Date: September 12th, 2018
About Mina Leslie-Wujastyk
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk is a 31-year-old pro climber out of the UK who’s climbed up to 5.14b and V13. She was a world cup climber for a number of years before she realized she was much more interested in climbing outside. Mina currently has a 9a project called Rainshadow that she’s been working on for a couple of years. We talk about how she stays psyched to climb on it and train for it, despite it being really difficult for her.
Mina suffered a head injury during a fall a while back, and she spends some time in the interview talking about how she regained her confidence and overcame fear of falling during her recovery. While most climbers haven’t sustained head injuries while climbing, a lot of us experience an overwhelming fear of falling, so her methods and patience with the process are exemplary for all of us.
Mina is also very in tune with what her body needs nutritionally, and we talked in-depth about how she eats, how she feels and thinks about food, and what nutrition has done for her performance. We obviously talk a lot about her training, as well, for both comp climbing and outdoor sport climbing.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk Interview Details
- How she sustained a head injury while sport climbing
- How to make a fall “safe” in your mind
- How much protein she eats and how it affects her climbing
- Why she stopped competing
- How she stays psyched for her long-term 9a project
- How she trains power endurance, strength, and aerobic capacity
- Why she started weightlifting
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk Links
- Website: www.minalesliewujastyk.com
- Instagram: @minaclimbing
- Facebook: @mina.lesliewujastyk
- TedX Talk
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Mina on Tetris V12 in Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park
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 haven’t talked to you in, I think, a month and I’m really sorry about that.
I knew I was going to be gone for two weeks because I went to Ten Sleep but then while I was in Ten Sleep we actually ended up buying a house in Longmont, which is about 15 minutes away from Boulder, which was super exciting but it has taken some time. Then, my dad got sick so I needed to go to Chicago.
So here I am now with a new episode for you but before I get into the episode I wanted to tell you about my own training and climbing because I rarely talk about my stuff but I did have some success in Ten Sleep. I realized that training actually works. I mean, I knew it worked but I haven’t been able to do it in a few years so I really got to reap the benefits of just four or five weeks of training before this last Ten Sleep trip.
My goals going into Ten Sleep were that I wanted to do this 5.13a/12d called Dances with Cows. I wanted to do it quickly. Normally, in the past, I’ve done 5.13a’s in 5-10 tries, usually around six or seven. I wanted to do this one quickly and I also wanted to do some 5.12s quickly because outside I rarely onsight 5.12s, just because I’m not a very good onsight climber. I get scared and I don’t like climbing into the unknown. I don’t know. Maybe somebody can relate.
Anyway, I went there. I did do the 13a. I didn’t do it as quickly as I wanted to. I felt like I could have but I felt like I got in my way mentally. I did it in about seven or eight tries, I can’t remember, but then I onsighted a bunch of 12s. A bunch of 12a’s, 12b’s, and it might be a b/c, and I was also hanging draws which I rarely do because I’m short and it’s hard for me to hang draws sometimes.
It was a huge accomplishment and it was much better than I thought it was going to be. The biggest thing that I found was that I could hold onto these crimps for way longer than normal. Compared to other trips to Ten Sleep I did way better, like light years better. There was something that happened with my training that made this possible so I just wanted to lay out briefly what I was doing, which was surprisingly little. I had talked to my friend, Alex Stiger, about this because she just sent my long term project, Tomb Raider, which is a 13d. I was so impressed that she did that. I wanted to know exactly what she did and so this is a lot of what she does.
I was fingerboarding about two days a week and I was only doing repeaters five sets, sometimes only three sets. I would do seven seconds on, three seconds off, and I would do that six times and then I would rest for three minutes. I would do 3-5 sets of that, two times a week. I was deadlifting once a week, I was doing ring work like flies, I’s, and Y’s on the rings, and I was doing that once or twice a week. I was doing TRX about twice a week, only for about 10 minutes so I picked two or three exercises and just rotated through them.
Then I was bench pressing maybe once a week, maybe once every other week. I was doing push-ups and handstands after every time I climbed. The handstands, that is, because I really feel like it helped my shoulders. I was limit bouldering one time a week, I was doing routes two or three times a week and usually at least one of those days was outside. The routes I was doing were hard for me and I would sometimes just do single pitches and sometimes I would do doubles. I was climbing three or four days a week, max, and then I was hiking uphill 1-3 times a week.
I think that all of that, especially the hangboarding because I haven’t done it in so long, really, really helped my finger strength and my core just feels stronger. I feel more capable. I was also doing some pull-ups.
Anyway, that’s what I was doing and it really helped. The other thing that I did differently is I did change my diet. For a long time before this I was sort of restricting my calories a little bit and my performance wasn’t super great. Finally I was like, ‘Alright, I can either focus on losing weight because I’ve gained a little weight, or I can just focus on training and not care so much about my diet and just fuel myself properly,’ which, novel concept, as a nutritionist [laughs].
I actually started eating more carbs and a lot in the form of sugar, actually, especially right before climbing. While climbing, even in the gym sessions, I would bring a Skratch Labs hydration mix in with me and that really, really helped me. Ironically, and maybe not so ironically, it actually made me lose a couple of pounds right before the trip. It was really good for me to see that I can be heavier and still be stronger. Those things aren’t completely related or dependant on each other.
I think that’s it. Now I have about five or six weeks before we go to the Red so I’m going to focus a lot on endurance in that time, power endurance, and try to get my aerobic capacity up so that I can hang on there, too.
That’s what I was doing. If you guys have any questions or anything just email me at email@example.com. Then if you want help with your own training, remember that we have training programs on TrainingBeta for you. We have subscription programs if you want weekly workouts that go through cycles of power endurance, power, strength, performance and all that. We have eBooks for power endurance and for endurance and for finger strength. You can find all of that, and it’s pretty affordable, over at www.trainingbeta.com/programs.
Okay, so that was a lot. That was a big update from me. Now we’ll get into this interview. I talked with Mina Leslie-Wujastyk. She’s a UK pro climber. She used to be a competitive climber at World Cups and since then she’s sort of quit that and started just climbing outside. She’s climbed up to 14b and V13. She talked about how she trained for comps but also now how she trains for outdoor climbing, how she stays strong, and who she trains with and all that good stuff.
She also had an accident on this 9a that’s she’s been working on for the last couple years. She got a head injury and she’s going to tell you all about that and how that happened and then how she came back from it both mentally and physically. Most of it was a mental battle but she talks a lot about fear and how she overcame fear.
She also is very dialed in in her diet and so she talks a lot about that. I’ll just let Mina do some talking now. Here’s Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and I’ll talk to you on the other side.
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the show, Mina. Thanks very much for talking with me today.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Thanks for having me.
Neely Quinn: For anybody who doesn’t know who you are could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Sure. My name is Mina. I live in Sheffield, in the UK, which is just on the edge of the Peak District. I’m a rock climber, predominantly a sport climber but I’ve also done a lot of bouldering over the years and a little bit of trad climbing but not so much. I’m a professional climber so it’s kind of what I do with most of my time at the moment. I also study part time nutrition currently. I’ve done a few other bits and bobs in the past, too.
Neely Quinn: You said that you’re predominantly a sport climber. That’s definitely a change from what you used to do, right?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, well actually when I first started climbing it was more sport climbing but very quickly I got into bouldering and I spent probably a lot of my teen and 20’s years focused on bouldering. Then in the last 4-5 years I’ve switched over gradually. I’ve done a bit of both but more and more of a focus on sport climbing and now I kind of identify more as a sport climber. That’s what I’m more psyched for. There’s definitely been a shift for sure.
Neely Quinn: I have a ton of questions for you so I think maybe we should back up and do some basic stats. How old are you? How tall are you? And how long have you been climbing?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I’m 31 years old. I’ve been climbing since I was eight so quite awhile. What was the other question – how tall I am? I’m 5’7”, 170 centimeters. I have an equal ape index. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: I mean, that’s not a bad height to have an equal ape index.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: No, exactly.
Neely Quinn: You got into competition climbing pretty early, right?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah. Actually, I did some competitions in my early teens, kind of local London-based. I was brought up in London, just outside of London, so kind of local/regional comp kind of scenes. I went to a few National finals and things like that. I did that for 2-3 years, quite informally, quite relaxed. Then I stopped and just wanted to climb outside.
I kind of went off and then re-found competitions when I was about 21, when I entered the British Bouldering Championships in the open category the summer after I’d finished university and I was living in Sheffield. I kind of got back into competitions through that one and got onto the British team and did a bunch of World Cups and things for a few years.
Neely Quinn: How did that go for you and what did you take from that? From those few years doing World Cups.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: It was a really interesting experience. I really enjoyed it at the time and I was really psyched for it. Looking back I find it quite hard to identify with because I’m not interested really in competition climbing now, for myself or kind of in general, I guess. I’ll sometimes watch a World Cup sport final or a World Cup bouldering final if it’s on and I happen to be in but I’m not an avid follower, which is funny because I used to do them.
I definitely learned a lot about training and improving because you’re suddenly in an environment of people who are pushing themselves physically and there’s a lot to kind of learn and gain from that. Obviously you get to travel a lot and you get to meet a lot of international athletes and the climbing community is really, really friendly so it was a really nice way to make a lot of connections and be inspired regularly by really strong women.
It also taught me a lot about what, in the long run, I wanted out of climbing and what my relationship with climbing is, which is kind of not the competition environment. That was probably the biggest learning point but it took a while.
Neely Quinn: How did you come to that point?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I suppose it was 2013 and I had what I think of as my best season. When I say ‘my best season’ I was never fighting for a podium position or anything. I never made a final but I got close to making a final. I felt like I was climbing well and I was enjoying it and it was all really good. I kind of trained and geared up to do another season the next year and, I don’t know, I don’t know what phrase to use. I just kind of fell apart in that season competitively, for want of a better phrase. I kind of turned up having trained quite hard and my heart just wasn’t in it.
It was like I had done all of the physical stuff but for some reason my head just wasn’t there. I didn’t climb as well. I struggled, basically, to be psyched. I struggled also with sleeping which probably didn’t help that much. The first event is often in China and I just really struggled with the jet lag so I think maybe that set me off to a bad start in 2014.
I just found myself enjoying all the other bits like the social side. I was traveling with Shauna at the time and we had a really fun time together. I enjoyed her success vicariously through her and I enjoyed meeting other athletes and seeing cool places. You get to be kind of a tourist because on outdoor climbing trips you just go to the outdoor venue and you’re immersed in climbing the whole time whereas in competitions there’s actually not that much climbing. You fly to a city, you do a bit of sightseeing, you do the competition, and then you often fly to the next place. That side of it is quite nice and I was enjoying all the other bits but not really enjoying the climbing.
I think it was also around the time the style maybe started to shift in the competitions towards more jumpy, less basic climbing which I’m not as good at so maybe I came up against that and I found that a bit frustrating. I don’t know. I think the main thing is my heart just wasn’t in it and I wasn’t really enjoying it. I was finding it was just knocking my confidence.
I remember being at one competition and phoning my boyfriend. He was out climbing. I think it was early spring and he was out climbing on the Grit. I don’t remember where they were but all my friends were basically out climbing on rocks and I was somewhere in a hotel room on the phone having just done a qualifying round and had not had a great time. I just thought, ‘What am I doing?’ I had a bit of a moment of, ‘This is not actually, realistically, how I want to be spending my time.’
Neely Quinn: A bit of an epiphany?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, a bit of an epiphany. I kind of quit then and there. I think Shauna and I climbed in four competitions that were pretty much back-to-back the first half of the season. There was a two week break and then we were supposed to go to the next bunch which was, I think, maybe in China or Japan and then Vail and Toronto. I had everything booked to go and I just dropped out and went climbing instead.
Neely Quinn: Wow. That’s abrupt.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: It was really abrupt. It was funny because a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, but you’ll do local comps and national comps and maybe you’ll do another World Cup.’ I was like, ‘Maybe I will but right now I just want to stop.’
I have literally not entered a single event since that day. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Isn’t that kind of hard to just drop out of? I’m assuming that’s where your funding was coming from. You had your whole schedule for the year planned out and then you just dropped out. Then what? It was kind of like a career change. What did you do then?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I was never super well-supported for competitions anyway because I just wasn’t that good. I wasn’t awful but like we said, I wasn’t making finals or podiums so I wasn’t at that level where I was getting a lot of support for them anyway. I was getting some support from the BMC, which is kind of the British federation, but the support extended to expenses to go to competitions so it wasn’t like I was out of pocket from not doing them because if I wasn’t going I wasn’t spending those expenses.
In terms of the brands I worked with, they were actually quite psyched I think. My main sponsor is Arc’teryx and when I signed up with them I think they were like, ‘Oh, you’re a comp climber. Okay…but you do outdoor stuff as well so that’s cool and we’ll focus on that.’
I remember I had one meeting with a lady who doesn’t work with Arc’teryx anymore but she was like, ‘You know that even if you win a World Cup we’re not that bothered because that’s not what we do. We’re quite happy if you are to do whatever you’re psyched about. We’ll support you but in terms of our random image, we’d rather you were kind out of hanging off a cliff somewhere or going on an expedition or be in the great outdoors.’ I never felt any pressure which was actually really nice because I didn’t feel any pressure to continue. I always knew that I loved outdoor climbing so I felt like I had this grace to go and do the competitions but also no pressure if I wanted to stop. In that sense it was an easy decision.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, sounds like it was a way easier decision than I was making it out to be.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: [laughs] Yeah. It was hard because my ego was a bit battered by it and that was probably the hardest bit, feeling like I had failed. I guess I had these ideas about what I might be capable of in a competition arena but I think as soon as you’re not really interested, that doesn’t matter anymore. It just took me a bit to work that out. I was kind of battling with myself for a bit but as soon as I made the decision it was easy.
Neely Quinn: So you were talking about the differences a little bit about the training for comp climbing and training for outdoor climbing. You’ve had a lot of success climbing outdoors, both bouldering and on routes. You’ve climbed – and tell me if I’m wrong – up to V13 on boulders and you’ve done up to 14b, I think that’s 8c?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I’ve done up to – yeah, yeah. Sorry. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: [laughs] Oh me too. I can never get that straight.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: That’s funny. I’ve spent some time in America and suddenly in grade thinking, when I’m back in the UK it just disappears, but yeah, whatever 8c is. I think that’s what you said. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: So it’s pretty strong and that’s kind of rare to have people doing big things in both bouldering and sport climbing. Is the bouldering something that you did a while ago? And how have you been so successful with both?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I guess I’ve had concentrated periods of focusing on one or the other. Like you said before I spent most of my 20’s bouldering and that built my mole hill. I’d say my bouldering is like a mole hill and my route climbing is like a totem pole but because I was a strong boulderer I was able to climb harder routes more quickly. I think also because I sport climbed as a teenager I had, somewhere deep down, a muscle memory bank of a little bit of fitness or efficient climbing movement. I wasn’t learning to route climb for the first time when I switched over so I had experiences to kind of feed from there.
I guess I pushed the strength and power side of the sport more in my 20’s and I really took a step back from bouldering when I got psyched for routes. I think I got actually quite weak in the process of getting fit. It was almost like I decided I wanted to route climb more and I just did a ton of volume training and I kind of accepted that I was going to get a little bit weaker in order to get fitter, but then once I was fitter I then brought back in all the strength and power stuff. Now I feel like I can be relatively strong and relatively fit at the same time but for awhile there was a period in there when I couldn’t do both. I had to kind of make some sacrifices on the strength front in order to get fit. Does that kind of answer the question?
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that makes sense. Would you mind going into – I mean, we can start from right now. What are you training for now and how do you do that?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: So right now I am training. My main current project is a route in the UK at Malham Cove which is called Rainshadow. It’s an amazing, classic Steve McClure route that I’ve actually been trying for quite a while now, on and of. I don’t try it exclusively. I kind of go on other trips and I have other routes that I try then in the spring and sometimes in the autumn as well, that will be my focus. It tends to be the focus for most of my training so when I have periods when I train – I tend to train over the winter and – that’s kind of what I focus on when I’m training but obviously the training works for other stuff as well. In the time when I’m not on that route I’m benefitting from the work put in anyway.
It’s a route but it’s got a hard boulder problem in the middle of it [laughs] so it feels like quite a big task. I have to be kind of quite near my strongest and also my fittest.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that sounds like a good project.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: [laughs] Yeah.
Neely Quinn: Tell me a little more about the route. I’ve seen photos of it and you on it and it seems pretty tall, right?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: It’s not super tall. It’s somewhere between 25 and 30 meters. I think closer to 25, actually, so it’s not super duper long like some other sport climbs are. It kind of breaks down quite easily into sections.
There’s a route that is a route in and of itself called Rain Dog, which is a classic 8a at Malham, a French 8a sport climb which is 13b I think? 5.13a is 7c+, isn’t it? So it’s a 13b first section and then you get a marginal rest but it’s quite a strain. You’re in a bit of a drop knee, semi up the wall, just holding edges but you can stay there for a couple of minutes and get a bit of a shake. It’s not like you’re hanging on a jug.
Then you climb the crux section which is a 12-move, considered about V11, boulder problem so it’s kind of towards the power endurance side of boulder problems being 12 moves.
Then you bust into a headwall which is about French 8a+, which is 5.13c, to the chains. It’s interesting because Rain Dog is the first 8a section and it’s quite sustained, just off-vertical, crimpy, no super hard moves but no easy moves either. It’s kind of a race against the pump then this marginal rest and then a really quite hard boulder problem where you’ve got to completely change gear and be in full on bouldering, grunting mode, or at least that’s what it brings out for me. [laughs] Then the headwall is steeper, bigger holds but big, burly moves. Loads of undercuts and very committing, kind of punchy climbing, which is really cool. That’s probably my favorite bit.
So it’s one of those that when you break it down into sections, for me at least, that makes it feel more doable but sometimes the idea of putting the whole thing together can be a bit overwhelming.
Neely Quinn: Right, and altogether it’s a 9a which is 14d, which is harder than anything you’ve done by two letter grades, right?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, I know. Sometimes on paper I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ [laughs] but it’s that classic situation where I’m really inspired by the line, I’m inspired by the history of the route, I’ve seen people on it, I’ve been there when people have sent it. Sometimes a route just gets under your skin and it doesn’t matter what number it is. I know that it would make more sense for me to try an 8c+ first but there isn’t an 8c+, in the UK at least, that keeps me up at night whereas Rainshadow does.
Neely Quinn: That’s when you know.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, that’s when you know. It’s like falling in love with the wrong person. [laughs] Or maybe not the wrong person but someone you’re fighting for.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I mean it sounds like you have some doubts about whether or not you should be working on it. Is that something that people have said to you?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: No, no one has said that to me. I think that was definitely, to a certain extent, how I felt when I first started trying it. I guess I felt vulnerable in terms of what people might think of me because I haven’t climbed 8c+. I haven’t done the – like I said, it’s kind of a totem pole, my route climbing. In terms of the moves and the difficulty of the route, I’ve climbed I don’t know how many V11 boulder problems. A lot. I’ve climbed a lot of V12 boulder problems and I’ve climbed one V13 boulder problem so in terms of the difficulty of the moves on the route, I feel like I’m qualified, if that’s such a thing.
I feel like there was a bit of insecurity when I first started trying it around expectation and people thinking that I was being maybe arrogant in trying it or that I was just chasing a grade. I don’t know. Eventually I just realized that it didn’t really matter what other people thought, I should just do what I wanted and the people that know me know that I’m not like that and that I just really love it. I’m just cracking on.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I think it’s better to do something that is really hard for you that you love than knocking your head against some climb that might be within your limit but you hate, you know? [laughs]
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Exactly. Or not even that you hate but you’re just not as inspired by. I see so many people not trying the routes or the boulder problems that they really want to try because they think they aren’t good enough or they’re somehow not qualified and I just think – I don’t know. If I don’t do Rainshadow, that’s okay. I would love to do it but I’ve got to climb on this amazing route all this time and I’m glad that I’m having that experience, regardless of whether I do it or not. Obviously, I’d love to do it, but if I wait until I’ve climbed something else first, then you put things off and I just might never get around to it.
Neely Quinn: So how is it that you do train for this? We have an idea of what the route is all about so what is your training schedule like?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: It varies quite a bit. It’s changed quite a bit over time. Initially, when I first tried the route, I really struggled on the boulder problem actually. Although it’s V11 and I’ve climbed lots of V11’s it’s much harder working something like that off a rope. You’ve got to climb an 8a route to get to it. It’s quite a different thing, I think, and also it’s just not really my style I guess. I found it very hard from the beginning so initially my training focused on getting stronger, primarily stronger and more powerful. A lot of bouldering-based training, a lot of board climbing, fingerboarding, max fingerboarding, stuff like that.
Then once I was strong on the boulder problem and I was kind of linking the boulder problem then I was bringing in more anaerobic capacity work, so longer power endurance training. All along the time I’ve been doing quite a lot at the other end of the scale, aerobic capacity work, so that ability to recover on a rest and to be able to operate aerobically as well as I can.
Those have been my main focuses. I’ve actually changed my focus a little bit very recently. I’ve kind of had a slight epiphany about general body strength and conditioning and realized how bad I am on that front.
Neely Quinn: In terms of climbing?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Like basic stuff. Obviously I can do pull-ups and weighted pull-ups and things. I’m not that good at them and I’m not that good at press-ups. I’m pretty poor at any kind of leg work. I’m really quite poor at squats and things like that and I think as climbers we are often weirdly strong in some areas, like we might have really good finger strength and contact strength, but if the rest of your body isn’t conditioned and strong enough to support your forearm – I realized I was training the forearm so intensely for max finger strength but also aerobic capacity in the forearm, all that kind of stuff. If my shoulder girdle, for example, isn’t stable then I’m not going to be able to maximize that.
I’ve kind of realized that I need to get a bit more athletic in general, like get better at those more complex movements like functional strength and conditioning, essentially.
Neely Quinn: So what kinds of things are you doing for that?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I’ve only recently started. I’ll try the route again in autumn but I’ve not had the best run-up because I had a shoulder injury and I’ve been away a lot. I’m starting to do some of it now but I think my big push with my approach to training will come over the winter.
I’m starting to do more gym work so I’m going three times a week, when I’m in Sheffield at least, and doing things like front squats and deadlifts and weighted pull-ups and bench press and pronated – not pronated but supinated bench row. All that kind of stuff, more like big muscle groups to get the whole kinetic chain firing a bit better.
Also, I think from an injury resistant point of view. I say I was injured this year. It was my shoulder and I have chronic low back pain. I think all of that would be a lot better if my body was a bit more robust. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Are you doing strength reps and sets or are you doing longer/more reps and lower weight? Or what kinds of things are you doing?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: At the moment I’m doing strength-based reps so 5 or 5-8 reps, fairly maximal, partly because I have a limited amount of time now to train. I’ve got another two weeks in Sheffield and then I go to Norway and then I’ve got three weeks and then I’ll be back on my project, so I’m just trying to get a bit of neural adaptation I guess and get a bit of a stimulus now, but over the winter I’ll do a bigger conditioning phase where I do lighter weights and higher reps before I then move into the strength stuff. I’m kind of doing what I can with this period of time and I’m doing quite a bit of rehab related stuff for my shoulder as well because there’s some stuff I still can’t quite do.
It’s a little bit not ideal at the moment but once I have a stretch of time ahead of me from December onwards, before the spring, I’ll take it back to basics a bit I think.
Neely Quinn: Do you have a trainer that you work with?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I do. The main combination I work with is my partner, David Mason, for a lot of the climbing strength related stuff and a guy called Alex Barrows.
Neely Quinn: Oh.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: He does most of my fitness training stuff. They basically work together to help me with my training plan.
Neely Quinn: You’re partner meaning your boyfriend-type person?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah.
Neely Quinn: He’s a nice boyfriend-type person to have as your trainer.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Oh, he’s a lovely boyfriend to have. [laughs] Don’t let him hear me say it, though. He’ll get a big head.
Neely Quinn: [laughs] Yeah, and Alex Barrows has been on the show. He’s a friend of mine.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Oh okay, cool. Alex is great, although when we first started working together I thought he was trying to kill me. [laughs] Death by aero cap. I’ve done a little bit of work with Tom Randall in the past. That was probably the first death by aero cap.
Neely Quinn: Wait – what is ‘aero cap?’
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Aerobic capacity training.
Neely Quinn: Oh. That is such a Sheffield thing to say. [laughs]
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I was just exhausted by the volume Tom gave me the first time I did any fitness training when I was really shifting over to route climbing. I think Tom sometimes does these huge volumes of training and he doesn’t realize what mere mortals can handle. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Was he having you do bouldering circuits or what was he having you do?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: No, it was a lot of capacity work so staying on the wall for a long time, managing your pump levels. Multiple sessions of circuit work or varying intensities. Sometimes it would be like a hard circuit for three minutes and then you rest on a jug for two minutes and you do that for 30 minutes, or you get on a medium circuit and you just go round and round and round for 20-30 minutes. It was really like not going to failure but managing to clear lactic, aerobically, at least as I understood it.
Alex Barrows does a lot of that stuff as well. As a testament to them both, they made me a lot fitter. I worked with Alex for quite a bit longer than I did with Tom but that’s been really good.
My boyfriend, David Mason, is more of a boulderer so he has more experience with strength, fingerboard training, and that kind of the side of things so he tends to support me through that stuff.
Neely Quinn: Sounds like you’re juggling a lot of balls at the same time.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: [laughs] Yeah, a little bit, but I think there’s a lot of stuff in the middle that we’re not looking at, energy system-wise, because you can’t work on everything. In an ideal world I’d be able to train lots of different things at once. There’s lots of ways I could be better, basically, which is great. That’s kind of what you want. If you have nowhere to improve then you’re hitting a wall so I’ve got lots of options to choose from but you can’t necessarily effectively, I don’t think, train everything at once. If you do too much volume and fitness work you’re going to be fatigued for your strength work and therefore you won’t get the intensity in those sessions. It’s balancing those things.
It’s great working with Alex and Dave because they kind of have different priorities that they think are important. They tend to be on the same page with most stuff but it’s good working with two people who are experienced in different areas.
Neely Quinn: Is that kind of difficult to work with two people and have sort of two different opinions of what you should be doing?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Well they’re not really different opinions, they’re more kind of different experience bases. They’re generally on the same page with it. We’ll all sit down, the three of us, and talk about what the best general approach would be and what I’m going to focus on but then Alex will write the actual nitty gritty sections for the endurance stuff and Dave will write the sessions for the max fingerboarding, for example. My sets and reps and things like that for any kind of conditioning work. In terms of the overall strategy of what we’re going to focus on and prioritize, that will be an open discussion that generally we all tend to agree on.
Neely Quinn: First of all, this is a dream team. This sounds amazing. I want two trainers to sit down with me, too. [laughs] Do they work out a yearly plan for you as well? Like a big overview?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, we tend to have a big overview. I guess because it’s quite a big goal that is spanning more than a year, we tend to have a rough but adjustable plan. For example, we haven’t worked out what my training sessions this winter are going to be specifically yet, but we’re kind of bounding ideas around. It kind of depends on how things work in the meantime, like I trained quite hard over the winter just gone, made a lot of gains, got quite a bit stronger. We focused on strength because I just wasn’t over strong enough for that boulder problem. Then this spring I was so much better on the route so there was no point in us planning the summer training until we saw the effect of the winter training. We’ll have a rough idea but it’s always kind of waiting for a performance update, I guess, to see how things have changed.
Neely Quinn: Right. You said that you’re going to Norway.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I am, yeah.
Neely Quinn: Are you going to Flatanger?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: We’re going to spend a little bit of time there. I’m not really sure how much. We’re going to spend some time with some friends over there. David and I are heading out to meet some friends, Maria and Martin, who live in Trondheim.
David is more of a boulder. I say ‘more of a boulderer’ but he’s totally a boulderer. He’s not that interested in sport climbing so this was our attempt to go on a trip together because there’s bouldering around Vingsand, which is around Trondheim. Obviously I then realized how close it was to Flatanger and I was like, ‘I can’t not go,’ so Maria and I are going to go to Flatanger for the first five or six days and David and Martin are going to go bouldering. Then we’ll either all go bouldering for a bit or maybe David will come to Flatanger for a bit. It’s quite open, the second part of the trip, or at least the remainder of the trip we’re leaving quite open. It’ll be a routes/bouldering combo trip.
Neely Quinn: And that’s something that you feel like you’re prepared for?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: No, not remotely. [laughs] It depends on what you mean by ‘prepared.’ I’m not going to go and get on anything really hard in Flatanger but I’ve never been before so I’m just quite psyched to sample the area, lower grading, and just do lots of climbing. For a start, I’m kind of training at the moment so I’ll probably be a little bit tired but also I recently hurt my shoulder. It’s pretty good now but it’s not 100% there yet. As a result I haven’t climbed that much in the last 4-5 weeks. Partly because of the shoulder and partly because I was at a couple of Arc’teryx events back to back. I’d do bits of climbing here and there but not super hard moves, but not concentrated sport climbing days or anything.
July was always going to be a mix and match of being away at events and stuff but then obviously with a shoulder injury as well, I’m not going into it in the best shape.
Neely Quinn: It seems like that was a perfect time for you to just go in and do strength training stuff in the weight room.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: That was partly how it came about. I hurt my shoulder and I couldn’t hang off a bar initially. I couldn’t take my arm over my head without pain but if I kept my arm below shoulder height I almost didn’t feel like I was injured. I could bicep curl like there was nothing wrong with me and I could deadlift, amazingly, but I literally couldn’t hang body weight straight arm off a bar or do a pull-up.
I signed up to a gym and it coincided with a massive heat wave in the UK and the gym has air conditioning, which is amazing. [laughs] It was actually perfect timing.
I just went and I did whatever I could in the gym so I was deadlifting, squatting, and realizing along the way how awful I was at those things and how much room there was to improve. Thinking about it I was like, ‘Actually, this could be a really, really good thing.’ I chatted quite a bit with Ollie from Lattice. I trained with him quite a bit. We have a board in our cellar that he comes to. He’s probably one of my main training partners on that and he’s doing a masters in conditioning and strength work, and obviously works for Lattice and does training plans and stuff.
We talked a lot about conditioning and the impact that could have on a climber, especially a female climber. It dawned on me that way but it was almost the shoulder injury that pushed me into the gym and made me realize that. It was a blessing in disguise.
Neely Quinn: What were the things that you guys talked about for conditioning and especially for females?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Just that I guess, obviously, not all female climbers but a lot of female climbers have potentially less muscle mass than their male counterparts and often, he said in his experience, less shoulder stability which can then just put more stress on the forearm if you’re not getting that support further up the chain, and shoulder injuries. So there’s the injury-resistance side of it and then there’s the performance side of it. Leaving myself less open to injury but also being able to kind of get more out of my forearm grip strength from having that support from the shoulder girdle. I’m definitely a lot stronger closer to my body and as soon as I get into wider positions, even though I don’t have particularly long levers, when I’m in a wider position I’m definitely weaker.
It’s interesting – I can’t hang one-arm off an edge, like the Beastmaker 1000 edge or the Beastmaker 2000 edge even. It has to be borderline a jug for me to hang off it with one arm but I can do quite crimpy board problems or finger intensive board problems. If my feet are on I’m able to be quite efficient so my contact strength, essentially, when I’m climbing is pretty good but my isolated strength isn’t that great and I think that’s a lot to do with shoulder stability and strength.
Neely Quinn: Is that something that you’re working on as well? One-arm hangs?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: No, not at the moment but over the winter I did quite a lot of assisted one-arm fingerboarding and stuff, yeah. Now I’m almost zooming out a little bit and trying to think about how to get my shoulders really strong through some basic conditioning and I think then I’ll get way more out of my fingerboarding, probably, and I’ll probably feel like my body is actually supporting me much better on the rock. Just that ability to fire through the whole kinetic chain, like we fire from our toe in our climbing shoe and you want all your muscles in your legs and your glutes and your hip extensors and your core and everything to feel connected and support you, especially on steep terrain.
The crux of the route at Malham, I’m quite spread out in some of the moves and one particular move. It’s quite body tension-y and I think it’s easy to neglect strength in the legs and trunk stability and shoulder stability in those kinds of moves. In reminds me of something that Paige said in the interview that you did with her. She said she feels like a noodle sometimes and I was like, ‘Ahh, that’s the best description for how I feel sometimes! Like a noodle with strong fingers.’ When you isolate them they aren’t that strong. [laughs]
Me and my boyfriend have this ongoing joke. He’s like, ‘I’m amazed when you get up anything,’ because I seem to be able to climb quite well on a board or on rock and stuff but when we isolate anything I don’t have a superpower. I’m just devoid of superpowers except maybe heel hooks. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: I mean, that’s really, really interesting. It’s really good to know that, to do those tests and to find out: I have to have a stronger whatever. It seems like you’re working on your whole core and tension and so I guess one question is, are you doing anything that most of us would consider core strengthening besides some of these deadlifts and stuff like that?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Sure. All of that stuff is great for core and trunk stability but I also do hanging leg raises. When my shoulder was bad I was doing them on dip bars so that I could push down rather than hanging, so leg raises and L-sits and side flexion and just some general floor core stuff. Again, I’ve been trying to change the intensity of those recently. I used to do a lot of epic volume amounts of core to total fatigue, body weight stuff, which is kind of soul destroying and maybe didn’t get me very far. Now rather than doing tons of leg raises or as many as I can do, I’ll put a weight between my feet and do more like eight reps but make them harder. I’m kind of playing with changing the parameters a little bit there, partly just to get a fresh psychological edge on core training but also I think it’s quite a good approach.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I was just talking about that with another trainer. It’s usually not our core that is going to fail before our forearms do so we just have to have a really, really strong core which sounds like exactly what you’re doing.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: But also I think if we don’t have a strong core and we’re a saggy noodle then our forearms are going to fail sooner because we’re trying to do everything with our forearms. The same goes for shoulder stability and all the rest of it. Actually, I have and I’m sure a lot of climbers have trained their forearms to death because we’re trying to get that extra 2% out of our forearms whereas there’s probably 30 or 40% to be gained in my shoulder stability. I’m probably going to see more gains overall from working on an area that is less trained. Does that make sense?
Neely Quinn: Yes, that does make sense.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: That’s my working theory, anyway. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: You seem to put a lot of thought into this.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I’m a bit of a nerd. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: It’s pretty cool because it seems like even though you’ve had so much success you seem pretty hopeful and determined to get even stronger and do even bigger things.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, I think also I really like feeling strong and I kind of aspire to feel strong. If you were to look at my Instagram account I follow a lot of power lifters and stuff like female powerlifters. I just think they’re incredible. When I was a kid I wanted to be a gladiator. There’s climbing, which I obviously love and want to excel in. That’s kind of my main motivation but I also really like the feeling of feeling strong in my body and capable and robust. I’m kind of chasing that as well, to a certain extent, just in an of itself separate to climbing. I like that feeling and I actually enjoy the process of a lot of the training. Obviously there’s some stuff I enjoy less [laughs] but I like trying to pick up heavy things. That’s fun to me.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, me too, actually.
I have two other things that I want to ask you about. The first one is I know that you had a fall on Rainshadow and you were injured. I don’t know exactly what happened but it seemed like it took a lot for you to get back on Rainshadow after that because of the mental aspect of it. Can you just tell me a little bit about maybe what the fall entailed and then what it took for you to get back on it?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Sure. It was a really interesting experience. It’s actually coming up to a year ago that this happened. It was end of August last year and frustratingly it was right at the beginning of my autumn season for trying the route. That few weeks became more about getting my head back in gear than it did about performance gains on the route, but that’s fine.
Essentially I just took a very weird, unusual lead fall where I flipped upside down and smashed into the wall and sustained a head injury. It was a weird one. People always say, “Did you put your leg behind the rope or anything like that?” It wasn’t and I wasn’t actually that far above my bolt, either. I’ve taken that fall in the past many, many times and it never happened.
There were a few contributing factors, the main one being that my harness was a bit too big for me. I’d lost a bit of weight in the six weeks previous. Not tons of weight but enough to get a bit of a performance edge. I was still a healthy weight but my harness was a little bit too big for me. When I say a little bit, you wouldn’t have looked at me and been like, ‘Oh, that harness is way too baggy on that woman.’ The issue was that there was sideways movement with the harness.
I think, especially with womens’ fits, our waist is often smaller than our hips and what I had done is that classic, ‘Oh, my harness won’t go over my hip bone. If I were to invert I’m not going to fall out of my harness,’ and that stood the test. I didn’t fall out of my harness. My harness wasn’t too big in that sense but it was too big in that when you fall or when you’re weighting in your harness it generally sits around the smallest point, which for me is my waist. It’s higher and smaller.
I fired off at a funny angle and so as the rope tightened as it started to catch me, I was flying to the left and my harness pulled to the right where my knot was. I kept moving left and my harness twisted right. I don’t know if I’m giving you a good image here of what happened but I essentially twisted sideways which meant that my center of gravity flipped backwards. Also, because my harness didn’t give me the snug fit around the middle, I didn’t have that back support to keep me upright. It was a number of things. Plus, the bolt was in a bit of a funny place and you’re on steep ground falling onto a vertical or just off-vertical wall.
There was kind of a few things going on which meant basically it was a really weird, unlikely, unlucky fall. It was really scary nonetheless. I had quite a bit of time off afterwards, or at least time off climbing outside. I had a concussion and stuff so I had to take a bit of a respite time.
I guess the most interesting part about this whole thing was getting back on the route. On the day of the accident I was like, ‘Oh no. That’s too much. I think I’m done. I’m done with this route and maybe I’m done with climbing.’ It was a scary event but then as time passed and I kind of calmed down from the experience and I had time to analyze the mechanism of the fall, because I actually have footage of it, believe it or not, not that I had recorded. There was a tourist.
Malham is this amazing rock formation and tourists come. It’s a short walk from the nearest village so it’s quite the tourist trail and people come to look and they often see climbers. This guy was just intrigued so he was filming me from a distance so it’s very small on his phone. He happened to catch the whole thing on camera. I got this message a few days later because he found me on the Internet, on Facebook, and sent me a message that, ‘This will sound strange but do you want it?’ To start with I was like, ‘I don’t know that I do,’ but it was actually really useful to have it because I could slow it down and watch it back, although that wasn’t very pleasant. It gave me a real insight into what happened which meant I could make changes and understand some of the mechanisms of the fall, which meant that I could then go in quite logically in terms of returning to the route, make changes, and kind of test them out.
I basically broke it down into very small steps, like you would with the physical side of climbing, like a redpoint. I broke it down into sections, I did all my links, and then I linked them all together and before I knew it I was back trying the route as before. It started, for example, my first goal was to go back to that crag. I didn’t know – I had quite a big rescue. There was a helicopter and a mountain rescue and I was on a stretcher and there was a lot of blood. It was all quite intense and scary so I didn’t know if even just going back there would be a bit traumatic.
My first step was to go back with my friends I would normally go with. I took an awesome picnic. I was like, ‘If I just go and hang out and eat my picnic, that’s fine. I’ve ticked my box for today.’ Actually I did climb. I did a bit of top roping that day. Really, I lowered the expectations for myself. I was quite kind in the process. Kind but firm. I was a good parent to myself.
Then the next thing was to do a bit of top roping and then lead climbing on easier terrain and then I got back on the route. I clipped ahead of myself so that I could climb the moves that I had fallen off that I had that real visceral memory of falling and then the pain and fear that followed that fall. I was climbing through those moves but on a top rope. Essentially, I tried to recondition myself mentally to kind of cover up the bad memories with more good memories.
In terms of going back to the crag I didn’t find it traumatic at all. I think I have so many good memories there that one day wasn’t going to shift those. There’s actually what we call a ‘working bolt’ halfway through the crux that you couldn’t possibly clip on redpoint but you can clip to work the moves. That was really useful in the psychological comeback because that working bolt is probably just by my hip on the part where I fell whereas the bolt that you would fall on and that I had fallen on is kind of a little bit below my feet. Not that far below me but I could break it down into even smaller stages. I didn’t have to go from top roping to taking that same fall. I went from top roping to taking a fall on the working bolt. And when I say ‘taking a fall,’ to start with I just mean taking a deep breath and jumped off.
Then before I took an uncontrolled fall, like trying hard through the crux moves, before I did that I took the ‘fall’ fall just letting go. I found my way up there using the working bolt and then unclipped the working bolt quickdraw and just let go. Again, I was wearing a much tighter harness, I’d put roller draws in certain places, I was having an extra dynamic belay. I changed a number of parameters and basically I was trying to relearn that I wasn’t going to invert once I’d changed those parameters. I didn’t. I took the fall multiple times, eventually out of control and trying hard. Climbing through that section without thinking about the fall was kind of the final thing to start doing. All those times I never felt like I was going to invert once I’d changed those things.
Neely Quinn: It sounds like you did a perfectly classical cognitive behavioral therapy – what do they call it? Exposure therapy type of thing. All of the steps.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Basically. I have actually studied a bit of psychotherapy – to go in with me being a bit geeky on these things. I did kind of know what I was doing on that front.
Neely Quinn: And it sounds like you were really patient with yourself. I know that there aren’t many people listening who have had this kind of thing happen to them but if there are this is really good to hear that you successfully – now, I’m assuming. Well, now what is it like going up on that climb and actually trying hard through the crux?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: It’s still – I did all that processing in October of last year and then I went on a sport climbing trip. I went to Smith Rock and I went to the Red. The Red was great because I did loads of onsighting and as you know it’s really steep so the falls are all super safe and you’re just falling into the air. That was a great way to get confident again.
Then I trained through the winter and I went back on my project in the spring and yeah, I was trying hard on it. I was doing good links and some days were better than others in terms of my head game and I’m sure there will still be times in the future where I get to that move and I have to take a deeper breath or the first few times I had to power scream my way through it. Obviously I was trying hard physically but I was screaming out the fear a little bit, or kind of the memory of it. It was almost like once I had gone through the process of relearning that I was safe and that I could fall there safely, then I was prepared to push through the fear.
What I wouldn’t be prepared to do is push through rational fear, if that makes sense. I know to a certain extent that climbing is always going to be a bit risky and there’s always the potential for things to go wrong but I certainly didn’t want to put myself back in a dangerous situation. I didn’t want to get back on the route and be like, ‘Oh well, I just hope that doesn’t happen again.’ I really wanted to go in, dissect it, risk assess it, change some stuff, satisfy myself through repeated exposure that it was safe, and then I could start trying hard again.
Neely Quinn: Right.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Because whenever fear popped up I could be like, ‘No, no, I’ve looked at you. I know that you’re irrational given this new set of parameters and given these technical issues that I’ve altered. I know that you’re irrational in this new situation and therefore I can push you to one side.’
Neely Quinn: Right.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Does that make sense?
Neely Quinn: That totally makes sense and what I was going to say is that I think it’s something that every one of us can learn from because a lot of us have rational or irrational fears of falling in certain areas on climbs, you know? We can all do basically what you did and make it as safe as possible, take top rope falls, then take really controlled falls and on and on. I think that what you did was super rational and really useful. It’s a whole Warrior’s Way clinic worth of information.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah.
Neely Quinn: So good job.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I think often we confuse the kind of rational fear and the emotional response. They get tangled up and we don’t know whether we should be scared or maybe we shouldn’t be scared or, ‘Is this dangerous or is this not dangerous?’ For me it was really important to separate those two things and deal with them as separate entities.
I think I’m actually much bolder now than I was before the accident because it made me really look at it. I got better than I even was before, I think, about climbing above my bolt in another situation. In fact, it’s one of those things. Obviously I wouldn’t wish it to happen or for it to happen again but it turned into a really good learning opportunity.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it sounds like it. I’m learning from it.
Okay, my last question for you, and thank you for sharing so openly about that, is about nutrition. You said you’re studying nutrition. You said also in your TED talk, which I’ll link to in the show notes, that your nutrition is ‘on point’ which I almost never hear climbers say. They’re just like, ‘Yeah, I do the best I can.’ I would love to hear about your nutrition.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Wow. I’ve set myself up for a fall there. I said it’s on point and now I’m talking to a nutritionist. Crap. [laughs] I say ‘on point’ as in I’ve got a good handle on what I’m doing with it. When I say ‘on point’ that doesn’t mean that I’m perfect with what I eat all of the time. I have, I think, a reasonably good understanding of what is going to help my performance and when it’s important to be more – what’s the word – more on point with it, I guess. Feeling like I’m on it is like knowing when to be ‘off it’ if that makes sense. I have times in the year – I don’t try and be light all year round. That’s not sustainable for me physically or mentally and I don’t think it’s actually the best thing you can do for performance.
For example, at the moment I’m a bit heavier but that’s fine because I’m training. I’m going on trips where I want to do more mileage. I’m not trying to absolutely hit top performance but when it comes to the weeks where I want to peak and I’ve set my training to kind of peak, then I know that I have a kind of tool box for getting to a more performance weight where I know that I feel good and I still have energy and I feel strong but I’m a little lighter. I benefit from having trained heavier because it’s where you get that weight change as opposed to just being light all the time.
I also just feel like, certainly from doing this course and generally from working with some nutritionists and dieticians over the years, I feel like I’ve got a reasonable handle on, now at least, fueling my training correctly. I think often when we think of nutrition and climbing, and I’ve kind of just did it then, people go straight into talking about weight management but I think one of the most important things is making sure that you’re fueling and recovering for whatever climbing you’re doing. A lot of people are really into training now and I think people are getting more into nutrition, but certainly in the UK, I think it’s a bit ignored and it’s a shame. You see people putting a lot of time into training and then not either fueling correctly or recovering correctly and you’ve got to have the building blocks there.
Neely Quinn: So what kind of building blocks do you use? What kinds of food do you eat?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I guess I eat quite a variety. I’m not vegetarian or vegan or anything like that so I do eat meat and fish and dairy. I focus on trying to get an adequate amount of protein into my diet for recovery but also to feel kind of satiated. I keep protein quite high, even if I’m trying to come into a bit of a deficit to drop my weight down a little bit because I know that will help me to retain muscle mass and also to feel satisfied with food.
I make sure I eat carbohydrates around any kind of high intensity training but I also have some days or rest days where I might go slightly lower carb just to encourage that metabolic flexibility because obviously I do a lot of aerobic work as well. If I’m going to deadlift in the gym or if I’m going to do some maximum board climbing, I’ll make sure that I have my oats in the morning. Say in the afternoon I’m just doing aerobic work or more endurance-based stuff, then I might not worry so much about having carbs in the meal beforehand.
It’s just having a bit of an awareness about what my body needs to do the activities that I’m asking of it and then what it needs to recover, so getting those regular doses of protein, where I’m getting enough grams of protein hitting my leucine threshold and all that kind of stuff. Then obviously all of that within a greater, overall view of energy intake.
Neely Quinn: Being around what? Sorry.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Just being around the right levels and the time of year and what I’m doing. When I’m training and climbing a lot I have a higher overall intake and I’m less worried about hitting that exactly right whereas when I’m trying to cut down a little bit before going on to my project, then I might be a bit more exact with it.
Neely Quinn: Do you know how much protein and carbs and fat you eat? Do you log?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I do, yeah. I track.
Neely Quinn: Do you know what your percentages are?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I don’t tend to work so much in percentages, actually. I tend to work more in grams. I generally aim for around 120 grams of protein a day, split into portions around 20-25 grams. I vary my carbs and fats on different days but on training days, especially because I tend to do a lot of high intensity anaerobic or strength work, I tend to have slightly higher carbs. I experimented this year when I was projecting with carb loading a little bit and that was quite interesting. That felt quite good, just in the 24 hours prior to a redpointing day or a day when I was trying a big link I would kind of carb load a bit.
Neely Quinn: Do you know how many grams of carbs you have on those kinds of days as opposed to low carb days?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: I still don’t go really high. I’m around 250 grams of carbs, something like that, on a higher carb day. 250-300 grams of carbs which I think isn’t loads but it feels like a lot. I think I was quite low-carb for a while 18 months or two years ago. I kind of tried out the keto – well, I don’t feel like I was ever fully keto but I tried the whole high fat, low carb diet and that didn’t work that well for me. Going back to having more carbohydrates, that felt like quite a lot, even though I know endurance athletes go a lot higher than that.
Neely Quinn: This is great. I have to ask: on your lower carb days, do you know how low you go? Like now? Just on the non-training days?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Now, my low carb days are a little ad-hoc at the moment because I’m in that slightly training therefore not worrying too much about the carb/fat split. I don’t go super low. I don’t think I go below 100 now whereas when I was doing the keto thing I was trying to get net carbs below 50 grams, which I realize now was perhaps not sensible. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: This is awesome. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to actually talk details to a person on the podcast about their grams and everything.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Well I’ve been reading a lot recently. It’s funny – I just did a module on fat adaptation or bi-chemistry and metabolism of fats and stuff. I just literally this week read a paper on ketogenic diet performance, kind of a meta-analysis. I can’t remember the reference off the top of my head but it was basically like, ‘In short, not a good idea for performance.’ I was thinking, ‘Oh, I did that for awhile.’ [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Yeah, and it can really mess you up which is what I tend to tell my athletes. It’s so good that you’re learning this stuff and like you said, people pay so much attention to training, which you do, and then I see my clients just have really enormous gains in their performance just by tweaking their diet.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: It’s amazing. Once you understand the physiology behind it and even just the basics of glycogen stores and phosphocreatine system and all of that kind of stuff, you’re suddenly like, ‘Oh!’ I had a real penny drop moment when I started learning about all this more in depth. I was like, ‘Oh wow. If I go to the gym and I try to pick up something heavy or do a weighted pull-up and I haven’t got any glycogen stored, it doesn’t matter.’
Climbers seem to get a bit quite worked up about the water weight of eating carbohydrates. You should think that if you don’t have the substrate to utilize it, it doesn’t make any difference if your water weight is slightly heavier because you’re not going to have that snap. It’s great when you read about it and you have a penny drop. It’s even better when you then start eating more carbs or whatever, changing whatever it is you need to change whether that’s protein and recovery or carbs and intensity training, and then you feel it. You’re like, ‘Oh. That’s what that’s about. I feel different.’
Neely Quinn: Yes. With my clients I have them log and with some people I ask them to log just a little bit of a report of, ‘This is how I felt during my workout and through the day.’ So often, if they have a crappy workout we can look at the day of, the day before, and the two days before and be like, ‘Well, you didn’t eat enough calories overall and you certainly didn’t eat enough carbs so this is not a surprise at all.’ It’s super useful to log how you do.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, and I appreciate that logging and tracking isn’t for everyone. There was certainly a time when I would have found it overwhelming to kind of look that closely at my food intake but now that I’ve got into the hang of it, because it’s quite time consuming as well when you first start out, but once you get into the hang of it and you can estimate fairly accurately, I find it so useful for managing my intake and also I’m way more relaxed about my weight than I used to be.
I would always see climbing as a weight-dependent sport. We can’t really get away from that but with that being the case it leaves us wide open to a lot of sorted eating patterns and body image issues and all that kind of stuff. For me certainly, once I really clicked and understood what I was eating and the energy content and density of different foods, I don’t worry now about putting on a bit of weight when I’m in an off period or when I’m training because I know that I can drop it when I need to because I kind of understand the mechanisms now. I feel like I’ve almost got a bit of a formula. I’ve got the numbers and I plug the numbers in and I can fluctuate between 2-3 kilograms between now and when I’m trying my project but that doesn’t make me that nervous. I can do it when necessary and then I’ll just put it back on again.
Neely Quinn: Right.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: It’s all within healthy ranges but I used to feel like if I put on a kilogram I would never be able to lose it so I could never put on a kilogram and I could never eat cake. Life is miserable without cake every now and then. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Yes, it gives you a sense of control a little bit. Being able to let go of being in control all of the time, like you’re saying, is really nice. Like you said, it’s not for everybody but it seems to be working for you.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, it’s almost by having more control you need to have less control somehow?
Neely Quinn: You’re like, ‘I’m doing everything I need to, I’m doing everything I can, I’m doing the best that I can and I know that I’m giving my body what it needs.’
I think those are all the questions that I had for you. Is there anything that you feel like we missed?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: No, I don’t think so. We’ve covered quite a lot, haven’t we?
Neely Quinn: Yeah. You go to Norway and then you start working on your project this fall? This spring?
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: The fall. I’m going to go back on it in the fall. I’m not really sure how that’s going to go because I haven’t had the best run up to it with a bit of an injury and just not quite enough time to get into shape but then also you kind of never know. I’ll go and have a go but there’s also other routes I can always shift onto that would be good training routes and fun routes anyway. I can always try some other stuff.
Then, I’m actually going to go back to the Red in November. I really like that.
Neely Quinn: Oh yeah. You might be staying with Matt Pincus.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Yeah, I think we are, actually. We just booked it. That will be cool. I may be heading to the Virgin River Gorge with him afterwards. He’s talked me into it. That should be fun. I’ve not actually seen him in a long time. We met in Red Rock when David and I were over there a couple of years back.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, he says good things about you. Have so much fun in Norway. You’re going to love Flatanger.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Thank you so much. You’ve been, haven’t you? Was it last year?
Neely Quinn: Yeah, last year. It’s just the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been. I’ll probably see you in the Red because I’ll probably be there at the same time.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: Oh will you? Brilliant! That will be nice. We can chat food and climbing.
Neely Quinn: Cool. Thank you so much for all of your honesty and wisdom and insight into everything. I really appreciate it.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: You’re welcome. It’s been nice to chat. It’s gone really quickly.
Neely Quinn: Yes it has. Thanks so much.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk: You’re welcome.
Neely Quinn: I hope you enjoyed that interview with Mina Leslie-Wujastyk. If you want to learn more about her you can go to her website which is www.minaleslie-wujastyk.com. You can also find her on Instagram @minaclimbing and then she did a TEDx talk. If you just Google ‘Mina Leslie’ and ‘TEDx’ it will come up. It’s called ‘Dream Big: Find Determination in Uncertainty.’ I’ll link to all of these in the show notes.
Coming up on the show I just interviewed Dru Mack. He’s a Red River Gorge climber and he’s got incredible endurance and he’s also really strong. He’s also a super nice guy so it was great talking to him about how he trains and his positive attitude about climbing and how he maintains that as a full time climber.
I also interviewed Dalton Bunker who is another young guy crusher. He was also really great to talk to about comp climbing and his goals outside and how he trains for both. That’s what’s coming up on the show. I’m not going to make any promises anymore about when things are going to be published because life just happens.
Other than that, I am taking new nutrition clients and you can find out more about my services at www.trainingbeta.com/nutrition. I am really, really enjoying working with people, as I always do. I’m learning a ton, actually, because I’m only working with climbers at this point. I get to learn from you guys about what works and what doesn’t because I work with people on a monthly basis so we have time to experiment and see what really works. It’s been really fun seeing people lose weight when they want to lose weight, be able to perform at a higher level for longer. I have helped people with their digestive issues and autoimmune issues.
If you want help with your diet for any of those reasons or really any diet reason or health reason, you can either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or just go and sign up with me at www.trainingbeta.com/nutrition.
I think that’s all I’ve got for you today. You can always find us @trainingbeta on Instagram or Facebook and if you want to be a part of our Facebook community, it’s a training page – is that what it’s called? No, it’s a training group and there are 3,500 people in there. There’s a pretty good stream of conversations in there about training and injuries, unfortunately, but a lot of good stuff. You can go to www.trainingbeta.com/community and it will bring you straight over to that page so you can sign up.
Okay, that’s actually it for today. Thank you very much for listening all the way to the end. I really appreciate it and I’ll talk to you soon.