The RV Project

"There Are No Wrong Roads to Anywhere"

Archive for the category “The Exterior”

Sh*t We Can’t Live Without: The Foam Roller

I have a love/hate relationship with things (but who doesn’t?!). I gave up the majority of my belongings to move into our 10-foot home. Spenser did too, but let’s be honest- he had way less crap to begin with! Not that it made it made it any easier. Back on topic-

Even though we’ve purged most of the extra weight, there are still material objects we can’t live without. They just have to fit in a 10×7 box!


Mine is plain black, but you can color-coordinate if you're into that sorta thing. ;) Also known as 'the log roller' (coined by Miss Rachel Belschner). Rachel & I foam rolled nearly every day in Squamish. No, it wasn't that weird foam rolling next to someone else! It's nice to have the company, you just have to accept the occasional grunt/groan.

Mine is plain black, but you can color-coordinate if you’re into that sorta thing. 😉 Also known as ‘the log roller’ (coined by Miss Rachel Belschner). Rachel & I foam rolled nearly every day in Squamish. No, it wasn’t that weird foam rolling next to someone else! It’s nice to have the company, you just have to accept the occasional grunt/groan.

I hope most of you know what this is. If you don’t, you will likely benefit from making it’s acquaintance. This is my single favorite piece of physical therapy equipment out there. I’ll need it because of what climbing does to my body. That sounded too dramatic. Let’s try again. The foam roller is the best at getting out my post-climbing kinks and tightness. A consistent foam roller and yoga/stretching routine were my main shoulder saviors when getting back into climbing this summer (post finger pulley popping), so I guess I’m in a bind of sorts. If I want to continue to climb (and I do)- I gotta keep it up.

Read more…


My Ache-y Breaky Ass

Walker Kearny climbing some amazing holds that probably won't break. The Brain, V6(?)

Walker Kearny climbing some amazing holds that probably won’t break. The Brain, V6(?)

Eleven months and seven days ago I did something unwise that prevented me from doing what I left “default” life to do. Life in a boot meant time for reflection, and it was fairly easy to assess what went wrong on Saigon Direct that put me on crutches for 6 weeks.

Yesterday I did something that is preventing me from taking advantage of the best conditions we’ve had since we arrived in the south. In fact, the weather is just getting more and more sendy as the days go by, but I’m worried that I won’t be climbing anything for a while.

On Tuesday, Vikki, Niko, Katie, Walker, Hammie, Greg and I all went to the Apartment Boulders so that Niko and I could finish up a cool little compression problem that we’d tried a few days before. Walker was just in town from Sweden, and we hadn’t climbed together in about 6 years. Greg is just another local crusher, the kind you hate because they’re stronger than you and (seemingly) care about half as much. I was psyched. It was cold, the compression thing was going down for sure, and then there was the gorgeous creekside boulder that we were going to finally bring enough pads to try. Read more…

In Celebration

Last week, we met Katie and Niko at the local Joe’s Valley watering hole, The Food Ranch. The similarities were pretty conspicuous from the get-go: another couple on a year-long road trip, blogging and videoing their way through the experience. The main difference is that they are 2 months in, while we’re on year 2. We immediately got along great and became fast climbing partners and even (gasp) friends. As the amiable couple left to Moab for the week, Spenser and I mulled over a large realization they had brought to our attention: we’ve been on the road for almost 14 months!

Nothing as romantic as watching some bouldering on a sunny afternoon, right? Katie & Niko admire.

Nothing as romantic as watching some bouldering on a sunny afternoon, right? Katie & Niko admire.

This awareness was a bit shocking to both Spenser and I. The year-mark came and went, without the least bit of recognition.

It was an organic occurrence for us, it didn’t mean nothing to us, but it didn’t exactly mean anything either. Why didn’t we celebrate? Wait, celebrate what? “Congratulations on living your life,” seems very silly to me. I should mention I’m also not much for celebrating birthdays. Celebrating a year of being on the road is along the same vein.

At least now I know why Spenser and I have been having such a difficult time answering people when they keep asking us how much longer we’ll be on the road for. The short answer is, we don’t know. We can’t really think about it. This is our life. We’re happy, much happier than we were in the Bay Area. We still enjoy gong back to the other ‘real world’ for once in a while, but always end up wanting to leave. It’s not our world, it’s theirs.

…Now I’m just going to get philosophical on y’all for one second. At the ripe age of 26, I think I’m finally starting to understand how individual each person’s reality truly is. The way every single moment is perceived is particular to the individual, even with Spenser and I who spend almost every moment together. How we experience each step of this road trip is is a completely separate reality. Neither of our experiences is more or less real, but it certainly helps to be cognizant of how differently we can comprehent the same moment [this tactic is particularly useful in assuaging variances in opinion that occur…daily ;)].

Disparate experiences aside, life on the road is our current reality and neither Spenser nor I want it to change. Spending time with Katie and Niko, remembering how we felt when we started this crazy trip, reinvigorated us and reaffirmed that this is the life we want.

Katie using the thumb mono on Feels Like Grit.

Katie using the thumb mono on Feels Like Grit.

Niko locking off on Eden.

Niko locking off on Eden.

Katie trying hard on Kelly's Arete. We both need to go back and finish this one.

Katie trying hard on Kelly’s Arete. We both need to go back and finish this one!

This post was supposed to be about a fresh start for our second year. It still will be, just not in the way I’ve been brewing it up in my head the past couple days while we’ve been out of internet contact at the campsite.

I was planning on writing about The RV Project’s new training plan. Since Spenser is just getting back into the bouldering game after a long siesta, we have been projecting many of the same lines (a silver lining to having Spenser injured). Wanting to milk what’s left of the cool temps, we came up with a training plan for the rest of our time in Joe’s; a two-day on, one-day off routine: a try-hard day, followed by a conditioning day, and then a rest day.

Lindsey "Hat Hottie" Tjian smoothly cruising Kelly's Arete.

Lindsey “Hottie in a Hat” Tjian smoothly cruising Kelly’s Arete.

At the top!

At the top!

Looking calm, even on the slopey top-out.

Looking calm, even on the slopey top-out.

Yesterday was a try-hard day and I decided to get back on an old nemesis rig from our last trip to Joe’s, Kill by Numbers. I was inspired by Katie’s ambitious send of the climb about a week ago. Kill by Numbers has been especially frustrating for me, being the only climb that I’ve worked on repeatedly and am still trying to refine my beta on. I was feeling good at the end of the day as we hiked up the small hill that leads to the Kill by Numbers cave. I’ll admit, I didn’t feel strong on the moves, but I thought I could push through. The problem is right-hand sloper intensive (not my strong suit) and my right hand was getting pumped quickly. After my second-to-last go, I felt a slight pain in my left middle finger, but ignored it and pressed on. I pulled hard on the left-hand roof crimp and then pop.

Although this has never happened to me, I knew exactly what just occurred: I’ve read this story many times before. So, that’s that. My original training plan is out the window. We’ll see how the finger feels in the coming days, but for now…no climbing. Making the most of the lousy situation, Spenser and I went on our first icing date last night at the river- I held my hand in the ice-cold water, while he his elbow. Cute, right? 😉

Spenser sending his first V7 of 2013, Bring the Heatwole.

Spenser sending his first V7 of 2013, Bring the Heatwole.

Don't trust your children with her! ;)

Don’t trust your children with her! 😉

Will was with us in Joe's for about a week before jetting back to start his Chapter 11 in the Bay Area. Guess the problem he's pinching hard on!

Will was with us in Joe’s for about a week before jetting back to start his Chapter 11 in the Bay Area. Guess the problem he’s pinching hard on!

Will offering a different perspective on Bring the Heatwole.

Will offering a different perspective on Bring the Heatwole.

Our second year is not starting off how I imagined it. The single most important thing I’ve learned on this road trip still rings true: plans change [see: our very first blog post]. Nonetheless, this second year I’m really excited about. Before year 1,  I was incredibly nervous. Not anymore. We’re pros. We’ve got this. I mean we still have stuff to learn, always. What were pros at is rolling with the punches.

Although you won’t see a video of me sending Kill by Numbers anytime soon, here’s a vid that Katie & Niko’s friend Angus made of his trip here. It includes Katie sending the rig!

Rest, Recovery, and the Return

It’s Saturday, February 2nd, and we have been here in Kensington for a bit over two weeks. This brief return trip was for the purposes of R&R, as well as celebrating my father’s 66th birthday, and sending off my little brother Eliot to Miami for his first big-boy job. Congratulations Eliot!

It’s been just over 6 weeks since I broke my heel. I think I went through the typical stages (Kübler-Ross) of:

Denial- “I think it’s just bruised…”

Anger- “Ah shit. I think it’s broken”

Bargaining- “It’s okay, I’ll just do lowballs”

Depression- When I realized that crutches were becoming a regular, accepted, and even familiar part of my life, I started to get really depressed.

Acceptance- This stage should’ve come sooner, but I think it only really came today.

I wish I could inspire you with this post. I wish I could tell you that my time off the rock was productive and instructive. I wish I could tell you I trained my weaknesses, learned a foreign language, edited ten videos and had time to campus train. I wish I could write a post about how to stay positive when the main purpose for your trip, indeed, your greatest passion in life is snatched from you in a freakishly mundane accident.

For the first few weeks, I weathered the storm pretty well. I drank what must be record volumes of coffee at the Black Sheep. I mastered my crutches. I won $50 playing Blackjack in Las Vegas, and another $50 at the Paiute Palace. I made some progress on the ZAP video. I even found the novelty of crutches to be fun, in a way.

Then, somewhere along the line, I lost my psyche.

When we came to Kensington back in mid-January, it was meant to be a short trip, and it was a flurry of activity. We extended our stay due to bad weather in Bishop, and that, I think, is when things went downhill for me. My elbow still hurt, which meant no training of any sort, cardio or otherwise. I ate food. I stalled on the video and lost motivation to do much else. I read a book. I drank whisky. I slept in. Vikki was wonderful support, as was my family, making it all the worse that I couldn’t pull back on the yoke and climb out of my funk. Many days were wasted. Depression sucks.

Perhaps a part of the reason I lapsed into depression was due to the fact that I’d been so upbeat before. It’s hard to maintain, and I guess I just broke. Not only could I not train, but I could barely help out around the house. Going out seemed like a chore, so I didn’t. That didn’t leave much for me. Days blended into each other, and I simultaneously looked for ways to kill time while hating myself for killing it.

Tomorrow we go back to Bishop. For the first time in a long time, I’m stoked. Byron is flying in, and will attempt to climb 290 boulder problems in a day for his 29th Birthday Challenge. Today I limped around the house without crutches for the first time, and while my foot is a little bit sore, it held up alright and I was able to be autonomous. I’ll be bringing my bike down to Bishop, which I’ve never had a chance to do. I’m going to start sport climbing at the Owens River Gorge in order to rehab the elbow and avoid groundfalls. I have an appointment to get my elbow looked at, and that means I might finally be able to rid myself of this chronic pain and crunchy noise (and thanks to everyone who gave advice on this topic!). And I’m really excited to return to the sport I love with a renewed enthusiasm.

This may not be the happiest of endings, but it’ll have to do. Again, I wish I could tell you about how I triumphed over adversity, found the silver lining, and slew the beast. What I can tell you instead is that I’m finally looking forward again, and while I can’t get those days of depression back, I can hope to learn from them.

Here are some links to things that are actually quite inspiring:

This video of a wounded veteran walking again made the Facebook rounds…

My friend Aaron sent me this post from Brendan Leonard at Semi-Rad…

…and finally, Dave Graham suggested I look up Hugh Herr. Here he is. Amazing.

A Review of Liquid Grip, The New Liquid Chalk

Like every climber ever to grace this earth, I suffer from non-optimal skin. It sweats too much, it’s too thin, it’s cracked, it’s split, it just hurts. I’ve tried damn near every chalk there is. So far, the best I’ve been able to figure is Antihydral about once a week and plain old block chalk before every go.

Recently I was reading Dave Macleod’s Online Climbing Coach blog and saw a review for Liquid Grip. I’ve tried Liquid Chalk and I like it, but it requires reapplication and is otherwise a pain in the butt for me. Liquid Grip is supposed to be an “apply and forget” sort of product, which would solve my main complaint with liquid chalk, so I figured it was worth a try.

The company gives the somewhat dubious claim that the product adheres to the amino acids in your skin and will not transfer to other surfaces. Of course I perked up when Dave gave it a positive review, but I grimaced when I read that “there is a small amount of Rosin (less than 5%) in the product and they reassure that there is no transference to surfaces although didn’t say how this was tested.”

I sent away to Liquid Grip for a few samples. On one hand, LG could very well be a manna for los manos. On the other, I’m very concerned about rosin being used on rock, because over time it forms a slick coating to the rock and destroys the friction of the original surface. I set out to test the no transference claim myself, and see if it was safe for use on real rock.


I was nervous to directly test the product on popular boulder problems in case there was some transference. Instead, I decided to do a more traditional experiment, with a control and a variable.

I chose a chunk of solid sandstone in our campground and subjected two different parts of it to a series of simulated grabs. I applied some Liquid Grip to my left hand and washed my right hand clean. The right hand was the “control” in this case, as I would use only block chalk as if I were really climbing. The lip of the boulder was slopey and uniform in texture, and I crouched down and slapped each of the “holds” 50 times.

During the treatments, I reapplied Liquid Grip once to my left hand, and I chalked up my right hand several times (again, as if I were normally climbing). According to Liquid Grip, only one application would be enough for 90 minutes, since there is no transference. I felt that about 25 attempts at sticking one crux hold is a decent approximation of one session. This experiment, then, represents roughly two individual sessions on a hard move to a sloper.

After the simulated grabs, I used a Moon horsehair brush rather vigorously on the two “holds” to brush off the excess. The question, after all, is how persistent the residue is. Chalk clogs holds too, but is easily removed with a brush.


Upon applying Liquid Grip, you’ll notice that it smells nice (a bonus), and takes a bit longer to dry than Metolius Liquid Chalk. Unlike Liquid Chalk, Liquid Grip doesn’t result in a cloud of dust if you clap your hands. In other words, the binding/no-transference claim seems to stand up.

Liquid Grip also felt smoother, like it wouldn’t overly dry my hands. I washed my hands after the experiment so I can’t say what long term use would do to your skin.

During the grabbing, I noticed that the product did adhere to my skin much better than traditional chalk, but as the photos show, some of the product definitely transferred to the rock.

After the grabbing and brushing, the chalk-only treatment was as expected. The rock was lighter in color, of course, but the texture was all still there. No chalk stayed caked in the grit of the rock.

The Liquid Grip treatment, on the other hand, showed definite signs of losing texture. The photos show it fairly well. Even after a vigorous brushing, there was an obvious residue in between the grains of the sandstone.

The test boulder, before testing

I applied the Liquid Grip to my hands, then washed my right hand clean before the experiment.

Here is the dried Liquid Grip on my hand before use.

This is my hand after 25 “grabs.” Much of the product remains, though some has clearly transferred to the rock surface. I then reapplied and did 25 more grabs.

The Liquid Grip test spot after 25 grabs and no brushing. Note the fairly natural color of the rock, due to the low transference of the product.

This is the Liquid Grip treatment spot after two applications and 50 simulated grabs. I have not yet brushed this spot. Note that on protrusions, you can see some residue.

The control spot: Loose block chalk. This is pre-brushing.

The control spot post-brushing. The rock texture is unaffected, though slightly discolored.

This is the Liquid Grip spot after a thorough brushing. You can still see a lot of residue in the grains of the sandstone.


Liquid Grip should not be used on outdoor rock climbs. The photos clearly show that after two applications and 50 simulated grabs of a sloper, the texture of the rock is severely impacted. If one person used Liquid Grip to climb one boulder problem, and it took them one attempt, there might be no impact. But if many people use Liquid Grip on a popular problem, however, the results will be dramatic and very undesirable. Even after two days and a light rain, the Liquid Grip spot on the boulder in our campground is quite visible.

I think previous reviewers missed the transference because they used it “as usual.” This would mean just climbing a few routes or problems, and over the course of a few laps one wouldn’t notice a particular hold getting gummed up. On the other hand, if this were used on something like The Hulk, a popular problem with a distinct crux, I’m sure that the repeated touching of the same holds would result in a very noticeable impact.

Liquid Grip might be a good solution for indoor climbing. Holds are washed fairly regularly, and the reduction in chalk dust would be a major benefit. I can’t speak to the product for other uses, though I did notice my hand feeling more “conditioned” than the chalked hand. Perhaps this would be a good product for weightlifters or gymnasts who need a little extra grip but for whom chalk is too dry.

I realize there are other rosin-containing liquid chalk products on the market for climbers, but I haven’t tried them out. I suspect the issues might be the same. At the moment, I think the overall impact is fairly minimal since only a small minority of climbers use anything besides normal chalk, but if these products become popular, I would start to worry.

Do you use Liquid Grip? How do you like it? Have you noticed any transference to the rock?

Are Piercings Worth the Price?

As Spenser said in the last post, we have arrived to sandstone heaven. I could not be happier. Colorado has beautiful stone and a multitude of great climbs, but Joe’s Valley is just easy. Especially after a summer consisting of driving an hour and a half, hiking another hour a half, climbing, hiking over talus for a half hour, climbing, and repeating. Free camping, boulders everywhere, and a town with everything you need just a short ride away. It’s been effortless getting used to life at Joe’s.

But I’m getting carried away. The point of this post is to talk about piercings! Let’s go back to where my curiosity with this began. Towards the end of our first climbing day at Left Fork, we met Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and David Mason. Mina and I started talking about physical therapy and the recurrent shoulder/neck injury she used to struggle with.

Spenser working the moves to They Call Him Jordan. This starts and finishes on one of my big projects at Joe’s Valley: Wills a Fire.

Mina’s shoulder would act up, especially during training, much like my injury (similar neck pain with numbness down the arm). She went to a chiropractor in Britain that was more on the alternative side of things and he told her that her piercings could be hindering her recovery. Piercings? Really?

Her chiropractor explained that because of the repetitive stress on her body from traveling, climbing hard, training, and so on, her immune system was already working overtime. To add the piercings on top of all that was possibly the straw that broke the camel’s back, in a way. Since her immune system was constantly working to fight foreign bodies (her piercings), it was unable to properly heal her shoulder.

They followed up this discussion with proprioceptive muscle strength tests – measuring how strong her arms were at opposing force with or without the specific piercings. Apparently, the difference was striking – especially for the tongue ring (Mina said she had a tongue, nose, and earlobe piercings at the time) initially. Then, after a relapse, it looked as if her nose stud was also a problem. One by one, all the piercings were gone. Since then (around the beginning of February), she was finally able to take her training to the next level and the rest is girl crushing history – I’m sure many of you have seen Mina’s recent sends of Tetris and Mecca.

Tetris V12 in Wild Basin, RMNP. from mina leslie-wujastyk on Vimeo.

So I know this is all sounds like “airy-fairy stuff,” as Mina’s boyfriend, David, likes to say. But can there be some truth to it? I decided to get on the laptop at the good ol’ Food Ranch and do a bit of my own research.

I did a bit of online scouring prior to getting my tongue pierced. At that time, my research led me to the conclusion that the worst I could really end up with was a chipped tooth or lisp. I was willing to take those chances. As most of you already know, the exact words that you Google make a huge difference.  When I started researching piercings and the effect they can have on the immune system, I was given a completely different world of information.

What Mina’s chiropractor was saying apparently makes complete sense. Piercings stress out your body and cause increased cortisol (the stress hormone) production. Pumping out cortisol is your body’s natural reaction to a threat, but sadly our body’s flight-or-fight response can’t differentiate between a real threat (a bear attack) versus a perceived threat (a really bad day at work or a piercing). Too much cortisol in the body is linked to weight gain, depression, and high blood pressure. Sure, I’m not worried about weight gain, depression, or high blood pressure necessarily, but continuously elevated cortisol levels inhibits the immune system while also leading to an overall cortisol depletion in your body. Low levels of cortisol can lead to low energy. A lowered immune system AND low energy?! Now this is very bad for climbing. Especially for a climbing road trip. This just skims the surface of what elevated cortisol levels do to your body, for more check out the Wikipedia page on it.

I then did a little more digging into tongue and navel piercings specifically, since those are the two that I am attached to, or that are attached to me, I guess. This is where we get into the more “airy-fairy stuff.” In acupuncture and related practices, such as acupressure, the tongue and navel are high-energy zones and metals (body piercings) are supposed to be avoided because they impede energy flow. What acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine refer to as “energy balance” can be related to the balance of our body’s endocrine system, for those of us who do not like to use words like “energy” and “flow.”

Acupuncture regulates our body’s Qi (pronounced chi) by improving energy flow through 14 meridians, channels that carry the Qi to various organs to keep our energy fields in balance. Before many of you start to dismiss this altogether, let me remind you that acupuncture is now recognized by NIH, the World Health Organization, and most medical doctors as an effective health therapy for certain medical issues.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the belly button is located in the middle of a primary energy line, the Conception Vessel Meridian. This is a forbidden acupuncture point known as CV8 and, in theory, can lead to core energy burn-out and cause fertility issues in women. While the tongue is divided into 5 parts: stomach, lungs, heart, gallbladder, and liver. The middle of the tongue (what is traditionally pierced) involves the spleen and stomach points, related to chronic digestion problems. Of course, we’re getting into theories at this point, but I found this all quite interesting. Anyone with piercings experience these types of issues?

The parts of the tongue according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I’m still figuring out what to make of all this. So far, my conclusion is the same as it has been for a while: every part of our body is connected, a disturbance in one part will inevitably effect the rest of the body in one form or another. I think the point that resonated most with me after all my reading was that a piercing will undoubtedly cause extra stress on the body. This, in addition with other common stressors, such as training, not getting enough sleep, and improper diet, will add up and the piercing could make the difference between your body healing properly versus the issue becoming chronic.

This clicked with me. I have an overactive immune system and continuing digestive problems due to Celiac Disease. Anything that could be getting in the way of me having an awesome climbing day and enjoying every day of this road trip needs to go. I took out my tongue and belly button piercings a few days ago. I figure it’ll be a fun little experiment (of course there are too many other variables, but a test nonetheless).  I have grown quite attached to my piercings (I’ve had my belly button ring for 10 years now), especially the reaction my tongue ring gets from certain people, but I don’t need it.

A quick update, it’s been about a week since my tongue ring and a few days since I took out my belly button ring. My shoulder has really been doing well in spite of the heavy climbing load. I’ve even been sleeping on my left side (which I have not been able to do comfortably for months). This is also great since I’ve haven’t been able to do my physical therapy exercises consistently at Joe’s. Nevertheless, no shoulder pain. I know this does not prove anything, but I think it’s extremely fascinating and hopefully helpful to somehow else out there! Even if it’s just the placebo effect, who really cares? What I do know is I’m done with piercings for the moment.

No Pain, No Gain…No, Really.

Again, I’ve made the mistake of ignoring the nagging feeling in the back of my mind, that feeling that something is just not right with my body. The first time was when I ended up getting diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Not sure why I didn’t learn my lesson the first time…

I was in physical therapy before leaving on this road trip for recurring shoulder pain. I made some minimal changes, but overall I didn’t trust my physical therapist. I thought she was full of it. Ok, just partially full of it. She assigned a few back exercises and stretches and sternly told me that I needed to climb less frequently for a while. Whenever I asked for an explanation, she gave me a half-ass response. Whenever I asked a follow-up question, she dismissed me. She was scatterbrained and always in a rush and I didn’t like that about her mode of therapy.

So I only half listened to her. I was so busy with work and leaving my life in SF (renting out my apartment, packing up, etc.) that I barely had time to climb anyway – I was focused on getting out of the Bay Area and on the road. I changed up my daily habits a bit, things that were obvious to me, such as not holding the phone between my shoulder and head while typing and carrying an ergonomic backpack during my daily walks to/form the BART station. My shoulder pain went away without me doing any of the exercises that she has prescribed. 8 months later, I realize that she and I had both missed the big picture. I’ll get back to that a little bit later…

At the end of February, we finally left for the trip. With everything else going on (getting used to being on the road, building up the blog, and trying to shoot/edit video), I was focused on climbing as much as possible and easily ignored the intermittent shoulder pain that had come back. Since it was also summer, we weren’t trying that hard on anything…our main goal was just to stay as cool and dry as possible until we got to Colorado. It’s difficult to motivate when the rock is as greasy as a Big Mac.

It’s easy to forget about shoulder pain when this is your backdrop for climbing.

Fast forward to Colorado. We had been on the road for 4 months when we arrived in Fort Collins. I had definitely seen strength gains, but not as great as I would have liked. I was climbing in the gym a couple times per week (at most) in the Bay Area, now I was climbing ALL THE TIME, in the gym and outside. Still, I wasn’t really sending. And it wasn’t even the non-sending that was bothering me, but the fact that I didn’t feel stronger. I felt like something was holding me back. Maybe it was too much climbing and not enough training?

As I previously mentioned, we currently have a gym a stone’s throw away in Brad’s garage. When we moved in at the beginning of August, we began training on our rest days. I began to actually enjoy training, but my shoulder kept acting up. An action as simple as opening the truck door would set it off and then I was unable to do even a push-up without pain. That, combined with the gut feeling that the hunch in my back and excessive winging in my shoulder blades was not normal, sealed the deal. Something was wrong. I knew it and it was time to stop ignoring it.

Spenser getting some antagonistic training in at Summit Strength Training. Wall Angels, a great exercise featured in The One Workout Every Climber Should Do.

Enter Jeff Giddings of Adams & Giddings Physical Therapy. I was tipped off to his therapeutic ways by a couple long-term climbers – Paul Nadler, who had seen him for  recurring shoulder issue, and then Tim Rose, who went to see him for a lat issue while he was staying with Brad, Spenser, and I in Fort Collins. What instantly attracted me to this particular physical therapist was both Paul and Tim said that Giddings himself was a climber and that he did not prescribe eliminating climbing. SCORE!

Damn…this guy’s a busy! I guess that’s a good sign? Made an appointment. Had to wait 2 weeks, but finally got in! Jeff Giddings is a soft-spoken man, who is not afraid to tell it how it is. He even brought out his spine and shoulder models to teach me about the muscle imbalances happening in my body. I know, what a concept. I could immediately tell from the worry in his eyes that what is going on with me is serious. Thankfully, it’s not too serious yet. No surgery, no MRI, no tear, nothing permanent. Operative word: YET.

My hunching, excessive winging, and shoulder pain are all related. Like many climbers, I have overdeveloped lats. No surprise there. But, for whatever reason, when I began climbing I didn’t use my back muscles (specifically the ones between the shoulder blades) and overused my lats and teres major. Now, these muscles don’t want to let go. Here’s what I learned: the lat (aka latisimus dorsi) actually wraps all the way up the front of your shoulder. My lat has a firm hold on my shoulder and is pulling it forward, causing it to twist. Twisting is bad, unless you’re doing ab exercises. Jeff made is clear that if I didn’t fix the issues, things were going to get worse, fast. I was on the road to surgery.

Here’s a pic of the right lat muscle. This image is the best I could find to show how the lat muscle actually wraps around the front of the shoulder – its insertion point of attachment is on the front side top of the Humerus (upper arm bone), specifically the bicipital groove, which is achieved by its tendons wrapping around the underside of the Humerus.

Here’s the teres major. Again, Jeff’s description of my muscle imbalances make sense. You can see that the teres major connects to the front of the Humerus. If it’s tight (oh man, is it tight), it is going to pull my shoulders down.

Other issues include incredibly weak upper back muscles (those ones I don’t use while climbing) and curving of my thoracic spine (mid-back), but we needed to deal with the tightness first – my lats had to be forced to let go. So, the mobilizing and needling began. That first office visit, Jeff focused on my left side, since that is where the pain occurs. He needled my lat and teres major, those were the main pressure points. I know that he is not full of it because when he found those trigger points, man, did they  hurt – even causing inadvertent twitching of one leg or the other! Pressure points, indeed.

For those of you who are saying, needling…WTF? Needling is short for Trigger Point Dry Needling, or TDN. A very fine acupuncture needle is used to relax, or shut down, painful or knotted areas in your muscles. Most of are walking around with knots, that hard ball that won’t go away, in certain muscles. If you don’t address these knots with massage therapy, they can harden further and be extremely difficult to release. Most of the time, you can still choose to do aggressive massage therapy over needling, needling is just a faster solution. If you have never heard of needling, you either have never needed it or likely live in one of the 4 states that prohibit physical therapists from practicing it…California included.

I was nervous and weirdly excited. Tim had been needled while he was in town because his lat injury forced him to almost give up the climbing during his climbing trip to Colorado. After one session with Jeff, he was back to crushing. Since they use acupuncture needles, they do not hurt entering the skin. Then, the fun begins. As Jeff hit my trigger points, the muscle went crazy in spasm. It’s an incredibly strange feeling, but painful is not a term I would use to describe it. Your legs twitch, your eyes tear up, and then it’s all over in a flash. Deep breaths help.

Get it done where I can. Foam rolling at Chautauqua Park after Peter Mortimer showed us around the bouldering at The Ghetto.

Starting the first week, I was supposed to stretch out on a foam roller twice PER DAY. My exercises included laying on the foam roller length-wise and putting my arms out to the side while holding a 1-pound weight in each hand. Hold for a minute, or until my arms have lost feeling, rest and repeat for 4 reps total (shown in the picture above). Then, still laying lengthwise with the 1-pound weights, I needed to do 10-20 reps of bringing opposite arms up and down and 10 reps of flys, making sure my hands touch the ground each time. Lastly, we needed to start to deal with the curvature in my thoracic spine AKA hunching. This involves laying with the foam roller cross-wise right at the bottom of my scapula (shoulder blades) with my hips on the ground and forcing, yes, forcing, my thoracic spine back for at least minute. To deal with the winging, I needed to do modified plange push-ups (shown below) – 20 reps, 3 sets, 3 times per week. I am currently not allowed to do a full push-up, so my modification for the plange is to start on my knees in a push-up position and then push my chest in towards my spine and hunch my back, as shown below, then come back down to the start of a push-up for each rep.

What you should look like at the top of a plange push-up. I am doing a modified plange push-up on my knees for the moment, but the main goal is the same. This pic is taken from the awesome article that everyone should read: The One Workout Every Climber Should Do by Steve Edwards.

I took my tasks seriously and did the exercises religiously. When I came in for my next appointment, Jeff was psyched at the improvement. This, in turn, made me psyched. Now my right side was more tight than my left…funny that. Apparently, both sides were almost equally imbalanced. According to Jeff, it was pretty much a crap-shoot for which shoulder started experiencing pain first. Alright, more mobilization of the shoulder cap and more needling. This time, more extensive needling on both sides, including both my lats, teres major, muscles over each scapula and upper traps. I could barely drive home I was so sore. The soreness was rough for the rest of the day, but felt much better by the evening and even better the next morning.

Since I was succeeding in stretching myself out in the right direction, it was time to add a few back strengthening exercises to balance out my over-developed lats. Ys, Ts, and Ws (you can see an example of how to do each of these in this cheesy 2008 video). Back extensions on an exercise ball and seated rows with a green Theraband (videos of how to do them here and here, respectively). 3 sets of 10 reps for each of these. Do these as much as possible, basically any day that I am not climbing outside, in addition to the foam roller exercises I still need do to twice per day.

The plange Y exercise as shown as from the same article, The One Workout Every Climber Should Do. The DPM article also has a link to a video showing each exercise, check it out! This exercise can be done laying down on the floor (with a towel roll under your head), on a bench, or the stability ball. The choice is yours!

I will say, there is one sucky side effect…I felt weaker than ever climbing. Jeff explanation made sense: my previously tight back muscles were now becoming more slack, which means that they had less power. Hopefully in a few weeks they will adjust and, in theory, I’ll be climbing harder than ever. AND using the correct muscles to climb. What a concept!

Last Tuesday, I went back to see Jeff again. More improvement, more needling and we added one more exercise. The rotator cuff muscles need to become stronger in order to help pull my shoulders back, so I am now doing side lying rotator cuff external rotations with a 2-pound weight (I also place a towel roll under the working arm). 2 sets of 10-15 reps on each side. I was so much less sore from the needling therapy this time, I was even able to do my back exercises that evening!

I won’t see Jeff for another 2 weeks, now it’s up to me to take my exercises seriously. We’ve also extended our stay in Colorado…again. It’s hard to leave and it also doesn’t make sense to leave until we’re ready. My back/shoulders are not ready yet, so it looks like we’re staying around Fort Collins until the middle of October. Spenser just came home with the Joe’s Valley Bouldering guidebook, we’ll be happily making our tick-lists and finishing the lastest RV Project episode in the meantime.

Anyone else out there having shoulder or back issues from climbing? Anyone else as imbalanced as I am? I would love to hear what other people have done to rid themselves of any sort of chronic pain. Misery loves company. 🙂

I am actually a little giddy to see Jeff in 2 weeks. I’m incredibly thankful to have finally found someone who is knowledgable and not scared to explain why each exercise is important. I know I’ll be keeping up with my exercises, no matter how mind-numbingly mundane they are. Remembering to keep things in perspective and look at the big picture: I understand this is a long-term therapy and I also understand that I have to do this if I want to be climbing long-term. I want to stay as far away from surgery as possible and right now, I’m too close for comfort. Jeff and I are looking to have me “crushing” (words from his own mouth) by the time The RV Project pulls into The Pit for another Bishop Thanksgiving. I cannot be more excited.

Long drives, no matter how beautiful, can take a toll on your back. I know sitting in the truck for hours on end hasn’t helped the hunch…

Time to Try Hard

I’ve just fallen in love with the concept of training. I don’t enjoy training…yet. And yikes, if you know me, you know that’s a crazy sentence. Like Spenser mentioned in the last post, we’ve been in Colorado over two months. Since being in Colorado, Spenser and I have kicked up our training several notches. Through this, I’ve realized that my quit threshold is extremely low…

Pat Goodman exhibiting a high quit threshold while giving his all on the crack machine at Summit Strength Training (photo courtesy of Brad Jackson). I’m not looking to get into crack climbing, but I want to learn how to try that hard!

What is a quit threshold, you ask? I see it as the moment you lose your “grrr,” when you stop trying hard. It’s completely psychological. You could do one, two, or even three more push-ups/crunches/squats, but you choose not to. You essentially give up. You know that the extra effort won’t kill you, so why do you stop? The negative impact is not solely felt in your training, this attitude will eventually permeate throughout all your actions. It could mean that you will not make that last move on the climb you’ve been projecting, or that you will lack the mental gumption to study hard for class that you need to excel in.

So here we are. In Colorado, surrounded by ridiculously strong climbers. Living with Brad Jackson, a training master. He knows how to train smart, not just hard. So…exactly why are we not taking FULL advantage of this? When this realization finally hit me, I felt like quite a bonehead.

Brad Jackson dead lifting his way to glory at Summit.

The past 2 months have been the most active months in my entire life. Hiking to and from Rocky Mountain National Park, at high altitude, training hard…but not hard enough. There’s still a ton of other things that seem to get in the way – selling the trailer, keeping up with the social media (blog, Facebook), and climbing. I have realized that climbing is not enough, I HAVE to train my antagonistic muscles if I am going to improve my climbing and even survive as a climber long-term.

Making the hike to Upper Chaos. Thankfully, it’s gotten exponentially easier – I actually look forward to it now!

This brings up The Pain Box. Spenser sent me this CrossFit article, and although I am completely skeptical of CrossFit, this article is applicable to anyone and everyone. The concept of pain and pleasure reallocation is quite simple, albeit easier written down rather than applied.

You have a fixed quantity of “pain,” but the divider in the middle of the box can move. Do you want more of your pain to come from sacrifice and hard work or from, as the author of the article puts it, sucking.

Same goes for pleasure:

Much of the pleasure in your life comes from making a choice between the superficial thrills associated with “guilty pleasures” (you know what they are for you!) and a deeper pleasure from true gratification and/or fulfillment.

I am currently unable, let’s be honest, unwilling to give up certain guilty pleasures of my own, such as Breaking Bad. Nonetheless, this is a great concept to keep in mind when making choices.

Training is helping me raise my quit threshold and move my pain and pleasure boxes in the right directions…one more push-up and Russian twist at a time. I’ll be learning throughout this process and keeping y’all as updated as possible.

Hard work paying off – me sending my second V5 EVER this past Sunday at Emerald Lake! Zack in for the spot, helping me keep it together at the top 🙂

While we’ve been haphazardly training since settling in Fort Collins, today Brad, Spenser and I sat down to create a set training plan with a goal – crush to the best of our limits at the ABS 14 Regional Championships at Miramont North in Fort Collins, just 10 days away. Updates will be coming with our exact training and fitness plans! If anyone has any favorite training tricks or tips, please share them!

As Brad puts it, if you’re not strong, you’re f***ing weak.

So…let’s get strong!!

Brad Jackson and Adam Papilion taping up while mentally preparing to take on the crack machine.

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