The Resurrection

This blog started because I was wondering. In life, love, work, everything… I found myself, cooking awesome food on a camp stove inside a van. This van was my home for periods of time while climbing with my ex boyfriend. To this day, he is the voice inside my head when I climb… he is what pushes me harder, and what makes me want to climb harder than “the boys”.

Cooking has always been some what easy for me. I love doing it, and it just makes sense for me. When I started cooking meals on this stove, located inside a van, that was located in a desert in NV, I never thought it was anything special. My dad informed me otherwise, and it’s because of him that I even started this blog. He, by the way, is the one who named me, The Climbing Chef.

Before I was a preschool teacher in San Francisco, who during breaks (or whenever) would fly out to see her (then) boyfriend at wherever he was climbing. He, the ex, was an amazing architect who decided to take a break and live out of a van, tour the country and climb like an ape. I still admire him for doing this, even if things between us didn’t end up with a “Happily Ever After” attached it this story. But… like I was saying… before all of this…. I worked for UCSF on their rock climbing wall. I had climbed before but never outside… I was 100% a gym rat. A leisurely, gym rat at that. I liked to climb but it had not taken over my life…. yet.

One fateful afternoon, I met an amazing woman who invited me to join her and her friends on my first outdoor climbing experience. Going out of my comfort zone, I accepted and have been hooked to the same group of climbing friends ever since. Some more than others, I have remained close to but I credit them for most, if not all, of my climbing knowledge and passion.

If we fast forward this story to April 2011, you would have found me in Red Rock Canyon, NV for my third climbing trip there. The previous two times before that, was with my ex and was when I spent time “living” in his van. This trip was amazing and I finally felt like I was thriving within my climbing. That trip, I was able to climb an 11.a and an 11.b… neither of them I climbed clean, but I was still capable of those problems. IT WAS AMAZING!

Sadly, right after that (literally on that trip), I started getting sick. Really sick. Thank goodness for one of my best friends, who was able to get me out of the canyon and into a hotel room, because I would not have been able to do it alone.

My climbing pretty much ended for the season right then and there. I was able to do a few more day trips here and there, and an occasional gym climb… but I was really hurting at that point. Come end of May and I wasn’t able to climb at all…

That means that I was without my drug of choice, climbing, for almost 8 months. My heart was broken.

Finally, it was time for what I am calling: The Resurrection

Last weekend I headed up to Grizzley Dome and tried my hardest to climb something…. anything. I had no idea how much strength I had lost and mainly, how much of my “mental” was still there. The goal? To climb laps on whatever I could do.

Soooo, the day started when we reached the rocks at just before 10:00am. I figured it was a good sign that I was giddy and not just nervous. We unloaded the car, racked up, and my friend took off to lead a pretty decent 5.8 sport route. This route has always been weird for me… there is this one move that even back before April, stumped me. Regardless, she lead it like a pro and I lowered her.

My turn…

The first run at it was hard. Not physically but mentally. To be honest, I haven’t lost too much strength. Sure, I have lost some but not a lot… mainly in my feet and ankles. They started getting tired a lot quicker and my stamina wasn’t there. But, like I said, it was mostly my head… I felt like a total newbie! After the first run, I took a quick break, had a snack and did it again…

And again….

Then I hopped on a 5.7 and cruised up it like a pro. Yea yea yea, it’s a 5.7, I know… but at least it is something 🙂

Thankfully, I can say that this Climbing Chef is back in action! For as long as I can, I will not take any climbing trips, adventures, climbs and/or experiences for granted. I’d much rather be climbing something “easy” than not climbing at all.

To top it all off, these Goo Balls (thanks Rach for the name change) have been a huge hit. All of my friends and loved ones can’t stop eating them. Thanks Evan 🙂

Goo Balls:

(original recipe here.. not mine at all… but I love them)

Ingredients(Makes about 18 balls):

1 1/2 cups pitted dates

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

3 T chia seeds

In a food processor, combine the dates and raisins until they make a dough like ball. Once this happens, add in the peanut butter and chia seeds. Continue mixing until completely combined. Take out of the food processor and finish mixing by hand. Finally (yea, like it’s been forever… it takes all of 5 minutes… jez), pinch off small amounts of the mixture and roll into balls. I like mine the size of large gum balls or small golf balls but make them how you wish. Also, I doubled the recipe because I knew I would LOVE them. I suggest doing the same!

These have been saving my butt at work since I made them, because I can eat them quickly and they give me a lot of energy. They also rock for climbing!

Haha, get it?! Rock…

Lauren Azevedo-Henderson is a climber and foodie with a degree in Art History. Lauren has been cooking all her life and has been seriously climbing for just over 2 years. While living in her ex-boyfriend’s van (only for long weekends or a week at a time) she started cooking what you would call “gourmet” food on a camp stone in the van. She now spends most of her time in Red Rock, NV and started writing her food/climbing blog “The Climbing Chef” just last year.

The gift of homemade peppermint marshmallows

For me to state that it is the “season” would be kind of stupid because we all know that the holiday season is upon us.  I must admit that I am not the most “cheery” or “warm” in regards to the holidays.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having time to spend with the family and an excuse to make a lot of food that I normally would not be making.  But… I find the entire show of consumerism kind of sickening.  Especially since a lot of people are hurting economically this year and we should be focusing on the more important things in life… instead of that sweater that you MUST have.

… sorry… I am kind of a Grinch…

What do I enjoy about this blessed season?  I love peppermint flavored everything, decorating the christmas tree, cooking with my mom, drinking snugglers, staying cozy in bed when it’s cold outside, Meet Me in St. Louis and spending very missed time with my friends and family.

Misletoe does not hurt either :)

We survived the week of craziness at work and managed to end the work day on Saturday relatively early.  Not too shabby!  Since I only had Sunday off, I spent it by sleeping in, studying for finals and finally making homemade peppermint marshmallows for my co-workers.

Tell you the truth, I don’t even like marshmallows that much but thought they would be a good addition to a snuggler and I had never made them before.  I now have to say that I LOVE homemade marshmallows!!!!! They are 100x better than store-bought ones and you can make them any flavor that you are craving.  My next batch may just have to be toasted coconut… or french vanilla… who knows?

I adapted the recipe from this one and doubled the recipe so that I could have enough for everyone at work.  Warning: This barely fits in your KitchenAid as a double batch… but it does, just be warned that it’s close.

“Grinchy” Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows:

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 cups cold water, divided

12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups

1 cup light corn syrup (or glucose)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 1/2 tsp. peppermints extract

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

6-8 smashed candy canes

Nonstick spray

In your Kitchen aid stand mixer, empty the gelatin packets into the bowl and add in half of the cold water.  Make sure it is completely mixed together and let it sit, have your whisk attachment on the Kitchenaid.  In a sauce pan, heat the other half of the water, salt, corn syrup and sugar on medium heat, covered for about 3-4 minutes.  When this mixture starts to simmer, add in your candy thermometer and continue to cook until it reaches 240 degrees.  This will take about 10 minutes.  While you are waiting for this to happen, prepare your pan.  Line a 9 x 13 sheet pan with aluminum foil and stray it with nonstick spray.  Make sure you spray the sides too.  In a bowl combine the corn starch and confectioners’ sugar.  Dust the pan with this mixture and set aside the remaining mixture.  Now, sprinkle in half of your crushed candy canes onto the prepared sheet tray.

Once you get to 240, turn the heat off and SLOWLY add it into the gelatin mixture with the Kitchenaid on low.  Let the mixture run down the side of the metal bowl and into the gelatin.  Once all of it is combined, turn the mixer on high and let it go for about 15 minutes.  The mixture will start to look like marshmallows and will be glossy and lukewarm.

When this happens, pour the mixture into your prepared sheet tray.  Using an oiled spatula to smooth the marshmallow mixture evenly.  Once this is done, top with more of the corn starch and sugar mixture and finally the rest of the crushed candy canes.  Finally, drop some red food color on top, using a long skewer, drag the red food dye throughout the marshmallow mixture.

Allow to sit out for at least 4 hours and up to over night.  One they have set up, cut them using a sharp knife dredged in confectioners’ sugar.  These will last up to 3 weeks in an air tight container.


Even my Grinchy little heart grew three sizes…. Yea, they are that good.

Top your favorite winter-time drink with these, or package them up, and give to people you know will love them.

Lauren Azevedo-Henderson is a climber and foodie with a degree in Art History. Lauren has been cooking all her life and has been seriously climbing for just over 2 years. While living in her ex-boyfriend’s van (only for long weekends or a week at a time) she started cooking what you would call “gourmet” food on a camp stone in the van. She now spends most of her time in Red Rock, NV and started writing her food/climbing blog “The Climbing Chef” just last year.

A Diet to Conquer Climbers’ Aches

All athletes should eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, a good quality multivitamin — and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t smoke. But can your diet actually prevent some injuries, or help you to heal faster from the injuries that you have already sustained? The answer is yes — not only can your diet provide you with the nutrients you need to repair and regrow your tissues, but it can also reduce your overall levels of inflammation, and even reduce pain and swelling from an injury, strain, or ordinary muscle aching and soreness. To reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain, consider including the following foods in your diet (always being careful to avoid any foods that you may personally have an allergy or sensitivity to):

– Green leafy vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are good dietary sources of vitamins and minerals that you need to keep your bones and muscle tissue in good repair: calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin K (which helps prevent bruising). Just for starters, try broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. But, all things in moderation — a diet that is too rich in cruciferous vegetables can push someone who is borderline hypothyroid (as many women are) over the edge into hypothyroidism, so don’t overdo them. Instead, make sure to balance cruciferous vegetables with other nutritious foods, such as fresh fruit, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein sources. Don’t always eat a spinach salad — have romaine sometimes, or mix in some leafy herbs, such as parsley or cilantro.

– Foods that are rich in zinc, such as chicken, eggs, soybeans, and wheat germ. Zinc helps to keep blood vessel walls strong and helps blood to clot.

– Foods that are rich in vitamin C. If you don’t get enough vitamin C in your diet, not only are you prone to the bleeding gums of scurvy, but you will also find that you bruise more easily, because a vitamin C deficiency can make your blood vessels more delicate and thin, so tiny capillaries break and bleed more easily — leaving you with a bruise. Luckily, it’s easy to get enough vitamin C — just eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to drink orange juice if you don’t like it — try berries or leafy greens, or better yet, a salad containing both.

– Alfalfa sprouts. Alfalfa is rich in vitamin K, which helps to prevent bruising.

– Pineapple. Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which is famous for improving digestion, but is also an anti-inflammatory. It can reduce the inflammation of tendonitis, muscle aches, and sprains and strains. If you don’t like pineapple, or if you need bromelain in a more compact form to take with you on a climb, you can take bromelain as a supplement, in capsule form. If you are recovering at home and trying to heal a current injury using pineapple as an anti-inflammatory, be prepared to eat a lot of it — about 1/2 a pineapple per day. If you enjoy pineapple, though, that shouldn’t be a problem! And here’s a bonus: in Germany, bromelain is also prescribed for sinusitis, so if you tend to suffer from sinus problems, you may want to take an especially good look at adding pineapple to your diet. (For more about bromelain, see the University of Maryland Medical Center’s fact sheet, “Bromelain,”

– Ginger. Ginger is the original compact all purpose herb — the friend of travelers everywhere, because not only is it small and easy to pack, but it reduces motion sickness. However, like pineapple, ginger can also act as an anti-inflammatory. Ginger has been studied and used medicinally for centuries, but only since the 1970s has it been made the subject of clinical trials for its efficacy in treating inflammation. Now scientists have moved on from validating ginger’s anti-inflammatory action to studying the reasons for it. It turns out that some of the chemical components of ginger are similar to those of aspirin, and in studies, ginger, like aspirin, has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritic inflammation. (See Grzanna, et al., “Ginger–an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions,” Journal of medicinal food, Summer 2005,

– Omega-3 fatty acids. Yes, that means fish oil — or possibly, flax, nuts, or algae. Many vegetables also contain small amounts of omega-3s. You don’t have to worry about including omega-3s in your diet every day (unless you are trying to remedy a past deficiency), but including them at least a couple of times per week can reduce inflammation in your body. The jury is still out on just how helpful omega-3s are for inflammation, but they are being studied as a therapy for the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Like most healthy foods, this one also has other bonuses: it improves memory, focus, and reduces depression and anxiety — so if you are anxious about a tough climb that is approaching, you may find it helpful to include an omega-3 supplement (such as fish oil capsules) every day for a while — omega-3s have been found in clinical trials to reduce anxiety. (See National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation and anxiety in healthy young adults,” 2011,

Brett Warren is a fitness and weightlifting enthusiast from Boston, Massachusetts. He is passionate about nutraceutical science and loves his job developing workout supplements for Force Factor. Brett’s extensive background in biochemical engineering means he’s one scientist you don’t want to mess with. When Brett is not crushing it in the gym or working at Force Factor, you can find him spending time outdoors with his family.

FEAR: Your Greatest Ally…

Today we have a guest post from Almine Barton, who is a licensed acupuncturist and certified personal trainer as well as an avid rock climber.

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” ~John Wayne

FEAR: The very word drudges up mental images of cold sweats, “Jell-O legs,” clammy hands & rapid heartrate. Its been something we’ve been taught to avoid at all costs. Fear is synonymous with “Go Back!” But what if we’ve misjudged fear’s lessons? What if we’ve misunderstood its teachings?

In the April 2009 issue of “Outside” magazine, an article written called, “This is your brain on adventure” explored the neuro-chemistry behind pushing the boundry, exploring the edge, & why we need a bit of risk in our lives. To check out the article, go to the following link:

“Paleo” man/woman lived in a state of survival. “Nothing fun about that,” you say. However, scientists are beginning to look at the possible way our brain gets “extra” creative when we’re forced to face our fears. There’s something to be said for safety. No one is questioning that. To be unsafe is silly, even faulty. However, there is a new school of thought amongst neuro-scientists that are beginning to differentiate between anxiety and true fear. True fear doesn’t actually appear to be all that harmful to the body. Anxiety does. In fact, in our remote-controlled, escalator-ridden world, scientists are seeing that certain neuro-peptides have become “lazy” or “complacent” in our modern society.

Yes, it’s of advantage that we don’t always have to wrestle a bear to get back to our “cave.” At the same time, scientists are growing concerned that we don’t always move past our places of comfort either. There is a healthy balance, and it will be an individual search within oneself to find it. I hear people say to me, “You rock climb? I could never do that. I’m afraid of heights.” I have an answer for them: I am too. I look at climbers that are so much more accomplished than I am, and esteem to have their bravery. If I know my equipment is sound, that there is redundancy in backing up my safety mechanisms, that my belay partner has double-checked everything, and that I am capable of the climb, then I ask myself, “Almine, what are youREALLY afraid of?”

There is an element of self-preservation which is completely natural. We all have these innate instincts. Tom Brown Jr., America’s most renowned tracker and wilderness survival expert, makes a distinction. He says, “My teacher, Stalking Wolf, told me, ‘The difference between the Apaches and the white settlers they encountered, is when the Apaches were afraid they moved towards whatever frightened them. The white settlers stepped back.”

The subtle art of knowing the difference between a “surface” level anxiety and a true gut-instinct of “move away” takes time to distinguish. According to Tom Brown, the majority of us mistake anxiety for a true fear. He said that true fear is actually rare in the wild.

Cultures, the world-over, have sought out to master their fears. This has taken place in a variety of ways. The Maya used cenotes (underground well-caves) to experience true darkness in the bosom of the earth…to experience fear welling up inside them…only to learn to calm their mind amongst it. According to Geologist and author Gregg Braden, temples of great civilizations were generally used to “isolate” certain emotions. It is there, in these temples, initiates sought out the internal power to master these emotions. For instance, Egyptologist, Graham Hancock, author of “Fingerprints of the Gods,” specifically states that the very bottom chamber of the great pyramid of Giza was used by the Egyptian initiates to “master their most innate darkness.” He states that the lower chamber (representing the “lower” or limbic part of the brain) has heiroglyphs etched into the walls indicating the word “fear,” or the “mastering thereof.”

In Chinese medicine, we look at the vital organs in terms of a more holistic approach. You really could liken them to complex systems, that each “house” or “rule” an emotion. For instance, the ancient medical text, the “Nei Jing,” or the “Yellow Emperor’s Cannon of Classic Medicine” (as its more commonly known) states, “The kidneys are the house of fear.” What does this mean? We do know, in western bio-medicine that the adrenal glands (which look like little “nightcaps” sitting on top of the kidneys) pump out cortisol, our “fight-or-flight” hormone. Chinese medicine is based on 2 main intertwined theories: the theory of yin/yang, and the 5-elements. Both of these theories come together to create a complex, yet completely organic whole-system, view of the human being. For every “yin” organ, there’s a “yang” organ. The kidneys are considered “yin,” its paired organ, the bladder is considered “yang.” The kidneys are said to “rule” the deepest fears of our human self: abandonment, survival, fear of the dark, of deep water, of heights, etc. The bladder is said to “rule” more anxiety, such as: “what am I going to do about money this month?,” “did I leave my stove on?,” etc. When we feel fear, people say, “I have to pee!” This is an obvious example of how when we feel anxious our bladder responds. “Kidney fear” is said to be mastered. “Bladder fear” is said to be ignored. There are a variety of meditation disciplines in the world to assist in quieting the mind. Lisa Rands, Steph Davis, Dean Potter, Chris Sharma…some of the most accomplished climbers in the world use one form of meditation or another to master their minds, and still their thoughts.

I use climbing as a metaphor because heights is such a common fear (the #2, to be exact…public speaking is #1). I ask myself, over and over, “Almine, if you know your gear is sound, and the climb is within your ability, what’s the problem?” I then look at my deepest fears, and do my best to move forward. I’m not always successful. Sometimes I can’t commit to the climb. Sometimes I can. This is why the Buddhists call the discipline of “stilling the mind” a “practice.” Every day is different, and you have to accept that. Be kind to yourself. Mastering our fears is the opposite of what we’ve all been taught to do.

We all grew up being fascinated by “Star Wars.” The graphics, the costumes, the archetypal story. However, nothing in “Star Wars” captured the imagination, of young and old, like the Jedi. Joseph Campbell, the brilliant mastermind behind the story line of “Star Wars” was one of the greatest mythologists the world has seen. His book “The Power of Myth” is an academic classic in the world of anthropology, history and philosophy. Did you ever stop to wonder where this great concept of the Jedis came from? The historical Egyptian “Jeds” were Campbell’s inspiration for the Jedis.” The Jeds were said to have “mastered their fears in the temples of Anubis. The underworld (the mind of fear) had no hold left on them.”

We are enamored with the timeless Jedis, because we too have the same fears that lurk within us: of the dark, the deep ocean, of small spaces, snakes, heights, the list goes on…insert your own fears.

As an Amazonian shaman said to me, “It is your job, as a human being to live free from fear. To live beyond the shadows of the mind. Do your best and practice diligently.”

To resist fear is cheating ourselves. It may have some lessons yet to teach us. Be open to yours, and in the way they come to you. Observe them when they come up, without judgement. They simply ARE. They’re neither good nor bad. They’re your teacher. Use your life circumstances to practice this, and as the Buddhists say, “The fear of death then, can have no hold on your mind.”

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela

Almine Barton is a licensed acupuncturist and certified personal trainer.  She runs 2 sports medicine clinics in Bend, OR., and Portland, OR.   She works closely with climbers, olympians, and competing “CrossFit” athletes in her practice, and enjoys seeing her patients achieve their fitness and wellness goals.  She and her husband Stanford, a certified “CrossFit” coach, live near “Smith Rock,” and enjoy the immense climbing opportunities that Central OR. has to offer.  She is an avid sport climber, “CrossFitter,” mtn. biker, trail-runner and Adventure Racer.  She has one Malamute named Tallon, who keeps her running trails all winter long.  Learn more about Almine at and on her blog at

Training the body and mind for climbing

The following is part two of Sarah Goldman’s interview with Chicks alumna Anne Hughes. To see part one of the interview (in which Anne discusses projecting a climb – specifically a 5.11d just days before her 56th birthday) click here. Continue reading to learn more about how Anne trains her body and her mind, as well as how she looks to mentor up-and-coming climbers.

A hot topic these days seems to be training for climbing.  There are a variety of programs out there from Crossfit, Mountain Athlete, traditional bodybuilding etc. You said that you learned from Girly Guide Mattie Sheafor that if you can’t climb regularly it’s almost as good to train with a good sport specific coaching program.  What does that look like for you?
I train with Pat Gilles (, twitter: PatsGym).  He trains me twice a week in hour long sessions.  I’m impressed with how his personalized training program has targeted my weaknesses, like grip, cross through’s, lock offs, hip mobility, and mantling, to name a few. I work with him one-on-one, in a varied program that has improved my strength, mental muscle, endurance and metabolic performance.

What differences have you noticed out at the crag?
I can now boulder a lot better.  I have power and strength I never imagined I could have at this age.  My grip strength has improved.  I can lock off and cross through and mantle better.  I can do powerful and difficult movement longer and better. It is like I now have overdrive I can slip into as needed.

All that physical strength has got to help with mental strength as well.  Have you found that to be the case?
Mental focus is a must on the climb, especially on the sharp end, and this has been a major stumbling block since the day I started to lead, when a practice fall in my lead class at the gym resulted in a broken bone and torn ligaments.  Working out has shown me how much more I can do when my body says I am too tired to continue.  I’m working hard to turn off the unproductive voice in my head that keeps me from going the distance.  Mental muscle is coming along and I’m delighted.

You recently had a letter to the editor published in Climbing Magazine. Congratulations. You made the point that the mainstream climbing media doesn’t seem to cover women in their 40s and 50s that are climbing hard.  Do you think that is because the media doesn’t see an audience for it or because they just aren’t out there?
What I was asking for is to see a similar number of stories and photos of women over 40 doing cool moves and routes and mountains as there are of men over 40.  In particular, actually I’d like to see women age fifty and beyond. Hey, I am pushing 60, you know!  I don’t know why the media doesn’t cover these women.  Women 50+ climbing strong do exist, or so I’m told by Chicks Girly Guides who have traveled to climb more extensively than I have.  I know I’d be more likely to subscribe to a climbing magazine if I could see this kind of inspiring story.

Inspiring in the way that the Girly Guides always are when we climb with them at Chicks. What has having the role models you have met at Chicks Climbing meant to you and your own climbing.
I actually hear the voices of a dozen Chicks’ guides in my head when I think about climbing and when I’m doing it.

Sweet. Channeling Chicks Guides, I love it. What do the voices in your head say?
The very specific things I’ve learned in different years from each different guide surface in my head just when I need them. I have become better at every aspect of climbing and more importantly better as a person because I’ve known these inspiring women and their patient expert instruction.  It’s inspired mentoring at its best.

The mentoring between the Girly Guides and Chicks is a major mission of Chicks Climbing.  That spirit of giving back is often contagious. Have you been able pay it forward and mentor any new climbers in your area?
I teach beginning through advanced classes at Boulders Climbing Gym, Madison WI (   My climbing partner, Vera Naputi, also a Chicks alumna, and I began the women’s climbing classes at Boulders Gym and also a popular class for women age 40 and up.  The first time we offered the over 40 class we had more than 60 women clamoring for 14 slots. I set routes at the gym too, where most setters are males.

Oh now that’s awesome!  I wish I had a 56 year old rocking Chick setting routes in my gym!
I chaired our climbing club, Madison Women Climbers, for several years, where mentoring is the name of the game. Giving back is a basic tenant to my philosophy of life.

I can really see that Anne.  You are wonderful and an inspiration for us all. Any last thoughts?
There will be good days and bad days…I do believe Alex Lowe had it right, that the best climber is the one having the most fun.

Thanks to Anne and Sarah for contributing their time and advice to Chicks Climbing. Do you have a story to tell? We’re looking to feature more women achieving great things in the climbing world here at Chicks Climbing! Don’t be shy, let us know what you’re up to!

CURCUIT TRAINING: creating power endurance

Circuit training is invaluable when done well, not only does it take less time which many people have very little of but you not gain strength and also a CV benefit from this style of training. As well, it may more accurately mimic what your body is going through when climbing demanding terrain.

How to build a circuit: this can seem challenging and often is so once again I will keep it simple to begin:
Four to five exercises combining these critical components:

  • Squat: (ex) squats, dead lifting, lunging, step-ups, box jumps, side lunging
  • Sit: (Core) sit ups, back extension, rotational strength, leg raises, med ball throws, and balance
  • Push: Push-ups, dips, over head press, bench press
  • Pull: pull ups, high pulls, cable rows, bent over row
  • Metabolic (optional): rowing machine, running intervals, jumping rope

These are all the functional Ranges of Motion that our bodies can and do work in. We have to train them all and in harmony with one another. You will rapidly discover that a weakness in one area will diminish your capacity to perform specific movements. We want to train away those weaknesses. Those weaknesses are what will lead to inability to perform any complex endeavor such as ice climbing, skiing, and biking, at your absolute best.

Strength and Flexibility

I always put Strength and Flexibility or ROM (range of motion) together because they should be inseparable in your training. Simply put, your muscles have a functional ROM in which they can apply force, that functional ROM is determined by your level of flexibility. It is that simple. Gymnasts, Martial Artists, Dancers are a perfect example; most people are impressed by the display of strength of these sets of athletes. As well, most injuries (unless they are the result of trauma) occur when there is an imbalance in either strength or flexibility in the system. My experience has shown that the first aspect of training many athletes fore go is stretching or increasing functional ROM.
The most important point I want you to take away from the following segment is that of training the system as a whole. Muscle isolation exercises are inappropriate for anyone but a body builder, the elderly, inexperienced population or injury rehab. We as athletes do not ever use our muscles in isolation. We use our bodies in complex movements, ergo: we need to train our bodies using complex movements, challenging our strength, increasing our flexibility, testing our balance, and opening new neuromuscular pathways.

Simple ROM to work on:
After a warm up and in between sets you should stretch.

  • Aboriginal Squat: this is a full squat with your heels on the floor, toes relaxed, and torso upright. You can prepare for this by stretching your hamstring, quads, and calves in a traditional manner, however we want the flexibility to equate to a functional ROM for an exercises like Squats, dead lifting, lunging, step ups, box jumps etc.

Imagine climbing, you can only pull your leg up and stand in relation to the body as far as you can squat down and stand up.

  • Arms Over Head: Can you stand up right and hold your arms straight over head, elbows even with your ears, without arching your low back or lifting your shoulders? If yes, great! If not, this is a ROM we need to develop. Practice an overhead squat with a stretching belt or dowel rod over head, between your hands.

Imagine swinging an ice axe overhead with enough FORCE to penetrate the ice, you need all your functional ROM to generate enough force correct? Perfect correlation to the sport, you will be able to swing that ice axe more effectively if you can access all of your functional strength.

  • Chest Opening: Stand in a doorway, door open, place your arms out at 90 degrees, elbows just below shoulder height and step forward to stretch your chest/pectoral muscles. This will help with posture, delivery of force from the muscles of the back and shoulders, and breathing capacity (making room for your lunges to expand with air).
  • Hip Opening: Frog stretch on the floor or against a wall. Lean against a wall, move your feet/legs as far away from one another as they will reasonably go, squat down so your legs are at 90 degree angles. Place your hands on the inside of your legs open them further while holding the squat position, hold this for 30 sec to 2 minus. Repeat.
  • Rotation of the body: Back lying twist. Lying on the floor, raise your knees to your chest, then bring you feet up so your legs make a 90 angle, move you knees away from your chest until they are over you hips. Keep you right shoulder on the ground as you let your lower body twist to the left try to touch your left knee to the floor. Repeat opposite side. You can do this with your legs straight as well, it makes it more difficult to bring your legs back to center.

These are examples of ways to increase flexibility in these key areas.
If you aren’t sure about how to stretch and gain ROM in these areas, I highly recommend taking a GOOD yoga class. Yoga not only develops strength and flexibility, but teaches you to become more body aware and has elements of relaxation and meditation. Some of the mental components that are beneficial to being/becoming a climber.



Specifically Cardiovascular training. This element can often be over looked by climbers, who just want to be “STRONGER”. In actually it is as critical as strength as it allows your body to manage the demands of the climb while you are in the midst of it. We need to train your heart/lungs in two capacities, aerobic and anaerobic. I’ll keep this simple for now:

  • LSD: (long steady distance) – “cardio” hill climbing, hiking, running, biking 45 minutes or more. Steady state fitness for the long climbing effort so you can recover on the go.
  • Interval training (speed/power) – This capacity of CV fitness is often overlooked by a recreational athlete. Yes, LSD is important however to increase your absolute capacity we need to push the threshold at which you perform higher. There are many techniques for interval training and it can get crazy, so picking a simple format to begin this practice is best:

5 minute warm-up, 2 min interval, 2 min rest, 2 min interval, 2 min rest,…a total of 4 intervals then a 5 minute cool down. Rest periods should be rest, do not stop but decrease your output so your body can recover. Intervals should be difficult. If using a perceived exertion scale of (1 – 10) Rest 5- 6, Interval 9 -10. If using a heart rate monitor, Rest 50 – 60 % of Max, Interval 90 – 98% of max.

Muscle specific endurance, you often hear about muscle specific endurance training for ice climbing, like calves and forearms. We will deal with this in the next piece, Strength and Flexibility.