After what was a great summer climbing season, I developed a case of elbow tendinitis. I decided that, rather than keep pushing through it, which would likely end poorly, I would take it easy for a few weeks and rehabilitate. On top of the icing, scraping, stretching, and NSAID use, I decided to take a climbing movement class at City Rock in Colorado Springs. I figured, what better way to use my rehab time than to focus my energy on developing some better technique. I thought I’d share my experiences from this class in my blog, so here goes.
My wife Sylvia and I are taking the level 1 (of 4) class, which focuses on four basic climbing topics; footwork, balance, straight arms, and momentum. The class started out with an overview of the philosophy to be seen throughout the class. I found the philosophy, one of developing good habits through deliberate repetition in a controlled environment, very interesting because it is very well aligned with what Jeff Elison and I write extensively about in our book, Vertical Mind (due out soon). Jeff and I write about the formation of scripts, and you can read a little more in this recent blog post.
The first class focused on footwork, with an extreme focus on precise foot placement, and focusing weight on the tip/toe of your climbing shoe. The drills forced the class to move extremely slow and precisely place their feet on specific holds or parts of holds pointed to by the instructor. We also did a drill where wine corks were placed on footholds, making them very hard to use. The corks also fell off the holds easily and the goal was to use as many footholds with corks on them as possible, while not knocking any off. This is harder than it sounds. The focus on using the tip/toe of the show made me think of a training video that I made about the anatomy of the human foot and how it plays into climbing footwork. You can watch the video here.
The drills in the class reminded me of drills I did when I first started climbing. People at Rocksport, the gym I used to climb at in New York, were footwork fanatics and the result is that I developed good footwork early on. Despite having done drills like this in the past, I found that the class made me rethink how I train my footwork. I’ll be practicing these drills in the upcoming weeks and I hope that it results in better movement when the going gets tough. Stay tuned as I report out on the balance, straight arms, and momentum classes.