Bulletproofed Pukka Greens
In the run up to my water-fast (the results from that experience are coming soon) I spent 6 weeks tapering my eating habits to reduce any dietary withdrawal symptoms and ease myself into the cessation of food. One of my biggest issues for withdrawal in the past has been from caffeine.
For the last 12 months my first nutrition of the day has been Bulletproof style coffee. I use organic coffee blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil. Whilst caffeine provides many physiological benefits, it is also addictive and often causes strong reactions when we stop ingesting it.
Rather than go cold turkey, I decided to substitute the coffee with matcha green tea. This would reduce the caffeine content but still give me the good doses of fats that my body and brain seem to operate best on.
I initially used Supreme Matcha Green for my green latte. Then around the same time as I started tapering I noticed that Pukka, my favourite tea brand, had released a new matcha green tea. This one was blended with ginseng, ginger, liquorice and lemongrass.
If you haven't come across Pukka before, they are a local (Bristol UK) business who produce amazing teas and supplements. All their products are made and sourced to the highest ethical and environmental standards. I've been a massive fan of their teas for as long as I can remember and my tea cupboard at home is packed with a whole host of different varieties. It’s rare that a business goes to such great lengths to be as good as it possibly can, and they serve as an inspiration to all of us.
As soon as I tried the Ginseng Matcha Green it hit the sweet spot straight away. To my palette, when blended with the butter, it is super smooth in taste. The addition of the ginseng and other herbs adds more lovely subtle flavours. I was hooked on it straight away.
I was drinking 3 coffees per day - 1 bulletproof style, one cappuccino and one taken with double cream. Reducing to one bulletproof green first thing in the morning caused me no symptoms of caffeine withdrawal at all. Neither at the coffee/tea switch point nor starting the fast. The perfect result.
Like marmite, bulletproof green is probably not for everyone, but you never know until you give it a try.
How to make a Bulletproofed Pukka Green Latte.
Brew the Ginseng Matcha Green tea in a large cup of boiling water - you can brew it for anything between a few and 15 minutes - brew longer for more potency.
Pour this into a blender.
Add decent chunk of grass fed butter - I use about 40g per cup.
Add a splash of MCT oil.
Blend for 30 seconds.
Voila, creamy green goodness in a cup!
Climbing as help for substance addiction
A few years ago I suggested a research topic to my friend Szere.
After regularly coaching groups who suffered from substance addictions, and seeing the many positive effects that happened to most (but not all) of those people, I always knew that some form of formal scientific research would be fantastic to back these observations up. The positive effects I'd seen included an almost meditative mental focus, the stimulation of pleasure and thrill receptors, and trust in both self and others.
Szere is now looking for subjects who might wish to share their experiences, which will help others in the future. If you are based near Bristol in the UK and wish to help then please drop her an email.
DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE OF CLIMBING AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE? WILLING TO SHARE YOUR STORY?
If you are:
• Above 18 years of age
• In recovery or have experience of recovery from substance addiction (for instance drug, alcohol)
• Have experience of climbing formally or informally and would like to share your experience, I would love to hear from you, email me on:
I am a climber myself and also a trainee Counselling Psychologist at the University of the West of England.
My Doctoral research project aims to explore individuals’ personal experiences of substance addiction and climbing.
I would like to invite participants to an interview, lasting about 60 minutes, which will contain several open-ended questions and will give the opportunity to reflect on own personal experience of substance addiction and climbing.
If you know of someone who might be interested to take part, please feel free to share this message!
The Voice In My Head
I have a voice talking inside my head.
My inner critic.
It’s always been there.
For as long as I can remember.
It was my identity!
But it was incessant.
And recently it’s started to shut up.
Now I know it’s not a part of who I am.
It took a while to realise that.
To see it for what it really is.
And viral invader.
It seems that we all have one too.
At least one.
That includes you.
The critic is rarely nice to you.
Or anyone else for that matter!
Denying it’s existence increases it’s hold.
It feeds on our fears.
So recognise it for what it is.
But it wasn’t always this way.
The critic was once a good friend.
A form of protection.
To navigate the uncertainty of life.
We were developing.
A memory of rules and judgements.
Based on interpretations.
The reactions of others towards us.
But now it’s still trying to protect us.
With those same rules.
It was a part of my identity!
But it was incessant.
And recently it’s started to shut up.
Now I know it’s not a part of who I am.
With those same judgements.
It’s an echo from our past.
And now it’s stuck like a damaged record.
Keeping us from our present.
Some people have more than one critic.
And some even have voices who aren’t the critic.
I don’t envy their lot.
Just the critic is bad enough.
The critic doesn’t have to be part of who you are.
But realise also.
There’s no instant fix.
No immediate on-off switch.
Acknowledgement will take it’s power away.
Sit in silence.
Or walk in nature.
Watch without judgement.
Thoughts come and go.
Ideas come and go.
The critic talks.
We converse with it.
So stop talking back!
Just be observant.
Always without judgement.
Are you watching?
Good.Stay with me.
So here’s the thing.
Can you answer.
An observational question or two?
Are you those thoughts coming and going?
Or are you the one who observes those thoughts coming and going?
Think about that.
Watch some more.
Are you that negative chatter?
Or are you the one who observes that negative chatter?
Do you understand?
You are not your thoughts.
The critic is not you.
The more you observe, the more the critic shrinks.
It’s loss of power frees your mind.
Now you can flick that switch.
And see through different eyes.
The Climbers Essentials #1 - Armaid
Before I extoll the virtues of the mighty Armaid, I will be straight with you. I have a vested interest in their importation into Europe.
I bought my Armaid mail order from the US whilst experimenting with every conceivable idea to try and heal my own elbow problems. Plagued with issues on and off for 30 years, it was an absolute godsend. It was the first tool that actually made a real difference to me. With this in mind, we decided it was just too important not to bring it into Europe, and we now distribute it to help others with their own often debilitating elbow and lower arm issues.
I never sing the praises of any kit that I don’t directly use myself, or that I feel is not also of great benefit to others. My recommendations come from the heart and not the wallet, but you can each read into that what you will...
So what is this strange oversize nut-cracker contraption that looks like a medieval torture device?
It’s a self massage tool designed by American physiotherapist Terry Cross.
It's width adjustable to suit your forearm size and also easy to swap the type and severity of the rollers which changes the massage experience.
I only ever use the single orange roller designed for heavier muscle as I find this much better for pinpointing the exact spots that I wish to work on. I also have a high tolerance to discomfort that others may not.
Recently upgraded, the pin that locks the rollers in place is now much more secure than on the original units. I lost two of the original pins but this one is nice and tight and has proved to be secure even whilst travelling regularly.
There is a leg strap for your thigh to keep it upright and put you in a comfortable sitting position to use it. Being of short stature I have never used this and just place the base on the chair between my legs.
The base and upright articulate via a ball and socket. This makes an easy job of getting the correct angles for working on any part of the lower arms.
The shape's ok to travel with it in a rucksack or cargo bag. I find that it is better going in a rucksack base down, and then pack around it. I usually wrap a towel or a pair of jeans around the body. You can also dismantle the floating arm if you wish to narrow the profile further. I often taken it in my hand luggage on flights, and if I'm going anywhere for more than a couple days, it goes along too. All the parts are made of strong plastic and are tough and light.
Now down to the nitty gritty. Adjust the width of the device by turning the floating arm by 90 degrees and sliding it into one of the five positions.
Next pop your lower arm into the jaws and hold the two arms together with your free hand. Find the spot you wish to work on by moving your arm through the roller(s) and adjust the pressure by squeezing or relaxing your grip on the jaws.
Start with long gentle sweeping strokes along the whole length of the muscles. You will soon be able to discern tissue that is under tension, knots, and even little lumps of scar tissue if present. Use a light pressure, especially if you are new to this treatment and guide the roller repeatedly to explore your arms. There's a big mechanical advantage so be careful not to squeeze the top too tight.
It doesn’t happen to everybody, but some people experience a flushing phenomena on their first Armaid use. There is a reaction that causes areas of the arms to look like they are heavily bruised and can be alarming. However they are not actually bruised and if it does happen to you as it did to me, it goes away after the first few days and happens only the once. It provides a pretty interesting conversation starter though.
Muscular tension tends to respond well to the sweeping strokes of general massage. You will often discover a singular point that is more sensitive than other areas and it might sometimes be hard and painful. This is known as a trigger point. Put gentle but constant pressure on this point for a sustained period and it will often release tension in the whole area that it effects. As it relaxes, slowly increase the pressure to suit. Finish again with long sweeping massage strokes.
I find it’s best to do a little and often.
For all chronic issues use the Armaid as part of a multi treatment approach.
If you have golfers or tennis elbow then go easy on the damaged areas around the elbow to start with, they will probably be quite painful. In conjunction, make sure you research the best therapeutic exercises for your condition and do them regularly. Dry needling (acupuncture) is often a great help too.
Now be aware that there’s nothing that the Armaid can do that you cannot do with a selection of other tools if you are very determined. Many people would rather stick with their comforting collection of thumbs, squash balls, golf balls, tennis balls, lacrosse ball, baked bean cans etc, than spend the equivalent of two massages on an Armaid.
Each to their own.
However I try to simplify my life as much as I can. I always find that by making any process as straight forward as possible, the more likely I am to do it, and to keep on doing it.
Combine the therapeutic with some inspiration. Sit on the sofa for 5 minutes per arm whilst watching Chris Sharma send another amazing Oliana project. Just a few minutes a day performed regularly will have tight and tough tissue becoming noticeably softer.
These are your only set of arms. Love them and look after them!
In the US: www.armaid.com
In Europe: www.theclimbingacademy.com
We All Need Good Friends
Once in a blue moon an innovation comes along that changes the game in every way.
Back in the 70's, US climber Ray Jardine did just that and turned crack climbing on it's head with his invention of the Friend.
This ingenious camming device allowed previously unprotectable territory to be ascended without resort to aid climbing (climbing by placing and pulling on equipment).
Mark Vallance of Wild Country saw these on a visit to the states and envisioned the potential of producing them for climbers across the globe.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Tension Awareness & Release
When I was younger I used to train and box, having a number of amateur bouts. One thing I was shown that has stayed with me, and I have shown to countless others since, is a great way of recognising and releasing tension within the body.
When we are climbing, or engaged in any other activity, we want to use as little force as possible to ensure progress. However it is usual that many of the muscles that should be relaxed during certain movements are firing unnecessarily.
Once practiced enough, it is very easy to spot extraneous muscular tension, even during cruxes. This exercise is also great to do if you’ve had a stressful day and are finding hard to unwind.
So how do you do it?
First start by lying flat on the floor.
Settle into a relaxed state where your breathing is regular and smooth. This may take a few minutes.
Now you are going to move through the body squeezing certain muscle groups for 10 seconds, and then you will let them relax again.
Start with the feet, curl your toes tight but isolate them from the calf muscles. Hold and then relax.
Notice the release of tension and understand the difference between the two states. When you are ready it’s time to move on.
Pull the calves up as hard as you can in isolation and repeat the process.
Tense your quads in isolation and repeat.
Clench your buttocks and repeat.
Scrunch your abs and repeat.
Flex your pecs. Many people find it hard to isolate the chest muscles but it comes with practice.
Tense the lats (the wings under your armpits).
Tense the upper arms, this will fire the shoulders too.
Roll your fingers inwards so your hands are in a tight ball. Your forearms will be firing when you squeeze.
Lastly squeeze your facial and tense your neck - everyone is beautiful but make the ugliest face that you can - no-one is watching.
And then relax.
Notice how light you feel and try to remember that feeling of tension release in everything you do. With a bit of regular practice you will be doing it automatically, in everything do do.
In moments of danger or perceived danger, our unconditioned body might well cause abnormal tension, and most things go straight out of the window.
Condition yourself to do this whilst doing easy climbing or bouldering in safety. Stop on a jug and find a rest position. Now quickly monitor your body. What’s under tension and if so, should it be?
If it is unnecessary tension then see if you can relax it just by being aware. It gets easier the more you try.
When this becomes 2nd nature, start to slowly stress proof it in more taxing situations.
My Pre-fast Supplement Regime
Before I started a long fast I wanted to rid myself of as much heavy metal toxicity as possible, so as to lessen the load whilst I was on a water diet.
I had 7 mercury almagam fillings removed last year, which I'd carried since childhood. I also remember breaking apart puzzles containing mercury (it was normal at that time) and handling it at school. Not to mention all the environmental toxins that we ingest, breathe and store in tissues.
On previous shorter fasts I also suffered heavily on day 2 and 3, to the point of constant muscle aches, headaches and listlessness. By day 4 I always felt fine but I would spend those agonising 2 days wondering what the hell was going on. So this time I dropped coffee 6 weeks out and started a hefty supplement regime.
Did it work?
During the supplement stage I became clumsy, and often tired and had numerous low grade headaches, all signs of the detox process. When I started the water fast I felt no symptoms at all for the first 5 days, so I can only deduce that it had a positive affect, and provided a great foundation for what was to follow.
I am still using fulvic acid to remineralise filtered water during the fasting process.
Here's my Detox supplement list, but as always do your own research and get professional advice where relevant:
Glutathione is the body’s most important substance for the removal of all toxins. It should be produced naturally but our environmental toxins and poor diets usually keep our glutathione production suppressed. Glutathione needs to be taken in liposmal form on an empty stomach for absorption.
Magnesium displaces toxic heavy metals from the body and protects our cells, and is an essential factor of any chelation program. Using magnesium oil allows effective absorption through the skin, at far greater amounts that might come from food or oral consumption. It does make your skin tingle though.
Slow Down Go Fast
What’s all that not eating nonsense about?
Funny you should ask as i”m currently 7 days in to a water fast.
A water fast is just what it says on the tin, a period of time that you spend drinking water only, and it’s probably the most challenging but rewarding kind of fast to undertake.
Fasting is one of the oldest forms of medicine known to man and is also very apparent if you take a look at the kingdom of wild animals.
Fasting should not be considered in the same vein as deliberate starving, irregular eating patters, or dietary disorders. Always do your own comprehensive research, and seek professional advice where necessary.
Although it has been used to treat multiple types of illness, it also has an amazing effect of clearing your mind and giving your digestive system a complete rest. Eating and digestion are one of our biggest energy draws, and by refraining for a period of time, this energy gets redirected to repairing and rejuvenating areas of our system that otherwise do not get a look in.
By not eating, the body switches quickly into a state of ketosis, whereby fuel comes from burning the body’s fat stores. Your body composition will therefore dictate how long you can comfortably fast. You can also get into ketosis without fasting and we’ll look at that soon.
The thought of not eating terrifies most people, yet a symptom of modern day life is that we eat far too much, and because of bad dietary advice (mostly sponsored by multi-nation corporations with a vested interest in making pots of money at any cost) most of what we do consume is nutritionally very poor.
Here are my top tips if you ever feel like fasting yourself.
1) Start small with fresh vegetable juice or vegetable broth, just try a day every now and again, and if that seems bearable to you then try two.
2) Take a break and fast when you don’t have to work or engage in any physical activity. This is very important for longer fasts as you want to use all of that energy for self rejuvenation.
3) Get away from your normal routine, preferably somewhere warm and quiet.
4) Plan to do very little except read and rest and watch the mountains or ocean.
5) Make friends or partners aware that you might get a little cranky.
6) Drink plenty of water.
7) Get some support - make sure those around you, wherever you are, are positive and know what you are doing.
8) For longer fasts (more than 2 days) do some proper preparation.
9) Break your fast with small quantities of easily digestible fruit.
So to fulfil many of the points above, I’ve taken time off and come to beautiful Costa Rica. It’s warm, even in the frequent tropical downpours, and I have an almost deserted beach on which to watch and listen to the waves roll in. I drink 4 litres of filtered water a day and it’s as stress free as I can imagine.
I prepared by tapering my eating patterns for two months before flying out, cutting out coffee, sugars and grains, and finally cutting down to one solid meal per day in the evening (intermittent fasting). I also took a supplement regime to kickstart the detoxification process and I’ll talk about that in the next post as a month of that proved to be incredible on it’s own.
And how long will the fast last - that’s a good question? I’ve done a few slightly different 7 day fasts in the past, (with a little juice and supplementation) but never a pure water fast, so tomorrow I venture into new territory. I’m trusting that my body and subconscious will tell me when the time is right to break.
For more info here’s a good pro-fasting article to kickstart your research - http://www.falconblanco.com/health/fasting.htm
Like Bruce Willis, Old Habits Die Hard
If you've not done so, read the previous post - Forming Positive Habits before snacking on this morsel.
We’ve seen that it’s fairly straight forward to create a new positive habit, but changing an existing negative habit is a different kettle of slippery fish.
This has much to do with the way our brain works. New habits are initialised in the thinking part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex - we think about doing the action, then do the action enough times until it happens whenever it’s triggered. This automation happens in the old part of our brains, which is more efficient, hence the trigger fires the action and not our thought process.
This is also why it can be extremely challenging to break a negative habit. Despite our best intentions, no matter how much we think we want to change an outcome, the mammalian reflex overrules the new intention and the compulsive behaviour, whether it’s an action, thought or feeling, remains.
This can be frustrating, and these compulsive behaviours, in extreme cases, can make our live’s a misery, despite the deep desire to banish them.
Knowing both the trigger and the reward is key to changing a habit.
Watch yourself closely and find what triggers the habit. It could be a time, event, emotion, a person or a place that sets it off. Do you:
Eat when bored?
Smoke when others do?
Shop when stressed?
Drink when lonely?
Maybe you go to the climbing wall with the intention of a full session and always end up socialising instead.
Or not warming up.
Or you get sucked into off-plan problems that others are trying.
Or you have coffee instead of water mid session.
Become adept at observing yourself and note the triggers. Ask your closest friends for their observations too - you might learn things that you are unwilling to recognise yourself.
Results or rewards
Our habits, whether positive or negative, meet some kind of need. They might be a way to cope with stress, boredom, sadness, loneliness, or they could be way holding power or superiority over others. They might help you socialise or be a treat that you give yourself.
For each trigger that you have recognised, it is essential that you also find the result or reward. This might not always be obvious to you.
Replace the habit
When the inevitable trigger gets pulled, you can’t just ignore the old habit as it will leave a specific need unfulfilled. You need an alternative habit to fill that void. One for each of your triggers. Go for a walk, do 10 pull ups, have a glass of water, the list is endless but make it positive.
Now when the trigger is pulled do the new habit. Do it enough times and it will become automatic, and the old one will be banished. However you will need to notice when the trigger goes, and be aware that it might happen when you least expect it - be observant and watch your thoughts as we justify our old habits by making excuses for them. Be strong, especially when you feel like giving up, which will inevitably happen from time to time.
1. Being a popular guy, I aways get drawn into chatting at the wall or joining in with others sessions. This made it quite tough to follow my own plan. The trigger was just coming into the gym and seeing other climbers I know, and the reward was the banter and laughter and camaraderie. Even though there was music playing constantly, I started to put headphones on which created a mental barrier with everyone else and put me in the training mood. Unsurprisingly others tend not to approach you when you have headphones on and look psyched either. When I finished my session I could chat with all my friends.
2. Road rage is so common to not be unusual. Once upon a time, if someone cut me, I would get pretty pissed off and do the usual shouting, light flashing and driving up their arse antics. It did my state of mind no good whatsoever. The trigger was their action and the reward was my condemnation and feeling of being wronged. I learned to let it go by imagining them in a mad rush to get home to a sad and meaningless life, and I then felt sorry for them rather than angry. These days I know that cutting people up is their bad habit, hopefully they’ll recognise that too.
We all mess up from time to time. Recognise it, accept it, and learn from it - don’t let it derail your momentum.
Tell your closest friends what you are doing and let them support you. They can also avoid situations with you that fire your triggers if they are aware of them and your desire for positive change.
If your friends are the trigger then that’s another story altogether…
Forming Positive Habits
Habits are funny things.
They can be thoughts, emotions or behaviours, and negative habits are easily acquired but difficult to budge, despite our often unsuccessful efforts to banish the naughty little blighters.
However, knowing the precise make up of a habit allows us to create and reinforce positive patterns that we wish to repeat in the future.
All habits consist of a three part cycle.
1) The Trigger
2) The Routine
3) The Result (or Reward)
The trigger is an event that fires the habit into motion, the routine is the behaviour, emotion or thought that you perform, and the result is the benefit associated with the routine.
Any action performed repeatedly becomes cast into a pattern. This pattern can then be made again and again with an equal economy of effort.
So how does positive habit creation work in practice?
Let’s say I’m sedentary and would like to do 30 minutes of cardio every weekday. I decide to start small and do 20 minutes per weekday for 2 weeks, and then expand it to 30 minutes when my body is better tuned. I’m also going to make it easy by laying out my kit the night before.
First I need to decide on a trigger. Time or location are great for this. I decide to set my alarm 30 minutes early, at 5.30am.
When the alarm goes off I put on my shorts and trainers and head straight out the door. I set my watch on 20 minutes countdown and jog away from my house for 13 minutes. Then I jog back towards home for 7 minutes a little faster, followed by 5 minutes of walking as a cool down. I’m back in the house and jumping in the shower at 6am, invigorated, clear headed and looking forward to breakfast.
After 2 weeks the habit is forming and I look forward to the run each day. I now set my alarm for 5.20am and plan the run accordingly for the new time scale.
So my morning alarm is the trigger, the run is the routine, and the great feeling of satisfaction I have afterwards is the reward.
Positive practices take time and energy to become habitual - it is thought that 80 days is the optimum period for habitualization. Therefore it’s important that you reinforce the process until it is second nature.
In the next post we will look at banishing those pesky negative habits.
Oh and don’t confuse habits with willpower - that’s something else we’ll discuss soon.
Climbers Warm Up!
At the wall or the crag, you usually see some bizarre warm up practices, and often you see no warm up activities at all. There are a lot of people doing a lot of things so let’s look at a warm up routine that is simple and effective.
What exactly is a warm up?
Warming up gets your body and mind prepared for activity.
This preparation does many useful things:
Increases heart rate, temperature and blood flow (oxygen and nutrients)
Gets the body ready for certain exercises
Allows for enhanced movement of joints
Provides mental separation from your work, life and other potential stresses
It doesn’t have to be long and protracted - the easier it is the more likely you’ll do it - simple is always better - but a few minutes of targeted warming up each session will really help. Good things come in threes so let’s follow suit.
1. Get Warm - 5 minutes
The first stage is the classic pulse raiser. Jogging, cycling, skipping (rope or ropeless) and star jumps are all good for this. Be gentle with yourself, especially if you’ve just woken up or have been sitting down all day. Start easy and build up gradually over 5 minutes so that you can feel your heart beating faster and your body producing heat.
2. Get Dynamic - 5 minutes
A few dynamic stretches are the best way to tick a lot of boxes in the warm up process. Dynamic stretches use muscles to make active movements, and unlike the more traditional static stretches, are not held in the end (stretched) position. Always do dynamic stretches in a slow controlled fashion after your ‘get warm’ exercise, but before your main activity. Two great dynamic warm up exercises for climbers are Inchworms and the fluid Sun Salutation sequence from yoga (go to a class on your rest day). You are validating your working range of motion so don’t push it.
These compound exercises work really well once learnt but if you want to add individual movements then this warm up demonstration from Jonathan Siegrist gives plenty of ideas.
You can rotate or swing almost anything but but please avoid neck rotations - just move the head from side to side and forward to back.
More advanced climbers can prime their CNS (central nervous system) by adding a few ballistic movements like clap pushups or ballistic pull-ups at this stage.
3. Get Real - 10 minutes
The third warm up phase is an easier version of the main event. Climb some very easy (for you) boulder problems or a low grade route or two. Use this time to concentrate on some technique drills or footwork improvement.
After 10 minutes of easy climbing you can gradually step it up and you’ll have a good foundation for your session.
There you are - an effective 20 minute warm up of which 10 minutes is actually climbing.
The Warm Up summary:
1. Keep it simple.
2. Do it.
Do You Feel Lucky Punk?
Do you ever notice how some people have more luck than others? That positive things seem to happen to certain individuals time and time again.
Jammy bastards we used to call them!
One of my very good friends was always the jammiest bastard of anybody I have ever known. Good things appeared to happen over and over, creating a King Midas-like reputation in our social circle. But was he just exceptionally lucky, or was there something deeper at work?
For many of us luck is a strange concept. We see it as something magical that materialises out of thin air. We never really dig down and discover why some lucky people are lucky, and why some unlucky people are not.
But peer behind the magic facade, and you’ll discover some interesting ‘luck science’.
Let’s first consider the common definition of luck:
Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions.
The key word in this definition is ‘apparently’.
The boffins who have given this some serious thought time have reasoned that luck is the intersection of two factors, preparation and opportunity.
So what’s going on?
Preparation is getting ready. Work hard and learn your craft, whatever that may be. Immerse yourself.
Focus on your goal but accept that plans will and do change along the way. The path you walk should be just as important as the destination.
Take action, try things and fail forward. Learning and experience are part of the prep work.
Be curious and welcome new ideas.
The sum of your previous experiences have led you to this point so let intuition take over and guide you. Quiet the mind, banish negativity and tender a positive mindset. Respect your hunches.
Potential opportunities are only actual opportunities if you recognise them as such. Take action to turn them into reality - without action they are nothing but wishful ideas.
Opportunity may be missed because your focus is too narrow, be open to related pathways, follow the rabbit and see where it goes.
Every opportunity leads to another - don’t ever be complacent just because one good thing happens.
Here’s the third angle. I believe that there is a just-as-important intersecting factor, passion. Passion acts as a catalyst and can boost the preparation/opportunity theory into turbo mode.
Be outwardly passionate about the things you love and opportunities will multiply. Your positive energy will affect people in a different way - many will also recognise your pathway and be able to visualise your goal. They will enter into an unspoken contract to help you forward your progress. Maybe not immediately, but when they see an opportunity that they recognise for you, they will reward you with their help.
Be generous with your time and money, and share your information with others. This will reap further opportunity. Help people who help you, and especially help those people who don’t.
Be passionate, don’t be overbearing. And don’t be a stalker!
The Essence Of Learning
Why does learning come easy for some and not for others?
For as long as I can recall, I have been one of those unfortunate people who hardly every remembers things. And not just the trivial crap either, all that inconsequential chaff that we wish we’d never lost time over in the first place, but important stuff too. I forget names, places, things that I’d done, even people that I’ve worked with! It might even be embarrassing if hadn’t forgotten the meaning that word at opportune times too.
Are some of our brains is wired in a different way, designed to self clean at every opportunity?
Is there an automatic squeegee constantly going back and forth, polishing the whiteboard inside my skull, removing any impermanent ink as fast as it can be written?
It does seem that way sometimes. On the plus side I’ve got a lovely gleaming piece of minimalist artwork sitting there, you should see it - it’s beautiful! It’s probably worth a small fortune too…
Where was I? Oh yes, an all too short attention span, coupled with an intense dislike of attempting to remember formula and facts, simply to regurgitate them at school exams may have been a factor of course, but that’s another story entirely!
So where is all that information that I’ve seen and heard and smelt and read and experienced? I have no idea where most of those memories have gone, they will be hidden away somewhere, but there are many I intend to relocate when the mood takes me. I’ll be sharing that journey and the techniques that I explore, especially ones that work for me with you.
Aside from the hilarity of my own memory woes, the way we are fed information in the first place has a massive bearing on what we take in. Having a passion for something is the first, and the biggest factor in my book. So firstly we should do the stuff that interests us, we will find ourselves naturally wanting to learn more about it.
So now that we have something that’s really worth learning about, we have to consider the process that we use for that learning. William Glasser’s research into the effectiveness of learning methods is a good guide for us to follow.
Ten percent of what we read
Twenty percent of what we hear
Thirty percent of what we see
Fifty percent of what we see and hear
Seventy percent of what we discuss
Eighty percent of what we experience
Ninety five percent of what we we teach others
Therefore the more we are immersed into a subject, the better we learn about it. Maybe this is why we are so animated in the pub with our peers after climbing, to the amusement of everyone else. We instinctively know that mimicking moves, breaking down routes, and discussing training techniques is more effective of our time than just being at home watching videos or reading books?
This is a reason why we should all consider being coached, even those of us who let our egos think we are above being helped in this way, and why we should also coach others, formally or informally.
That is until matrix style learning becomes reality - and it won’t be long now! Kung Fu anybody…
Stop Exercising & Stop Starving
Stop exercising and stop starving
To lose weight.
It doesn’t work!
We are doing more exercise and embarking on more diets, yet we are getting fatter as a species every day. We are at a ridiculous point where we are moving the goalposts of what we define as overweight in the wrong direction. Let’s just accept it - something is broken and it needs to be fixed!
Let’s consider both of these erroneous weight loss methods, sometimes tried in combination to doubly screw with your mind.
Calorie restriction, in simple terms is starvation or semi starvation - it’s under-eating.
Not the eating, the under-eating part!
it simply doesn’t work.
Those who commit to calorie restrictive diets might lose 9 to 10lbs in the first 6 months but are almost always back to their original weight after 9 to12 months. But now they are unhappy that they have failed, carrying all the negative psychological effects that go along with that.
Calorie restriction (otherwise known as starvation) programmes our bodies to eat more - it’s telling us to find food.
Fighting starvation becomes harder everyday for mind and body. It’s possible for all of us to start out with good intentions, but it’s not easy to starve ourselves on an ongoing basis.
We can lose weight without starving - more of that to come at a later date.
And what about exercise?
What happens when we get on the bike, race up 30 routes or start pounding circuits around the park? We burn energy at a faster rate and our programming tells us to eat more. Appetite increases with physical exercise.
If we don’t increase the fuel load we start to function abnormally, both physically and psychologically. Our fine tuned system starts to break.
So stop starving yourself and if you want to exercise, then do it because you like it, not because of some hair-brained idea that you will lose a shed load of weight.
Exercise makes us feel invigorated. There is something primally satisfying about running in the hills, scrambling over rocks and swimming in the ocean. It makes our heart sing.
So exercise because you love exercising. But remember it will increase your appetite too.
Goal Setters Or System Followers?
This is a hot topic on the wonderful world wide web, with a lot of experts, both in sport circles and in business, leaping on the bandwagon to diss the age-old-habit of goal setting, and instead, preach the godly path of system righteousness.
I’d like to jump in with my own ideas, explore this in a little detail, and decide how we might choose between these two camps.
A goal is a user defined milestone, in our case as climbers, usually a route or boulder problem that we aspire to send.
A system is the process we use to improve and work towards that send, and for us it could be as elaborate as a formulated training plan, or as simple as our commitment to keep our regular session timetable.
So what exactly is wrong with those goals that we’ve been setting all our lives?
Self worth: Many of us get so entwined and fixated with our goals that our self esteem becomes linked to them too. We’d all be rich if we had a dollar/pound/euro/shekel every-time that we’ve heard a climber at the gym or the crag say “Once I climb X then I’ll be happy”? This heaps a pile of negative pressure onto oneself, implying that happiness, for that individual, is intrinsically linked to a goal which, for many reasons, might even be unobtainable.
Continuous failure: Some people thrive in a state of near continuous failure, striving for outlandish targets, but for many of us it creates constant despair. Don’t kick a man while he’s down they say, yet we do this to ourselves everyday by living our lives in a state of non-accomplishment. Unrealistic goals are a killer of passion, and passion is the essence that drives us forward.
Post goal motivation: We throw our fist is in the air and our lungs vocalise euphoria in a moment of perfection as we achieve that big goal, creaming our lifetime-so-far ambition. But as the warm glow fades to memory, motivation wanes with with the absence of the all consuming light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve topped our pedestal and now face setting ourselves another future goal, another long mountain to climb. But do we really want to start over and put ourselves through that process of pain and commitment again, or should we just go surfing instead?
Loss of control: Goal setting generally involves linking actions to time frames, often unrealistic time frames. We feel guilty if we do not achieve these, and more often than not, life will throw a curveball into the mix. We might get ill or injured, or a summer of weddings might rob our precious weekends at the crag. Through no fault of our own, we’ve lost control of our goal. We might be tempted to try and fast-track what we’ve lost and overtrain, or we might have to surrender and settle for less. Some of us might give up the dream entirely and that’s a chunk of our soul that will be lost forever!
Who needs a goal: If you forget that you ever set goals and concentrate on your system you will still get results!
That’s a lot of bad press for goal setting, and those negatives are flipped round into benefits of systems. By focusing on the practice and not the goal, the system is something we do on a regular basis and brings positives regardless of outcome. We can enjoy the moment without fear of long term failure, and lessen pressure to push into the redline and overtrain or risk injury. Every time we apply the system we know success because we have carried out our intention. And despite the lack of a triumphant goal finishing ejaculation, we receive small but constant and repeatable moments of happiness.
So back to the question and whether climbers should be goal setters or system followers?
My answer is both.
Climbers are not chasing a clock time or the under par glory of a linear based sport. We’ll never face off against a wall of All-Blacks and we’ll never be sat in a league table trying to one up our ‘noisy neighbours’. Speed climbing excepted, even our comps are mostly non linear. Stop and think about it, it’s actually a 3rd party, the route setter who challenges the participants, our magnificent gladiators pitting skills in the ring against each other is just a fancy show for the masses.
If we’re training for training’s sake or simply climbing for the pure joy of movement, then the system is all we need, it is the goal. But if we wish to push forward to betterment then having a shining light that guides us is imperative.
Routes and boulders inspire us, they drive our passion and entice us to improve our minds, our fitness and our skills to seduce their challenge.
Implement the best of both worlds - why ever settle for one when we can have two! We need those routes to serve as our goals but be wary of the unobtainable - keep an eye on the future but try not to nail yourself to the cross. Set frequent reasonable goals to push forward progress. Small increments are your motivational yardstick and these measurable achievements will keep you going where others falter. Cherish the process of betterment, and try to improve something everyday, no matter how small.
Ten Years Of Hard Graft!
As a broad rule of thumb, it is perceived that reaching excellence (into the top 5 percent) in any skill or sport conforms to the ten thousand hour rule.
That’s ten thousand hour’s of our actual time to acquire the expertise of any complex task. And climbing is nothing if not complex.
To break that down further:
Ten thousand hours of practice
Is one thousand hours per year
Roughly twenty hours per week
Or nearly 3 hours per day - for the next ten years!
And furthermore, the key to accomplishment or mastery is not just the act of participation, but engaging practice that is focused and meaningful.
So why ten years? It’s a guide for the majority based on sustainability. It is difficult to engage in high quality of practice for most people for more than twenty hours per week.
But there’s great news for the majority of us. Climbing is an activity with multiple layers of gratification. We don’t need to obtain mastery, as fun, health, camaraderie and success are all bountifully available to us at every step of the way, however far we choose to take the journey.
And for those who wish to be the very best? We are now starting to recognise ways of reducing that ten thousand hour rule with specific learning triggers. There are emerging stories of excellence, especially in military specialisations, that are being regularly achieved with five thousand hours of focused practice, and that is a massive step forward. Therefore if you can afford the time and dedication of forty hours per week to your practice, it means that you could be at an elite level for certain complex activities within 3 years!
This is a topic to explore more deeply as we journey onwards.
But if you do desire to be at the top, whether it takes ten or even a mere five thousand hours, you will need to surrender to your sentence and prepare to do some serious time.
Coaching Tip: Unlock Your Twistlock
Early into my coaching career I recognised that I would have to find a foolproof way of explaining a potentially complicated movement. A movement that does not come easy for many in either concept or execution. I needed a method that removed any ambiguity or guesswork from the equation, one that could be grasped by youngsters and adults alike.
What’s known best as the twistlock or Egyptian, is perhaps the single most important movement for any climber, old or new, to learn. I call it the Eureka movement of rock climbing. Once this technique is autonomous, real progress is possible.
I had to think hard, to chunk down, find the essence.
I had to forgot the WHY. I had struggling students in front of me. I focused on the HOW. And then I let go!
Great coaches make concepts simple and immediate, climbers need them to be foolproof.
So I pondered.
I pondered a bit more.
At some point of it’s own accord, my own eureka moment came.
Just ask one question!
Which hand do you want to move?
It was that easy.
Ask your student. Ask yourself.
Novices, experts, coaches, kids - ask the same question to everyone.
Which hand do you want to move?
If you want to move your left hand, you turn your left hip in. If you want to move your right hand, you turn your right hip in.
Left Hand Left Hip, Right Hand Right Hip.
Simple to visualise, simple to remember. Why didn’t I think of it before!
It is the essence of the twistlock movement, the rest is icing on the cake.
But we love icing, so fear not. I will dive in and explore all the sweet sugar coated detail in future posts.
Bonus Coaching tip - If you are left/right challenged like me then substitute all the fancy left and right business for ’same hand same hip’.