About Mark and Mike Anderson
I’m psyched to introduce this podcast with brothers Mark and Mike Anderson. We did a longer-than-usual interview this time, partly because there were two of them and mostly because they have a lot of advice to give. For the uninitiated, Mark and Mike are the Rock Prodigy guys, the authors of the new book The Rock Climber’s Training Manual, all about the training methods they’ve developed over the last 15 years. They’re the trainers who helped J-Star turn his training methods around in order to do “Biographie” (or “Realization”, 5.15a), but they also have impressive climbing resumes themselves, despite having high-stress jobs and families.
Mike is an Aeronautical Engineer, aka robot developer. He’s an officer in the US Air Force and he has 2 sons (5 and 8) with his wife and they live in Colorado. He’s redpointed 5.14 sport and has done some very impressive 5.13s, including First Free Ascents of Touchstone Wall (5.13, IV), Space Shot (5.13 IV) and Thunderbird Wall (5.13 VI) in Zion, UT, and Arcturus (5.13, VI) on Yosemite’s Half Dome.
Mark (by the way, they’re twins) supervises a team of computer engineers and has 2 kids with his wife, and they also live in Colorado. He’s an “all-around” climber, having climbed on four continents, established numerous first ascents, freed El Cap, summited Denali, red-pointed 5.14c, and on-sighted 5.13b.
What We Talked About
- How long it took Mark to get off his 5.10 plateau
- The thing Mike eats every day to stay lean and strong
- Both of their biggest accomplishment in climbing (they have the same one)
- The surprising number of hours they train every week
- How Mike trained for one of his hardest sends in Afghanistan
- Who should be campusing and fingerboarding and who should avoid it
- What to do when you’ve been falling at the same high point for 8 weeks
- Their passionate opinion on running for climbing
- LOTS more
- Mark and Mike’s website is www.rockclimberstrainingmanual.com
- Their recent posts about training J-Star (part 1 and part 2)
- Their book, The Rock Climber’s Training Manual
- Their hangboard, the Rock Prodigy Training Center by Trango
- Jonathan Siegrist’s interview with me about training with the Anderson brothers
Support The Podcast
- This podcast is made possible by the training programs on TrainingBeta here. Check ’em out if you need some help sending!
- If you’d like to sponsor the podcast, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen and Review on iTunes
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Intro and outro song: Yesterday by Build Buildings
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast where I talk to climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn. I’m a climber, a nutritionist, and a traveler.
Today I’m finally talking to you from Rifle, Colorado, which is my favorite place to climb and hang out. I’ve been coming here for about 10 years now and I don’t think it’s ever going to get old. The only problem, though, is that I’m pretty injured. I have some chronic neck issues from a car accident a very long time ago and the pain is sort of creeping into my shoulders, so I’ve just been going and doing my warm-ups in the canyon but I’m hopeful I’ll get better.
In the meantime, it’s really nice to see old friends and hang out outside. Plus, I recently quit my job at www.paleoplan.com and my last day was officially yesterday, which feels really liberating. I’ll be able to work a little bit more on TrainingBeta now and I’ll be doing some independent projects in the paleo world, too. Either way, it feels nice not having a boss anymore, although I loved my time there.
Okay, enough about me. I hope you have been crushing it out there and it’s been fun talking to a lot of you who listen to this podcast all over the place. It’s really surprising how many people bring it up. Everyone seems to love Jonathan Siegrist and Steve Bechtel’s episodes. Hopefully you’ll like today’s interview, too.
We’re on episode nine of the TrainingBeta podcast today. Before we get into this great interview I want to let you know that, if you like what we’re doing at TrainingBeta and you want to support the site and our work, please check out the training programs that you can purchase on www.trainingbeta.com under the ‘training programs’ tab.
So, there’s a lot going on right now with that. There are two downloadable training plans on there right now. A six-week power endurance program by Kris Peters that will get you up powerful routes and boulders and an eight-week endurance program by Kris Hampton that will build your forearm stamina and teach you how to rest on routes better.
Steve Bechtel’s new book about strength training is on the site in digital format, too. That just started a few days ago. And then, I would love to have done this myself but I’m too busy to write a book on climbing nutrition right now so we’re going to introduce you to a registered dietician, Acacia Young, of www.climbhealthy.com. She wrote a really great eBook on nutrition for climbers and that will be up on the site this week.
We’ve also got a campus board program, a fingerboard program, a high-low power program, and two weekly overall climbing fitness plans, so stay tuned.
Alright, moving on. Today we’re talking with Mike and Mark Anderson, the authors of The Rock Climber’s Training Manual and creators of the Rock Prodigy Training Center, which is a hangboard that they had Trango make for them.
They’re the guys who J Star worked with to become even more superhuman than he already was and they’re the guys who told him how to change his life to send Biographie, and we all know how successful that was. It was very, very successful. We talk about J Star’s training program, which they actually just wrote an in depth blog post about over at www.rockclimberstrainingmanual.com, their website.
We also talked about their own training programs and the fact that they train relatively little and still crush a lot. They both climb 5.14 and they’re 36. Oh, sorry, 37. By the way, they’re twins, which I did not know. Anyway, I was honored to talk with them and I hope you like the interview. Here they are.
Mike Anderson: Okay, so this is Mike Anderson. I’ve been climbing since about high school, I suppose, but seriously kind of around college so that’s, I don’t know, 15 years pretty hard core. I just recently moved back to Colorado Springs, Colorado, so I’m real excited about that. The last six years we’ve been out east in Ohio and Florida which is very challenging for a rock climber.
I work for the Air Force. I’m a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. I’m a mechanical engineer and I’ll be starting a new job teaching at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I’ll probably be running their climbing and mountaineering club so that’s kind of cool.
I have two kids, Lucas and Axle, and my wife Janelle is also a super strong climber.
Neely Quinn: Nice.
Mark Anderson: This is Mark Anderson. Same as Mike, and for those that don’t know, we’re twins. We pretty much got into climbing at the same time. Mike got serious a little bit before me, I would say. I didn’t really get serious until after I was out of college so I’ve been going pretty hard now for about 12 years or so, I would say. Maybe longer than that. Fourteen years? Something like that.
I live in Evergreen, Colorado, which is just outside of Denver, a little bit in the mountains. I have a wife, Kate, and two kids, Logan and Amily [sp], who are three and one year old so they’re pretty little still. For work I supervise a team of software engineers so I pretty much sit in a cube and forward emails all day. That’s pretty much my work life. It’s pretty boring.
Neely Quinn: [laughs] I bet a lot of people could describe their jobs as that.
Mark Anderson: The good news is that it’s great for rest days. A lot of time to sand my skin and…
Neely Quinn: Watch videos to get psyched.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, exactly.
Neely Quinn: Actually, I didn’t even know you guys were twins. I was looking at pictures of you guys online, stalking you a little bit, and I was like, ‘Wow. They look a lot alike.’ So I guess that makes sense now.
You guys obviously have jobs, which I want to talk a lot about later, and families, so I think that’s one of the most interesting parts about you guys is that you still climb and train really hard with all of these other duties. I’ll save that for a little bit later.
First, I want to talk about why and when you got so much into training. Like, when and why did you start researching so much?
Mike Anderson: Both Mark and I were Division I, NCAA cross country and track athletes in college and I actually had a really great coach, Mark Stanforth. He was kind of a renowned cross country coach. He was in the Olympic trials and everything. When I ran for him on his team he had us on a very deliberate training program. Very scientific. He had workouts scheduled out for us months in advance and so I learned a lot from him.
I stopped running competitively about my junior year, which was around 1997, and I shifted all that energy into climbing. I wanted to be the best climber I could be but I really had no idea how to train for it so I started looking into that. I was really surprised that there wasn’t really a whole lot out there. Other climbers didn’t seem to be training in any kind of structured way or anything like that so I went to a library and found Performance Rock Climbing by Dale Goddard and Udo Neumann which is really, I think, the seminal text on the subject, in the English language, anyway.
It had a lot of good theory on training and they had done some research and drawn from other sports but it lacked a lot of specifics on what you should actually do. It gave you ideas on ‘here’s how muscles work’ but it didn’t tell you ‘now do three sets of 10 of this exercise.’ I kind of just filled in the blanks myself. I leaned heavily on the experience I had gotten as a runner and what I learned from my coach there.
In 1997 I bought my first hangboard and started doing hangboard workouts. Then, I started campusing and doing general periodic training, which is what we advocate in our book. I was really amazed by the initial results. I improved immediately. Of course, when you’re weak, untrained flesh you adapt to training really quickly anyway, but I was really psyched and just started kind of experimenting from there.
Like Mark said earlier, he was a few years behind me. He started getting into it and that really helped. He looked at what I was doing from a totally fresh perspective, which is really necessary. When Mark got involved that’s when we really started honing the program and getting it towards what it is now. We’ve just been tweaking it and improving it ever since then, doing our little experiments and seeing how it works and going back to the drawing board and reworking a little bit. After what has been almost 16/17 years or so we’ve been doing this type of training, we have it pretty well dialed, we think.
Neely Quinn: Do you guys/have most of your experiments been on yourselves? Or have you had a lot of clients along the way? I don’t actually know if you officially see personal training clients.
Mike Anderson: The short answer is no. We definitely collaborated with people along the way. A lot of stuff over the Internet, just message boards and tossing ideas out there and getting other people’s feedback and things like that, but a lot of the experimentation, especially that which we rely on and put in the book and advocate for other people to do, we’ve done ourselves. Mark, do you have anything to add onto that?
Mark Anderson: No, I would just say that yeah, we work with a lot of people, mostly friends and just acquaintances we’ve met online and stuff. We’ve done a little bit of real training or coaching but yeah, for the most part, we’ve been using ourselves as guinea pigs. Then, the real mystery is kind of like, well, just because it works for us will it work for everyone else? Everybody’s different but we’ve definitely helped enough people over – we’ve been corresponding with people online for at least 10 years, sharing our program. We’ve seen so many other people use it and have results that we’ve kind of answered that question, at least in our own minds.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, and we’ll talk about J Star a little bit later, of course. So, how has it affected your own climbing? Can you talk, both of you, about your biggest accomplishments in climbing and how your training got you there?
Mark Anderson: Yeah. I would say, first of all, probably my biggest accomplishment in climbing is writing the book The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. That was kind of a crazy amount of work, and not just the writing of the book but all the effort that went into coming up with it. That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of but one thing I try to relay to people is that, for a long time, I was pretty bad at climbing.
We first got interested when we were in high school and we were interested in climbing mountains pretty much. We grew up in Oregon and there’s these beautiful volcanoes there so we just wanted to hike to the top of these mountains. We got into rock climbing a little bit and we were pretty terrible, especially me. Mike was always kind of the leader and I struggled, probably for seven years, around the 5.10 level. Not that I wasn’t very strong but mentally it was always overwhelming. I never really had that much fun when I was doing it. I always felt like I was over my head and was just kind of sketched and scared all of the time.
To look back on that now it just seems so amazing. I’ve improved so much and I’ve gotten so much out of the sport as a result of that improvement, both in terms of opportunities to climb amazing things but also to meet amazing people. It’s kind of hard to maintain a perspective on what’s a big accomplishment. There’s so many things. I could go through 20 different routes that I never even dreamed that I would have ever even tried, let alone send.
Neely Quinn: Can you give me four of them?
Mark Anderson: [laughs] I never thought I would climb 5.13. My first 5.13 was a route called Goliath, at Enchanted Tower. When I started getting serious about trying it I was like, ‘If I could just do this one route, I would be so happy. I would never need to climb another hard route again.’ Then, you send it and immediately you’re like, ‘Well, there’s this other .13a. Maybe I should do that one, too,’ and it just kind of snowballs.
I never dreamed I would do .14a and now it’s just like I’m finally coming to terms with the idea that I will probably keep improving for awhile and I should stop capping my own expectations of what I can do. But as far as individual routes, freeing El Capitan in Yosemite. That’s something that when we started climbing, we learned about Yosemite pretty early on. We were big history buffs so we had 50 Classic Climbs and we saw the pictures of Yosemite so we always knew pretty early on that someday we were going to climb on El Cap, but the idea of actually free climbing it – when we first got into climbing, Lynn Hill and Skinner and Piana were the only people that had freed El Cap. The idea that a couple of kids from a small town in Oregon would do it someday was just incomprehensible so I think that’s probably my proudest achievement.
Neely Quinn: Cool.
Mike Anderson: Ditto what Mark said about writing the book. People say, “A dream come true,” all the time but that really is for us. We have talked about writing a book for probably 10 years so to finally do it is almost surreal. That’s really cool.
In climbing, I guess one of the things I’m most proud of and I can hang my hat on is I did, back in 2007, the first free ascent of a route called Arcturus on Half Dome in Yosemite. It’s a grade VI, 5.13 free route. Like Mark said we’re history buffs and I look at a place like Yosemite – it is the world’s crucible for big wall free climbing. When it’s all said and done, there’s going to be a finite number of grade VI, hard free routes that have been done in Yosemite. To be on that list is pretty cool. I think I’m pretty proud of that.
I’ve done a bunch of other things in Zion National Park and whatnot. To me, climbing is all about discovery. Well, I don’t know – there’s two ways to look at it. One is the physical aspect of it and pushing yourself, but the other adventure aspect of it is discovery, it’s exploration, and to that end the first ascent is the pinnacle of climbing. That’s how you contribute to the sport, is by doing a first ascent, so I’m most proud of the first ascents I’ve done. Those are in Zion and Yosemite and things like that.
Neely Quinn: Yeah.
Mike Anderson: I have to echo that I’m still amazed that I climbed 5.13. When we first started climbing, it was funny – if there are younger folks listening to this, your perceptions are shaped by when you started climbing. We started climbing in the early 90s and reading the magazines and stuff, there were only a handful of people in the world climbing 5.14 so that was never even a possibility to us. The fact is that 5.13 was a stratospheric grade when we started climbing, so the fact we ever did that was cool.
It’s cool how each generation grows up and they’re not limited by those mental barriers. Kids these days don’t think 5.14 is any big deal and they expect to be able to climb it within their first few years of climbing. They probably will and they’ll be climbing the 5.15 and .16s in the future, so that’s really cool.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it is. You guys are both, obviously, accomplished climbers and I’m wondering how you guys pull that off with having your jobs and your families. How often do you guys train? How many hours a week are you putting in and what’s your year like? Are you guys doing weekend trips? Are you doing big trips throughout the year? Can you talk on that?
Mark Anderson: I guess I’ll start. Yeah, I would say the first thing is, I think the whole ‘weekend warrior’ thing gets a little bit overblown. I think if you really look at a lot of the so-called ‘pros,’ they work a lot, too. They set routes, they work at the gym, they have sponsors to please. Like, Jonathan is one of the busiest guys I know. He does get to climb more than I do but he’s also working a lot, too.
I think/I know a lot of people who have jobs and if you find the right job, I don’t think a job is a huge impediment to training or climbing hard. I think kids is definitely a challenge and that’s probably the biggest obstacle for a lot of people. I think the key to that, really, is having a partner who is super supportive and we’re both super lucky. Both of our wives are very accommodating and go out of their way to help us achieve our goals.
Okay, but on to your more interesting question about how we train. We train – and I think Mike’s training is pretty similar to mine but I guess I’ll speak for myself – I train very little. I actually wrote a blog post a few months ago kind of because there was a discussion online about people being skeptical that I do as little as I say I do. [laughs] I actually published my actual training schedule from the previous season and it’s kind of ridiculous. I basically train about six hours a week total, assuming I’m not climbing.
If I’m climbing outside, obviously it’s more time than that but I pretty much never, ever, climb two days in a row. I climb at the most every other day and then if I’m climbing every other day indefinitely, I would try to get two rest days at least once a week. The most days I would climb outside would be like three days in a week. That’s not necessarily because I think it’s optimal for my performance but I’m getting pretty old. I’m 37 and I could definitely do more when I was younger. As you get older I think one of the first things to change as you get older is that you need more rest and you wake up in the morning and you feel a little bit worse than you did five years ago or 10 years ago. I can definitely feel it if I have a really hard training day or climbing day where I’m out late. I’ll definitely feel it the next day a little bit more.
One of the things that I really like about our training style is that there is a ton of rest built in and it’s very time efficient. Obviously, that works well with our family life and our work life. It doesn’t take a ton of time and kind of our strategy – if I could boil down our overall strategy in a nutshell, it’s basically very low volume but very high intensity training. I think most climbers/the average climber probably climbs too much. They’re probably overly injured most of the time because they climb too much. They don’t…
Mike Anderson: I’ll interject that they’re not training at a high enough intensity.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say.
Mike Anderson: They’re doing a lot of moderate stuff.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, and I think it kind of depends on where you live and the type of routes you climb, but certainly for me, living in Colorado, most of the climbing is bouldery with fairly good rests. There’s not a lot of super long, super pumpy stuff so it makes more sense to emphasize power over endurance and for that, you need high intensity and low volume and lots of recovery.
Neely Quinn: So – oh sorry. Go ahead.
Mike Anderson: I was just going to add that if you’re not familiar with our program, we advocate a periodic training wherein you’re training different aspects of your physiology throughout a season. A season is 3-4 months long so we’re not trying to hit the crag and send every weekend of the year. We have phases in which we do that so we have kind of a two-month training cycle we go through to get prepped for about a one-month performance phase.
That really helps fit in with work and your family life because the months that we’re training, it’s very time efficient. I fit in my workouts before work when the kids are asleep. They don’t even know I’m doing it and it doesn’t detract from that at all. Then, there’s plenty of time for the weekend birthday parties and all that kind of stuff. Then, when it’s the month that is sending time, well then it’s like yeah – we’re hitting the crag as often as we can. We’re doing midweek sessions either early in the morning before work or evening sessions after work, and then definitely on the weekends we’re road tripping to our project or whatever.
There’s that one-month intense period where we explain to the kids, “This is going to be tough but we’re going to all get chocolate cake at the end.” Then you have the other downtime where we’re just training and there’s time for other family-type stuff.
Neely Quinn: Right. So would you say that your six hours a week is about the bare minimum that people could do in order to improve? Or could you do even less? I know that there are people who are even busier than maybe you.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, and I think that that is maybe not the bare minimum. You have to realize I’ve been doing this program for literally 12 years. You talk about athletes who are very well trained. I’m a very well trained athlete. It doesn’t mean I’m a super awesome athlete, it just means that I’ve been doing this – my body is about as used to this program as it could possibly ever get. I doubt there’s anybody who will ever be as single-minded as I am and do the same thing literally for 12 years.
Anyone else, the newer you are to a style of training, the more you’re going to adapt. The longer you spend doing it, season after season, year after year, the more stimulation you’re going to need to force a little bit of improvement. I always like to joke that, at this point, I’m trying to squeeze water out of a rock, trying to get just a little bit better each year. I’m lucky/I count my improvement now in terms of: I hope I can improve a letter grade in three or four years. When I was starting it was three or four letter grades in a season or a year, so I think someone who is just starting out, you’re going to do quite a bit less volume and still see really impressive gains, I think. That was certainly my experience when I started.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I know that you guys are really big into logging everything, right? I mean, you sell the logbooks. Can you talk a little about that?
Mike Anderson: Yeah, I think part of it is we’re both engineers. Just kind of the scientific method, just fundamentally, you have to write down what you did and you want to tweak things and compare your results and figure out what’s working, what could be improved, when you changed ‘x’ what got better, what got worse, that kind of thing. That’s kind of the whole point of documenting everything you do. You can see – for one thing, it’s super motivating. You can look back and we’ve got 10 years of hangboard records where we can look back and see how weak we were when we started and see how much we’ve improved and that sort of thing.
I think that’s the best part about it, the motivation, but we get questions all the time: ‘Hey, I’ve got this road trip coming up. How should I train? I don’t have enough time.’ For me, it’s easy. Pretty much any scenario you can imagine, I can look back and say, “Oh yeah. This happened in 2008. I was training for such-and-such route and I can go look at my training logs and see exactly how I trained for it.” And, I can look back and say, “It worked pretty well but I think maybe my power was a little bit lower than it should have been. Maybe I should have done an extra campus workout or maybe I got there a little bit too late. Maybe I should have shifted my training a little bit to the right so I’m peaking at a slightly different time.” Having all that information is super valuable.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it is. I’ve never done it myself until I was living in Vegas with J Star and I actually had a long talk with him about how I could get stronger for the project I was working. It was a really power endurancy route. He had me do campusing based on what you guys had taught him, so the first session that I did I could do one-third of the exercises he gave me. By the third one, I could do everything perfectly. It was super cool to see that in my logbook, that I had improved, because I probably would have forgotten.
Mark Anderson: Totally. It’s amazing how quickly you can forget that sort of thing. It seems really important in the moment, especially when you’re dealing with numbers like 1-3-5.
Neely Quinn: [laughs] Twenty times, yeah. On that subject, I’m wondering if you guys could talk a little bit about fingerboarding and campusing. Why are they important and who should be doing them, how often, and what should people expect to gain from those things?
Mike Anderson: Let me preface this by saying Mark and I are both very technical climbers. We love technical climbing. We think skill is extremely important but when you get down to brass tacks…
Mark Anderson: We think finger strength is really important.
Mike Anderson: Maybe we’re myopic or something but eventually, you’re going to be limited by finger strength. Of course, if you’re a novice, you’re just starting climbing. Yeah, there’s a lot of skills you need to learn. You’re going to learn those eventually and at some point you’re going to hit some plateau in which you just need to be able to pull on a two-finger pocket and the way your fingers work, they’re very slow at gaining strength safely. It would behoove you to start putting in the time now to start building your finger strength.
The exercises we advocate are focused on developing finger strength in a safe way that’s sustainable, that’s not going to lead to injury, and is going to give you long term improvement.
The fingerboard is the ultimate tool for a rock climber for training because it’s specific to climbing, meaning you can select grips that you’re going to use on the rock. It is very controllable. You can easily control the amount of intensity you’re placing on your fingers unlike bouldering, which is completely random and haphazard and for that reason somewhat dangerous and often leads to injury. Then, it’s very easy to document your results and therefore, carefully and quantitatively increase the intensity in a controlled manner so that you can force improvement without courting injury. That’s why we think the fingerboard is the ultimate tool for finger strength training.
Campusing is a little bit different. It’s not as specific to climbing but it helps in a number of ways. Whereas hangboarding has no technique aspect to it, there’s no skill, really, you’re developing except for maybe how to wrap your fingers around a crimp better, but in all seriousness, campusing has a lot of technical components to it. Many climbers struggle with climbing dynamically. We did. We used to be the ultimate three-points-of-contact-at-all-times rock climbers and campusing forces you to get out of that. You have to be dynamic or you’re not campusing so it’s very valuable for that, just for breaking out of that kind of mental barrier of being dynamic.
There’s also a skill component of hand-eye coordination of aiming for holds and hitting them, plus, there’s a tremendous physical benefit that you get from it that we go into in the book and it’s kind of boring.
Mark Anderson: You’ve probably heard the term ‘contact strength.’ Basically, what that means is how hard can you pull when you’re trying to latch a dyno?
From the physical perspective, that’s really what you’re hoping to get out of campusing is improving that contact strength. Training on a hangboard is completely static so it doesn’t really train that. Basically, it’s like a high jumper will go into the gym and they’ll do squats for a while but they’ll also go out and after that they’ll do box jumps and other things. In the gym, doing squats, they’re trying to build muscle and when they’re doing box jumps they’re trying to actually improve that muscle’s ability to contract quickly. That’s what hangboarding is building, the muscle, and campusing is teaching it how to contract the best way.
Neely Quinn: That’s great. You guys give programs and theory on how to build your own program throughout your book.
Mark Anderson: Absolutely, yeah. We have lots of different ones for climbers at different skill levels and experience levels and those are different goals. You might be, if you’re really into bouldering and you’re not really concerned about endurance for longer sport climbs, great. We’ve got a program just for boulderers and vice versa.
Neely Quinn: That leads me to my next question, which is who should be doing this? Fingerboarding. Should a 5.10 climber be doing that?
Mike Anderson: This is Mike. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is: not to as great an extent. So, newer climbers need more time.
We have described hangboarding as training. The other side of that coin is practice. When you’re learning any new skill, any new sport, you need a lot of time practicing. The problem is, most climbers don’t practice at all. They go to the crag with their friends who are equally inexperienced and they do their best to get up routes, which is great. That’s fun, that’s why we all got into the sport, but if you were taking golf lessons, the coach isn’t going to hand you a bag and tell you to go play 18 holes. He’s going to take you to the driving range and teach you how to swing, how to drive, how to putt, how to chip, all those things.
Climbers don’t do that. It’s crazy to me because it is such a technical sport. Technique is so important. There are so many skills to learn but how many people actually take the time to learn those skills? You need to spend time in the gym practicing backstepping, practicing drop knees, practicing weighting your feet – which is such a fundamental skill that most climbers skip. They get – maybe their girlfriend takes them to the climbing gym and they put them on the hardest route they think they can get up and they spend 45 minutes inching their way up on toprope, not really learning anything and probably just getting frustrated. Then they touch the chains and everyone cheers.
What we ought to do as newer climbers is spend time actually moving over the rock and working on fundamentals, like you would if you were teaching kids how to play soccer or basketball. You wouldn’t just throw a ball out there with a bunch of kids and say, “Okay, we’re going to scrimmage for the next two hours.” They practice layups, they practice dribbling or whatever.
So to answer your question, I guess, if you are a 5.10 climber, yes, I think you should carve out a little bit of time for hangboard training. But, the majority of your time should be spent – and we talk about this in the book. Practice and training are not mutually exclusive. You can do them together. When you do a hangboard workout you start with a 30-minute warm-up. That warm-up, you can do a lot of really good, deliberate practice in that warm-up and then you can do a cool down after the workout. The next day you can do what we call ‘ARC’ training, or aerobic restoration and capillary training, which is the perfect venue for practice.
A very advanced climber may skip that workout. They don’t need to maybe practice backsteps as much and they’re going to have a longer hangboard session than a 5.10 climber would have.
Neely Quinn: What about campusing? Would you advise against it for anybody?
Mark Anderson: Campusing definitely is a little bit different. It’s very intense and, right off the bat, I would say anyone who’s got any kind of injury, especially with the elbows or shoulders, I would advise against campusing. Campusing seems to get a lot of attention for some reason. Maybe I bring it on myself. I’ve definitely written about it a lot because it’s something I find really fascinating and I enjoy doing it. It’s definitely a weakness for me so for that reason I’ve gotten really obsessed with trying to improve it, but we do very little of it, even at our level.
We write in the book that, basically, for every one minute you spend campusing during the power phase you should spend five minutes bouldering. That’s for an advanced climber. Someone who’s more on the beginner side will probably want to do even less campusing relative to more sport-specific training. Even then, the power phase is relatively short. You’re talking three or four of maybe five workouts during a three or four month season.
Mike Anderson: So that’s maybe 12 or 15 a year.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, which is not a lot of campusing. But anyway, to your actual question, I think there’s two types of climbers that can really benefit the most from campusing and they’re at opposite ends of the ability spectrum. The first type is the hardcore climber who has been training for a long time and they’re at their limit. If you’re climbing at your limit on a hard redpoint, all the hard moves are going to be dynos and you’re going to need really good accuracy and you’re going to need really good contact strength to get up your projects. From a physical standpoint, those are the climbers who need it the most.
The other side of that coin is the beginner or maybe not even a beginner but the climber who is really timid, who wants to cling to Mother Earth all the time, doesn’t like to dyno or never dynos at all, and the kind of climber that needs to learn to be more aggressive, to be more dynamic, to kind of have more of a flowing movement. I know a lot of people that have amazing lock-off strength or whatever, they’re very patient, they’re good at standing on their feet, and for whatever reason they’ve always resisted – there’s definitely a loss of control that comes along with doing any kind of dyno, but if you watch a climber who’s really good at it, it looks almost more graceful if you’re moving with momentum all the time.
I think one area, as so-called ‘training experts,’ where we differ from a lot of others who have come before us is that we advocate campusing for that type of climber. Someone who might be a beginner but they struggle with that type of moving dynamically.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, so would you say that there is a maximum number of times that anybody should be campusing in a week? I know that you’re saying that it shouldn’t be done very often at all but some people are just psyched and they’re going to go in three or four times a week. I think that that sounds very dangerous but what do you think?
Mark Anderson: I agree. I would say that – generally, I don’t like to layout hard and fast rules because you break them. Everything I would advocate is based on what I’ve done and I’m pretty old, pretty injured, and I tend to be very conservative so for me, what I do is I take two full rest days after a campus workout and I tend to only do them every other workout so what that means is I’m basically only doing them every fifth day or so. I’ve definitely broken that rule but, generally, that’s what I would do for me.
If you’ve got some kid who is 17 and he climbs .14d and he’s been climbing six days a week since he was 10, that person could probably handle a lot more campusing volume than I can.
Mike Anderson: I’m going to break Mark’s rule. When I was living in Florida and had no access to bouldering, this is what I had: I had a hangboard, a campus board, and a treadwall. You can’t boulder on a treadwall because it moves when you let go of it. [laughs]
Mark Anderson: That’s pretty scary.
Mike Anderson: You can’t dyno, really, so I did a lot of campusing. In the power phase that’s all I could do, campus workouts, unless we made a four hour drive to Horse Pens to go bouldering. So, I would do as many as eight campus workouts in a power phase.
Mark Anderson: Which is like three weeks.
Mike Anderson: Which is about three weeks, and I was doing them every other day.
Neely Quinn: Wow.
Mike Anderson: I never, knock on wood, in that time got injured but, like we said, people would probably be surprised if they watched us train. A set on the campus board is starting matched on rung one, go to four with my right hand, go to seven with my left hand, match on seven, drop down, and then sit on my butt for five minutes.
Mark Anderson: That takes five seconds.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, so I’m on the campus board for five seconds and then I sit on my butt for five minutes. I watch Youtube videos of people sending sick stuff or whatever, or I put in my old Masters of Stone videos and watch some sweet lycra and heavy metal hour.
Mark Anderson: The other thing I would say is, the better you get at campusing the less risky it is. People who aren’t very good at it, their accuracy is very poor so they’re always overshooting every rung and then they’re falling onto the rung and that puts a lot more strain on your elbows and your shoulders and your fingers. As you get really good at it you’re deadpointing every move. It’s not super intense. I think it is intense for your forearms but it’s not nearly as hard on your connective tissue, I would say, so I think someone who is really good at it could probably do it more without risking injury. But especially if you’re new to it…
Mike Anderson: And I would add that the harder the exercises we’re doing, I need rest before. There’s no way I can max out on a campus set if I haven’t been resting five minutes. It takes everything. It’s funny. My kids will sit and laugh at me. I’m sitting in there screaming at myself, listening to Eminem or whatever before a set to get just really amped up so I can try really hard to do two moves.
Mark Anderson: Then, 9 out of 10 times you’ll fail on that move.
Mike Anderson: Right. Exactly. But that tenth time I stick it and I’m totally psyched because it sustains me for, like, three more weeks of more training. It’s pretty sweet.
Neely Quinn: I think it’s really surprising for a lot of people how much very little training can do. For instance, and I want to talk about J Star here, but my husband, Seth, he’s had about two weeks off from actual climbing outside and then he went inside and we were training for Rifle. All he’s been doing is fingerboarding and campusing. We went to Rifle and he was like, ‘I got really pumped but my fingers were so strong that I didn’t feel like I could fall off,’ which was really different for him because the fingerboard training is new to him.
It was really interesting watching Jonathan, too, because I’ve seen him train for the last five years and I know that he would spend like six hours in the gym and then he would go for a 10-mile run and then, on his rest days, he would go for a 12-mile run and then he would do it again. He would train five or six days a week.
When you guys started training with him, obviously that got cut down drastically. I’m wondering if you would be willing to talk about what you had him do, just in general, and how you saw him change.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. There’s nothing I would like to talk about more.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, we kind of joke, like, Jonathan’s training volume in a day is more than what I would do in a week, and he would do that five or six days a week. It’s just mind boggling. He has such an amazing work capacity. You can see why he’s such a good climber because he can just hang on forever and he never gets tired. But, there’s a downside to that, too. There’s a flipside.
With training you’re always going to be making a trade off between power and endurance. Obviously, you want both to improve but they are mutually exclusive.
Mike Anderson: To an extent.
Mark Anderson: To an extent, so you kind of have to have one or the other in mind as what you’re really going for, and Jonathan definitely, for his whole career it would seem, has been going for endurance, whether he knew it or not. He’s a smart guy and I think he knew what he was doing, but it’s kind of the old parable about that’s what you’re good at so you keep working your strengths and working your strengths. You don’t really set out to create a weakness but that’s kind of what happens. If you keep working your strengths and neglecting your weaknesses, the differences between the two just get bigger and bigger.
If he was a .14a climber, no one would question his power but because he’s climbing at such a high level now, it’s like his lack of power is a glaring weakness.
Mike Anderson: And we say that with all due respect.
Mark Anderson: Of course. I mean, Jonathan’s my hero. He would admit that, too, I’m sure. Obviously, it wasn’t a big secret and our big objective was: how are we going to improve his power? But also do it in a way that we weren’t going to screw him up because obviously he was extremely successful doing what he was doing.
Essentially, to do that, we tried to back down his volume as much as possible. That was kind of a negotiation because he’s a skeptical, and rightly so, person but also he’s just crazy psyched. To tell him, like, “You’re not going to climb outside for six weeks,” that’s a no go. That’s not going to happen so we had to make some compromises.
It worked out really well because we got to see. I would never try, I would never even attempt the sort of volume that he was doing even after we reigned him in a little bit. By the time we got him kind of up and running, he was basically doing two days on, one day off. The first day he would train inside. During the strength phase he was doing hangboard workouts and he was doing essentially the same workout that we do, what we describe as the ‘advanced routine’ in our book. He was doing a couple other exercises. He was doing isotonic contractions on an edge in addition to the static deadhangs, and then supplemental exercises like we describe in the strength chapter.
Neely Quinn: Curls?
Mark Anderson: Yeah, like explosive pull-ups, inverted one-arm rows, the lateral front raise shoulder press, that kind of stuff. He’d do that on his first day so that might be three hours of training or so and then on the second day he would just climb outside and do what he normally does. Then, on the third day he would rest and then repeat. That was basically what he was doing for the strength phase.
The power phase basically replaced the hangboard workout with two hours or so of limit bouldering, which is essentially bouldering on plastic but you want to select the types of problems that are relatively few moves, maybe six or less moves, and the moves are pretty – you want one or two hard moves that are pretty dynamic, ideally. And then campusing as well, mixed in. Kind of every other training day you would do a campusing session.
He pretty much stuck with that. Some days he would try to do three days in a row so he might do a training day and then two climbing days but at the end of the day, I think he felt like it was better if he could just train and not try to mix in outdoor climbing.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, I thought it was real interesting. Like Mark said, when we first started there was a lot of time spent trying to convince him that he needed to just spend some time training and cut back on his outside climbing.
Mark Anderson: Basically, resting.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, like resting, what we would call resting. He was real skeptical of that and really didn’t want to give it up. We were like, ‘Okay,’ so we built a schedule that had a lot of outdoor climbing in it but then, by the end, he was coming back to us and saying, “Hey guys, I think I shouldn’t climb so much. I think I should just focus on the training.” It was really cool to see him come to that conclusion on his own.
Mark Anderson: It’s better if they they think it’s their idea.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, no, it was interesting because you guys were seeing him on the other end and I was seeing him in our house where he was like, ‘I think I need to rest.’ We were like, ‘Oh my god. Really? Is this the first time that this has dawned on you in your life?’
Mark Anderson: There’s a really key insight there and it might be that, and we mentioned earlier, a lot of climbers aren’t climbing hard enough. They’re doing a lot of volume but it’s too moderate. That may have been the case for him, too. His moderate is doing a bunch of .14b’s in a day or whatever, but if he’s at V12 and he’s trying to get to V14, you need to be doing extremely intense exercises and then resting. That’s what it takes.
Neely Quinn: One of the notable things about how he was training, too, was how hard he was trying. I mean, he was using the Moonboard at the time and it was super painful for him.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, that board is really painful. There’s a much better product out there.
Neely Quinn: He didn’t have one of your’s but after every workout he would be like, ‘Oh my god.’
Mike Anderson: He just likes that board because Tommy’s got one, so if Tommy’s got one, he’s got to have one.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, but I thought it was interesting for me to see how hard you could make yourself try, alone, in a garage. That’s it.
Mark Anderson: That’s what I love about hangboarding. It’s so easy. Well, maybe it’s not easy, that’s not the right word, but with experience, if you do it you get used to it. For me, it’s like that’s the easiest for me to get up for something. I’m so honed on the hangboard. For me, it’s like going to war every time I do a workout. I listen to heavy metal and you just kind of build yourself up to that ability. By gradually increasing the intensity each workout, you build yourself up to this point where you can really give 100% and you don’t really have to be afraid of hurting yourself because you know you kind of put in the work to prepare for the set that you’re about to do.
Mike Anderson: This is why – you had asked earlier about the documentation of the workouts. That’s so critical. Think about if the hardest boulder problem you’ve done is the yellow and blue route in the gym. It’s V7 and that was six months ago. Now, you’re going in for your training session in the gym and that problem’s not there anymore. How do you know that you’re giving the same level of effort that it took to do the yellow and blue problem? Or 5% more than that? You don’t. There’s no way to know that.
With a hangboard, you know. I know exactly how much weight I was able to hang on a two-finger pocket in September of 2005. You can be your own coach. You know when you’re sandbagging yourself and you’re not giving it 100%. You know, ‘Dang it, Mike. You know you can hang 50 pounds on this hold. Try harder! Do it! Do it now!’ That’s what you do. Just that quantitative data gives you the ability to really push yourself. I can push myself harder on a hangboard than anything else in my life because I know for a fact what I’m capable of doing. I can’t lie to myself about how hard I’m trying.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, alright. I have two other questions before I want to get into the nutrition stuff. The first one is – hold on, I’m echoing here. Do you think it’s possible to only use a fingerboard and campus board and train for routes? There are a lot of people out there who don’t have a big climbing gym, and I actually don’t even think that you guys climb in a big climbing gym all the time. So, is it possible?
Mike Anderson: Yeah, this question is perfectly made for me. Like I mentioned, I’m in the Air Force. Last year I was deployed to Afghanistan for six months and so I brought along a hangboard and I brought along, I think, 11 campus rungs and I built a campus board while I was out there. There’s a post on our blog about it. I think it’s pretty interesting but basically, the answer to your question is yes, you can. It’s not ideal. It’s not fun and it’s not ideal but you can.
Like I said, when we lived in Florida I had a treadwall, a hangboard, and a campus board but in Afghanistan I did endurance workouts on a hangboard, I built what we call a ‘kick plate’ which is a little board with foot chips on it so you can kind of mock climb on a hangboard, and then I did my hangboard workouts.
All you need to have for effective hangboard training is the hangboard, a pulley kit and weights, a harness, chalk, and a toothbrush. That kind of stuff. And some Death Metal.
Neely Quinn: That’s really good news for the people that don’t have a gym. Did I just cut you off?
Mike Anderson: No, that’s okay. I was there for six months. I did two training cycles while I was there. When I got home, within a month I sent one of my hardest routes, Scarface at Smith Rocks, a .14a. Super powerful, dynamic, two-finger and one-finger pockets.
Neely Quinn: Nice.
Mark Anderson: The biggest issue for him, really, was that his skin was just not in shape because of where he’d been. You don’t have the regular traffic on rock to get your skin tough but physically, he was plenty strong.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I think that’s really cool.
Mike Anderson: I think your technique definitely suffers. I was relying on years of previous climbing experience but you can definitely do it.
Neely Quinn: Okay, then really quickly – I want to do about 10 more minutes of this and then I’m going to do a few Facebook people’s questions, but I want to know about running. Jonathan, like I said, I’ve always known him to be a runner and all of a sudden we got to Vegas and he was like, ‘Oh, I don’t run anymore. That’s stupid.’ He told me why you guys told him/how you guys convinced him that that was true, but I want to hear it from you how you did that.
Mark Anderson: Okay. It’s kind of funny. We’re sort of getting the reputation as the running haters, which is really ironic because we both were high school cross country runners. We were both, like Mike said, NCAA Division I cross country runners. We were all about running for a really long time and we were very stubborn about it. In fact, other people told us that we should stop running, that it wasn’t helping us.
I guess the argument that I recall from that time was that it was basically just sapping your recovery and you weren’t able to train as hard the following day because you were tired from running. I never really bought that argument. I don’t think I really do, even now, but the big problem with running is that it just makes you heavier. That comes as a shock to a lot of people and obviously, that depends on the person. If you’re really overweight, running is probably going to help you, but there is an expression that ‘you can’t outrun your fork’ and one thing that running does, or really any aerobic exercise, is it just makes you really hungry. Unless you have extremely good willpower, it’s going to be hard to maintain a weight loss diet while you’re doing a lot of aerobic exercise. That’s one side of the weight aspect.
The other part is that it just makes whatever muscles you are using – if you’re running, if you’re swimming, if you’re cycling – let’s use running or cycling. It’s going to make your legs heavier and I think people think that that is muscle mass. I guess it is muscle mass but it’s not like your muscle fibers are bigger.
Mike Anderson: Hypertrophy.
Mark Anderson: Your body stores, like if you run every day or every other day, you’re telling your muscles, “Okay, you need to be prepared to do 60 minutes of continuous exercise,” so your muscles store a whole bunch of glycogen. For every gram of glycogen it stores two grams of water, so you might be carrying 5-10 pounds of water and glycogen in your big legs just so you can do that running workout on your rest day. You’re trying to haul that up your project. That was the argument we made to Jonathan and, you know, I don’t think we should get all that much credit. A number of people had told him he should stop running and we were just kind of the latest.
Neely Quinn: No no, I think that you should definitely get credit because I’ve been telling him that, not that I know much, but I think a lot of people had been telling him that and he just 100% ignored it so great job, guys.
Mark Anderson: If it was anything it was probably because we did have a strong background in running so I could say that I know and I understand your love for it. I love it, too, but what changed for me was my son, Logan, was born and he was born January 11. It was snowing all the time and I was going to all this trouble to ride my bike every other day. You know, in Colorado there’s snow and ice on the road and it was just like, ‘Alright, I’m up all night with Logan crying and whatnot. If I keep riding I’m going to get sick so I’m just going to stop riding for a little while.’ The most shocking thing happened.
My assumption was, ‘I’ll probably gain a bunch of weight because I’ll be eating too much and I won’t be burning all these calories,’ and what actually happened was I lost almost 10 pounds.
Well actually, what I noticed first was I just got really good at climbing. I was just like, ‘Why am I climbing so well?’ I couldn’t understand it because my training hadn’t gone all that well, it wasn’t like a notable season on paper, and I get outside and suddenly I’m just crushing things. I did, like, three .14a’s in one season, really in a two or three-week period which was a huge improvement for me. Prior to that, I’d only done two .14a’s in my life and I did three in a two or three-week period so I was like, ‘Something is going on here.’ I finally stepped on a scale and was shocked to discover that I was about 10 pounds lighter than normal. I think that story may have helped convince Jonathan as well. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Yeah, and then he did end up losing a few pounds immediately, pretty much, so a few pounds for him – he’ll take whatever he can get which segues perfectly into my next question, which is: what do you think body weight has to do with sending at your limit?
Mark Anderson: Alright, I think it matters a lot for certain people. It really depends on a couple things. Steepness is one thing. If you’re climbing slabs all day, weight probably isn’t a huge factor but let’s assume, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably a performance oriented climber. The steeper it is, definitely, the more it matters.
Then, the other thing is just kind of what your body type is like already. If you’re already super lean there’s nothing you can do. There’s an absolute limit to how much you can lose. If you’re a guy and you naturally hover around 5-7% body fat because of favorable genetics or whatever your diet is or something, there’s not a ton of potential there. But, if you’re overweight or even if you’re at a so-called ‘healthy’ weight, you’re around 12 or 15% body fat for a man, that’s a lot of weight. That could be 10 pounds you could lose without doing anything crazy or being unhealthy. That’s a huge amount.
Anyone who has been on a hangboard for any amount of time knows that 10 pounds is a huge amount of weight and that makes a big difference in what you can do.
Neely Quinn: So how do you suggest that people lose fat?
Mike Anderson: So, first of all, I’m going to say that I don’t advocate a one-size-fits-all. I’m not going to tell you, like, ‘This is what you have to do.’ I can say what’s worked for me and I’ve experimented with a lot of things but we do know that you have to achieve a caloric deficit. That means you need to burn more calories than you take in and a lot of people make the mistake of thinking, ‘Okay, I need to exercise more.’ Like Mark said, you can’t exercise enough, in my opinion. I think that’s a huge flaw a lot of people have. I think you need to do the opposite which is do your climbing training, cut out the cardio because that’s just making you really hungry and it’s making you store water and things that you don’t need.
Anyway, you need to achieve a caloric deficit and there’s a lot of ways to do that. I would recommend people try different things and figure out what they like. For me, personally, I’m a voracious eater. I want to feel full at least once a day so for me, to make that work just once, I have to eat things that are high volume but low calorie. That means vegetables so I eat a lot of vegetables. I eat two or three salads a day and they’re humongous salads. Most people laugh when they see what I eat.
Mark Anderson: He’s got this bowl that’s probably a 12-inch cube. It’s 12 inches in every dimension just full of salad and he carries it around with him.
Mike Anderson: People at work think I’ve completely lost my mind. They see me eat the same thing every day but it’s funny, they always see me in the hall and they’re like, ‘Wow! That looks like a really good salad.’ ‘Yeah, no kidding. It is really good.’
There’s probably 90% of the people listening to me right now thinking I am a total freak just for saying that but five or six years ago I used to eat junk food constantly. I’d eat lunch at McDonald’s or Burger King or whatever, drink soda and all this stuff, and I made this change in my life. Now I’m at the point where I seriously love salad and I have to eat it everyday or I feel deprived.
That’s the good news. If you make a change and stick with it for a while you’ll find that your tastes change and that’s really encouraging. You don’t/I don’t crave those things that I used to eat before.
The other thing I was going to add is there’s a lot of media talk about ‘no carb/low carb’ diets and the fact of the matter is, if you look at what you’re eating and where your calories come from, they are coming from carbs. Carbs are in everything we eat and it’s almost impossible to avoid them. Even though – like, in the 90’s the big thing was ‘low fat’ so these food manufacturers traded fat for carbs.
Mark Anderson: For sugar, basically.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, sugar, so they could say their yogurt was no fat but it had more calories than the fat-filled yogurt. I don’t care how much fat it has in it, what matters is how much calories are in it. I don’t count calories but what I do is I make choices that are smart, you know? Try to limit the carbs you’re getting. There are carbs in fruits and vegetables. A mistake a lot of people make is they think they’re eating healthy. There’s a difference between healthy and low calorie. There are a lot of healthy diets…
Mark Anderson: I would say it different. I would say there’s a difference between eating for being healthy and eating to lose weight.
Mike Anderson: Sure.
Mark Anderson: That’s kind of what you’re getting at.
Mike Anderson: There are a lot of climbers, especially, who eat very healthy. Either, ‘I’m vegan,’ or ‘I’m vegetarian,’ or ‘I only eat organic.’ I mean…
Mark Anderson: That’s awesome.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, that’s great. I hope that works for you for your long term health but organic food has the same amount of calories as the horrible, nasty, processed food. You need to figure out where your calories are coming from. Lots of vegetarians will be like, ‘Oh, I eat lots of beans.’ Well, beans have tons of carbs and fat in them so just – it’s okay to have them but they can’t be 90% of your diet.
We know lots of vegetarians who are overweight and you probably do in your own life, too, so it’s great to eat healthy – I eat healthy. I avoid red meat and all that kind of stuff, I eat lots of vegetables, and that’s what I recommend. For me, I like to feel full so I don’t want to feel deprived like I’m hungry or starving all the time. Instead of doing portion control where you eat less, I eat the same amount or more than I used to but what I eat is very low calorie. It’s lots of uncooked, raw vegetables…
Mark Anderson: And lean protein.
Mike Anderson: And lean protein like fish and chicken. Tuna fish is awesome.
Mark Anderson: It’s the ultimate.
Mike Anderson: It’s doesn’t taste great.
Mark Anderson: Besides the mercury it’s the ultimate food.
Mike Anderson: It’s the ultimate ‘I want to be a bodybuilder’ type food. Bodybuilders eat like crazy because it’s all protein, no carbs, no fat.
Then, some people worry about going too far. I think there’s definitely a risk of that, especially if you’re kind of an OCD type like me. You can definitely not eat enough and the best way to tell is if your climbing is suffering. Also, if you’re really cranky and yelling at everybody all the time, you’re not eating enough.
Mark Anderson: This kind of goes back to documenting stuff. It’s kind of a good idea to experiment and weigh yourself and see. For me, I found that I seem to perform my best when I’m between 140 and 142. I’ve been lower than that and I found that I don’t recover that well, my power isn’t that great, I’m definitely not as happy, but you should be able to notice it in your performance if you’re too light.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s a fine balance.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, and there’s definitely a point of diminishing returns.
Mike Anderson: And one way I can tell is if I’m not having a regular bowel movement everyday, I’m not eating enough and I eat more. If you start getting constipated like that, you’re not losing weight, either. It’s very frustrating because then you’re miserably starving yourself for no reason.
Neely Quinn: And constipated.
Mike Anderson: And you’re not losing weight. It is possible to eat too little and then your body goes into starvation mode and conservation mode.
Mark Anderson: If you’re eating a lot of salad and leafy greens, broccoli and stuff like that, it’s usually not a problem.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s true. That was really great, thanks for all that.
Now, I’m going to ask you a few questions from the audience. One of them was kind of random and we got it twice. It was about drop knee injury prevention. People are wondering if there are any exercises or anything they can do to prevent that.
Mark Anderson: Stop climbing at Rifle.
Mike Anderson: I’m going to say what doctors say, which is if it hurts when I’m doing this, “Stop doing that.” [laughs] We’re not medical doctors and I’m reluctant to go too far. I would say, in the book One Move Too Many, which is a great resource if you’re a performance oriented climber, it goes into that. It talks about drop knee injuries. I’ve had some issues with that myself from climbing on the treadwall. For whatever reason, on a treadwall, I think because it’s a limited height or something, you’re just constantly doing drop knees or something all the time. I noticed some tendonitis and inflammation there so I stopped doing it.
I guess I would say if it’s something that hurts you, don’t do it in practice, do it only when you need to do it. It’s like we don’t advocate hanging from fingerlocks on a fingerboard because it’s not ergonomic. It’s very stressful on your joints and it’s going to cause an injury. It’s just a matter of when. So, if you’ve got a route that’s got a fingerlock, great. You save that up for that route and then do the fingerlock but don’t train on it.
Neely Quinn: Right. Okay, and what about injury prevention in general? Like, how do you know if you’re overtraining?
Mark Anderson: One way you should know right away is you should notice your performance is stagnating or diminishing. If you’re doing a workout and you’re seeing the same results two or three times in a row, you probably need more rest. It’s really good to be flexible, if you can be, and just be willing to throw in an extra rest day here or there if you feel like you need it. Again, that’s where having a good documented training history can come in handy. You can always look back and say, “Okay, I used to rest this much but I’m getting older. Maybe I need an extra rest day every other week,” or something like that.
The vast majority of climbing injuries, I would say, are chronic. You see them coming.
Mike Anderson: And you had them before.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, maybe you don’t see them coming in the moment but once you’re fully injured you look back and you say, “Man, I should have seen that coming. I knew that this was tweaky. This finger didn’t feel quite right. It was making a popping sound,” or “It was puffy,” or something. You hear about the expression, ‘Listen to your body.’ You just kind of have to be aware and always keeping your mind quiet to kind of listen for aches and pains or things that aren’t quite right, I think.
The other thing climbers like to do is, when they have some kind of tweak they want to tweak it all the time to make sure it still hurts or whatever. I don’t know what it is. ‘It hurts when I do this,’ and they just keep doing it. [laughs] Just let yourself rest, you know?
One thing we talk about in the book is sleep on your back with your arms straight. Don’t sleep on your stomach with your arms curled up under.
Mike Anderson: Or with your hands in a fist.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, because then you’re stressing your knuckles and your elbows and your shoulders all at the same time.
Mike Anderson: And you wake up and you’re still and inflamed. This is a part of being old. You young kids don’t know what we’re talking about.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, I know, right? [laughs] When I’m at the office, sitting in my chair, I have this habit of curling my feet under my chair and then my knees ache all day long. That’s the other thing. Put your feet flat on the floor and sit up straight like Miss Manners told you to do.
Mike Anderson: Don’t slouch in your chair and give yourself a back spasm while you’re typing on the keyboard.
Mark Anderson: I always think of someone in training, and training is basically like putting your body to the brink of injury and then stopping. If you’re training hard, you’re always kind of on the brink so you need to be careful. If it’s a rest day or if it’s a recovery period, you really need to be resting and you really need to be cognizant of the fact that you are probably on the brink of some kind of injury so you need to take that rest seriously. Hopefully you don’t have a blue collar job, I guess, but don’t be building a brick wall on your rest day or lifting 50-pound bags of cement after a hangboard workout. That kind of thing.
Mike Anderson: Can we redact that, what Mark just said? [laughs]
Neely Quinn: ‘Hopefully you don’t have a blue collar job?’
Mike Anderson: Yes, that, the possibly offensive comment.
Neely Quinn: Yes.
Mark Anderson: I marvel at that. I don’t know how people do it because it’s so exhausting. I was joking with a friend about this. I think I’m a pretty tough guy until I try to build a deck or something and it turns out I’m just a huge weenie. I was even trying to bolt a route today and it’s just like the work of holding a drill in one hand on an overhanging rock is so exhausting. I’m not built for that.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, yeah. I love how you guys keep calling yourself old. I’m 36 so you’re calling me old, too, and [laughs] …
Mike Anderson: So you’ve got at least one good year left.
Neely Quinn: Right, right, until I fall apart.
Alright, so Nolan from Facebook has this question, which I can relate very much to. He says, “How do I progress on a route I’ve been projecting long term? The moves I’ve been falling off of, I can pull easily when fresh. Working a 5.13d getting pretty much the same high point after eight weeks, falling off from pump/not enough power.”
Mike Anderson: I would – you’re not going to like this answer – say to hold off on that climb for a little while.
Mark Anderson: I would say you need to stop. Eight weeks on the same route, falling in the same place? You’re probably not falling in the same place for eight weeks but let’s say you’re falling in the same place for a couple weeks of that eight weeks, probably. I would say at that point, your fitness is probably declining but your knowledge of the route is slightly improving, just enough so you can continue to fail in the same spot as you get weaker.
What I would do in that situation, and I’ve done this many, many times. In fact, almost every hard route I’ve sent starts with the story of [laughs]: I was really close last season but I decided I needed more training.
I would quit. I would go back to the gym, do a training cycle, come back, and you’ll send it in a couple of days in your next season.
Neely Quinn: How short of a training cycle could you get away with?
Mike Anderson: That’s a good question. I think you could…
Mark Anderson: Hold on. Let’s back up here. This is basically where you want to do some soul searching and ask yourself, ‘What is the point here?’ Is it your life’s ambition to send this one route? Or do you want to just become a better climber in general?
Neely Quinn: I mean, if you’re at the end of the season and maybe you have a month left until the season is totally out and you could maybe do two weeks or three weeks of training.
Mark Anderson: Yeah, but you’re young and you’ve got many seasons ahead of you. Why keep bashing your head against this brick wall and just draining your psych and just draining your love for the sport?
Maybe I’m crazy, but the risk you take with doing that is getting in this endless downward spiral or just, ‘Well maybe I just need two more weeks? I’ll just keep doing it.’ Then, before you know it, you’re that guy at Rifle who’s been working the same route for 10 years and hates climbing.
Mike Anderson: Everything about climbing.
Mark Anderson: They’re just compelled to go there. They can’t do the .12a warm-up but they can get to the 13th bolt on their .13d project.
Neely Quinn: This is a really good answer. [laughs] Okay, point taken. Got it.
Okay, we have to stop, although I don’t want to. This has been awesome and I have seriously 150 more questions for you guys, so maybe we can have you guys back on at some point?
Anderson brothers: Sure. We would love to do that. This is a blast.
Neely Quinn: Awesome. Tell us the name of your book and where we can find you online.
Mark Anderson: Same answer to both questions. The name of the book is The Rock Climber’s Training Manual and our website is www.rockclimberstrainingmanual.com. All one word.
Neely Quinn: And you guys have your hangboard/your fingerboard and where can they find that?
Mike Anderson: The Rock Prodigy Training Center? Just go to www.trango.com and you’ll find it.
Neely Quinn: Great. Any last parting words?
Mike Anderson: Thanks to our sponsor, Trango.
Mark Anderson: I don’t know. I would say if you’re already listening to this, you’re over halfway there. I really believe just getting started in training is the hardest part. Once you get started, it gets so much easier. There are so many people out there who can help you, who want to help you get better and answer your questions. Most people who start find out they like it a lot more than they thought they would. It’s actually pretty fun.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Oh wait – I have one more question from a Facebook guy named Blake. He says, “How does it feel to be authors of the best training book ever published?
Mark Anderson: Feels pretty awesome. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Okay, that’s a great answer. Thanks for being on. I really, really appreciate it. Have a great night.
Anderson brothers: We’ll see you at the crag.
Neely Quinn: Thank you so much for listening to the ninth episode of the TrainingBeta podcast with climbing trainers Mark and Mike Anderson. They are super well spoken, funny, humble, and smart guys, obviously. Sort of brainiacs. That was a really fun interview for me. I think they’re an inspiration for anyone who has a job who also loves climbing. We’re all lucky to have their book now so we can learn from them and be just like them.
You can check out their website at www.rockclimberstrainingmanual.com and you can always find this interview on www.trainingbeta.com. Also, could you please do me a favor and leave me an honest review on iTunes of the podcast? The more reviews it gets the more people the podcast will reach and I would love that.
Also remember that if you want to improve your own climbing, definitely check out, of course, Mike and Mark’s book but also our training programs at www.trainingbeta.com and subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to know when all the new programs are available.
I think that’s it this week. Until next time, happy climbing.