route so a lot of the training was psychological. I made the most of my sport climbing trip in Spain by also doing a little bit of soloing. I was out there getting my endurance in the late spring, less than two months from when I was going to be on the route. That’s when I started building endurance with a sport climbing trip, having lots of days on.

One big problem with climbing is that climbers are often trying to perform all of the time and not really train. You can’t train by going climbing. You have to approach it a little bit differently, and that’s one of the ideas in Nine out of Ten Climbers. To train, you really have to be working your body hard. Maybe not everyday, if you’re at a basic level/a novice level, but for a lot of climbers, training everyday with variety. You obviously need to push pretty hard whereas if you’re going to perform, you need to perform after a rest day, after you’re rested.

A lot of climbers don’t really differentiate between the two nearly as much as they ought to. Not just in training, as well a lot of climbers will – I was just in Magic Wood and there I was observing other climbers. People were saying to me, “What are you going to climb today, Dave?” and I would be like, “Oh, I’m resting today.” “Resting again?” “Yeah, I’m resting because I’m on performance mode and I’ve done my training. I’m here to climb the projects that are on my list. I want to climb really hard projects. I want to do it when I’ve got 100% strength so I’ll wait till I’m well-rested and wait till I’ve got really good skin.”

Some climbers who are trying to perform will end up doing too much bouldering and they’ll end up ruining their skin. They can never get a good attempt on their hard project because their skin’s not good enough or they’re only at 90% because they are a bit tired. They want to do an 8A+ but they’ll go around and do a bunch of 7C’s as well. Well, you could skip a couple of the 7C’s and do the 8A+ rather than do all the 7C’s and fail on the 8A+.


Neely Quinn: Right. So will you just wait as long as it takes to have good skin and full energy?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah. Bouldering trips tend to be day-on, day-off. Even if I’m only there for a week I’ll do day-on, day-off. It kind of seems hard to travel halfway across the world for seven days of climbing and take three of them off [laughs] but it means that those days work really well. I learned that a long time ago.

The first dedicated bouldering trip abroad that I ever went on, I went with a friend and he wanted to do his first 7C boulder and I wanted to do an 8A or just try 8A’s. If I could succeed on one then I’d be happy. We both had totally different strategies. He said he also wanted to go around and do quite a lot of problems and I said, “Well, I think I’m probably going to have to choose. I could do a load of 7C’s or I could do the 8A but not both.”

It was a really interesting experiment because I only climbed for about 90 minutes a day. I climbed everyday, but just for 90 minutes. I rested all the morning and I supported my friend, who did [unclear] a bunch of other stuff and his climbing standard went down about half a grade everyday, just because he was getting more tired. He was probably getting fitter, he just wasn’t well-rested. He was like, “I just don’t want to take a rest day.” I was like, “Yeah, I totally agree. Neither do I. I just want to make sure I do these routes.”

I was working on all these 8A’s but not long enough to actually do them because 8A was actually quite close to my limit at that time. On the fifth day I had 90 minutes of climbing and I went round and I did all 8A’s first try, I think. Five 8A’s. After that trip I was like, ‘Right. I definitely learnt something there. If you are on performing mode, do it rested and have the good redpoint or if you’re on training mode, train like hell and work yourself hard and trash yourself.’

I mean, when you’re on a trip you can switch between one or the other. Say you’ve got a two-week trip or a three-week trip. You can do the first week on training mode and do redpoints and onsights every day and trash yourself, and then on the last week you can do the opposite and have day-on, day-off and then you’re just climbing like a machine and that’s when you’ll be able to pull off the redpoint.


Neely Quinn: Yeah, hopefully your friend/your partner learned something from that trip, too.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, well that’s it. I always have this discussion all the time. You have this battle with yourself where you go to this great place where there’s all these climbs and you just want to do all of them and you’re like, well, you’ve got to be realistic. Do you want to do mileage or do you want to climb hard? Which is it to be? It’s so hard because half the time you try a project and you won’t do it so you’ll end up spending a week or two weeks or three weeks in a place and you’ll come home having climbed nothing. You’ve got to accept that that’s the outcome.

I’ve never had a problem with that. I think I’ve done so much redpointing that I’ve found that I’m totally happy with that. It’s like, I’d rather go home with nothing, having spent it trying the thing I really, really wanted to do, the dream route, than trying to squeeze in a lot of mileage as well and not really doing that much mileage but not doing the project either. For me, it’s the best but everyone is different.


Neely Quinn: Well, as always, I have still about a hundred questions left for you, but I don’t want to keep you for much longer. I do want to ask you about how people can work with you or if they can work with you.


Dave MacLeod: You mean in coaching?


Neely Quinn: Yeah, yeah.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, I mean I’ve not actually offered that much coaching for the past few years, partly because I was working on book projects. Since I’ve released – I worked on Make or Break for four years on and off. It was a really big project so I stopped coaching altogether. Since I released it nearly a year ago I just went climbing for awhile, which has been great.

I definitely could do some coaching again. I’m actually doing some – I’ve got a great climbing wall at my house and I’m going to shortly start running some courses from there. It’s actually – I was talking with my wife the other night. We’ve been trying to do a road trip somewhere in the world before our daughter goes to school next year and one of the places that’s probably at the top of the list is to go to the US and do a big road trip. My idea was that we would go between different cities – get a camper van – and travel between different areas in the US and do a day of running some coaching classes or do a talk at some of the climbing walls across the US and then go on a trip the rest of the time. So yeah, maybe I’ll be coming to a town near you. [laughs]


Neely Quinn: Well, I can tell you, I’ve really gotten up to 20, maybe 25 requests, to have this interview with you so I know those classes would fill up fast.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, good stuff. Well, I can go on about training for hours and hours and hours. [laughs]


Neely Quinn: Yeah, and I really wanted to get more into your personal training and how you work with clients but – would you maybe want to do another interview in a few months?


Dave MacLeod: Sure. Why not?


Neely Quinn: That would be awesome.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah.


Neely Quinn: So for now, if people want to find you they go to Is there any other place they can find you?


Dave MacLeod: Well, the is the best place because I still do write on the blog, both on my online climbing coach blog and my personal blog. At some point I keep thinking that maybe I should just merge them. I’m not quite/it’s always a bit fluid. I still write on both blogs about new ideas that are coming through that I’ve either read in the research or experienced in my own climbing.

I always try, in my own blog, to relay my own experiences in climbing, to present them in a way that will be useful to other people. For instance, when we were talking about psychology and positive thinking earlier, it’s my observation that I could produce good performances, even when I felt psychologically in a terrible state. I went away and did some research and reading about that and then presented those ideas in a blog post.

I still do write on my blog, so I would encourage people to read that and the books, of course. Nine out of Ten – I remember writing it. I wrote it in a very intense period. It was not long after my daughter was born and I sat down and I wrote it 12 hours a day for six weeks and did two hours of training after that. I did that everyday for six weeks and by the end of it I was climbing really strongly and I had the book written and it was great. Back at that time, it was my first book and I thought I’d sell maybe a couple thousand copies of it and I’ll be happy. I’ve added at least another zero to that, so yeah. It’s been really, really good. I’m glad people – you know, a lot of people write to me and say that it has helped their climbing.


Neely Quinn: Yeah. A lot of people have it that I know.


Dave MacLeod: Yeah. It’s just brilliant. I’m so pleased because I obviously spent a lot of time gathering the knowledge that I’ve gained from my own, personal climbing, but to be able to share that, blogs and books make it so easy to share that these days, and of course your podcast, which is great.


Neely Quinn: Last question: do you want to give a shout-out to your sponsors? My main question is: is this how you make a living? Off of your books and coaching, or are you sponsored financially in that way or what else?


Dave MacLeod: Yeah, I do get a bit of sponsorship from – my longest sponsor has been Black Diamond, which makes brilliant equipment, and also Mountain Equipment. They are also a clothing brand which has launched in the US recently, but they’re a British-based company so maybe some of you wouldn’t have heard of Mountain Equipment yet. Gore Tex as well, so yes, my sponsors – I’ve worked with them for many years and they’re brilliant.


Neely Quinn: Great. I really, really appreciate your time. Thanks for making this happen.


Dave MacLeod: No problem, yeah, it’s a pleasure. We should definitely do it again and talk a bit more about training. It’s my favorite subject.


Neely Quinn: It sounds like it. [laughs] Okay, well thanks.


Dave MacLeod: No problem. Cheers.


Neely Quinn: Alright, thanks for listening to that interview with Dave MacLeod, who is one of the most famous climbers and trainers in the world, as far as I can tell, with how many people have asked for this interview with him. It was quite an honor for him just to sit down and tell me his secrets, so lucky us.

You can find him at and you can see all of his books and all of his many blog posts over there.

Let’s see – coming up on the podcast I have Nina Williams and a bunch of other people are lined-up for this year. I’m going to continue to try to do once a week, hopefully, to keep you guys entertained and educated on this stuff.

If you guys need anymore help with your training, know that Kris Peters is starting to do one-one-ones through TrainingBeta now. He is the guy who wrote a lot of our training programs and he was also a part of Team of Two with Justen Sjong, who I also interviewed on the podcast recently. They’ve gone on their own/they’ve gone separate ways, and now Kris is going to be doing Skype calls and five-week training programs specifically for individuals. If you guys want to do that go to and check out the ‘Coaching’ tab at the top and you will find information for Kris Peters there.

We always have our training programs. It’s the new year. Currently it’s December 31st, New Year’s Eve. I’m about to start training myself. I know that a lot of us have gained some weight and gotten a little lazy over the new year and around Christmas and all that, so it’s time. If you’re ready to start training, go to and there’s ‘Training Programs’ at the top, too, so you can find all of our offerings up there.

I think that’s it. I’m going to let you go back to what you were doing. Thanks for listening. As always, you can give me an honest review over at iTunes if you like. I appreciate you listening all the way to the end and I’ll talk to you next week.



TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. We offer climbing training programs, a blog, interviews on the TrainingBeta Podcast, personal training for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.

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