Project Description

Date: March 26th, 2019

trainingbeta podcast



About John Kettle

John Kettle is a long-time climber, a climbing guide, a climbing trainer/coach, and an instructor for aspiring climbing coaches in the UK. He also recently wrote a book called Rock Climbing Technique, and you can find more about him on his website at He lives in Kendal, England, where he does most of his climbing and teaching.

The reason I wanted to talk to John is that he recently emerged from a 10+ year plateau by training in his cellar only 6 hours every week. He spent the first 15 years of his climbing career topping out at V7 and 5.11d, but after figuring out what he needed to work on–and efficiently doing that for a little over a year–he sent his first V11. He then went on to send his first 5.13b.

Part of what got him to be such a better rock climber was working on technique drills, and that’s why he ended up writing his book all about climbing technique. In it, he takes you through a lot of climbing drills to help you be more efficient and skilled on the wall. These drills have also informed his training methods with clients. You can find out more about his coaching and training services, both local and abroad, at

This talk was super interesting to me, not only because his is a phenomenal success story, but because of how incredibly efficient he was at improving himself as a climber. Along the way he also healed up a bunch of injuries that were holding him back, realized why he kept getting injured, and improved his diet so that he can train harder and more often now at the age of 40 than he could in his 20’s. This is a good one!

John Kettle Interview Details

  • Why his climbing was misguided for first 15 years
  • How he went from V7 to V9 in 7 weeks with limited training
  • List of drills he uses during ARC-ing sessions
  • How his technique was causing injuries that held him back
  • Changes he made to his diet to help recovery and performance
  • How he improved his technique to jump 4 bouldering grades
  • The specific exercises he does to improve strength and power

Training Programs for You

Do you want a well-laid-out, easy-to-follow training program that will get you stronger quickly? Here’s what we have to offer on TrainingBeta…

climbing training programs

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Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast where I talk with climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and I want to remind you that the TrainingBeta podcast is an offshoot of the website which I created to have a space that is completely dedicated to training for climbing.

Over there you’ll find training programs, blog posts that are done by trainers and climbers in our community, we have training videos, and I do nutrition consulting with people – specifically climbers – to optimize your diet and to recover better, and Matt PIncus does online training with climbers all over the world and he will create individualized programs for people who are trying to reach a climbing goal.

You can find all of that at and you can find us on social media @trainingbeta. We also have a training forum on Facebook. It’s a community page and you can find that at

A while back I asked you guys, everybody in my audience, for suggestions for people to have on the podcast who had plateaued at 5.11 or 5.12 and then trained in order to get through to the 5.13 grade. One of the people who emailed me was John Kettle. He’s an English climber, he’s a coach, he’s a mountain guide, he’s a dad and he’s a family man, and he wrote me and told me how he had gone from 5.11 for the first 15 years of his climbing career to now he climbs 13b in a handful of tries. He went from being a V7 boulderer for the first 15 years to sending his first V11.

Obviously, that peaked my interest. That’s vast improvement, especially after being at the same level for so long. I wanted to talk to him about what he did to improve and it turns out that a lot of what he did was not based on strength gains. I mean, it was but he also focused a lot on technique and doing technique drills to improve the way he was climbing and his skills. That’s a lot of what his coaching is based on and he actually wrote a book called Rock Climbing Technique all about the drills that he used on himself and with his clients. You can find that at or on Amazon or anywhere that you can find books.

I’m not going to tell you too much more because John is going to do a really good job describing all of the things that he did to improve so here’s John Kettle. I’ll talk to you on the other side. Enjoy.

Neely Quinn: Welcome to the podcast, John. Thanks very much for talking with me today.

John Kettle: Hi Neely. How are you doing?

Neely Quinn: I’m doing great. For anybody who doesn’t know who you are can you tell us about yourself?

John Kettle: Yes. I’m John Kettle. I’m a rock climbing coach and an instructor in UK, in England.

Neely Quinn: Whereabouts do you live?

John Kettle: I live up in the north of England in a little town called Kendal in the English Lake District which is a little bit of a hotbed for climbing in the area.

Neely Quinn: So have you been climbing for a long time?

John Kettle: Yeah, I think I’ve been climbing a long time now. It’s kind of snuck up on me but I think this is my 25th year of rock climbing.

Neely Quinn: Wow. Nice.

John Kettle: Yeah, feeling old.

Neely Quinn: I mean 25 years also gives you a lot of experience and wisdom, I’m sure.

John Kettle: Well, I’d like to think so. I’ve certainly done lots of things wrong in my time and I think I’ve learned a lot by my mistakes in that respect, hopefully.

Neely Quinn: You’ve made a career out of climbing, basically. Can you tell me about that? What do you do for a living?

John Kettle: For a living I primarily coach rock climbing. I do a mixture of different things. I work in the outdoors in other areas but I would say about 70% of my income these days is coaching rock climbing and then there’s a mixture of guiding in there. There’s a bit of instructor education in terms of helping people through their qualifications and coach education as well, helping coaches to learn more and delivering coach qualifications because we have a coach qualification scheme in the UK. All things are related to that, really.

Neely Quinn: Do you help coaches become coaches and guides become guides?

John Kettle: Yeah, that’s right. I do both of those things. There’s a qualification over here called the Mountaineering Instructor Award and the Mountaineering Instructor Certificate and I’m involved in helping trainee mountaineering instructors prepare for assessment and get ready for those qualifications. Then, I’m a provider of the climbing coaching awards so I deliver the training and assessment for those as well.

Neely Quinn: The climbing coaching awards? So there are actual certifications over there?

John Kettle: That’s right. They were only launched five years ago so they are reasonably new and they sit alongside the other certifications which are like safe supervision ones, if you like, for keeping people safe in the mountains on climbs. The coaching ones are really about making sure that the quality of your teaching is really high and that you’re up to standard, really, and setting a standard at various levels. It’s got a multi-level scheme and it just means that people are coming into coaching now rather than finding their own way through to calling themselves a coach in a haphazard manner. Now there’s a structured pathway that means if there’s inconsistencies or weaknesses in their knowledge base early on they can get tackled and they can improve them as they go. Otherwise, you end up at the top end of the elite coaching level and the risk you end up with is people are extremely good at something but then they’ve got big gaps in their knowledge with other things. I think that kind of gets ironed out when you’ve got a coaching scheme and it’s got a syllabus and it’s comprehensive and you’ve got assessors and experienced coaches looking at these people at all points in their career and they go, ‘Oh, have you thought about learning a bit more about this or filling in this gap here?’ That sort of thing. It’s a bit more like your mentor through that process.

Neely Quinn: That’s so cool. Do you guys think so much less of us in the United States since we don’t have something like that?

John Kettle: Not at all, no. I think coaching is a pretty new thing to the world of climbing and it’s kind of evolving as we speak. Obviously the Olympics have had an impact on that as well but I think it’s exciting that we’ve managed to be one of the first countries in the world to pioneer that. It’s just had its five-year review, its first review, and there’s been some changes to the syllabus and lots of meetings and throwing back and forth of ideas so it’s still evolving and I’m sure it will carry on evolving as it kind of develops. It seems to be up and running and working and helping people out and helping people be generally better coaches which is the idea, really.

Neely Quinn: And you’re helping people become coaches through that sort of certification process.

John Kettle: Yeah, that’s right. For me it’s been a really rewarding process becoming a coach myself and I just want to share some of that and help other people out who are in my position where I was 10 or 15 years ago, looking for guidance and casting about for ideas. It’s just about helping them to improve and have a more rewarding journey, if you like, through that process.

Neely Quinn: And you didn’t always coach. That’s sort of a new thing in your career, right?

John Kettle: Yeah, relatively speaking. The climbing coaching life – calling myself a coach, putting myself out there – really only started about 10 years ago. I’ve been doing that a while now but I’ve been working in the outdoors for another 12 year beyond that. That was in instruction in mountaineering.

Really, I got into climbing and as soon as I graduated from university I decided I wasn’t for working at a desk and got into instruction and teaching of climbing and mountaineering that way, which kind of has its similarities with coaching. It was primarily introducing novices or it was guiding people in winter in mountaineering or in summer on big trad routes and sea cliffs, that sort of thing. I worked my way through the qualification scheme with that up to working at a national center and then from there I kind of had this strange and unexpected experience in terms of my own climbing and how much I suddenly improved after having climbed for a long time. That was really what led me into the coaching side of things.

Neely Quinn: Right, and that’s mostly why we’re on this Skype conversation right now. It’s because I asked for people to come forth who had had a big jump in their climbing into the 5.13 range after being in the 5.11 or 5.12 range and then we got hooked up and here we are. That’s one of the main things I’d like to talk with you about, your progression as a climber. Could you tell me about that?

John Kettle: My progression as a climber was kind of messy, really. I was obviously super psyched on climbing, which is why I chose a career in it, and I still am working in it 25 years after starting climbing. I’m mad keen and have a massive amount of enthusiasm but I just did it in such a misguided way, if you like, for the first 15 years. I improved kind of steadily but when I changed the way I approached my climbing I improved enormously fast and I improved dramatically and that was the bit that was really surprising.

My grade progression – and I’ll try to find my grade table so it makes sense in America as well – is basically as a trad climber, which was my main focus early on, I went from about severe to hard-severe which is about 5.6/5.7 up to E3 which is about 5.11a/11b. I kind of crept up to that over 15 years and this is kind of trad onsight climbing we’re talking about. In sport I kind of worked my way up from around about 6a/6a+ which is about 5.10b/c up to about 5.11d over that 15 year period. I had improved a lot and as you can imagine, doing it for a living and living in the mountains and spending all my spare time doing it and marrying someone who climbed in all that time, I’d done a vast volume of climbing in that time but for all that I hadn’t gone flying up to a really high grade at all.

The other major thing that was going on behind this slow grade progression of about a grade every two years was that by the end of my 20s, having lived a flat-out life of outdoor pursuit and adventure – I’d been through lots of whitewater kayaking at that time, downhill mountain biking – I’d basically trashed my body, really giving it a hard time. By the end of my 20s I was pretty knackered so I’d had loads and loads of injuries in that time, hundreds of fingers injuries, chronic golfers and tennis elbow in both elbows from climbing and mountain biking and kayaking. Then at the end of my 20s I tore the labrum in one of my shoulders, which I think you’ve been through this process, right?

Neely Quinn: Yeah.

John Kettle: It’s pretty rubbish. It’s a pretty rubbish process. I tore that and then I tore the other one about a year later and it took about two years to get them properly diagnosed and then another two years of winters of shoulder surgery to get them fixed. I had this massively frustrating period at the end of my 20s where I basically had these shoulders that allowed me to climb but a little bit at a low grade. I could work okay with them but I couldn’t do what I wanted with climbing. I couldn’t get fit, I couldn’t climb hard, I couldn’t climb often because it just caused too much irritation. That was enough for me to think, ‘This isn’t a sustainable career anymore. I need to quit climbing, quit mountaineering as a job, and look at something else.’ In that forced down time that was what made me look at my climbing much more closely to see if there was something I was not doing right and another way to improve other than just getting fitter because I couldn’t climb more than about once a week without getting loads of shoulder pain.

At that point I decided to have a look at my technique and it turned out it was like lifting a veil. It was like a ‘road to Damascus’ experience and my technique was really bad. I was enthusiastic and I was bold and I was quite strong. I was your classic young man, basically, but my movement was really, really bad. I was really inefficient and that was part of the reason I was having all of these injuries, really, was I was just trashing my body. My posture was really poor so my shoulders were getting horrendous hammering, all that sort of stuff. I had this bizarre experience of improving dramatically in terms of my skill whilst having these shoulder injuries.

I worked away on all my movement and skill things and the more I learned the more I discovered and the more I was motivated to do more. Eventually, coming out the other side of the shoulder surgeries I had I arrived at a point where it was like, ‘Alright, right. My shoulders are fixed. Now I can cash in on this skill that I’ve gained in the last four years and put it to the test on harder climbs and see, actually, if I’ve really improved.’ That was the bit where I had dramatic results and to give you an example, I decided by this point that I’ve now got a mortgage and a new daughter so I had way less time than in my 20s to climb.

I decided to just focus on bouldering for a year to see what results I could get because bouldering was the most time efficient thing I could think of in terms of climbing disciplines. I thought, ‘I’ll just boulder,’ and at this point the hardest I had bouldered was V7. I had done three or four V7s maybe. I had very little time in this year to climb so I thought, ‘I’ll aim to do this for 52 weeks. I’ll try to boulder every week and see how much better I can get.’ My aim was to get from V7 to V9 in a year. I thought that was optimistic but probably possible.

I got to V9 in seven weeks which totally blew me away. I just didn’t see it coming and it was like my head had popped through this glass ceiling in terms of beliefs. I was like, ‘Oh! I didn’t even think that was really probably possible for me and now I’ve just done it quickly,’ you know? By the end of that I’d done my first V10 as well. I took down a couple of V10s so I’d gone from V7 to V10 in a year and the amount of climbing I did that year was really small. I aimed to do two climbing sessions every week and I managed to average about two and a half so I managed to average about six hours of climbing a week in that entire year. That was my average over the year. I got five days of full climbing outside in that year so everything was an evening or a half day, basically, the rest of the time I was working and raising and a child. It was very restricted and I didn’t even think I could get stronger and fitter, you know, in six hours a week of climbing or two bouldering sessions a week so to then blow through these grades I thought were basically impossible and pop out a V10 a year later was just really, really bizarre to be honest.

Neely Quinn: That’s amazing.

John Kettle: Yeah, it was so surprising. My reaction after having walked around kind of stunned for a while was…

Neely Quinn: You were just telling random strangers, “I did a V10!”

John Kettle: Yeah. I was like, ‘How has this happened?’

I remember so clearly at 21 when I was super fit and strong and V4 was the living end. I couldn’t hang the holds and I was desperate. Now I’m in my 30s and I’ve got bolts in my shoulders and a mortgage and a family and so on and I’m hardly ever getting out and I’m climbing V10. How has that happened?

That was really pretty surreal and challenged a lot of my core beliefs and made me question a lot of things about how we improve and how we get better at climbing and what we expect. That’s what really got me into the coaching. I thought, ‘This is super powerful stuff potentially and people need to know about it.’ I’d been teaching climbing by then for over a decade so I thought, ‘I’ve got the teaching climbing skills, I’ve got the qualifications I need to do this outdoors, indoors, wherever, and I’m going to add this technique stuff into what I’m doing,’ and that started my coaching career, really.

Neely Quinn: Did you feel like going from V7 to V10 was mostly about your technique?

John Kettle: It was. It was about technique and it was about my use of time. I was way better at using time and the quality of my practice just went through the roof. The quantity clearly was pretty low but the quality was super, super high so all the climbing I did in those six hours a week was totally focused on the style of climbing that my goals were on and the type of holds and the angle and the level of intensity and all of these things, and all the skills I needed to wire to a really high level in order to be skillful enough to climb those grades.

Neely Quinn: Can you tell me some of the skills that you taught yourself and how you knew that that’s what you needed to do and how you learned them?

John Kettle: Well I guess I knew that I needed to use my shoulders better because I had really knackered them in a short space of time. The injuries I had gotten in my shoulders in my 20s should have happened in my 50s, really, if I had been leading a kind of more sedentary lifestyle. It was about sorting out my posture and getting a really strong shoulder girdle. I knew I needed to do that and get good shoulder control.

While I was quite strong and powerful I could routinely hit holds but not hold them and the nature of the bouldering in the area is that it’s short moves between really poor holds, generally, so it’s not particularly steep. At the V10 grade you’re dealing with things that are 15-30° overhanging so it’s not mega steep. We’re not talking roofs but it’s on really small holds so I wanted to make sure all of my bouldering was about at that angle and was on really small holds so I was just crimping all the time. I had to be very, very good at really precise, very hard throws between them so I worked a lot on things like hand accuracy because I was aware that I had the power to hit these holds but not the coordination to land exactly on the right bit of this funny little jagged three-finger edge or whatever I was trying to catch. My hand accuracy had to be really on it in order for that power to be of any use. Does that make sense?

Neely Quinn: Yeah, and it’s something that I’m actually trying to work on myself. Are there certain drills that you would do for that or was it just a matter of practicing, just bouldering?

John Kettle: It was generally a matter of designing problems that required those things but I guess in my warm-ups and in the higher volume climbing I did I would invent drills which were lower intensity but had a higher requirement of things like hand accuracy. For example, I would sit at the bottom of my board at home – this is like a 30° board – and I would dyno both hands up to another set of holds but leave my feet in the same place. Then I would go up to another set and another set and another set, basically leaving my feet on the same two holds at the bottom so I had to keep my core engaged. I’d do these double dynos with my hands all around the place on the board – wide hands, narrow hands, offset hands, up and down, into pockets – and all of those things require obviously very fast and committing hand movement and they require high hand accuracy or you just fall off. That was one of the rather weirder drills I did and eventually I kind of went onto doing it between pockets exclusively because pockets needed the highest level of accuracy.

Neely Quinn: Wow. That is bold. [laughs]

John Kettle: In fact, that was one of the drills that was recommended in the first draft of the book and I took it out because when I got a few people to test the book, various other coaches and so on, one of them who is a youth coach was like, ‘There is no way you should recommend people do that. It’s too dangerous. Absolutely no way.’ I thought it was quite good but I took it out. [laughs]

Neely Quinn: And it’s good after you’ve been practicing for a long time and progressing it. You mentioned the book so can you tell us about the book?

John Kettle: Sure. I guess after 10 years of coaching and stuff a lot of people had said to me, “Where can I read about this stuff? Where can I find out more information about the movement stuff?” that I was teaching. I didn’t really have a good answer. It was basically in my head and that was it.

There were a couple of books out there with some good movement stuff in them but for some reason, people weren’t really getting it. It had really helped me and the two main ones were The Self-Coached Climber and Dave MacLeod’s 9 of out 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes. I had found the stuff in them really useful but quite a lot of people, I’d be coaching them and they’d tell me they’d got these books and had read them. I’d be thinking, ‘Why are you paying me to tell you what to do when you’ve got it in the book? Why is it not getting into your brain?’

Really, the book was a result of trying to make this information more widely available so that people who can’t get to me can know this stuff as well. As I say, it had a massive impact on me and hopefully it helps those who come and see me for coaching but that’s only a small portion of the climbing population. I thought by writing the book and trying to make it really, really accessible so it’s very much concise and it’s like: go do this, go do that, go do this – there’s very little theory in there, there’s very little padding to make it as accessible as possible. The idea would be that people anywhere in the world would get their hands on that and make use of it and help themselves out.

Neely Quinn: Yeah, it is very succinct. Each page has a lot of blank space and it’s a graphic of what you’re doing, a small description and why, and then you include a video with most of them. Or all of them?

John Kettle: Most of them. Some of the videos would have been deathly boring so there’s not a video to every one. What was practical to video and what I thought was useful, I did.

One of my major reservations for writing it and the reason I had held out for 10 years, really, was that writing a book about movement is a fundamentally bad idea, I think. It’s like singing a song about photography, you know? It’s the wrong medium to communicate movement in which is why I held out and why I just wanted to do it in practice with people. You learn about movement by moving, basically. I guess I got to the point where I thought the multimedia situation now is such that I can have a book, I can illustrate it, and I can have videos and it’s like you have multiple sources of information. Now, the odds of people understanding it is pretty high and the chance for them to misinterpret it is reduced.

I spent a long time/I spent about six months just testing the book after it was written. I had people who have English as a second language just read the descriptions and not look at the pictures and try and do the drills and I’d see how they misinterpreted things and then rewrite them accordingly. As I said, I had some folks in the US testing it in case there were any cultural barriers I hadn’t figured out that might make them misinterpret it. I had the videos being done as well so that you could have it as an ebook, take your phone or tablet to the wall, read it, look at the video, try it, or you could get the old fashioned paperback and do it that way. The idea was it would work for everyone wherever possible, really.

Neely Quinn: That’s painstakingly a lot of hard work and I’m sure a lot of people appreciate it. What is the book called?

John Kettle: It’s called Rock Climbing Technique: a practical guide to movement mastery. I felt I’d get in there with the SEO-friendly title for anyone else who was going for that.

Neely Quinn: Where can people find it?

John Kettle: Pretty much everywhere, hopefully. You can get it from my website which is but it’s also sold by all the big booksellers online. I’d say if you’re not in the UK I’d recommend you get it through Wordery or Amazon or one of those guys because effectively, the environmental impact will be better because they’ll print it at the nearest printer to you, they’ll post it from there to you, and if you order it from me to the States it’s got to do a whole load of air miles to get to you. Although I’ll make slightly more money if you order it from me I’d rather keep the carbon footprint down and kind of get them printed and sent out from wherever is closest to the buyer, really.

Neely Quinn: That’s very responsible of you to say.

John Kettle: Well, I didn’t make it to make money, you know, I made it help people out, really, so anything else is a bonus.

Neely Quinn: Cool. Well thank you for your work.

John Kettle: No worries. You’re welcome.

Neely Quinn: So you went from V7 to V10 in a year using, I’m assuming, the techniques or some of which you put into the book.

John Kettle: Yeah, so I guess what happened in that year was a top of a pyramid of skill which I’d been building up while I’d been injured. I’d spent four years frustrated and injured and spent all that time looking at movement, studying things related to movement, reading a great deal of textbooks, and doing the drills that you’ll see in this book countless times, wearing out the auto-belay doing these things. I’d done loads and loads of that at a basic level and then really what that year was was applying it at a higher level and making the physiological changes, if you like, the finger strength gains and the strength and power gains alongside more specific practice of that movement in that setting that saw me leap up the grades.

Neely Quinn: So we talked about the accuracy with your hands. Can you tell me some of the drills you used to improve your shoulder posture and shoulder girdle?

John Kettle: I think that mainly came from things both on and off the wall. The first thing really was raising awareness of my posture and what my shoulders were up to. It was the fact that I was oblivious to what they were doing that let me kind of use them poorly for such a long time, really.

On the wall I would do things like every time I clipped a quickdraw I would pause and set my shoulders first, like do a scapular set where I drew them back down and then relaxed them, and then made the clip. I did that at every clip. I built that into rests as well and that still goes on at rests so anytime I’m stopping and shaking out there’s various little routines that go on in my head when I’m having a breather midway up a route. That will include things to relax me, things to bring my heart rate down, breathing things, and that posture rule, a kind of scapular set, will be in there as well. There were climbing-specific things like that where I would do it on the rock.

With bouldering I would try it on individual moves. I would deliberately try and do it very open with my shoulders, keeping them at maximum distance from my ears if that makes sense, and what really helped me out alongside this was doing those I’s, Y’s, and T’s which I’m sure you’re familiar with on gymnastic rings. They made me strong at the end of my range of motion at wide arms and high arms, which I think I wasn’t before. It also had the effect of opening up my chest a lot more so my shoulders could kind of sit back more easy and weren’t drawn forward by tight pecs.

Neely Quinn: So you were doing it all over, on routes, on boulders, and in the gym after.

John Kettle: Yeah, that’s right. Again, with the gym stuff and with the I’s Y’s and T’s, what I’m most interested in is climbing. I’m a bit of a reticent trainer, if you like. I’m not that keen on training so I always try and work out how little I can get away with and with those I was doing three sets of five, twice a week, so basically about half an hour a week of I’s Y’s and T’s so we’re talking two fifteen-minute sessions. That was all of my off the wall training, if you like. Very small on time but they were done at a very high intensity to make up for that.

Neely Quinn: And you talk about how you made your sessions very efficient. I’m wondering if you can just talk about maybe a sample session and is this similar to what you do now?

John Kettle: I think although my sessions have changed and I’m focused on sport climbing at the moment rather than bouldering, I like to think that if you were to interrupt me at any point any time I was training or I was climbing indoors, basically, and say, “What are you doing and why are you doing it?” I’d be able to turn around and give you an answer like, ‘I’m doing this because this relates to this thing that I’m lacking in or this skill that I’m working on and that’s why I’m doing this at this point right now.’ I could give an answer that could relate to progress and to my own improvement, even it it was like, ‘I’m just doing these purples because I’ve had a tough day at work and I wanted to remind myself why I like climbing and take it easy.’ That’s a totally valid reason in my mind to go and do the purple circuit.

I want to make sure there’s a bigger picture behind each of the sessions and that it’s structured in that way. I also definitely do shorter sessions like as soon as I feel like I’ve passed the top of my curve of power or energy I know I’ve done enough to force an adaptation in terms of fitness and at that point I knock it on the head and go home.

Neely Quinn: Can you describe that a little bit more? Like at what point do you stop?

John Kettle: I guess in terms of physical training there’s a threshold for your muscles and if you push them beyond that then they respond by making an adaptation while at rest so they get fitter or stronger in response to how you’ve pushed them. You can push the a little bit beyond their threshold and get that response. You could push them miles beyond that threshold. You’ll get the same response, you’ll just have a much bigger rest period afterwards. You’ll just kind of dip into the micro-trauma trough for longer, if you like, so in my mind there’s very little point in doing that unless there’s a goal related to what you’re doing that means it’s in your interest in the short term to do that.

Long term, you just want to stimulate the body enough to make the adaptations but not so much that it’s battered or you can’t climb for a few days or you start to get aches and pains. I’ve got such a cumulative amount of wear and tear from my work and my climbing that managing injuries and working around them and doing that little dance is a key part of the reason I’m still climbing after 25 years and still doing it for a living and haven’t completely fallen apart.

Neely Quinn: When you’re in a session and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘This is when I should stop,’ what’s going on on your body? Are you failing on things?

John Kettle: It’s not necessarily related to failure. I might be failing all the way through, to be honest. It’s more about feeling like my performance is starting to wane. You just feel like your power has started to drop a bit and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I could do loads of easier climbing now but I’m going to go home instead because that will just take away from the quality of the session and the clear stimulus my body’s got to adapt to power and strength.’

In endurance sessions it’s where you start to fail earlier in the set or whatever that you’re doing. If I’m working on skills I tend to work on them at a very low intensity so I’d be combining skill work with something like aerobic capacity or ARC-ing. I’m unlikely to finish that session because my arms are cooked because they won’t be getting that pumped. I’ll be doing it for a set amount of time and I’ll perhaps have a whole huge list of drills to go through to make the ARC-ing a bit less mindless. I’ll have a load of skill stuff based on what I think I’m less good at and could benefit from doing more of.

Neely Quinn: Can you just tell me the structure of a session that maybe you just did recently? I’m curious where you put the drills in.

John Kettle: I’ll give you an example of a session where I deliberately drill. If I’m doing an ARC-ing session and in terms of the physical aim I’m trying to increase the aerobic capacity of my forearms so the intensity is like a warm, glowing arm but no more than about a 2 or 3 out of 5 of the pump during the whole session, I’ll be doing loads and loads of easy climbing in that session. If I’m home on the board I’ll just be going round and round the board on pretty big holds, really, and stepping on and off anytime I feel like a proper pump is coming or I might have to shake out, just to keep the intensity down. That’s the physical box ticked for that session. That’s what I want to do and I want to accumulate an hour, for example, of that kind of intensity of climbing.

Alongside that I’ll work through a whole range of drills while I’m doing this easy climbing round and round. For example, there’s a pink circuit on my board which is quite easy and I know I can get round it in three breaths if I do really good, quality, deep yogic breaths from the belly. I’ll do several circuits of three breaths on the pink so I can only take three breaths per circuit. That forces me to focus on really good quality deep breathing whilst I try to keep core engagement on an overhanging board on small feet.

Then I do a few circuits facing left, a few circuits facing right, a few circuits front on so I’m just making sure that I haven’t got a favored side that I prefer facing. A lot of people prefer facing one way to the other so they’re a little bit more skillful on one than the other. Then I go front on to make sure I’m equally happy front on. I like to pretend I’m Ondra when I do that [laughs] and stick my shoulders into the wall and do some screaming.

I’m not so good at open hand, drag grip climbing. I’m a bit of a crimper and that’s part of the reason I’ve had loads of finger injuries, no doubt, so then I’d do a circuit dragging on the back three fingers and then a circuit on the front three and then a circuit on the mid-two. That would be my dragging practice and then we’re on to trying to move in different styles.

I’d do a circuit where I’d be trying to trace curves and arcs with my center of mass so kind of hip-focused, core focused and rather than moving jerkily around the board with my hips I’m trying to make sure I’m doing it in a series of smooth curves. The same thing I’d do around the board with my tail tucked. When I get tired my pelvis tends to tilt forward at the top and at the back end my bum sticks out. I try and do the opposite of that. I try and draw my pelvis in underneath me and climb with my tail tucked for a period and that tends to really help in terms of core engagement and keeping feet on on steep stuff.

What other drills have I got? Same leg pull is where anytime I’m moving a hand I pull with the same leg as the hand that is moving. [laughs] Does that make any sense?

Neely Quinn: Yeah.

John Kettle: At the moment that the hand moves, if I’m moving my right hand, that right leg claws in on the toe hold and that draws me to the hand hold. They’re just all kind of weird movement puzzles, if you like, to increase my movement literacy. That’s the aim. There’s not a right and a wrong drill here. I’ll do that and I’ll do the trailing hand press so that’s anytime a hand moves the other hand presses into the wall as that moves as it’s assisting and initiating the move.

There’s heavy feet which is from mountain biking. That is as described, really. I just try and climb with really heavy feet so my heels are low and I’m putting tons and tons of pressure through them.

Slow motion is one I do quite a lot because that kind of tunes me into the more subtleties of stuff I don’t notice if i’m just climbing at a regular rhythm about where my body is, where my shoulders are behaving, how my spine is twisting, those kinds of things.

Then I have a few specific drills for moves that I’m not familiar with. I do traversing back and forth doing rose moves, really deep cross-throughs, and traversing back and forth doing inverted gastons. I’m not sure if that’s even the name for them but this kind of gaston where your thumb is down but your palm is facing the wall. It’s like a really, really twisted gaston. Those are completely off my radar. I just don’t see them when I’m climbing so I do laps of those just to get me more familiar with them.

Does that give you an idea? [laughs] That’s a massive list of things, isn’t it? As you can imagine, an hour of climbing goes by quite fast if I’m completely immersed in just tinkering away with all of those things.

Neely Quinn: That’s what I was thinking. If people are bored ARC-ing, this is the way to keep you occupied.

John Kettle: And it’s a double-whammy isn’t it? You’re making some adaptations to your forearms but you’re also upskilling. That list is based on what I think I’m less good at so that’s what I focus on, training the weakness in terms of skills. It’s trying to get as much value as possible. I mentioned the session quality earlier. It’s about making these sessions as high quality as possible where quantity isn’t an option. We’re limited on quantity, aren’t we, having to do with time and money and all these things? Increasing the quality, I think, as a coach is my number one job to help people with that.

Neely Quinn: That’s what I’m actually very impressed by with you is you were able to pick out what your weaknesses were in these very subtle ways and then do the drills that helped you get better at them. I think that’s where a lot of people, including myself, have trouble. It’s really hard distinguishing, even after 22 years of climbing, ‘This is what I’m bad at.’

John Kettle: Yeah, it’s really hard to tell. Is it Benjamin Franklin who said, “These three things are hard: diamond, steel, and to know thyself?” Self-awareness is super, super hard and I’d say that’s a lifetime’s work. There’s huge amounts I don’t know and that’s the question I’m always asking. “What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Why are they doing something different? What if I copy them? What if I climbed like them for a bit?”

I don’t think there’s a particularly right way to climb but the most successful is the one with the broadest set of tools, the highest level of movement literacy, so while there’s some common things that all good climbers do in terms of movement rules they generally follow and the techniques in the book and kind of pointing that way, actually what they do is they have a vast array of different skills they can apply and they can apply them under a really high stress level when their arms are burning and their fingers are uncurling. They can still apply them and that’s kind of what I want for myself and what I’m trying to help other people get, this really broad skill base and be able to access it all the time. Access it on runouts and access it when they’re exhausted and all those things because that’s when you most need all your skills.

Neely Quinn: Right. It seems like people could pick up your book, do 50 of the skills, and see which ones feel the hardest.

John Kettle: Sure. Totally, and you’ll see the book is full of questions. Some of the comments I’ve had from people who’ve read it is that it hasn’t given them many answers, it’s just asked them lots of difficult-to-answer questions. [laughs] That’s got the process role of self reflection. It’s raised their self awareness and then they’ve gone on a little quest to answer those questions and they’ve kind of been surprised at what they’ve found. They’re kind of going on a journey similar to what I went on 10 years ago in terms of seeing dramatic improvements from their climbing and just getting to understand themselves better and getting more pleasure from their climbing as a result as well.

Neely Quinn: That’s great. These are really great examples. I wanted to ask you about your sport climbing because we talked about how you went from V7 to V10 – and where are you in your bouldering now, actually?

John Kettle: I’ve basically neglected bouldering for the last – where are we now, 2019? – three years. I went up to V10 which was all a bit surprising and I had a year off after that where I basically went mountain biking and did a load of bucket list goals for mountain biking instead. Then I came back to bouldering because I thought, ‘Over here, V10 is Font 7C+ and it’s kind of rude to stop at 7C+, isn’t it?’ So I thought, ‘I’ll see if I can boulder 8A,’ or V11, and so I went on another quest.

This time around I’d got the learning and the understanding that had come on and all the skills I’d gained in that year of going up to V10 and I’d got a little bit more time available now because my daughter had gotten a little bit older. I spent I think 18 months – I didn’t put a time limit this time – to get back into shape and get my first V11 done.

Neely Quinn: Oh nice! That’s awesome.

John Kettle: That was super psyched. I’m really happy with that although the experience left me realizing that that wasn’t the limit of how hard I could climb and I still don’t know what the limit is. I learned a great deal about psychology and about my own motivation and about my levels of self awareness and my goals, which have shifted as I’ve got older. I’m now more interested in mastery, if you like, than I am in outcomes. In my 20s I just wanted to climb as hard as I could and the bottom line was if you looked inside me it was really about meeting my insecure needs and trying to justify my existence by climbing hard. I realized in my 30s that that wasn’t very healthy and I didn’t need to justify my existence by climbing hard. Actually now, climbing hard for me is just one of the elements that is a signpost to my mastery of the sport. What I’m interested in is climbing really, really well and applying my skills at a high standard. I’m a bit less grade-oriented and hence when people say, “Ah, are you going to climb V12?” I’m a bit like, ‘I could do but at the moment I’m not that motivated to.’

I enjoyed the process of getting to Font 8A and then I switched to sport climbing just to see kind of how I could apply it to sport climbing. The hardest I’d sport climbed prior to 2016 when I did my V11 was 7a which is what, 5.11d?

Neely Quinn: That’s so funny. That’s a vast difference.

John Kettle: It’s a shocking difference, isn’t it? I went sport climbing and I’ve spent the last two and a bit years sport climbing and I’ve kind of rapidly went up to 7c which is about 5.12d. That took about three or four months just training on the strength I’d got from the bouldering and the newfound skills but then my atrocious levels of endurance started to surface and really, the last year and a half has been spent on endurance.

Last year I climbed my first 8a – what is that, 13b? – which was Ace and it went really quickly, in five tries in three evening sessions. It’s definitely not the limit of what I could climb if I went on some massive project siege but I’m not motivated to climb a super, super hard project and spend ages or months in the same mode.

As I say, I’m more interested in mastery and for me that’s about climbing things well, making good decisions, onsighting hard I’m definitely going to be interested in in the future, and a whole range of other things I’m exploring. As you can imagine there’s all kinds of ideas bubbling away in my head under the surface so we’ll see where it goes. I don’t really know where it’s going to go and I’ve still got to revisit trad and go up a few grades in that from where I left off, once I’ve got a little bit more time and once my daughter is older still because trad is the most time-consuming of the disciplines. I’m putting that one on the backburner until I’ve got a bit of time to get outside and get into the remote cracks and all that business.

Neely Quinn: So basically you went from 5.11c/d to 13b in a short amount of time?

John Kettle: That was over 18 months I think.

Neely Quinn: It seems like obviously you used a lot of the skills that you were using for your bouldering and then you said that you had to deal with your endurance but were there any technique drills that you used specifically for your sport climbing improvement?

John Kettle: The main change in terms of the way that I moved and I had to kind of address, really, shifting from bouldering to sport was about climbing gently and relaxing and climbing softly on routes. Seven or eight years of bouldering had kind of put me in attack mode when I was on the rock and that would only get me two or three bolts up a sport route if it was steep. I’d be fine if the crux was at the bottom and I’d climb about three grades lower if the crux was at the top because I would have just run out of attack mode and would be pumped.

It was really about moving from – and there’s a little bit in my book about – a strong versus light position. It was about being able to move up and down that spectrum and moving as lightly as possible but being able to switch back onto the strong stuff for the technical or powerful cruxes and then switch straight back to light as soon as possible. It was about moving up and down the spectrum of tension and relaxing mid-route, resting really, really efficiently, and in terms of drills I guess most of my drills were focused around that. They were focused around remaining relaxed, having a long, tall spine and extended posture with low shoulders and breathing. I mentioned a breath drill I did earlier, kind of really high quality breathing and trying to maintain breathing during moves and during increasingly hard moves. I’d got into a habit of breath-holding for powerful moves which kind of works well to some extent but if it becomes habitual then it limits your oxygen intake so that’s not so good.

Neely Quinn: Okay, and you were doing all these on your short board at home?

John Kettle: That’s right. I changed the board angle, actually, when I started route climbing. I realized it was too steep to do any significant endurance work on and it was my endurance that was really, really lacking so I changed the board from 35° down to 15° which is a better reflection of the angle of the climbing that I’m doing when I’m sport climbing out here locally. When it went back to 15 the holds went really small and the footholds went really, really tiny and slopey so it was trying to effect the style of movement and the type of skills I’d be most likely to encounter out there. That also, by dropping the angle back, meant I could do long endurance sessions on it without destroying my skin as well.

Neely Quinn: And probably not having to hop off quite as often.

John Kettle: Exactly, yeah. I could do more of my strange drills and get lost in a world of movement.

Neely Quinn: So once you changed your angle from 30 to 15 did you start to see a difference in your performance on rock?

John Kettle: Yeah, I did. It took a little while but I totally neglected bouldering. For the last two and a half years I just knew that my bouldering and my strength and power were so far above my route climbing ability that there was no point in touching them at all. I didn’t fingerboard or do anything strength related, really, or power related. I just worked on endurance and relied on my excess of strength and power to be enough.

I boulder occasionally now, particularly over the winter when the boulders are dry and the crags are wet. I’m still bouldering V8 in a session. I can get a couple of V8s done or a V9, if I’m going well, I will get in a single session but I’m not particularly performance oriented with bouldering. I think I’ve definitely lost some of the top end power and finger strength so if I do come back to it I’ll have to sort that out but for now it’s all about the endurance and making sure I can recover on routes between the tricky moves.

Neely Quinn: So you are focusing right now on sport climbing but you’re not focusing on big projects that will take you a long time?

John Kettle: Yeah. The more I’ve explored my motivation the more I’ve found that I’m not motivated for them and I don’t seem to be able to make myself motivated for them. I’m more about individual routes inspiring me, really, and if I’m inspired I’ll spend longer on something and that’s kind of less grade related.

If you gave me the choice between three 7c’s and one 8a, I’d pick the three 7c’s every time. I guess that comes back to my background of coming into the sport as an adventure thing and mountaineering. There’s a significant part of what I enjoy which is the exploration and the journey and the novelty side which you get more of the more routes you do. If you spend a long time on one route you get less of that. There’s a balance in the middle there somewhere but for me, at the moment, that’s how it works for me in terms of most enjoyable.

Neely Quinn: I think that’s a really interesting thing to hear out loud because I think a lot of people feel that way, like they would rather do the three 7c’s rather than the 8a, but they don’t allow themselves to because it’s not what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing as climbers. How have you managed to be okay with this? [laughs]

John Kettle: If you gave me that same choice in my 20s I would have been like, ‘Oh, the 8a. I need to climb 8a,’ so it’s definitely a change in my own attitude and I think it’s part of growing up and not worrying what other people think about how hard you climb. It just comes back to self awareness and knowing yourself and knowing what you enjoy. I know that if I spent loads of sessions on the same thing, because I have tried it, then I end up getting stressed out by it and I end up turning up stressed to the session and going away frustrated if I haven’t got the results I wanted and it all just becomes this stressful cycle which is totally against the reason why I climb.

If I look at the fundamental reason why I climb it’s play to me. Climbing is like going to the playground as a kid. I do it for fun and it’s an expression of movement and agility and all those things and that’s what it’s about.

I have enormous respect for the folks around me who are putting epic numbers of sessions into super hard routes and I often get told, ‘Ah John, you could definitely climb this if you put this and that in,’ but motivation is the deciding factor really and I climb for fun. I think knowing what you enjoy and being okay with that, even if it’s not the social norm, it will definitely help you out in the long run in terms of your happiness and your mental health. I think burnout quite often shows in people who try to meet other people’s needs as opposed to their own, if you like, in terms of expectations.

Neely Quinn: Yep. Your age keeps coming up. You keep talking about your 20s and 30s. How old are you?

John Kettle: I’m about to turn 40 in a few months time so I’m clinging onto my 30s like a sinking ship.

Neely Quinn: [laughs] It doesn’t sound like it’s sinking, really.

John Kettle: Yeah, my 30s have been awesome. It’s been the best decade of my life so far and I’m so much happier now than I have been and I’m so much better in climbing, which is a nice bonus and a part of that. I’ve learned so many weird things and every year I learn something totally unexpected that changes my whole outlook and I think, ‘Oh, I want to go back and do that thing I did.’

So, I want to go back bouldering now because I learned so much about nutrition in the last year which was a real game changer for me. I know you’re into that side of things. I’m still learning a great deal and reading a lot of textbooks and studying kind of psychology and all kinds of other areas of climbing at the moment. Lots to still discover. Enjoying it.

Neely Quinn: Yeah. Let’s talk about nutrition because I was actually going to ask you about that and if that had any part in your improvements.

John Kettle: Yeah. I would say during that period where I went up rapidly through the grades it wasn’t a part of that then. I think the lifestyle I had and the nutrition I had was okay in terms of it served a purpose and it didn’t inhibit me too much, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. When I decided to go back into bouldering after climbing a V10 to see if I could climb V11 I took a good look at my nutrition and I was very wary of any calorie counting or anything like that. I was super wary of being a neurotic, skinny climber who is constantly worried about their weight and nibbling on rice crackers. In my line of work I’m burning so many calories a day that I’ve always had to eat a lot of food and I’ve never had weight that goes up and down more than about a kilo since I was about 15.

Neely Quinn: Wow. That’s impressive.

John Kettle: This is it so my motivation to look into nutrition was pretty low because everything seemed fine. What I did look at was the quality. I read that Racing Weight book by Matt Fitzgerald with the diet quality scoring system in it and I had a good six week batch with that and that really changed the quality of what I ate. Without any calorie counting – I think there’s an app for it now, actually, a diet quality scoring app – I could kind of look at the balance of macros and micros and address them and I managed to make some really good changes in terms of having a much better quality diet.

I’m having about eight portions of veggies a day now and my bread has gone to rye bread and the carbs I have tend to be high quality, high fiber ones as opposed to the white stuff. That was a change I made a few years ago and that seemed to help me out in general well-being so I wouldn’t say it had a direct impact on climbing performance. I sleep better, feel better, my energy levels are more consistent, so that was a really good change for me and I was really pleased that the change has really stuck.

Then last year I think the most startling thing was I had a nutrition consultation with a performance dietician called Rebecca Dent who is based partly in the UK and partly in Chamonix. That really only happened because one of my clients wanted to do it and wanted me to do it with them. I kind of agreed to but, again, I wasn’t mad keen because I thought my nutrition was alright. What she did was recommend I vastly increase my protein intake which kind of came as a surprise to me. I thought I had like peanut butter on your sandwiches and oily fish everyday and a pretty good protein intake. She really said, “Look, she wanted me up to this 1.6-1.8 grams per kilo per body weight per day,” which looked like an insane amount to me on the face of it.

I started supplementing protein and I thought, ‘I’m going to go with this because she’s an expert and give it a go.’ It was a total game changer for me. Basically, looking back now – that was last June – I can basically say that I was malnourished in terms of my nutrition intake for my entire adult life. My recovery has just absolutely gone through the ceiling since increasing my protein intake and I think that’s down to the fact that when I’m not climbing and training, quite a lot of the time I’m spending a day where it might be eight hours mountain biking or it might be continuously belaying or coiling ropes and climbing. The rest quality was pretty poor and my body just wasn’t recovering. What the protein did was just have this astonishing effect on my recovery.

I had this bizarre six months since June – well, it’s been eight months now – where I wake up in the morning after a day’s climbing expecting to feel a certain way and I feel totally different. I feel totally fresh and I’ve gone from my being limited by inflammation, basically, by sore elbows and achy joints and fingers to being limited by the time I can train. The most I could ever climb in a week was three times otherwise the cumulative aches and pains would get to be too much up, until last June. Now, I’ve got no idea how many times I could climb in a week. I’ve trained five times in a week and it’s been fine.

I’ve just had a trip to Spain where I did a week of climbing and a week of coaching and out of the 15 days out there I had two days off and the rest of them I climbed 7a or above everyday. It was absolutely fine. My tolerance for volume of climbing has gone through the ceiling. My injury rate has plummeted. All these aches and pains, these elbow issues I’ve had for years which I’ve done loads of physio for, they just cleared up in a matter of weeks so that was extraordinary.

There’s a few other changes we did and they were all supplement based, really, because the dietician basically said, “Your general diet is really good. What we need now is to ice the cake with some supplementation,” and it was fantastic and I’m totally sold on it.

Neely Quinn: What supplements do you take?

John Kettle: I supplement protein so that I get my 1.8 grams per kilo of body weight per day spread out over the day in four intakes: breakfast, lunch, tea, and before bed. That goes on and that’s the main thing. I supplement…

Neely Quinn: With whey protein?

John Kettle: Yeah, that’s whey protein and the one [unclear]. I also take creatine and I tend to come on and off that. It obviously adds a bit of weight to me. I put a couple of kilos on in muscle which isn’t particularly helpful for sport climbing but I can handle loads more training. It has the same effect of the protein, roughly, in terms of I just recover better and I can handle a harder and a higher volume of training. For me it’s worth it and I only come off it when I actually want to be lighter for something really hard. It takes about 3-4 weeks for the weight to drop off and then when I’ve finished my project I’ll go back on it again so I’m pretty much always on creatine except for these six-week spells when I come off it just to drop the few kilos.

Neely Quinn: And anything else?

John Kettle: Those are the main ones. Those are basically what I take all the time. There’s a few others I have up my sleeve for when inflammation becomes more serious. I’ve had a couple of projects where the style of climbing or the type of holds has really irritated my grumbly joints and then I’ve used things like tart cherry capsules for three days at a time which really helped with speeding up the recovery from inflamed tendons for me.

What else have I used? I’ve tried a couple of other things but I’m probably not going to stick with them long term. I’ve tried curcumin derived from turmeric with pepper in it and collagen peptide. I’ve been trying that as well. Basically, they’ve been three-month trials which is how long the research says. Well, that’s how long the research was done for the people that got results from it so I trial them for three months and if there’s any difference I stick with them and if there isn’t I leave them. With those two there hasn’t been a noticeable difference so I’m probably going to drop those once I’ve finished the three-month period which is only about two weeks away.

Neely Quinn: Well, this has been really great because this is what I tell almost every one of my clients: to eat more protein, to try to get more veggies in their diet, so that’s really cool to hear that you had such great success with that, like really noticeable effects.

John Kettle: It’s ridiculous. You can imagine. I’ve worked in physically demanding work for 25 years and to suddenly recover differently is really bizarre. I knew my body so well. I know how I’ll feel after this much effort and to wake up and feel different is a really odd thing. It’s taken me months and months to adjust.

Neely Quinn: Especially in your late 30s. People just assume that as you get older you just can’t train as much and you’re training more which is fantastic.

John Kettle: It’s crazy. I’m in better shape than I was at 20. I said to someone the other day, “It’s like I’ve been given my 18 year old body back and it’s like what should I do with it this time?” It’s fantastic.

Neely Quinn: [laughs] That’s really cool.

John Kettle: Yeah, it’s been brilliant.

Neely Quinn: Well thanks so much for talking today. How can people find you?

John Kettle: is my website so people can get in touch through there. As I say, the book is available there as well or it’s available on Amazon or all the big websites that sell books. They can get in touch with me for coaching, I guess, if they can find their way to come here in the Lake District.

I’ve just started doing online coaching as well so I’ve just been trying that with someone in Brooklyn and that’s gone really well. Basically, people send me videos of them climbing and then I give them a whole load of feedback based on what I’ve seen on the videos and the feedback and the action plan from that is related to the exercises in the book, generally, so they need to have the book. It’s like, ‘Right. Go to this page, do all these, work on them for this long, focus on this,’ and it gives them a clear priority as to where to work. I’ve just started trialing that as well as a thing to reach more people, really.

Neely Quinn: The wonders of Skype and video.

John Kettle: It’s brilliant, isn’t it? Technology has come along at just the right time with that for me.

Neely Quinn: Well thank you again and good luck to you. Do you have any trips coming up?

John Kettle: Do I have any trips? No. I’m a family man. I don’t really do trips. I’m a local climber. I have a five-day trip next January. That’s my next trip. [laughs] Time is of the essence here so I’ll be working on charging round and round in circles on my board at home or out on the local crags.

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to do this, Neely. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I have, too. Alright, take care.

John Kettle: Nice one. Take care.

Neely Quinn: Alright, I hope you enjoyed that interview with John Kettle. Again, you can find him at and then on Facebook at John Kettle-Climbing Coach and on Instagram @johnkettleclimbing.

After that interview it seems pretty obvious that maybe we could all use some help with our technique. It’s interesting – I was reading something on John Kettle’s Instagram before the interview and he was like, ‘You know, soccer and football players and basketball players, all of these top pro sports, use drills all of the time in their practice.’ They’re not just playing games, they’re doing drills, and that’s not something that I see most people doing at the gym, including myself, and I think it’s partly because we don’t know what drills to do. We don’t have coaches telling us what to do so this book might be a really good resource for us. It might be something that we could all give a little more time to.

I was also really intrigued by his diet information that he shared about how he improved his diet and how that improved his recovery and his energy levels. I think that’s something we can all learn from, too, and that’s one of the main things I tell all of my clients. I’ve actually only ever had one or two clients ever in my life who came to me and their diet already had enough protein in it. Especially for climbers and people who are training a lot, we just require more protein than an average sedentary person.

If you want guidelines for yourself it does depend on the person but I tend to calculate things in terms of percentages. I’ll have people log their diet, like I’ve said 100 times, on – I swear I’m not paid by that company but I should be – and just see where you’re at currently. You can figure out your percentages on MyFitnessPal. Actually, they figure it out for you. Just see if you’re at 14% or are you at 20% and if you’re at 20-25% then you’re doing pretty well but if you’re not, just increase. Like, he uses supplements, whey protein, to get there. You can also use vegan protein. You can also use fish and meat and eggs. Those are the main lean sources that you’re going to get. Just add in enough to get you to that 25% and see how that makes you feel. If it helps your recovery and your climbing then keep doing it.

Those are my two cents about protein intake right now. I am taking a few new clients right now and you can find more information about my nutrition coaching at

I think that’s all I’ve got for you today. You can find us on social @trainingbeta and then our community forum is at That’s our Facebook group.

I will talk to you either next week or the week after. Until then, train smart, have fun, and I’ll talk to you soon.


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, climbing training classes, nutrition classes, regular blog posts, interviews on The TrainingBeta Podcast, personal coaching for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.

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