Friday, January 10, 2014

Know When To Walk Away

I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting. Mark Twain.

As one of those tedious, goal oriented people who think that all that talk about the journey being as important as the destination is merely the excuse of the unmotivated, I am like a terrier down a fox hole in pursuit of my objectives. I'll climb until I can no longer hang on, lift until the bar falls on top of me, or virtually drown myself trying to get a reliable eskimo roll before I would consider giving up. Persistence is important in striving for goals, but it has taken me half a century to realize that stepping away and resting is just as important. 

 Resting after a days climbing in the Selkirk Mountains

As a compulsive exerciser, it has been hard for me to reduce my training volume, but, decreasing the frequency of my weight training days while keeping the intensity maximal has resulted in the biggest strength gains I have seen in years – and remember, at 50, I am well past my use by date. This is not just useless strength like doing bicep curls with a dumb-bell or sitting at a leg press machine, this is real functional strength that allows me to hang on all the way across the roof at the outdoor climbing area in Cairns, or easily lift my sea kayak overhead. 

Hamish, caught dozing after a day climbing at Skaha

Last summer, I had a semi-reliable eskimo roll in my sea kayak. I could roll up three to four times out of five, and, if I missed a roll, I could usually get up on my second try. But, somewhere over the intervening months, I ended up doing almost all my practice when I was tired from a long day in the kayak. And, my technique deteriorated. But, with my badger like disposition, I did not quit. I would just keep flipping over and trying to come back up until my face was as blue as the ocean. All this did was ingrain poor movement patterns which are now taking hours of diligent – and intelligent – practice to erase. 
Now, when I go out to work on my eskimo roll I go out with the sole purpose of practicing my roll. That way I am focused and fresh. As soon as my form begins to deteriorate I stop. I no longer keep flipping over and failing to get up. It is, however, important to end skill training sessions on a positive note, so I will regress a little to a hip snap drill that I can do easily to finish off the session ingraining correct movement patterns and finishing in a positive, forward looking frame of mind. 

 Marv, resting after climbing four 11,000'ers in the Purcell Mountains

I often see climbers trying to eke out one last pitch when they are tired and pumped. In some instances, it is good to push through the pump, particularly if you are more mentally fried than physically exhausted and if the fall is safe. But, when your entire form deteriorates to the point that you've completely lost body tension, it is time to quit. Pushing on through this is generally worse in the long run as you ingrain sloppy movement patterns that are difficult to correct later. As Kenny Rogers said “you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.”

No comments:

Post a Comment