Date: July 24th, 2019
About Josh Larson
Josh Larson is the Head Coach and Route Setter for the adult National Climbing Team for USA Climbing. He was/is a competition climber himself, and he’s set routes for comps for years, so it was a natural progression for him to become the leader of the USAC team. Josh has also traveled the world as a professional climber and videographer and has a ton of beautiful climbing videos on the Cold House Media page on Vimeo.
I wanted to talk to Josh Larson because I’m an avid watcher of climbing competitions. I frickin’ LOVE watching Nationals and World Cup comps and always have. But when my friends and I get together to watch them, we always have questions about what in the world is going on with:
a) The olympics – just everything
b) How we could see more podium finishes by Americans
c) What USA Climbing is doing to support our athletes more now
As the Head Coach of the adult team working out of the new USA Climbing facility in Salt Lake City, I figured he’d be the perfect person to answer my burning questions. I thought we’d end up also talking a lot about the training he does with these athletes, but we mostly talked about a, b, and c above, and he really did answer all of my questions.
He basically gave me an Olympics 101 rundown about how athletes can qualify for the olympics, how the olympics will change next time around to make the format more realistic, and how athletes can be training to win, even if they’re only really good at one discipline (out of lead, speed, and bouldering).
We also talked about how the US team differs from the dominating teams out there, such as the Japanese women and men. He explained how the US is sort of catching up to those teams now, in terms of financial, moral, physical, and administrative support for our athletes. This is all good news to me, and I was really happy to have someone so knowledgeable explain everything. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it too, even though it’s not the normal nitty gritty training format for the podcast.
Josh Larson Interview Details
- New funding for US climbers for competitions
- Comparison of our team vs. the Japanese and other dominant teams
- How our team could see more podium finishes at World Cups
- His new position as Head Coach for the USA Adult Team
- American style boulders/routes vs World Cup style and why it matters
- Everything you wanted to know about the Olympics (finally!)
- Training tactics for the Olympics
- New ways that USA Climbing is now supporting the climbing team
Josh Larson Links
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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 a site that I created called trainingbeta.com. It’s all about training for climbing.
Over there we have regular blog posts, we have climbing training programs for all different levels and all types of climbing, we have nutrition coaching with myself – I’m a nutritionist – and we also have online personal training with Matt Pincus. You can go to trainingbeta.com and find out more about all of those services and hopefully one or more of them will make you a better climber.
Welcome to episode 129 of the podcast. I haven’t put an episode out for a few weeks because I had a family vacation and before that I was in Lander for a few days for the International Climbers’ Festival, which was super fun as always. We did a redpoint clinic up at the crag at Wild Iris, Matt Pincus and I did. That was super fun to lead. It’s always awesome to see people send their first such-and-such grade and this time in our clinic we had a guy send his first 11a and it was really cool to watch. If you guys were there and you said hi, thanks for saying hi and thanks for those who participated in that clinic.
We also had a training panel the next day with Matt Pincus and I and Steve Bechtel and Kris Hampton and a bunch of other people. That was really fun, too. I love the event.
Then, Matt Pincus did the Limestone Rodeo with BJ Tilden and he actually won the competition. It’s an outdoor comp at Wild Iris and Matt did 20 routes, three of which were 5.13 and four of which were 5.12, so I’m super proud of him and super happy for him. I think that it’s really cool that a trainer like Matt is really showing what he’s made of, like what he knows and that he knows how to train himself as well, because he’s a really strong guy and he has all-day endurance and it’s cool to see. Congrats to Matt.
I had some of my own success a couple weeks ago. I sent my hardest route since having shoulder surgeries which was a 13b at Seal Rock in the Flatirons called Super Tuscan. It’s really long and it’s super fun and maybe the best route that I’ve ever done in my life. I was able to do it in a handful of tries which is better than I’ve ever done on a 13b. I think that the things that I’ve been doing with my training have been working, which is really exciting. It sometimes is really surprising to me that I’ll be holding on and continue to hold on and be like, ‘I could not have done this a year ago or even five years ago, before my surgeries.’
I’m going to talk a little bit at the end of this podcast episode about my own training because I think there are a couple things I’ve been doing that have been really helping me. If you’re interested in that you can listen till the end and I’ll talk about it there.
On today’s episode I talked with Josh Larson. He is the head coach for the US National Team, the adult team, and he works for USA Climbing and they are headquartered now out of Salt Lake City. They have a new facility just for training the US team and our athletes. I obviously wanted to hear from him about how he helps prepare the athletes for World Cups and potentially the Olympics but I also wanted to ask him some logistical questions about the Olympics.
Basically, I asked him for an Olympics 101 tour and he gave it to me in detail. He explained how to qualify for the Olympics, how to train for the Olympics, whether or not he thinks we’re going to qualify and at which point we could qualify, and what the format is of the Olympics and also that the Olympics in France is going to be different than the one coming up. The format is going to be a little better and more along the lines of what we all seem to think is right so we talked a lot about that and just his experience as a comp climber himself and what kinds of changes USA Climbing is making to support our climbers a little bit more. We’re a little bit behind in that aspect compared to Japan and some European countries and how much their government sometimes will support them. We talked about those kinds of things.
It wasn’t a typical podcast episode for me in that we didn’t talk about very many nitty gritty details of training but I thought that this was really, really interesting and stuff that I’ve heard a lot of people talk about and be curious about. Hopefully it answers some of your questions as it did for me. I’ll let Josh Larson continue. Here he is and I’ll talk to you on the other side.
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the show, Josh. Thanks very much for talking with me today.
Josh Larson: Thanks for having me, Neely.
Neely Quinn: For anybody who doesn’t know who you are can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Josh Larson: Yeah, let’s see here. I’ve been climbing for almost 15 years now. I originally started climbing on a youth team way back, I don’t even know when, in Boston, Mass. I grew up in the New England area. I kind of quickly discovered it was something I just had to do for the rest of my life but then real life choices came around so I stopped climbing for five years and became a licensed electrician in Massachusetts and did that for a while.
Then I just realized that man, there was something missing and I just jumped back into climbing and made it my number one priority to be in the industry and be outdoors and route set and coach and do whatever I can to just be fully immersed in climbing. Since that turning point in my early 20s it’s been like 10 years now, just kind of one thing after another. Not super big plans but just going with the flow and not really saying no to opportunities. I’ve been on the US National Bouldering Team for a few years, I’ve developed routes all over the world, bouldering and sport climbing with my girlfriend Charlotte Durif, too. We’ve been constantly on the move for the past two years now and finally just settled into Salt Lake City where I just recently took the head coaching position for USA Climbing Adult Team.
Neely Quinn: That’s awesome.
Josh Larson: Yeah. That was kind of brief, kind of long.
Neely Quinn: [laughs] And it leads to a lot of questions. I know that your background has been pretty eclectic in the climbing world and I know you said that you didn’t really pass up that many opportunities but can you tell me a little bit more about the things you’ve done?
Josh Larson: Yeah. Let’s see – back in Boston, after I stopped electrical work and started climbing and finding that niche again for myself, it was a lot of route setting and coaching. I was kind of just an assistant head coach and head route setter and finally just kind of made a turn for it and started head coaching and just totally loved it. I was totally immersed in that and just fully trying to coach this youth team. Coaching is a big part of my climbing career. I enjoy setting a lot but coaching and working with others and seeing that development and going through that whole process kind of over and over again is rewarding, for sure. I guess that’s more of a work thing.
For climbing, I grew up climbing in New England, climbing in Rumney, but I didn’t really travel a lot when I first started climbing in my early 20s. I was just a homebody, working and climbing locally. Then I started traveling across the States. I did a road trip for three months with a couple of friends in an RV and we spent 10 days in 10 destinations just making little videos about climbing in those 10 pockets around North America. Ever since then I’ve had this desire to just travel more and climb more and it kind of slowly transitioned to me taking these massive – I guess not massive – or big, longer term trips like a two-year trip where Charlotte and I just flew across the world bolting and developing in really small communities and places that people maybe haven’t heard of or visited. Things like that.
That development part and that travel and adventure is kind of really up front for me for things that I love to do. Also, mixed in with all of that was a lot of competitive climbing and training and programming for myself which is something I loved and got into. Seeing myself progress or regress through certain types of training that I’ll use was also a motivating source for me. I love competition. I love climbing outdoors. It’s kind of an ideal situation for me.
Neely Quinn: You’ve done so much. [laughs]
Josh Larson: I mean, I get around I guess. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I think a lot of people are probably like, ‘Wow. He got to travel that much?’ I’m wondering how, as a climber, did you fund that? Was that from being a pro climber and having sponsors?
Josh Larson: Part of it was sponsor money, either money that was already kind of worked into the yearly budget as an athlete for the brands and also we pitched some media ideas and some blogging ideas to some of the brands we worked with and brands that we didn’t work with. Enough people were psyched on the project, enough brands were psyched on the project, to help support and to fund it. Also, we work closely with EPIC TV, a big media platform from Europe. We’ve been working with them for four or five years and they were really psyched to help support the trip in a big way as well.
Neely Quinn: So part of what you do is make videos?
Josh Larson: Yeah, oh man – it’s so much fun, a really creative outlet and something I first started doing with a GoPro and had no idea what I was doing. Now I kind of know what I’m doing and just loving it.
Neely Quinn: Are there specific videos that you’re proud of that you want people to watch?
Josh Larson: Our recent video from Peru is just – out of the places that we’ve visited in the past few years, it’s one of the top. Right on top, actually. We spent a month and a half bolting and climbing in the Andes in Peru and that was such a cool experience. Not a lot of people have climbed down there so being able to share what we saw and what we experienced there and how much we loved it, we think it really comes out in video. We’re always psyched to have people watch that and give us their feedback on Peru.
Neely Quinn: So you were route climbing down there.
Josh Larson: Yeah, we were sport climbing for a good month and a half. It’s kind of crazy, too. Some of the routes we bolted were at 14,000 feet. Most of them were at 13,000 feet.
Neely Quinn: Woah.
Josh Larson: Yeah, so it’s just a very different approach to breathing and getting pumped quicker and just a whole different game to sport climbing. There’s even higher cliffs and harder routes so it’s a place that has a lot of potential. We’re excited to check it out. We’ll be back down there in September and exploring some big wall climbing down there.
Neely Quinn: Are you going to do another big trip in September?
Josh Larson: Not as big as I’d love but at least three weeks is what we’re aiming for but we’ll see how work and all that plays out.
Neely Quinn: So you’re settled down now in Salt Lake City.
Josh Larson: Something like it.
Neely Quinn: And you’re working full time?
Josh Larson: Full time.
Neely Quinn: So the road trip situation is fewer and further in between at this point?
Josh Larson: Yeah, we basically stopped our big trip in January this past year and kind of made the move to Salt Lake and said, ‘Alright, we’re going to do this. If I’m going to make this life switch and pick up a job I’m going to go all in. I don’t want to do half-and-half. I want to do a good job on either end.’ So I’m all in here now working out of Salt Lake.
Neely Quinn: And your job seems like it’s very eclectic, like you do a lot of different things in your position, right?
Josh Larson: Yeah. Let’s see, my main gig is head coaching so I’m doing a lot of traveling, basically. That’s kind of the main part of the gig because we’re traveling to a lot of World Cups and the World Cup season is pretty dense. This spring we were gone for seven weeks so my job ranges from traveling to planning travel for myself and for staff and for team along with my assistant coach and team manager, Meg Coyne. She does a lot of the planning as well so we both do a lot of that. I do a lot of route setting for our athletes. Here in Salt Lake we have a little training center so I basically corral the athletes into Salt Lake and figure out what they need for training and set up routes for them. It’s a wide range of things but basically my focus is the best for the athletes and for USA Climbing so it’s wherever I need to put my energy to do that, it’s what I’ll do.
Neely Quinn: Sometimes you’ll even do training programs for them, right?
Josh Larson: A little bit, yep. Some of the athletes have asked for some training programs so a little bit but not so much. Not as much as I guess you’d think a head coach would just because this program is new. It basically started in January when we all moved to Salt Lake City to start the program so it’s a new program. There’s a lot of moving parts to it as far as internally, as far as rules and all that. For the US Climbing Team to now have an official head coach is also new so we’re all just trying to figure out where we fit and where we can best help. There’s a lot of new resources on the table and we’re just trying to figure out how and when to use them.
Neely Quinn: I think that’s probably something that people might have been surprised to just hear, that this whole program is brand new as of this year. A lot of countries have head coaches and facilities and all the things to bring their team together but we didn’t for a long time. Do you want to talk about that and how this all got started?
Josh Larson: Yeah, definitely. It’s interesting, too, because – I was just about to ask what year it is [laughs] – maybe 2014 was my first World Cup. Maybe 2013? I say maybe 2013 might have been my first World Cup and you made the cut by going from a Nationals. You didn’t really have to – the top six was on the US National Team but if anybody from the top six didn’t want to go to an event it would get passed down, onward and onward and onward.
My first experience at a World Cup was that I got 21st or 22nd at a National and I got an invitation to go to Canmore, Canada and I was like, ‘Alright, cool! I’ll go! I don’t know if anyone else is going so I don’t know what to do.’ I emailed USA Climbing, they gave me a little bit of info but not a lot and that was it. It was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this and hopefully it’s kind of straightforward.’ Just showing up not knowing what other athletes were going to be there and not knowing the rules and all of that, luckily there were some veterans. I think Alex Johnson or maybe Angie Payne was there at the time, or one of the veteran climbers that had been doing World Cups a lot longer than I have were there so they kind of helped me a little bit. Oh – Alex Puccio. She was there so she was like, ‘Hey, this is how it works. This is the technical meeting,’ and I was like, ‘Oh wow. This is all new to me as a climber.’
There was not a lot of structure, there was certainly never a coach or a PT or an official or anybody making the travel plans for awhile. I’m sure it was like that before I was even competing. We’re in a totally different game right now with USA Climbing. Over the years we would start email chains and group chats of who was going to the events and slowly we were starting to travel on the same days and maybe be at the same hotels together and go to the technical meetings together and go over the rules together. It was a little bit of team bonding but it was still like maybe just two or three of us would get together. It was very intimidating walking into isolation with all these top world competitors and they have like three coaches and a PT. You were just like, ‘Woah. This is crazy. I wonder how they got there?’
I guess how I transitioned into the head coaching position is a good segue. A couple years ago I was kind of team captain. I don’t want to take that title but it was like I was trying to get everyone to have a team dinner or meet at this gym in Munich and train together. We were just trying to organize ourselves together to be a team. One year I got injured and I couldn’t compete anymore so I kind of just kept that role of communication and then USA Climbing was like, ‘Hey, do you want to kind of play team manager/team coach and help our athletes get to some more events and help planning and help work with them in iso and with appeals and things like that?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds awesome! I could go in that direction.’ With my previous history of coaching youth teams and the Youth US Team it kind of slowly transitioned to where I would go to more events because USA Climbing came into a bit more money to send a coach to the events.
Long-winded but that was at least from my perspective. Maybe other things happened years before me or maybe we had a coach that was at events but from my memories and from talking to people I don’t think there was. We’ve come a long way to where we are right now.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I guess I wonder how it compares with other countries. I have several questions about it but first of all, why do you think it took so long? Is it because of funding? How do other countries fund these things?
Josh Larson: I don’t think it all comes down to money, mostly because I personally don’t like that reason of: ‘Oh, it’s because the money that we don’t have the program or team.’ But, it was kind of because of lack of money in that high performance athlete department in USA Climbing.
To answer your other question about how other countries fund themselves, most European countries are government funded so they’ll get money through their department of sports under the government and they’ll send money to however they feel it’s needed. Basically, they get most of their money through funding and then private sponsors.
I know other countries, like I believe it’s Australia and the UK, don’t get government funding so they’re in the same boat as us. So that’s kind of that in short.
Neely Quinn: And now there is funding for us?
Josh Larson: Yeah. Last year was the first bit of funding that came through. It was all by donation, by a program USA Climbing started called Circle of Gold. People could just donate money directly towards our US athletes going to World Cups and World Championship events and supporting their travel costs, which adds up quite a bit over the course of a season. That was the first time we had that big amount of money to use.
I guess the program kind of started last year, like, ‘We have funding. We’re going to send a coach to a few events. We’re going to send a PT to one event.’ The wheels are turning and it’s going in the right direction and then obviously the Olympics has a huge role in why we got money, basically. We wrote a proposal to the USOC, the United States Olympic Committee, because now we are a part of the IOC and basically said, “This is what we need to send our best athletes to the Olympics and get a medal,” because USOC wants medals. They want results so they want to see a proper proposal of how that whole process is going to look in the next year and a half, until the 2020 games.
We sent them this big thing and after a lot of discussion we got x-amount of dollars and those dollars are now funding our High Performance team. It’s a department that is new in USA Climbing as of basically January. Our High Performance director is John Muse, team manager is Meg Coyne, who I previously mentioned, and myself as head coach, and I route set for the High Performance team.
Then we have our combined team athletes that are the top four male and the top four female that are basically fully funded, all expenses covered and food while they’re traveling, and special resources for training and access to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Basically, long story short it came down to more money.
Neely Quinn: More money and the Olympics.
Josh Larson: Yes, good point there.
Neely Quinn: Do you think now maybe we might start to catch up to some other countries that had this sort of funding and infrastructure for a long time? Do you think that’s sort of what has held us back?
Josh Larson: Yes, I agree. I think that’s a big part of why we’re held back and the money equals resources. We’re playing catch-up for sure. We’re certainly late to the party as far as the international competition stage goes but I feel confident that we’re playing catch-up real fast. We have a lot of really good examples. We have a lot of really good, talented and motivated athletes. Really, some of the strongest in the world and they’re just waiting for these opportunities to help them, to give them that extra nudge to be a World Champion or win a gold at a World Cup again or their first one, or now, just making it to the Olympics.
Neely Quinn: What do you think that nudge would be?
Josh Larson: I think it’s definitely different for specific athletes but in general, the nudge would be just allowing them to focus more on their training and less logistics, for example. Also, giving them the resources that we now can give them like a training center here in Salt Lake City where they can call us up and say, “Hey, I want to work on this, that, and the other thing and I want to come in in two weeks.” ‘Cool. Come in and we’ll have this all set up for you. We’ll rotate things through as you need.’ Things like a PT. Just being able to pick up the phone and call our PT and be like, ‘Hey, I was out climbing the other day,’ or training, ‘and this happened.’ Being able to have that right at your fingertips is something that I think a lot of the athletes are either not used to or prior they were paying for it and now it’s kind of just handed to them. They have to earn it but it’s there for them.
Neely Quinn: Right, so everything else is easier for them and more taken care of so that their focus can just be on climbing and not like, ‘Where am I staying in Canada or Germany?’ or whatever.
Josh Larson: Exactly.
Neely Quinn: Can we talk a little bit about the team mentality? It seems like the Japanese team and some of the other teams are close and they train together all the time so they have this moral support from people who know exactly what they’re going through. I’m wondering if that’s sort of what’s starting to happen with our team or if that’s still lacking and what you think that does, if you think that does have a positive effect on other teams.
Josh Larson: I think the big scope of the picture there with the team training is yeah, team training helps a lot. Even if it’s not the competitive part, it’s just the learning part with each other and being in that environment and kind of just having somebody to lean on to talk about how a boulder felt or a round felt or somebody to just hang out with and not talk about comp climbing, you know? They want to do that, too. Having that team bond being built and formed right now is the coolest thing I’ve seen, at least from my perspective, in USA Climbing in our team in forever. It’s cool to see.
Just for a quick snippet, we traveled for seven weeks all together, basically, about 10 of us on the road from Europe to Russia to Asia, all over. Every day or every week we just got to know each other a bit more and were naturally able to hang out and have conversations and really just lean on each other more. That also resulted in a lot more training together and those environments are so healthy. There are a few athletes – and this is kind of in every sport and in every way of life really – that want to train on their own and have that space. As coaching staff we need to make sure we’re accommodating that as well and not pushing these uncomfortable environments on the athletes, even though we say, “If you hate it you need it.” It’s something that is a fine line of making sure there’s not too much group climbing together so people can still do their individual things.
To answer your question about the other federations and how they’re training together, for example the Japanese don’t have a training center per se but their hub is that most of their climbers are in Tokyo. A lot of their climbers just train together organically. It’s not like a big team meeting, although I know they do their team meets. They just train together and they train for hours and hours and hours together a day. Like six hours a day or something crazy, they just go to the gym and climb boulders. That’s cool to see. Any time you go to a gym in Tokyo you’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, that guy is on the Japanese team.’ You’ll go to another gym and, ‘Oh yeah, that girl is on the Japanese team,’ and they’re all sessioning together.
I think most countries are doing that. They’re doing some programming, whether it’s training camps or a training center, where everyone can meet up and have a hub to train together at. If you’re lucky, like if you live in Colorado or Salt Lake, you have a few athletes who are also on the team together that can meet up and train. Alex Johnsona and Kyra Condie are both up in Minneapolis so they’re up there training together. Before they were competing together this year they didn’t really – they climbed together a little bit and I don’t want to go into super detail, but from talking to them they’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ve been training a lot more together because we both have the same goals and the same drive and we’re in it.’ It’s cool. It brings people together, too, in their little pockets.
Neely Quinn: It seems like the fact that the United States is so big prohibits people from training together all that much because you can’t be like, ‘Hey, we have this new facility in Salt Lake City and you need to move here.’ [laughs] I mean you could.
Josh Larson: It’s true. It’s a positive and a negative how big our country is when we’re talking about a small team. Having the Salt Lake hub is good because we at least have a home and a place that the athletes can say, “Okay, I’m going to Salt Lake because I know there’s coaching there, there’s PT there, there’s a training center there, there are rad gyms that basically open their doors for the US athletes to come in and train.” Honestly, it’s funny that you say that. We’re pushing for athletes to make not a permanent move but a temporary move for big training blocks, to come to Salt Lake, especially before some bigger events. We’re confident that a few athletes will make the jump. Change is good.
Neely Quinn: Is that something that you guys are like, ‘We’ll fund part of this for you to do that?’
Josh Larson: Unfortunately, that’s kind of the big hang-up. We would love to be like, ‘Here’s a house for you guys. We’re renting a house so everyone come in and hang here and train,’ but it’s just not in our proposed budget plan right now. Hopefully, in the near future we can get there but with this being year one it was just not in the cards.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that makes sense. Can you tell me more about the facility and who’s training there and what kinds of things you guys do, and if you’re doing training camps and things like that that you mentioned?
Josh Larson: Yeah. Back in February we found a space right in downtown Salt Lake, kind of across the street from USA Climbing’s home office. It’s a big space. I think it’s 9,000 or 10,000 square feet.A very industrial building but a great space so we put up the walls that you see at Nationals and the walls that you see at Vail. Those are our walls as USA Climbing and they’ve usually just been sitting in trailers between all the events that they go to, which is basically just two events a year. Now it’s not being stored in a trailer, it’s being stored in a warehouse with holds on it. We’ve basically had a training center sitting in a trailer for a really long time and now we have a place to pop it up.
When we set it up in February it was 100 feet wide of climbing, that National wall, and we built a little slab wall, we have a spray wall, we have a little campus board and espresso machine, ping pong table, basketball hoop, all of the essentials. We’ve been there since then and we’ll be there for a few more months and then we’re going to move to a newer zone.
As far as things that go on in the training center, we ran a training camp back in March prior to the first Bouldering World Cup and we had a blast setting it up. We had most of our combined team there and a lot was learned. There was a lot set up for them. Basically, every day they were done climbing all of us setters would come together and say, “Okay, these are some things we saw, these are some things we heard, let’s implement this for them for tomorrow and put it on the wall.” Just being able to have that freedom of moving a hold whenever you want or staying really late or setting all day. You have restrictions when you’re in other commercial spaces so there it’s just our space.
Neely Quinn: So you can do a lot with them.
Josh Larson: We don’t have a lead wall because of the height and that’s a bigger goal for down the road – hopefully not too far down the road. We have bouldering, we have the spray wall to train circuits for power endurance and resistance, and we’re building right now – hopefully today it should be done by the end of the day – some speed sections. The speed wall is the 15-meter speed wall but we’re going to set up little sections of that 15-meters for athletes to rehearse and practice and engrave into their brain. Rather than trying to climb 10 meters up to the last 5-meter section, now they can just do that section right from the ground.
Neely Quinn: So it’s actually kind of a good thing that it’s set up like that?
Josh Larson: Yeah, it’s an awesome thing. When we go to the gyms to train speed it’s, ‘Okay, you need to work on those three foot moves at the top. You have to climb up there and either create your momentum or rest.’ It’s just not very convenient to work sections so a lot of the countries are doing this, too, they’re just putting their little speed sections of maybe eight or nine of the speed holds and people just rehearse the foot beta and the hand sequences and all of that. That’s a tool that we’re really excited to start using more.
Neely Quinn: You said that you guys are going to move in a few months. Are you going to stay in Salt Lake and just go to a different facility?
Josh Larson: Yeah, we just got word the other day that they’re going to demolish the building or something that we’re in so we definitely need to move. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: [laughs] Okay. Is it going to be a tall building where eventually you could have routes? Or no?
Josh Larson: I don’t think the next one will be that, no.
Neely Quinn: It doesn’t seem like route climbers are actually climbing that much on routes, honestly, for training.
Josh Larson: It’s funny. I would agree but I also think of a few athletes that really want to just train on lead. For the majority, they do just want to do circuits and pure resistance. If a gym has really good resistance routes up, like not very commercial gyms but very comp-y, progressive routes, then athletes will certainly be training on those because that’s very attuned with what they’ll be competing on. But yeah, you’re right. A lot of athletes and a lot of climbers in general do circuits and 4×4’s and all of those easier, accessible power endurance workouts.
Neely Quinn: I’m curious about your role as the head coach because you delineated in our conversation previous to this that you’re not doing that much training programming but you’re coaching so you’re talking to them about tactics and all of that. Can you tell me what you teach them and help them with as a coach?
Josh Larson: It’s not a lot of programming. For some athletes I write some programs for them and I’m in constant communication with them to talk through it because it’s remote. They’re over there in Colorado or they’re on the east coast and we’re having these phone conversations and once in a while, meet-ups.
As far as what I’m doing with them, it changes for every athlete. Each one needs something different or has different desires in what they want from coaching. Some just want me to tell them what time they’re climbing, where their call zone is, ‘Here’s the video.’ Sometimes it’s really simple and they just do their thing and we debrief and we chat about post-competitions. Even if I’m not spraying some amazing new, ‘Oh, this is what you should have done,’ it’s just having that conversation with them and letting them express that to the coaching staff is a good tool for myself to understand the athletes and how they think so that in the future I can have more chances to help them.
As far as tactics and things like that, for bouldering we focus a lot on time management so how you’re managing your time in that 5-minute round. All sorts of approaches to identifying boulder problems and what they are asking you to do and how you, yourself, will answer it and how you’ll get on the wall and make every effort/every attempt count. That’s something that is hard to do. When you’re in question of something on the wall you’re not trying your hardest because you’re in question. You’re already kind of telling yourself that you’re not trying so it’s just being able to have that confidence in knowing when to make that decision. We do a lot of that.
We do a lot of mock competitions when we can. We do a couple exercises that we call ‘one shots’ or ‘two shots.’ We’ll set a round of really weird boulders, like really obscure boulders, and the athletes will come through and they’ll get one try on every boulder. It forces you to get into that mentality of flash or trash and getting into that zone. Little things like that mostly mixed with mental and physical, of course.
For lead climbing we’re just getting into the lead season. I worked with them a little bit last year at some lead events and I think that finding a good mindset for the events and each person’s own mindset of where they need to be before they get on the routes is something important that we’ll be looking out for. Also, pacing of routes. How they’re climbing and their time management on lead routes as well.
One other thing that we’ve done here too in Salt Lake in the past week since I’ve got back from Vail is setting up a couple World Cup style lead routes, two at The Front and one at Momentum Mill Creek. They’re super welcoming to our needs as a team and a federation so we’re setting mock lead routes for them to get more of a feel for how the upcoming World Cups will feel.
Neely Quinn: That’s something I wanted to talk to you about, too, the route setting. As far as normal, conventional route setting goes versus World Cup style and even Nationals style setting, these climbers who live all over this country probably don’t get much practice on the kinds of routes that they have to do. You are there to set these things up in Salt Lake City but is there anything going on with route setting in general, like with people learning how to set to accommodate? There are a lot of competitors on all these teams at all these gyms so how is that evolving?
Josh Larson: That’s a good question and I think yes, the setting community within USA Climbing is highly skilled for setting for World Cups. In fact, we had a lot of US setters at the Bouldering World Cups this year setting and working with the international setters. We have very experienced setters. Chris Danielson is one. He’s been setting, I don’t know how long but more than 20 World Cup setting events. He has a really good grasp on it and there’s a lot of other route setters that are making their way to World Cups and getting that exposure. We have that. It’s a resource and when we have our National events they set the best that they can to replicate either World Cup or their own style. The US has its own style so we can’t neglect that.
We also have athletes going to World Cups that is definitely a different style than the US has so it’s kind of blending those two at our National events. That’s something that has definitely been getting really good over the past few years with our National setters and all that, so that’s really good to see where that’s going.
The setters that are our setters here in the States that are capable of setting and have set World Cups just don’t get the opportunity that much in the climbing gyms – in their home commercial gyms – because mainly it’s just not that inviting for the general public to climb on, for the customer base to have that. Plus, it requires lots of space for volumes. If you put a bunch of holds on the volumes, now you’re restricting how many routes can be climbed on there.
It’s kind of like if you go to the gym now you’ll see one little wall with the World Cup boulder and it will have all these volumes and it will just be that one boulder. Some gyms across the country are doing that. They’re just super wide spaces and not a lot of density in routes. Those gyms are doing a good job of pushing the World Cup volume-ish style boulder problems out there but I think in general, to circle back again and say it again, our setters are totally capable and have done it, it’s just where they can do it is restricted.
Neely Quinn: It’s so funny that comp climbing is so different from regular gym climbing. How did that even happen?
Josh Larson: [laughs] I don’t know. It slowly evolved and nobody noticed and now here we are.
Neely Quinn: You actually said that you feel the American style is different from other World Cup styles. Can you describe that a little bit for people?
Josh Larson: Yeah. Like I said it’s evolved to where now we can set any style we want but I guess our style of setting in America is that naturally, for our Nationals, it’s developed to longer routes because our National walls are really tall. The boulder problems become longer if you compare them to European walls or Chinese walls. In those events they’re four feet shorter sometimes or three feet shorter so you’re getting less climbing surface. You’re getting what we call ‘zone boulders’ where it’s like three moves and here’s your boulder. Those three moves are super involved and very intricate or risky.
In a World Cup, I would say out of a round of five boulders, maybe one of them you’re falling because maybe you’re tired but most likely not. It’s most likely just because of a move. I think in some of our Bouldering Nationals – and this is not a complaint, this is just a style – sometimes you’re falling because the boulders may be long or whatnot.
Years ago when I competed – I don’t want to date myself here with ‘years’ ago. I competed two years ago but – way back like five, six, seven years ago, it was definitely that. You could see a clear difference. Now you show up at a Nationals and it’s like, ‘Oh. This could be a World Cup.’ You don’t know but there’s still that thuggy style or enduro kind of boulder problem that you’ll encounter. That’s kind of who we are and I love it. I like the diversity that we have and that each country has in setting.
Neely Quinn: I feel like I’ve had this conversation and that’s part of why we could be falling behind, because our climbers aren’t training on that style of boulder. Everybody here is used to these thuggy, steep, sort of similar to outdoor climbs, then you go to – where was the last World Cup?
Josh Larson: It was in Vail but before that was in Germany, in Munich.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, or even in Vail. At that World Cup there were some weird problems, right? It seems like it would behoove our athletes to be training on those kinds of routes and boulders, do you think?
Josh Larson: Yeah, and I guess for example some athletes will, for their first World Cup, be like, ‘I’ve got to climb on some volumes and figure this out.’ They’ll go to a World Cup and be like, ‘Woah. I thought I was training for the right thing but not at all.’ Then they’ll go home and be like, ‘Okay, this is what happened there. This is what kind of movement,’ but then they have to say that and suggest that to their setters at their home gyms for them to get that result. I’m sure it happens. It does happen that setters will go out of the way to set specific routes for athletes, especially on the US Team, and that’s awesome of them but it’s just a challenge. A lot of the times it’s making up weird boulders in the mix of all the boulders that are already on the wall.
I think more gyms are doing this now where they’re setting little pockets of World Cup style boulders and spray walls and things like that. It’s moving in a good direction, for sure.
Neely Quinn: I want to talk to you a little bit about Olympics because it’s like this mystery to all of us. We’re like, ‘What? How do people get into the Olympics? Are we going to be in the Olympics? What’s the format?’ Can you just give us an Olympics 101?
Josh Larson: Okay, yes. I’ll do the simple version. I don’t want to get into too much detail because then I’ll confuse myself. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: [laughs] That’s a good sign.
Josh Larson: It’s really not that bad but you do have to study it a little bit. Basically, the Olympics that will happen in 2020 in Tokyo will be 20 male and 20 female athletes represented from around the world. They’ll compete in the combined format which is speed, bouldering, and lead. The 20 of them will compete in those disciplines and it’s all based off of your ranking and by multiplication. If you get a ‘1’ that’s a good multiplier to have. If you get 20th three times that’s not a great multiplier so it’s all basically done by multiplication of your ranking/your result. The end result there is competing in those three disciplines, basically back-to-back-to-back.
We ran a combined invitational event here in Salt Lake back in January and it ran really smooth and it was a great test for our athletes and us to see what it looks like and for the general public to also see what it will look like in the Olympics.
How do those athletes become qualified for the Olympics? There’s basically three pathways to the Olympics. It’s not reserved for any country so some countries won’t have representation. Basically what will happen is coming up in August we’ll have the World Championship event and the top – let me make sure I get this right here – eight from the World Championships, male and female, in the combined ranking will go to a combined finals and of that finals, seven from male and seven from female will get a ticket to the Olympics.
Neely Quinn: Oh, so a lot of them.
Josh Larson: Yeah, a lot right off the bat. Basically your top seven athletes, maybe, unless some people make mistakes, are going to be already having a ticket to the Olympics end of August. That’s basically phase one.
Phase two is of the whole World Cup so all the bouldering, all the speed, and all the lead World Cups which started in April and now they’re ending in October. They’re going to take your highest two ranked events so highest two ranked boulders, speed, and lead, and they’re going to come with the top 20 athletes in male and female, so 40 in total, that will go to an Olympic qualifier selective event in Toulouse, France. We’ll do the same thing that we did in the World Championships. We’ll do a combined event that takes seven athletes from each gender and boom – they’re going to the Olympics. That’s pathway two of three.
Three of three is a nice one. Every year there’s a continental championship throughout the world and each event this year selects one male, so basically first place male and first place female, that wins that combined continental event will also go to the Olympics so that’s kind of the last pathway that’s going to happen in February of 2020 so we’ll know around then.
Neely Quinn: So each continent will have a championship and then there will be a combined from those winners?
Josh Larson: So you will for sure have representation from at least two athletes from every continent.
Neely Quinn: Okay. It kind of evens the field a little bit to have a continental winner because it’s not like Australians are necessarily placing in World Cups or whatever.
Josh Larson: It gives those countries or those continents just the opportunity to be in the Olympics as well.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so then a question about the actual format. I know you said that it’s back-to-back-to-back, the three events. Can you tell me how long those events take and what is the actual timing and the order of them?
Josh Larson: Sure. Basically this event happened as a test event back in Innsbruck last year at the World Championship. At the time there were six finalists but now there will be eight finalists – sorry to throw confusion in there already. Basically, what they all do is they’re all ranked from their previous rounds so they’re all ranked 1-6 and they race head-to-head in a knockout format on the speed wall and then they get ranked on their speed results. The fastest climber is in first and the slowest climber is in sixth now and those are your multiplication points.
Then they all move to bouldering. Let’s say the time between the change is 15-25 minutes, somewhere in there, so not a lot of time. They basically drop their harnesses and they all go over and they do a boulder preview. It’s three boulders. They do that then they come out in their ranking order from speed. They all get ranked again and then they move from bouldering which probably takes an hour 15 plus or somewhere in there or an hour and 45 minutes.
Then they go to lead. Lead is probably another 20 minute gap between the last boulders and the first lead. They put their harnesses back on, they preview the insanely hard lead route, and then they get their final ranking and the multiplication happens between each discipline. Voila, you have your combined champion, your Olympic gold medalist.
Neely Quinn: They do one route?
Josh Larson: Yeah, one lead route. Basically like a World Cup final, each gender gets on one route.
Neely Quinn: So this sort of favors speed climbers in that if speed was last – this is really weird to me. Why is speed first?
Josh Larson: I don’t really have a solid answer for why it’s organized and set up in those ways. The only thing I really can answer is that they want lead climbing to be the last and almost the defining champion moment in climbing because it’s sport climbing. That’s what we call our federation and our sport, sport climbing, so they want that to be the endnote. Speed climbing first and bouldering second? Honestly, I’d like to know now but I don’t know why exactly.
Neely Quinn: So for instance, if Margo Hayes – on the Reel Rock video of the speed climbing they showed her speed climbing and she wasn’t very fast yet she’s one of the best lead climbers and boulderers. There’s a chance that maybe she wouldn’t even make it through speed?
Josh Larson: If you make the combined finals format, the one I was just explaining, nobody gets knocked out between those three disciplines. If you start on speed and you false start and you totally bomb or you miss the buzzer, you’re still going to climb the boulders and you’re still going to climb in lead.
Neely Quinn: Oh, okay. Got it.
Josh Larson: You’re just ranked.
Neely Quinn: That makes more sense. It’s not like they’re being knocked out. That’s what I was imagining. Well, that’s what a typical gym session looks like for me, you know? [laughs] 25 minutes of speed climbing, a little bouldering, then some lead. [laughs]
Josh Larson: You should try it.
Neely Quinn: I should try it. I think we all should.
Josh Larson: More people should try. To me, it’s so cool. It’s all three, speed, power endurance, like it’s such a cool concept to be able to put all of those skill sets into use in a couple of hours. Or maybe 20 minutes if you want to do the speed version of it all. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Oh yeah, so how long does the whole thing take?
Josh Larson: I think it was maybe 3+ hours?
Neely Quinn: So not bad.
Josh Larson: Oh, it was longer actually. I think it was three hours for each gender with intermission in the middle. This was what they were testing and I think the common concern back to the IFSC and the IOC was, ‘It’s kinda long.’ It’s like watching two football games back-to-back but they’re working on ways to just trim out the fat, I guess, but also it’s really rad when you’re watching it so at the same time you’re like, ‘I don’t really care, this is just what I’m going to do for my day. I’m going to watch this event.’ Especially the Olympics. Nobody is really going to care how long it is.
Neely Quinn: I mean, the question is, obviously as a coach and as a trainer, this is completely different than how they train currently, this format. What do they do to train for this format?
Josh Larson: There’s a lot of different strategies. I think generally it’s focusing on what your specialty is. If your specialty is bouldering, then what you want to do is you want to aim for that minimum multiplier. You want to aim for first, obviously, because that’s going to put you high in the ranks. If you can get a low, low number in your preferred discipline you want to maintain that. This is our strategy. Other countries are maybe doing it this way and are doing it this way, other countries are not, but the general strategy is make sure you’re getting a low multiplier.
If you’re just trying to be pretty good at all of them and get 20th in all events, it’s not as great as getting 20th twice and a first place. Making sure that you’re still super focused on your specialty discipline, whatever one feels more attuned to you, and then mostly everybody needs to just work on speed because it’s kinda going to come down to speed and who is just going to suck it up and train more speed. Those that will just deal with it and make the best of it and have fun doing it, because it is actually really fun, those are the ones that will have a better chance. It’s kind of the same thing in all training with projects: focus on your weaknesses, but in this sense it’s focus on your strength a lot but fix your weaknesses and improve them.
Neely Quinn: That’s interesting. That’s actually not what I expected you to say.
Josh Larson: I guess that’s just a strategy, it’s just an approach, it’s just one way that we’ve talked about doing it and how we’ve worked with athletes on doing that. It’s cool because it’s seasonal, too. It was all boulders for the first two and a half months, so six events of just boulders. That was a no-brainer, ‘We’re just going to boulder. We’re also going to do a little bit of speed and then as the end of the bouldering season fades away we’re going to jump into lead training,’ so when the first lead event comes around we’re not scratching our heads in the middle with two events going on like, ‘Oh man, I wish training lead a while ago.’ They’re already starting to overlap in all of that.
Neely Quinn: It seems like just as you have them do comp simulators during their training, they would have to do comp simulators kind of a lot just to get used to it.
Josh Larson: Yeah, we’re going to run a camp in the fall before Toulouse where we’ll just basically run a combined event. We’ll do that a little bit before the World Championships in August as well but we’ll do it in Japan. Just getting that mindset around it. They can all do it, they’re all super strong and have plenty of endurance and I believe that they all have the mentality to deal with it because it’s basically having a three-hour session. Everyone who goes to the gym has a three-hour session that is training for these events. The output and the level of pressure is different, for sure, but physically they’re totally capable of doing it.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. It’s funny because when I was watching the invitational it’s funny because they’re all looking down at their hands, like, ‘Where is my skin? What in the world is happening right now?’ Do you notice that that’s a thing for them? A challenge?
Josh Larson: Yeah, for some they just don’t even think about it but for most it comes down to skin and that just goes to the texture of the boulders. It mostly happens more with boulders but they’re just newer holds. Some newer holds are playing with new texture and they go, ‘Hey! Here’s some new holds. Why don’t you guys debut them at this World Cup?’ Wow, they’re really textured. You have that but that kind of thing is just a mind over matter thing. Just ignore it. You can’t do anything about it. If you’re bleeding you have to tape it but other than that, this is just how it is. Everybody out here is dealing with the same crap so just suck it up. [laughs] What else are you going to do? You can’t use it as an excuse. I mean, it is used as an excuse but you have to just ignore it for the time being.
Neely Quinn: They’re all pretty good at sucking it up, I think.
Josh Larson: Yeah, they’re awesome. They’re tough.
Neely Quinn: Where do you see all of this going in the future? Your training facility, the program that you guys have going, how do you see it growing and evolving?
Josh Larson: I would love to see us with a full on training facility for USA Climbing built specifically for our elite athletes and grassroots programs and all that here in Salt Lake or wherever it might be. I would hope that we have a bigger home base where we can have our home office and general public climbing and lead and speed and a place where we could host a World Championship event or a lead and speed event here in Salt Lake.
As far as the program, I hope that we continue to just evolve and keep going forward and not get too hung up on little things. I don’t want to say that we’re in this to win a gold medal but damn, that would be really awesome to have a gold medal out of one of these upcoming Olympics.
Neely Quinn: Oh yeah, and the other Olympics that is happening after these upcoming Olympics is going to be different, right? It’s not going to be the same format.
Josh Larson: That’s right. In 2024 in Paris it’s still got one more step to get passed before it’s official but we’ll know end of this month, so June 26, we’ll know if we’re in the 2024 Olympics. The disciplines will be split so now it will be speed on it’s own, so they’ll each get their own medals, and then lead and bouldering will be combined.
Neely Quinn: Oh okay. That’s so much better because the speed climbers are so specialized.
Josh Larson: It’s funny you say that. The speed specialists, the guys and girls breaking the world records every year, they are speed climbers. Yeah, they climb outside and they climb for fun but they train speed. It’s awesome to see and we even have speed athletes in the States doing this. They are fully trying and trying so hard to make sure their bouldering and lead is elevated, like I was saying earlier. They’re still focusing on that speed because if they go in and win speed and then they have that #1 multiplier like Adam Ondra will have that #1 multiplier in lead and maybe bouldering, it’s important for them to still do that. I don’t want to generalize it but it’s going to be hard for them to push up their skill sets in bouldering and lead enough to compare with the others that are not speed specialists.
Neely Quinn: It’s like two against one.
Josh Larson: Exactly. I hope that a speed specialist makes it to the Olympics and I think they will. They’ll just crush. They’ll destroy everybody and hopefully they do. Those are the people making the fastest times and they are really impressive to watch. The guys going sub-6 and the girls going sub-7 now? Low 7s, not sub-7, but it’s just interesting to see. If you like numbers and guessing and all that it’s a fun game to see where the athletes globally are sitting in the rankings.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I’m looking forward to 2024 because I think that’s a good show with the speed comp and all the actual specialists. That’ll be fun.
Josh Larson: Have you watched a speed final in real life, like live?
Neely Quinn: No, I haven’t. It looks like a national event in Russia.
Josh Larson: And I think in Japan they do speed circuits here and there and a couple of speed comps. I think it’s really exciting to watch a speed final. I don’t want to dig on the others but it’s really exciting to watch. It’s fast-paced and you kind of never know what’s going to happen. If you get the chance I would highly suggest anybody go watch a speed final anywhere. It’s really cool.
Neely Quinn: Question: my last question for you is about nutrition. I think probably other teams in the world have a nutritionist working with their athletes. As a nutritionist I always ask about nutrition. Is that something that you can see being a benefit to our athletes and is that something that you could see being incorporated into the program?
Josh Larson: Yes and yes, 100%. As we’ve been traveling and working together we’re slowly seeing how the athletes are eating and how they’re recovering and how they’re loading up for energy and all that. Most of it is pretty good but we have our thoughts and concerns and ideas and we communicate that with them.
A couple weeks ago, before Vail, we did a five-day training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. We took our combined team, so we took our eight athletes, and we hung out in the Olympic Training Center for five days. We worked with nutritionists, we talked about sleep and how important that is and how we just all forget how important sleep is for athletes and recovery, and sports psych.
We walked into all sorts of crazy things. You’re in this Olympic training headquarters. There are Olympians walking everywhere. You’re being talked to by Olympians. It was an awesome experience and eye-opening in the nutrition side.
We did two days of nutrition and we did a cooking class, so everyone went to the OTC kitchen and the lady instructing was kind of helping everybody out, individually talking to them about things they need and how they eat. She would either finger wag like, ‘No, no, no,’ or – it’s good to see the athletes are taking that tactic, that kind of approach to their training. We all know eating healthy but it’s like eating healthy for athletes is very different. We have vegans and vegetarians on the team so they’re trying to figure out how they’re getting all the right vitamins and minerals and things like that and how that affects their training.
Neely Quinn: That’s awesome that you guys did that. That makes me really happy.
Josh Larson: [laughs] Good.
Neely Quinn: Even with just my clients who are whatever, 5.10, 5.11, 5.12 climbers sometimes, just seeing the effect it can have on them in just a week or two, like their performance can shoot up, I just imagine that the USA Team could also have the same results and how awesome would that be?
Josh Larson: Any edge, we’ll take it.
Neely Quinn: Exactly. Low-hanging fruit.
Josh Larson: For sure. That’s an easy one. No pun, right? Basically, no McDonald’s in airports. I’ve been trying to chase after them, ‘No, no, no. There’s another place over here we should go instead of McDonald’s.’
Neely Quinn: I just had a great image of you actually chasing after one of them. [laughs] “No!”
Josh Larson: That has for sure happened. “I’m getting salad!” “No, you’re not. You’re getting a burger and you know it.”
Neely Quinn: Cool. Well I really appreciate being able to pick your brain. This has been awesome. I kind of figured we would talk more specifically about training and coaching stuff but this has actually been much more educational for me and for everybody listening. I have had so many conversations where I’m like, ‘What is happening with all this? How do we compare?’ and all these things so I really appreciate your inside look into things.
Josh Larson: No worries. I’m happy to do so and I think this is something. This kind of topic and conversation and the unknown about how the Olympics is working is something that should be more public and more people should know about it. If everybody can share the good news and the info, that’s better for the community.
Neely Quinn: Well, it will be more public now.
Josh Larson: Yeah, exactly. Thank you for doing this. I appreciate all the questions and the thoughts about the team and where it’s going, where it’s come from. It’s cool to talk about it. I appreciate it.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, well great work. I’m really happy you’re doing what you’re doing. Keep it up and thank you.
Josh Larson: Thank you again.
Neely Quinn: I hope you enjoyed that interview with Josh Larson. He’s pretty active on social media and you find him on Instagram @joshlrsn. He also has a website. He’s a videographer and he makes beautiful videos of places all over the world and he has a website all about his travels that he talked about a bit in this episode. It’s aworldlesstraveled.com. The videos you can find on Vimeo at Cold House Media. He’s kind of a jack of all trades and he knows a lot about this world so I was really happy to talk with him about all of this and hopefully you enjoyed it.
Coming up on the podcast I did an interview with Jared Vagy, the physical therapist who’s been on the show before, about elbows and elbow injuries which are pretty common in climbers. We did an episode about that and he also has a couple new Rock Rehab Protocols coming out on our site. It’s not out right this second. I’ll let you know when it’s out. It will be next week sometime and that’s for golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow and that just delineates whether or not it’s front of your forearm pain or inside of your forearm pain. That will be out next week-ish and I think that’s all I’ve got coming up.
As always, if you have any suggestions for me I’m all ears. I’m kind of looking for some boulderers who’ve had some success with training, like maybe even some not super duper strong boulderers, maybe somebody who’s done their first V6 or V5 even, V5, 6, 7 – something around there. I think that’s what a lot of people are striving for so I’d love to talk to somebody who’s had some success with training.
Speaking of training, I told you that I would talk a little bit about my own training. If this is not interesting to you feel free to stop now. I think that it’s been a journey for me, for sure. I used to climb 5.13a and b pretty regularly and I climbed up to 5.13c at a certain point in my career. Then I had shoulder surgeries in 2014 and 2017 and so I’ve just been sort of trying to build things back up and be smart and use the information that I’ve gathered through this podcast and this website and my own learning.
I started training really hard in January. I was doing stuff before that but I started to do some different things in January. Since then, I’ve done a couple 13a’s and a 13b and some 12s here and there, but mostly the thing that I noticed is that I can hold on for longer and my fingers are way stronger. I’m also much more powerful and just strong all around, especially in my core. I can do bigger moves and also, I’m braver. Those are the main things, which are a lot of things, but I think the biggest thing is my finger strength because that lends itself to everything else.
I used to only do bodyweight hangs and this year I started to add weight to either repeaters or max hangs. I’ll do repeaters on days when I feel like I have a lot of energy and then I’ll do max hangs, ironically, on days when I feel like I don’t have as much energy or time just because they’re quicker. That’s the main thing and I’ve been doing them once or twice a week since January, basically. That’s been for sure helping with my fingers but also just climbing on harder stuff, like challenging myself on harder boulders when I’m in the gym or on harder routes when I’m in the gym and outside. That’s been my finger training.
I also do deadlifts and I do biceps curls for underling strength. The deadlifts are for overall body strength and I definitely feel that plus the TRX work that I do in my core. I can feel when I make a move now that I’m much tighter than I used to be. I used to be more noodly so the deadlifts are definitely helping with that. Weighted pull-ups also help, I think with overall endurance, just because I’m so much stronger now at pulling myself up I feel like I can hang on longer in a locked-off position.
Those are the main things that I think have been helping but the biggest thing maybe of all is that I feel now like I can climb fluidly because I’m not scared nearly as much. Granted, I did the whole interview in Spain about me being scared but that route was sort of an anomaly for me because every other route that I’ve done recently I haven’t been scared on. I don’t really know what happened. I think I just started implicitly trusting my belayer and I think that made the biggest difference but also, with strength comes confidence. Now I grab these holds and I’m like, ‘There’s no way I’m falling off of this.’ It doesn’t even cross my mind that I’m going to fall and hurt myself. I think that’s been a really cool progression, too, to see that as I’ve gotten stronger I’ve gotten braver. It’s really nice. It’s much more fun to climb this way.
I think that’s all I wanted to mention. Hopefully that will help you in some way. I mean, my goal is to climb harder this year. I’m going to start on a mega project in the next few weeks. We’ll see how I feel in a month or so when I’ve been working on it for a while. That will be the real test of where I’m at because I’ve tried it in the past and we’ll see how I do on it this time but anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing. I hope that helps.
If you want help with your own training you can go to trainingbeta.com/programs and we have a ton of programs in there for route climbers and for boulderers and for power endurance or just finger strength. Whatever it is you want to train, we’ve got something for you.
I will talk to you hopefully next week. Until then, have fun, train smart, and I’ll talk to you soon.