Archive for August, 2012

Hell Week half gone

I said yesterday that I had found my groove. This was not entirely true. Not that I lied. I would never lie to you. At least not about his. No. Surely not?

Turns out that as long as I am home, or ambling along on my walks I am fine. Or as fine as you can be when it feels like you are on a hunger strike to free Palestine or a similar worthy cause. But when I set foot in the shops, strange things happen. Today I went to get more juice supplies, and as soon as I walked through the doors candy bars started floating around in my head, and coke commercials started running in front of my eyes. And as I walked past the shelf with Guinness and Kilkenny I could swear I hard a voice with a Brit accent say: “Two pints of bitter and a packet of crisps, please”.

In the end I stayed mostly strong and ended up with only a small flask of banana, passionfruit and mango smoothie in addition to my planned supplies. At 120 calories, I would not count that as a major disaster. But it was not terribly good either, which might make my next visit even harder…

I also got a comment saying I should eat and boulder instead of this fasting crap. I had hoped to explain it well enough, but maybe I have taken a shortcut or two in that department? Or maybe I just assume everyone will see the wisdom of my choice and agree with me? Upon thinking about it I realize that even though I feel I have sound arguments for doing what I am doing, there still might be people who disagree with it. And that is certainly fine. In fact, I invite it.

In case I have not thoroughly explained the situation, the basis of my decision, and the rationale behind the process I will explain it here as well as I can.

I am currently somewhere between 10-15 kilo overweight. It is hard to say exactly, because I started gaining weight (aka getting fat) when I was 20. At that time I weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 kilo. I have obviously matured, and it is probable that my body (sans fat) is now closer to 70 kilo. But I am still a skinny little bastard underneath the fat so I really doubt my “normal” weight is above 70 kilo. And so it stands to reason that at my current weight of about 82 kilo, I am ca 12 kilo overweight. Anyone climbing will know that such a burden makes it hard to scale steep terrain.

All my experiences show that when I go through a period of not climbing, but dropping weight, I climb harder grades upon my return to climbing, than I did when I left off (typically an off season process). It is also generally accepted in training circles that if you are overweight, the single quickest way to increase strength relative to your body weight (as in ability to do push ups, pull ups, etc) is to lose weight because it is a much quicker process than increasing muscle mass and strength.

Now, prolonged dieting will reduce muscle mass as the body uses the protein in the muscles for fuel. This is why I have generally stuck to the “one kilo per week” approach. It is considered to be healthy, and has allowed me to train hard at the same time, both cardio and strength. For various reasons, I have not followed my traditional regimen this spring (post trip depression and what have you), and so I am behind schedule. There is also a trip to Thailand coming up in 2,5 weeks. This has made me decide to jump-start the process of achieving “match weight”. Originally planned for completion around christmas, with a standard “one kilo per week” schedule. The goal is still to get there by christmas, but I am attempting to increase my relative strength as much as possible before my trip.

One week of fasting will, according to the literature I have read, not compromise my muscles in any significant way, while I can reduce my body weight significantly. The only worry in this set up, is that only one week between the fasting will not be enough to reverse the “famine response” and make the body store most of the energy I consume that week as new fat, and continue to work with a low metabolism during my second week of fasting. I will monitor this closely, of course, and if it proves to be the case I will reduce energy intake in the second week, and abort the next fasting cycle.

Of course my knee trouble greatly affects the benefits of my fasting week, and will limit my ability to train as hard as required in the following cycle. It remains to see how this affects the net result, but I am still hoping for a significant reduction in body fat.

I will also put it to you, that if you are thin, and has always been thin, you are not really in a position to understand my situation. A situation where my use of good technique is limited because I simply do not have the strength to hold on while flagging, performing a drop knee, etc. And yes, regular bouldering would increase my strength. I do not at all dispute this. My point is simply, in terms of speed and “value for money”, reducing my body weight will give me greater gains than any other approach to this issue. In addition, I will be certain to avoid any tendon issues arising from a sudden burst of intense bouldering before the trip. I will be healthy and able to climb, which is also an important consideration, as I have bad experiences with sudden hard bouts of bouldering. One 3 week period resulted in me being not only out of climbing for 6 months, but also unable to do my job for a number of weeks.

All in all, this approach is, in my mind, the best choice for me. I do not recommend it to anyone else, especially not if your level of body fat is within a range which is considered healthy in the first place (mine is not).

And you will all see a tremendous shift in focus on my part when I reach a body weight where excess baggage is no longer an issue. At that point, I will surrender completely to the wisdom that “the best training for climbing, is climbing”.


Worried Knee Blues and In The Groove

Went for a little walk this morning, and as long as the ground is flat or uphill I feel no discomfort in my knee. But as soon as I start walking downhill the discomfort returns. Fortunately, there was no actual pain today. When I started feeling the pain I returned home to avoid upsetting my knee any more than absolutely necessary. Last night I felt an itch inside my knee, and while it was a little uncomfortable to have an itch I can’t scratch, I take it as a sign that whatever is wrong in there is healing up. And that is welcome news indeed.


As for my diet it is going along splendidly. I have hit my stride, and even though it is tricky to go to the store without drooling all over the snack shelves, I am finding it easier while at home. My energy levels have been decent enough, and without my knee problem, I would be exercising. So I think it is safe to say I have gotten into the groove of Hell Week. After 2 days of only consuming liquids I believe my intestines are now just about empty, so it should be possible to track my weight loss from here on in. Hoping for good results, but will can only wait and see. Without exercise it will be less effective than planned, but hopefully I will still be able to shed 6-7 kilo in the 3 weeks of Hell.  That would amount to almost a 10% reduction in body mass and should give me significant relative strength gains.

Tomorrow the plan is to go for a walk on level ground to keep my knees moving and burn a little extra energy.

Sometimes life is impractical

I will begin at the beginning. Well, maybe not the beginning. I feel it is all ready covered adequately in books such as How Babies Are Made by Steven Schepp and A Brief History Of Time by Steven Hawking respectively. So I will begin on monday morning if this current week.

I woke up with a “brilliant” plan. Not a vague idea, but a fully formed, detailed plan. The plan was about how I would make sure I am able to climb at my best when I travel to Railay in Thailand in 3 weeks time. I have been feeling heavy and soft lately, and because there is not much to be done in terms of objective strength gains in only 3 weeks, and I just do not have the opportunity to climb very much in this period leading up to the trip, the obvious conclusion is that I will reduce my body weight, and through that increase my relative strength. Which is what it is all about anyway (technique is obviously completely over rated, and everyone knows this… ).

So the plan was to shock my body into shedding the maximum weight possible in 3 weeks. The plan goes like this.

Week 1

Consume only 900-ish calories per day while maintaining 2-3 hours of moderate activity, such as biking and walking.

Breakfast: Fresh, locally produced (in my kitchen) vegetable juice

Second breakfast: Diet shake

Brunch: Protein shake

Lunch: Diet shake

Dinner: Vegetable juice

Supper: Diet shake

I call this Hell Week.

Now, as everyone knows (right?) the body adapts fairly rapidly. So after a week the little men shoveling fat into the fire down below would get concerned about diminishing reserves and put in place a program to conserve fuel. Aka the famine response where the body basically shuts down the metabolism. To counter this threat to my weight loss I devised a week where I will tell the little men that the previous week was just a coincident and the furnaces should be turned back up to maximum heat.

The way I do this is to combine a high energy diet, somewhere in the range of 3000-3500 calories a day, with lots of high intensity training. Thereby preventing the body from storing this energy as fat in preparation for another famine it has probably guessed is right around the corner. The high intensity training I had in mind is long distance biking with fairly high intensity (3 hours a day), bouldering in the gym and antagonist training.

I call this Hell Week 2.

Hell Week 2 is of course followed by a week identical to the original Hell Week. I call this Hell Week 3.

The goal with this program is to shed somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 kilos of fat over the 3 week duration. Some of this plan is based soundly on nutritional and training theories, but some parts are speculation on my part. The processes are obviously well known, but I am not certain that Hell Week 2 is long enough (one week) to reverse the famine response and pave the way for another week of rapid weight loss in Hell Week 3.

Time will tell.

Anyways, I had this big spiel in my head about the confusion caused by writing this post yesterday in the past tense for publication today. Something about a sensation similar to the one you would have if you stepped through a wormhole tomorrow and was returned to today, but wrote about today as if it was still tomorrow, making today the past… Or a kind of Groundhog Day process where you live a day, then you are returned to yesterday, but then it is the day after tomorrow, before you are returned to today, before living the day after the day after tomorrow and being returned to tomorrow. It is all very confusing stuff, and completely redundant, because I could not actually be bothered to write this post yesterday. I just thought about writing it. So when I talk about yesterday as the past, it is because yesterday is in fact, in the past. Savvy?

And that concludes just about everything I thought about writing yesterday, but actually wrote today. All except this: I completed day one of Hell Week without significant hitch. I rode my bike for one hour  in the morning and felt a slight discomfort in my left knee before I got warmed up. Later I went for a 75 minute walk and again felt discomfort in my left knee when descending until I was warmed up. And followed the diet to a T.

Today I went out for my morning bike ride, and I no longer felt discomfort in my left knee. I felt outright pain and had to terminate the activity. And now I am sitting here, writing this post and wondering how the hell I am going to maintain a decent level of physical activity without bothering my left knee. Because there is just no way I am jeopardizing my climbing in Thailand by pushing through the pain right now. Any suggestions are welcome. I am considering swimming, but the damn pools are so far away. Hassle. But maybe I have to accept a certain amount of hassle to complete my program. But I am naturally worried about Hell Week 2, because the increased intensity will put an even greater strain on my knee. It seems my last hike in the north was, what is the phrase I am looking for… Oh yeah, too damn much. I am just no good at pacing myself…

That concludes the blogging for today. Thanks for grinding through my ramblings, I know it must have been a rather harrowing experience.

So here it is

I am going to assume that you have all ready guessed what my decision is. Naturally I don’t want do let my devoted fans down, and so I will from here on out go to great lengths to describe my trivial and mundane life, sans climbing.

Today is a brief account of the amazing climbing festival held in Tønsberg this past weekend. I think it is fair to say that the focus was probably slightly more on festival, than climbing. We did however get introduced to a nice neighborhood crag.

At said crag, I climbed no less than 5 pitches. And before I am bumrushed by naysayers claiming the clear improbability of this amazing feat of climbing endurance, I will concede that 4 of these pitches were a little on the short side. Still, it was a lot of fun, good solid rock, a few nice jams, and most of all, hanging out and actually climbing. A supremely rare thing this summer. And watching highly skilled climbers do their thing is always inspirational.

I was paired up with a rather elderly gentleman, who claimed to be retired. Not sure what he had retired from, but when I say he was old, I mean old. Metuselah-esque, in fact. But did he ever know how to climb. He flowed up these Tønsberg rocks with grace, poise and power. I was awestruck by the sheer beauty of this perfect relationship between man and rock. Perhaps one day I too will be able to dance up the near verticals in this fashion. A man can dream…

As for my own performance, I think the less said the better. A little on the toprope heavy side, I must say. I did have fun even if I stayed on the side of caution both in terms of style (or lack of) and choice of routes to climb.

As for the festivities, I will not say too much. It was a festival to remember for a few of us, I suspect the rest will only vaguely sense that they had a good time. Unless they measure the joy of the previous night by the hangover of the next day. Either way, a grand success. I think what impressed me the most was how including this group of people were, and even being severely introverted, I felt welcome and taken care of for the duration. I will aim a huge big “thank you!” in their general direction and hope for the best. I will add that I cannot think of a single occasion in my life where I have met such a delightfully eccentric group of supremely affable, amiable, benevolent, congenial, good-natured, good-hearted, gracious and just plain sociable people. And yes, I consulted Google on this one.

Now I think all that remains to be said about this weekend is that all names and images have been withheld to protect the (mostly) innocent from potential domestic retribution. Nuff said.

Climbing Festival

As most of my regular readers know (because they were there almost to a man) I have spent the weekend at a grand and exclusive, invitation by merit only, climbing festival in Tønsberg. As I was invited, I am not entirely sure what merits the invitations were based upon, and I certainly did not ask…

But I was severely chastised by several persons about not updating my blog at satisfactory intervals. It is now my ambition to avoid the significant personal embarrassment that this negligence on my part resulted in this weekend.  As such, there seems to be two possible approaches to ensuring I never experience this again. Mainly ensuring that I never again come face to face with anyone who has visited my blog more than once or maybe twice (as long as there is significant time elapsed between the first and second visit), or actually making sure my blog is in fact a work in continual progress.

I have now spent a few hours pondering this conundrum at length, and reached a decision. As I am completely spent from the strain of climbing no less than a whopping 5 pitches on Saturday, and fraternizing continually for many hours with complete and utter strangers, I do not have the energy to reveal said decision at this time.
But do stay tuned for the exciting conclusion that will emerge in the second installment of this two part post. And in order to maintain the suspense, I will not even reveal when I intend to (or indeed if I ever will) publish said second installment.

A great week in the north

I went up north to visit my folks and Grandma last week. It turned into a great week of family and hikes into the high country. Summer has been pretty bad all around, but the week I was there had 3 great days and 4 ok days, so all in all one of the best weeks all year… And it started raining the day I was heading south…

Every day I headed up into the high country. 4 easier hikes with somwhere around 420 and 550 meters of elevation gained and 3 hard ones with between 840 and 980 meters of elevation gained.

Breitind is the highest summit on the island of Senja at 1007 meters, and the last 200-300 meters of elevation are challenging with some exposed scrambling over boulders on a narrow ridge. Unfortunately there was a low cloud cover that prevented us (me and my father) from taking any good pictures showing just how steep and exposed it was. But we got a few moments of decent visibility on the summit itself and the view is prett special. The hike took 5 hours up and down, about 8,8 kilometers long. Starting around 20 meters above sea level we covered around 980 meters of elevation. Pretty steep in other words.

Next on the list was Kista, 1003 meters, and we covered maybe 950 of them on the hike which started out the front door of my parents house. Pretty special to be able to just walk out the door, and 1 hour of hiking later you are in the high country. The hike took around 5 hours as well, but at almost 20 kilometers, it is not as steep as Breitind, all though the last bit is pretty brutal here as well. The last bit is on a dirt road because of the old television tower on the summit, so it is easy and hard at the same time. And it was really cold on the summit, sun hid and the wind was chilly. Typical with hot sun in the lowland, and cold when you need heat on the summit. Oh well.

The third summit was Keipen, 938 meters. Clocking in at only 5,4 kilometers it is very steep as I covered about 840 of its 938 metres in only 2,7 kilometers to the summit. The start was really hard because it goes through some wetlands, and walking on the soft and soggy ground just pulls the energy right out of you. But once I got into the high country it was good. But low cloud cover for this summit as well, with only a few meters of visibility at the summit. So zero view. Some scrambling over boulers here too, but not in exposed territory. The hike took about 3 hours up and down. I could easily feel my legs were heavy from hiking hard every day for a week, and the descent was painful for my knees. Rest days will be good for me.
According to my HRM I burned about 12000 calories through my hiking this week, and I have pushed myself pretty hard, so I expect I am in much better shape than before. Funny thing happened with an app I use to track my hiking. It is called Strava and I guess it is mostly a cycling app. It would work perfectly to the summit, but on the way down it would go all haywire, and say I hiked 62000 kilometers, several trips into the middle of the ocean and back. Crazy stuff. So no accurate gps data from the hikes after Breitind, where I finished the hike at the summit.

I have been invited to go climbing in Tønsberg this weekend, and I hope the weather holds, because some decent pulling will be more than welcome.
Some pics from the high country.

Time flies by

Summer is coming to a close. I have barely been out climbing at all. I think I can count my climbing days on one hand. Severe regression. Withdrawal pains.
I am weaker, heavier, and less fit than I was a year ago. The only thing that is up is experience and trad skills (as in placing gear), all thanks to the Cranking Bull Tour. This has been making me a little sad.
But from the pain of dissatisfaction comes resolve. And of course being inspired by people like Chuck Odette, who just put up a new 5.14b at the age of 56. To me that signalled that I have 20 years of climbing improvement ahead of me. I have also read research that shows you can increase muscle mass and max strength into your 60’s (as long as you have not reached your potential at a younger age, of course, but that is not an issue for me…). So basically there is no rush.

That said I have returned to my original resolve. I really do want to become as strong a climber as it is possible for me to become. I am also convinced that my potential is well clear of weekend warrior averages. So I have read up on the science of athletics, training, nutrition, recovery and flexibility. And I am now in the process of creating a program that will take me through this next year. It also means I have decided to fight tooth and nail to avoid my autumn slump. A “first 7 months of the year” slump is enough for 2012.

This week I have done a 20 kilometer bike ride before breakfast every day, and I have started with a diet program that will slowly (over 5-6 weeks) tweak my metabolism to burn a significantly higher percentage of fat. Both at rest and during moderate training intensities. This will increase my endurance for the long trad days that I hope my future holds, in addition to helping me shed the weight once and for all (when I say once and for all I say it “knowing” that I will continue to train hard in the future, and weight management will therefore not be a huge concern outside of peak performance periods).

3 weeks into this period I will start my first strength training mesocycle. I will be using methods from gymnastics to increase my relative strength as much as possible. All bodyweight exercises, with the possible exception of the deadlift to strengthen my legs and lower back. The literature I have been reading on this approach to strength training has been a revelation, and is significantly different from standard strength training. Emphasis on making the muscles stronger, not bigger. So fewer reps, and much longer rest periods between sets (3-5 minutes) compared to the standard 1-2 minutes. The program starts out with basics, then there is a progression all the way to a one-armed chin up (couple of years down the road at least) Looking forward to this with anticipation.

As for flexibility, this seems to be the most challenging part, as it is so insanely boring. I will just have to grit my teeth and get through it for a period to see if any gains will motivate me. I hope it will.
Also, a big deal for me has been the understanding that I have let Gorms schedule determine whether I climb or not. I am a pretty serious introvert, so hooking up with new people is pretty hard for me. But since I want to get better, and getting better means climbing a lot, I have to get over it and get out there and make new climbing friends. I will let you know how that goes. Maybe postpone it until next season… 😉

So now you know why I have not been blogging. Nothing happening. Nothing to write about. It changes now.