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TRAINING AND performance experts agree: warming up before you climb will help keep you healthy and climbing your best. A proper warm-up increases blood flow to the working muscles, which results in more limber joints and less risk of injury. A warmed-up muscle also contracts more forcefully, relaxes more quickly and is more elastic than a cold muscle. The warm-up phase triggers the release of hormones responsible for regulating energy production. Finally, the warm up acts as a gap between resting and performance—a time to quiet your mind, review your sequence and get your mental game on.

Many climbers skip the warm-up phase entirely or jump on a few easy climbs and call it good, but climbing is a crummy way to warm up. Often “warm up” routes are too slabby, specific or tweaky to allow for a full body warm up. Instead, go for a short run or jump rope for a few minutes to elevate your heart rate and generate a light sweat, then check out the sequence below for a five-minute top-to-bottom tune-up.


Stand with your feet together. Extend the spine. Bring awareness to the breath. Close the mouth and breathe through the nose. Using your fingers and the palms of your hands, smooth the skin of the forehead and the eyebrows, the skin under the eyes and the entire face.


Extend the arms to the sides with an inhalation. Exhale, bring the palms together, and draw the shoulders and shoulder blades down. Inhale, bend the elbows and bring the hands to the chest, fingertips touching. Keep the elbows lifted. Exhale, extend the arms forward, palms together and draw the shoulders and shoulder blades down. Inhale, open the arms to the side. Repeat this sequence three to five times.


Extend the arms forward with the palms facing the floor. Note: Keep the arms extended completely throughout the sequence with the shoulders and shoulder blades down, away from the ears. Roll the hands five times to the left, five times to the right, taking care to make perfect circles and to keep the fingers completely extended. Spread the fingers and roll the hands five times to the left and five times to the right. Make claws with the fingers and roll the hands five times to the left and five times to the right. The wrists might crack and pop but continue to make perfect circles with the hands. Now raise your arms overhead and squeeze and open your fingers 10 to 20 times. Lower the arms and swing them across your chest—alternating the left arm over the right arm, the right over the left for five or 10 reps. Take a moment to shake out the pump and gently massage your forearms.


Take the hands to the hips, exhale and fold forward. Bend the knees slightly and with an inhalation roll up to the right and down to the left. Repeat five to 10 times then switch sides. Inhale and come up to standing.


Bend the right leg to 90 degrees. Make 10 wide circles with the right foot, taking care to make the circles round and perfect. Reverse directions and make 10 circles. Then switch legs and repeat.


Lift the right foot and point the toe. Roll the ankle and make 10 circles with the right foot. Reverse directions, then switch feet.


THE BEST CLIMBERS cop shakes on even the most extreme terrain, hanging upside down from knee bars in limestone pods or switching out on an ice tool wedged in a razor-thin seam. How the heck do they do it? Professional trainers agree that proper rest is the single most important ingredient for muscle growth and injury prevention. If you want to climb well, learn how to maximize rest and recovery, both while climbing and on the ground. The experts, however, seldom spend more than a few lines telling you how to rest. The fact is that resting, like doing pull-ups, drop-knees and dynos, can be trained. Here’s how:


You can practice resting just about anytime, anywhere. Pick a level, quiet, insect-free place and sit in front of your rope, (in a butterfly coil) with the end a couple of inches away from your lower back (not touching your sacrum). Bend the knees with the feet on the floor. Lie back and align the rope with your spine. Rest your head on the upper coil so that your forehead is higher than your chin. Stretch your legs out and let your feet fall to the sides. Roll your hands so that the palms face up. Close your eyes.
All at once, breathe out, and drop your limbs, head and torso. Let the floor and prop completely support your body. Your shoulders will fall toward the floor and your chest will lift, creating space in the lungs and counteracting the “climber’s hunch.” [For more on Beating the Hunch, see page 54.] With each out-breath let the stress, tension and physical holding radiate from the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Allow the stress and tension to leave your body with every exhalation. The mental disposition is “calm and awake.” The actions are “letting go and relaxing.”


Practice daily or as often as possible, from five to 20 minutes.

Over the course of the practice, your mind will wander away from resting and you’ll begin thinking—planning, remembering, fantasizing. Don’t worry. That’s normal. This practice is about noticing when the mind wanders and then gently bringing your focus back to resting. Use this method, which proceeds sequentially from feet to head, to return to opening, surrendering and letting go.

 Relax the feet and legs. Let the legs be heavy, and let the feet be so heavy they feel as though they are sinking into the ground.

 Relax the arms and hands. Let the arms be heavy, and let the hands be so heavy they feel as though they are sinking into the ground.

 Relax the back body—the hips and lower back. Completely relax the muscles that run along the spine.

 Relax the front body—the belly, chest and throat.

 Relax the shoulders and the back of the neck. Finally, melt the scalp from the crown of the head across the back and sides of the skull. Melt the scalp from the crown of the head to the forehead. Let the skin of the brow smooth and fall toward the chin. Then release all tension from the skin of the face. As the tension leaves the face, the mind will quiet and the body will be rejuvenated and refreshed.


The more often you practice this resting sequence, the easier it will be for you to rest in the middle of action. For example, when you arrive at a rest on a climb you’ll be able to cue deep relaxation by thinking, “relax the skin of the face.” Eventually, you’ll be able to drop stress and superfluous holding instantly, with a single exhalation. 



According to yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar, the practice of savasana (mindful resting) results in “minimum wastage of energy and maximum recuperation. It refreshes the whole being, making one dynamic and creative. It banishes fear and creates fearlessness. The practitioner experiences a state of serenity and inner oneness.” 

See Iyengar’s books Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama for in-depth discussions of the methods, philosophy and techniques of resting.

—Jeff Jackson


What to take, why and when

WHAT CLIMBER DOESN’T collect some aches and pains from overuse and other injuries? Let’s review some of the differences and considerations in taking over-the-counter medications, especially acetaminophen and ibuprofen. 

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is classified as an analgesic (pain medication) and has no anti-inflammatory properties. Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), like naproxen (Aleve), is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are beneficial for the treatment of mild to moderate pain and fever. Climbing injuries tend to involve both pain and inflammation, so ibuprofen is generally the better choice. 

There are important considerations in taking any medications. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage (hepatotoxicity), a risk that increases in individuals who drink three or more alcoholic beverages a day. Ibuprofen has been reported to cause kidney (renal) failure and stomach (GI) irritation, ulceration and bleeding. 

The results of research (on mice) by M. Murnagham et al have shown that the use of NSAIDS may have an inhibitory effect on fracture repair when used longer than four weeks. (See Medicine, no. 166). One possible reason may be a reduction in blood flow, which results in poorer healing. Inflammation, though, can also impair blood flow, so short term (10 to 14 days), the benefits of taking ibuprofen outweigh the risks. 

The maximum dose per day of acetaminophen is 4,000 milligrams (mg) or 500 mg for extra-strength. Over-the-counter ibuprofen comes in 200-mg tabs. It also comes in 400-mg, 600-mg and 800-mg tabs but requires a prescription.

The onset of action for both medications occurs within 30 to 60 minutes and lasts approximately four to six hours. The anti-inflammatory effect with ibuprofen can last one to two weeks, however. Taking these medications every six hours (four times a day) versus every eight hours (three times a day) results in greater continual pain control. Ibuprofen (400 mg to 600 mg) every six hours is a well-tolerated regimen (1800 mg to 2400 mg total daily).

NSAIDS may also have a protective effect on the development of colon and other cancers. Mechanisms are not well understood, but proposed explanations include impairing tumor cell growth, increasing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and reducing cell proliferation by inhibiting angiogenesis (development of new blood vessels). It is not recommended, however, to take NSAID to prevent cancer, as the risks outweigh the benefits. This information is cited in Up-To-Date (available by subscription) under “Ibuprofen: Drug Information,” and the Murnagham study. 

Be aware that there are many drug and herb interactions with NSAIDS versus acetaminophen. NSAIDS may increase the effects of medication used for diabetes, and possibly decrease the effectiveness of medications used to treat high blood pressure. Examples of herb interactions include garlic, ginger, ginkgo biloba and licorice as they all have antiplatelet activity (which increases bleeding). If you experience any stomach pain or consume three or more alcoholic beverages, stop taking any NSAIDS due to the risk of developing a GI bleed. There’s safety in moderation with these medications. Now, how do we get climbers to be moderate?

—Katie Kemble

Katie Kemble is a nurse practitioner from Cashmere, Washington

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