I’m playing around with a thought… Going from climbing 7a (5.11d) to 8a (5.13b) in a year. It’s a super inspirational goal to me. And I’m hoping for some good advice on this topic!
This thought entered my head because of some bad news I’ve recently heard. Without going into detail, two different specialists recommended I quit climbing immediately. A third one that I spoke with recently has more experience with young, athletic people. He recommends I keep climbing, but adapt my style. I’m now doing physiotherapy as part of his advice.
I went from being depressed because of the bad news (and then being disappointed with myself for dealing with it so badly :p) to being absolutely thrilled because of what the last specialist told me. Just the idea that I could probably keep climbing (albeit in an adapted way) was amazing news to me.
And then, for whatever reason, I started thinking… I don’t just want to adapt and continue with what I was doing, I want to adapt and overcome. I want to grow, to find ways to get the very best performance out of myself.
So somehow, I ended up with the idea of reaching 8a in a year. I was thinking about a roadmap: maybe 1 month to climb 7a+, 2 months to climb 7b, 3 months to climb 7c, then 6 months to climb my first 8a.
I think I can do it, I think I’m strong enough and have the means to improve. There’s a couple of things holding me back:
Fear of falling (I mainly boulder and when I’m on a rope I’m nowhere near 100%)
Terrible endurance (again, I mainly boulder)
Limited range of motion in the hips (as a result, I often need to adopt a very burly beta)
Access to real rock (I live in Holland… plenty of gyms but no rock so my tactics for sport climbing are rubbish).
None of these things are deal breakers I think. I can practise falling, train endurance, get stronger to compensate for the ROM in my hips, and drive to a neighbouring country every month to climb on real rock. Also, I used to train martial arts very intensively, so I have experience with training hard towards an epic goal while staying physically and mentally healthy.
In the meantime, I’d be exploring every single little thing that could make a difference in terms of performance. From physical and mental training, to shoes, chalk, nutrition, tactics - you name it. I’m willing to try it
So, any advice you can give me? Is this goal (even remotely) realistic? What about the roadmap? Other things to take into consideration?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and think with me on this! I really appreciate it
What are the adaptations you have to make in order to continue climbing?
Skipping 7b+ and 7c+ for some reason?
I can’t even begin to comment on whether it’s realistic or not without knowing how hard you’re bouldering. Miho Nanaka recently made a huge celebrated jump in grades - but it matches up with her bouldering grades, so isn’t actually a big jump unless somehow bouldering doesn’t count toward sport climbing. But it does.
If you’re bouldering around V7 or 8 already and the sport climbing you are doing is short and bouldery, totally feasible.
If you aren’t bouldering at that level, and you need to try to gain the strength, the skills, and the endurance in a year, less feasible.
Regardless it’ll all come down to time on rock. Is your schedule realistic given the available time you have outside?
The main adaptation is trying to prevent getting to the end of my range of motion in the hips. And as I said, I don’t have a lot of range of motion to begin with
When I try to do a side split, 90 degrees is already way too far for me. Luckily, I can get a lot further with the front split. As a result, I turn in and flag on pretty much all moves. Also, I shouldn’t high step, so I need to learn to use intermediates to get my foot up (or smear, or jump). Oh and I need to pick my routes, some routes could potentially further damage the hips due to a necessary stretchy move.
As for my current bouldering level, I find it very hard to say due to all the lockdowns. I have no idea where I’m at. I did a 7a/v6 in fontainebleau at 30 degrees heat (85 degrees in fahrenheit) during the only weekend on real rock this year. I tried some benchmarks the other day on moonboard and got up to 6c/v5. I honestly don’t know where my limits are.
Is it ok if I upload the results of my mini assessment…? Looks like I need to increase my max hang and my continuous hang. For whatever reason, I feel like the physical attributes won’t be a problem. Maybe I’m overestimating the effects of training? I think tactics (especially learning to rest) will be major things for me to focus on. I think in 2022, I will be able to spend around 60 days on real rock. Assuming there won’t be another lockdown that is…
I’ve had physiotherapists advice me to seize with certain activities, and they were wrong, but for you to achieve this goal staying injury free will be very important. Would you mind being more explicit about your problems?
FWIW, epic goals are laudable but by definition you will have adapted and overcome within the first month of your yearly plan if I understand everything you’ve written thus far. And if that is your motivation, to adapt and overcome, will you lose fuel and fire after having arrived at that goal Month 1?
To offer a different perspective for you to do with what you will, what about identifying some traits you’d believe you’d have to possess to be an 8a climber and make that array of measurable goals your yearly aims? That way, if you don’t make it all the way, you’d still have plenty of successes along the way.
Let’s say you believe it requires
An X duration hang at Y% BW on a 20 mm edge
A certain number of weighted pulls
and you accomplish say 7/10 of those skills/attributes/abilities but you fall just shy of 8a you still have a ton of wins to look back on with pride at the end of the year.
Thank you, and I totally agree with you! Staying healthy is priority #1. And I really like the idea of milestones, but I’d prefer to think of some non-physical milestones. Things like: found a rest position on a 7b, or committed on a crux move while above the bolt. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear it!
As for my issue: it turns out I have FAI (a bony deformity that pinches my hip joint and thus reduces range of motion). I’ve always been very athletic, and I did martial arts for 10 years. I took it super seriously, and trained like an animal. One of the things holding me back was the restricted range of motion in my hips, so I spent A LOT of time stretching. This didn’t help me get any more flexible, and in fact doctors are now telling me it’s probably the reason my hip joint is now almost worn out on both sides… I actually went to a GP several times when I was younger, but he always told me not to worry. So I kept training - and thus kept damaging my hips by stretching or doing high kicks that would jam the bony deformity into the hip joint…
I’m a bigger fan of this method as well. I don’t dislike training goals, but I actually prefer to keep them very separate from performance goals. Particularly in the last couple of years it seems the two often get mashed together and many people end up drawing some straight line between the training goal and performance, but it just doesn’t work that way. Most of the physical training goals I see people striving for really don’t correlate very well to climbing. Plus - we have all of the complicated parts of climbing as a convenient goal in itself. Why complicate it further?