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Return to Rock Climbing Articles Ok, so itís that time of year again where the weather is ridiculously too hot for slappiní around on some fine sandstone and granite. And if youíre anything like me and need a pound of chalk for re-chalking between attempts, then itís time to hit the indoor gyms.

But fret not my sloper obsessed friends, for this is the quintessential time and place for you to master those skills which will come in handy when you want to show up your pals when the fall rolls around. See, with fall literally right around the corner, and the crisp autumn air that makes climbing outdoors as great as it is, summer becomes a time to practice and build whatever it is that your climbing is lacking.

Donít find yourself victim to the futile, peer pressure that forces you to try climbs way out of your league. With great fall events, such as the Triple Crown, the last thing you need to worry about is your climbing being vitiated by an injury sustained because you thought it was fun to try the nine and a half foot dyno. Yes, dynos are fun (and Iím not straying people from enjoying themselves while indoors) Iím just saying that every now and then itís worthwhile to listen to the voice of reason and not give in because of the mounting trepidation of saying no.

Trust me, I know from experience. Now I can, honestly, say that if Iím going to injure myself itís going to be while climbing my ass off outdoors with some real intent. Essentially, what you should take away from this is: donít get injured!

So, where was I? Oh yeah, purposeful indoor climbing.

What I find myself doing most during these summer months is improvisation. Whatever gym I go to I search for the problems in my level of working, but attainability. Because, personally, Iím not going to waste time on a V10 when I struggle on V7s.

The next strategy is to learn the climb. Literally, as though it were a book; read each move and even act it out before you even try the climb. Believe it or not, a lot of energy can be saved just by knowing what youíre going to do when you get halfway through the problem. Stare and even let others climb in with you and even before you. There is no shame in watching someone else send a problem before you, but there is much to be learned from watching where they went terribly wrong, and amazingly right. After looking as autistic as Dustin Hoffman in Rainman for a solid few minutes, climb the route. Try to remember what you thought while you read the problem and see if you were right. If a drop knee here, gaston there, heel hook anywhere worksÖgreat! Youíve got every right to be proud. If you fail and fall a humiliating few feet and land on youíre back just get up and say, ďwell, I guess that didnít work.Ē

Whether you flash or work the problem it is essential to be adamant about repetitiously trying every problem you climb. Itís surprising how often I find myself capable of flashing a problem only to return to it the next day and struggle with the start move. See, the intent is to become a machineÖ.I know how ridiculously wrong that sounds, but itís true.

The more you climb problems over and over again; itís not to show off, (unless youíre that guy) itís to build a catalogue of sorts in your head. The same way Page can play the solo to every Zeppelin song without lowering his eyes to the fret-board, is the way you want to train your body to know each move without looking or struggling. Learn just exactly how much energy and strength is exacted to hold onto each crimp, jug and slope. Learn where to position your feet (flag right, flag left) to avoid barn-dooring at all cost. Learn where you can save energy by skipping a hold or adding a dyno to a problem here and there. Learn how to memorize the moves and before you know it, youíll find yourself attempting moves on actual outdoor rock, or even in other gyms, that youíd never thought youíd attempt before. Thereís something to be said for having the confidence, know-how, and natural instinct to throw a heel hook when youíre suspended fifteen feet off the ground. When it becomes a natural feeling and you donít even know youíre doing it, and others approach you saying, ďHowíd you do that?Ē and ďNo way am I capable of making that move.Ē then youíll realize the growth youíve underwent as a climber.

Now, what I meant by improvisation, was after youíve fine tuned and mastered every hold, move and sequence of every climb you are capable of doing. Then itís time to try the really hard stuff that at first I hinted at avoiding. By this point, youíve trained your body slowly and properly, so that your tendons, muscles and bones are stronger for the moves and holds required for sending harder problems. Therefore, meaning that the chance of foolish injury should be drastically reduced.

Another little word of advice I have for those of you who, are at a bit of a plateau and can destroy every problem at your level, but falter and shimmy all over anything harder, is to try changing up the problems youíve mastered. Manipulate the routes so that a foot here or a hand there is off, and see how that affects your problem. Since the major beta is memorized, you can focus your learning onto one crux of an old problem, rather than wondering how to link something youíve never climbed together. Well, thatís just some advice I have to offer as far as tips for summer training. The other possibility lies in being courageous enough to just suffice the humid, hot, sweaty, sticky, pad-ripping, toe-box wearing, chalk eroding summer, go balls out and enjoy the hell out of whatever climbing you can accomplish. My best advice though, would be to just rememberÖfallís right around the corner.

Sal Zullo

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