Tuesday, November 5, 2013

About All-Female Climbing Events...

Versión en español

I've never been much into "women-only" events. As a climber, being in the company of other women wasn't something I needed to improve my motivation or my performance, and I tended to think that other female climbers would think likewise.
Women's Climbing Symposium 2013. Photo: The Arch Climbing Wall.
Source: https://thebmc.co.uk/
Then I got invited to the Women's Climbing Symposium and learned about the reasons behind its conception, and my point of view shifted.
There is a set of common problems regarding motivation, that in turn influence how (some) girls enjoy, persist, get frustrated or give up some activity; from this realization it became clear that -as researchers from the same field or employees from the same company do-, it made a lot of sense for women to share their common motivation, exchange points of view and develop plans of action.
Women's Climbing Symposium is an all-female event dedicated to connecting, developing and inspiring women in climbing. This year took place at The Arch Climbing Wall (London)
The way I see it, events like this are especially useful for detecting what the actual handicaps for female climbers are, and why some of those "vanish" when a bunch of us get together. The latter probably have their roots on gender stereotypes: motivations for sport participation, motivational orientation, fear of falling, perceived self-efficacy, etc.
But there are other, "purely" physical factors, like upper body strength and % body fat that, being predictors of performance in female climbers, can determine the priorities for women climbers as a group.
With this in mind, it would be ideal to provide the attendees with strategies/ideas to put into practice when they return to their "usual environment", with their partners or mates.

The talk I gave was my little contribution towards that goal. My intention is to push the matter forward here in my blog or... perhaps before a live audience somewhere else ;-)

My thanks go to all those enthusiastic girls that taught me so much with their questions, and specially to Lucía, who helped me translating my talk (you are the best!). And my congratulations to the organizers: Steph Meysner (Climber and co-owner of The Climbing Hangar), Shauna Coxsey (Professional athlete; three times British Bouldering Champion, World 3rd) and The Arch Climbing Wall crew. Huge congratulations also to the rest of coaches and speakers.
Shauna, Emilia, and Steph. Nice to meet you. I hope that we will meet again! Source: Shauna's website
Thank you for inviting me. It's been a pleasure and a honor being there with all of you and feeling part of this initiative!


BMC Report by Katy Dartford
Shauna Coxsey's website
Crux Crush Report by Zofia A. Reych
UKC Report by Paul Phillips
Goryonline Report by Zofia A. Reych
Report on a Very Busy Life blog by Ali Ingleby
2013 Women's Climbing Symposium website
Women's Climbing Symposium's facebook page
More pictures

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why we need to train Local Aerobic Endurance: Let the Numbers Talk

Versión en español (original del 31 diciembre de 2010)

I'll try to answer this question with data gathered in a field study that I'm carrying out with the aim of finding in a scientific manner the basis for training in our sport. Researchers have suggested that one of the keys to an effective methodology is specificity. Part of this specificity is matching the work-rest pattern and physiological demands of that sport (Meckel et al., 2009; White & Olsen, 2010).

Video analysis and direct observation provide us with a great deal of useful information, and have been regularly used for a long time now when it comes to team sports. More recent is their application to individual sports similar to ours, those where the environment (outdoors) is not standardized and the effort is intermittent, like surfing (Mendez-Villanueva & Bishop, 2005).
Dani Andrada."Era Bella", 9a. Margalef.
Picture: Bernardo Giménez. Source:www.desnivel.com

FIELD STUDY: Time-Motion Analysis of Rock Climbing, in the case of attempting a route previously practiced.

Materials and Methods

Participants: 3 male and 1 female climbers. Level from 8c to 9a
Materials: Chronometer, pencil, notebook

Methodology: Direct observation of each participant while the actual climb took place, or later on recorded video
Observed action: Attempts at sending a route that the participant had worked previously; the quickdraws were in place already. There were considered worth measuring those tries where the climbers had already optimized their methods and automated the sequences through previous work of the whole route (in eight occasions the data gathering coincided with the climber linking the route)
Routes: 15 routes from 8b to 9a across different climbing sites
Crags: Cuenca, Margalef (Tarragona), Oliana (Lleida), Oñate (Álava), Otiñar (Jaén), Rodellar (Huesca) and Villanueva de Valdegovía (Álava)
Carlos Logroño at Algarve (Portugal). Picture by David Munilla

THE FOLLOWING VARIABLES were measured in this study:
- Climbing duration for each section of the route, a section being delimited by resting points or standing points
- Total climbing time: sum of all section durations. It is the total time spent progressing or ascending the route, and also clipping.
- Time at each resting point: this did not include resting on the harness after a fall. A resting point was defined as holding a "good" hold with the aim of lowering the fatigue caused by the previous section so that the climb can be prolonged.
- Total resting time: sum of all resting point times.
- Total stay on the route: total climbing time plus total resting time.
- Number of rest points
- Number of climbing sections
Petr Bláha resting on "Patate d'or" at La Turbie (Mónaco, France). Photo: Monika Knoppová. Source: Lezec.cz

1- The shortest recorded stay duration was 5' 34'' on a strength-endurance route less than 25 m high; the longest was 35' 34'' on a route more than 30 m high, by a climber with more endurance than maximum strength.

Most of the climbs were between 8' and 25' (the average was 16' 18''±8' 33'')

2- During most of the climbs, 35% to 58% of the time was spent resting (average of total resting times = 46,6±12,2%)

3- The shortest total resting time was 1' 45'' (31,4% of the total stay time) on a strength-endurance route less than 25 m high; the maximum of 27' 50'' (78,3% of the total stay time) was recorded on a route longer than 30 m for a climber with more endurance than maximum strength

4- In most of the routes the number of resting points was 2-8 (the average was 5±3)

5- When comparing different climbers on the same route there is a great variability in the total resting time, according to each person's strength and endurance levels; this had a direct impact over the total stay time (pearson correlation = 0,95), and presumably over the final level of general fatigue
Dani Andrada on "La Esencia de la Resistencia", 8c+. Las Bruixas (Lleida). Picture: Pete O'Donovan.

We must keep from extrapolating these data to the general climbing population and to every type of route: the sample of routes is tiny, and all the climbers are of a high level. Nonetheless, we can glimpse some fundamental ideas that arise from them:

1- Rock climbing is a sport with a intermittent or non-continuous character, where there is an alternance of:

- Displacement and standing phases: when progressing along the route or stopping to rest (on the wall) between sections.
- Intensities: In the same route we usually find a mix of easy, moderate and hard sections.

2- The total stay time during a sending attempt in some routes, can be long (up to 35 minutes) and the time spent resting between hard sections can be a high percentage of the total time (min 31%, max up to 78%)

Not to mention climbing onsight, or when we still don't know the route well and unclimb to then climb again until we are exhausted, or when fear or doubt arise... In these cases we can stay on the route much longer than what I described above, sometimes more than one hour!

Other climbers on other routes can experience the opposite, they do not have enough endurance and can't afford to stop between sections...like beginners.
Yuyi Hirayama on White Zombie, 8c. Baltzola (Guipuzcoa). Photo: desnivelpress.com
Summing up

All these characteristics of rock climbing should help us define our training.

So, if we stay for so long on a route, and much of that time we are trying to rest off a decent hold... and if we want to climb the easier sections without getting very pumped... then we need to develop the ability to do so.

We need to work on our local aerobic endurance*
*AKA Stamina, Aerobic Endurance,  easy endurance, ARC...or in French: Continuité, and in Spanish: continuidad

So, if you are among those who climb at sites where routes tend to be long, or you don't have strength to spare and need to spend a lot of time resting because the harder sections feel really exhausting, I ask you:

Do you train it enough? or, better yet:
Are you really developing it when you think you are?
Tomáš Mrázek. World Cup, Imst (Austria)
How many moves, how long are your endurance sets at the gym?

What's the total volume in minutes or movements that you perform during an typical endurance workout?

Do you know how long it takes to do the usual 20-30 movement set at the gym, neither clipping, nor slowing down at technical sections, and climbing sideways instead of upwards... what most of use to do?

... And then is the issue of how intense the set was, and how long the pause before the next one...

Perhaps it is due to a methodology or planning error (something we will look at in the future), or because we are simply not training it, that you spend weeks at the gym, thinking that your endurance must have improved, and then, when finally you can go to the crag... you realize that you don't only suffer from the lack of adaptation to the rock, where the holds are harder to see and smaller, but also that you get pumped very fast even though the individual moves feel really easy...
Eva López on Paraula de Stone, 7c+/8a. Montgrony. Picture by Dafnis Fernández

Has this ever happened to you?

Update your training, your sensations, and draw your own conclusions.

If one key factor for an effective training is matching the characteristics of the sport it is oriented to, shouldn't we study our own climbs and the routes we want to climb so that we get a higher confidence that our training is well oriented?
So you know: you just need a stopwatch, a pencil and a notebook!

Happy analyzing and, with a bit of luck... happy insights!

Training Objectives and Basis for Periodization for Local Aerobic Endurance
Local Aerobic Endurance Training Methodology (I): How to develop Capacity

  • Meckel Y., Machnai O., & Eliakim A. (2009). Relationship among repeated sprint tests, aerobic fitness, and anaerobic fitness in elite adolescent soccer players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(1), 163-169. 
  • Mendez-Villanueva A., Bishop D., & Hamer P. (2006). Activity Profile of World-Class Professional Surfers During Competition: Acase Study. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 20(3), 477-482.
  • White D. J., & Olsen P. D. (2010). A time motion analysis of bouldering style competitive rock climbing. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1356-1360.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (III)

 Versión en español

Luis Alfonso Félix. El calvario del sicario, 8c/+, Cuenca (Spain). Photo: JaviPec
Some authors have tried to define what the most frequently used coping strategies in sport are (have a look at the previous entry for a description of each technique). According to how often they are used, Xianming et al. (1999) compiled the following list:

  1. Problem solving,
  2. Self-blame,
  3. Avoidance   
Park et al. (2000) proposed these:
  •     psychological skills training,
  •     training and strategies,
  •     somatic relaxation,
  •     hobby activities,
  •     social support,
  •     prayer,
  •     substance abuse

Gould et al. (1993), found the following among elite skaters;

  •     rational thinking and self-talk,
  •     positive focus and orientation,
  •     social support (from coach, friends and family),
  •     time management and prioritization,
  •     precompetitive mental preparation and anxiety management (relaxation, visualization),
  •     training hard and smart,
  •     isolation and deflection (not letting things get to me, screening media),
  •     ignoring the stressors
Muriel Sarkany, IFSC Climbing World Cup Avilés, 2003 (Spain). Photo: Darío Rodríguez. Source:desnivel.com
Which stage of the competition of "stressing event" is each strategy best suited for?

Every athlete needs to have a plan for coping, that optimizes their resources and minimizes anxiety response. As there are as many reactions to stress as there are people, the plan should be personalized et. So, when preparing the plan, the individual characteristics must be accounted for, as well as the type of stressor that has a bigger influence in each occasion (the different types of stressors can be found in the previous entry); it is also necessary to know in what phase of the competition they are more likely to occur (Arruza, 1999). For example, Pensgaard et al. (1998) observed that olympic athletes used task-oriented coping during the competitive event, but they tended to resort to avoidance in the days preceding and following it.

A) In general active strategies are chosen when:
  • There is time to spare,
  • The situation is perceived as manageable,
  • There is a high confidence in one's capacity to solve the situation (Roth & Cohen, 1986).
B) By the contrary, several authors agree that avoidance coping is preferred in occasions where:
  • the situation is perceived as unmanageable (like spectators' behaviour or noise),
  • time is short,
  • the available resources are insufficient or the likelihood of getting on top of the situation is low (Anshel, 2008)
Andrea Cartas. Akelarre, 8b+, Orihuela (Murcia). Photo: Carlos Padilla. Source:andreacartas.blogspot.com
 Generally speaking, what is the most Effective strategy?

Task-oriented coping, more precisely, active coping, is linked to positive results and higher levels of self-confidence  (Krane, 1992; Eubank, 2000; Ntoumanis, 2000, Voight, 2000 and Xianming, 1999).

By contrast, strategies that rely on emotions seem to be related to elevated anxiety, depression and lack of adequate strategies (Eubank et al., 2000; Ntomaunis et al., 1998 and 2000; Pensgaard et al., 2000; Xianming et al., 1999). For Giacobbi et al., (2000), athletes suffering from high anxiety before competitive stress situations opt for negation, wishful thinking, self-blame and excessive self-criticism.

Coping Strategies and Sport Level

When Gal-Or et al. (1986) studied cognitive strategies in athletes of different level, they found that:
  •  All of them made moderate use of visualization, and focused their attention in the present action rather than the past or the future;
  •  The higher level ones had, in the moments before the competition, a higher perception of self-efficacy, and were more task-oriented than their lower level mates.
In addition, González (2001), looked at 46 elite Cuban athletes during national and international events and observed that:
  • The athletes that showed the highest levels of anxiety were those who lacked effective coping strategies, resorted to magical thinking, ruminated more about past errors or failure, blamed external causes for their errors, and had a lower self-efficacy expectancy.
  •  Those with lower anxiety were less likely to blame external factors and incur in magical thinking, looked more for support and, above all, developed coping strategies.
Variation of coping with Sport Modality

Regarding the relation between the type of physical activity and coping there seem to be some tendencies:
  •  In sports or tasks requiring precision (Badminton, penalty kick in soccer), athletes get the best results through instructional self-talk.
  •  When it is strength or endurance what matters (something likely to take place while redpointing), it is effective to use instructional along with motivational self-talk (Theodorakis et al., 2000).
  •  In less deterministic activities where attention to external stimuli is important (like onsighting), several authors have shown that if time to make a decision is very short, avoidance is effective (Anshel & Anderson, 2002; Krohne & Hindel, 1988); this has also been proposed for confronting execution errors during competition (Roth & Cohen, 1986).
  •  Where memory and automation of movement are crucial, like in gymnastics, synchronized swimming or sport climbing (when working a route), the effectiveness of visualization and relaxation has been verified (Feltz and Landers., 1983; Gray et al., 1984; Dubier et al., 1999).
Bruno Macías. Bouldering National Championship Avilés 2005 (Spain). Photo: Darío Rodríguez. Source: desnivel.com
Practical Applications to Climbing

From the conclusions reached in the reviewed documentation, we can suggest that the most effective strategies for reducing anxiety in our sport are those that focus on:
  •  the climb itself: sort each movement, refine our execution;
  •  thinking about now, one move at a time;
  •  self-talk, visualization;
  •  goal-setting, building a "competition plan", managing time (like warming-up, waiting between semifinals and finals...)
  •  promoting a high self-efficacy perception.
Regarding the best technique during each phase of a climb, or when facing a stressor, each one needs to find their own... once you have some ideas (often after much practice and trial and error) about which works best for you.

Practical Examples of Strategies for Coping with Anxiety in Climbing

Let's see some examples, I'm sure you'll be able to add many of your own:


Coping technique proposal: First, analyze what the cause for that fall is (insufficient endurance or maximum strength, less than ideal method, lack of automation leading to sluggishness, getting distracted by your own negative thoughts...); then you have to look for a response: training your endurance or your ability to do hard moves under fatigue, optimizing the easier parts so that you will get less tired to the crux, devoting a full try just to finding an easier method for the crux, repeating it several times to build confidence...; you can also ask some friend to help you figure out the variables that have influence over that fall. Lastly, set goals.

Coping style used: active, problem-oriented (analysis, problem solving, memorization, automation, self-confidence development, systematic training, seek for instrumental social support), goal setting.


Coping technique proposal: Schedule that day's activities (when to wake up, have breakfast, trip to the crag...) so that you get there early, know what routes are you go to warm-up on beforehand and ask other climbers if they are going to try your project to make sure you can have your turn. Meanwhile, try to keep distracted, enjoy the time with your friends until your time comes.

Coping style used: problem-oriented (planning) and avoidance (distraction)


Coping technique proposal: Ignore the surroundings and focus on the climb before starting, visualize the route, begin to concentrate through self-instructions for every step that you have to take. "put the harness on", "now tie in", "put my foot on that blackened edge, and then go for the right hand pinch", "place my foot really high to clip"... and also self-encouraging phrases that help focusing: "go for it!", "let's climb!", "well done!"...

Coping style used: Avoidance, also active, task oriented (self-instructions, visualization, self-motivation)


In wrapping up this entry, I suggest you apply what Carver, Scheier & Weintraub (1989), and Scheier et al. (1986) concluded:
 Using active coping, building a plan for action and reinterpreting events in a positive way have a positive correlation with self-esteem, optimism and resilience, and are also effective against anxiety.
 Have good luck and, above all, lots and lots of patience till you expose and master the strongest source of stress:: The "monster" within!

In the words of Mark Twain:
 "Some of the worst things in my life never even happened."
What are you waiting for?

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: What stresses you out? (I)
Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: What stresses you out? (II)
Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (I)
Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (II)
  • Anshel M, & Anderson D (2002). Coping with acute stress in sport: Linking athletes' coping style, coping strategies, affect, and motor performance. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 15(2), 193-209.
  • Arruza JA; Telletxea S; Azurza A; Amenabar B; Balague G; Ugalde D (1999). Estado de ánimo, auto-confianza y rendimiento percibido en competidores de élite de Snowboard; unpublished.
  • Carver CS., Scheier MF., & Weintraub JK (1989). Assessing Coping Strategies: A Theoretically Based Approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(2), 267-283.
  • Dubier J; Inchauspe1 L; Tiberge M (1999).  Stress regulation test through mental images on the French National Women Synchronized Swimming team during the 1998 Perth (Australia) World Championships; 5th IOC World Congress on Sport Sciences with the Annual Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport ;Sydney 31 October -5 November
  • Eubank M. ; Collins D (2000). Coping with pre- and in-event fluctuations in competitive state anxiety: a longitudinal approach; Journal of Sports Sciences (JSS), 18(2), 121 - 131. 
  • Feltz DL,; Landers DM (1983). The effects of mental practice on motor skill learning and performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport Psychology, 5, 25-57.
  • Gal-Or Y, Tenenbaum G, Shimrony S (1986). Cognitive behavioural strategies and anxiety in elite orienteers; Sports Sci. 1986 Spring;4(1):39-48.
  • Giacobbi PR; Weinberg RS (2000). An examination of coping in sports: individual trait anxiety differences and situational consistency; The Sport Psychologist; 14(1):42-62
  • González LG (2001). Enfrentamiento al stress competitivo en atletas de alto rendimiento; en www.efdeportes.com/ Revista Digital - Buenos Aires - Año 6 - N° 32 - Marzo
  • Gould D; Finch LM; Jackson SA(1993). Coping strategies used by National  Champion Figure Skaters; Research Quaterly for Exercise and Sport, 64(4), 453-468
  • Gray JJ.; Haring MJ; Banks NM (1984). Mental rehearsal for sport performance: exploring the relaxation-imagery paradigm; Journal of Sport Behavior (JSB), 7(2), 68 - 78.
  • Krane V; Williams J; Feltz D (1992). Path analysis examining relationships among cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety, state confidence, performance expectations, and golf performance;  Journal of Sport Behavior (JSB), 15(4), 279 - 295.
  • Krohne HW, & Hindel C (1988). Trait anxiety, state anxiety, and coping behavior as predictors of athletic performance. Anxiety Research, 1(3), 225-234.
  • Ntoumanis N. Biddle SJH (2000). Relationship of intensity and direction of competitive anxiety with coping strategies; The Sport Psychologist, 14(4), 360 - 371. 
  • Ntoumanis N; Biddle JH (1998). The relationship of coping and its perceived effectiveness to positive and negative affect in sport; Personality and Individual Differences; 24(6 ): 773-788
  • Park JK (2000). Coping strategies used by Korean national athletes; The Sport Psychologist, 14(1), 63-80.
  • Pensgaard AM, Ursin H (1998). Stress, control, and coping in elite athletes.Scand J Med Sci Sports. Jun;8(3):183-9
  • Roth S & Cohen LJ (1986). Approach, avoidance, and coping with stress. American Psychologist, 41(7), 813.
  • Theodorakis Y; Weinberg R; Natsis P; Douma I;  Kazakas P (2000).  The effects of motivational versus instructional self-talk on improving motor performance; The Sport Psychologist, 14(3), 253 - 271.
  • Valdés M; de Flores T (1990). Psicobiología del estrés. Barcelona. Martínez Roca
  • Voight MR; Callaghan JL; Ryska TA (2000). Relationship between goal orientations, self-confidence and multidimensional trait anxiety among Mexican-American female youth athletes; Journal of Sport Behavior, 23(3), 271-288
  • Xianming T (1999) Research on the Coping Strategies of Archers; Abstracts Congreso Asian South Pacific Association of Sport Psychology (ASPASP)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (II)

Versión en español

After reading the question that the previous entry raised, some of you may find it hard to pick just one of the suggested answers; perhaps you would opt for one or another depending on the circumstances, type of problem, etc.

Quite so, most authors agree that different strategies can complement each other, alternate or even interfere with each other for the same person at a particular moment, for certain stress sources (injuries, hard redpoint attempt, failures, fear of failure, competition..see this entry, and this one) (Anshel, 1997, 1999; Fornés, 2001; Gould, 1993; González, 2001; Lazarus, 2000; Pensgaard, 1998), or for the particular circumstances (Caruso, 1990).

Regarding the alternatives I put forward for last entry’s question, you probably will develop a clear idea of which strategy each one belongs to as you read this entry.

Starting from the transactional model for stress coping by Lazarus and Folkman (1986), most scholars in this field (Carver et al., 1989; Moos & Billing, 1982; Billings & Moos, 1984; Páez Rovira, 1993) agree that there are at least three big groups of coping strategies:

A) Problem- or task-focused coping
It's aimed to solving the problem or “doing something” to change the environmental events that cause the stress. It tends to be used when there is the perception that the stimulus can be modified. There are these possible strategies according to Carver et al. (1989), Gould et al. (1993), and Park (2000):

- Active Coping, performing direct actions aimed to altering the situation to remove the stressor or minimize its effects. This includes visualization, self-instructions and self-motivation, simulation of the competitive activity, psychological training, promotion of effort and task analysis;
- Planning the strategies for action, seeking the best way for managing stress, developing the Competition Plan, managing and organizing time;
- Seeking instrumental social support from people who can provide us with the information, advice, financial support, etc. necessary to solve the problem.

According to Bifulco & Brown (1996), and Heppner & Petersen (1982), in this group we could as well include:
- Problem solving,
- Cognitive restructuring and
- Self-criticism.

Burton (1989) proposes setting goals for improvement as an effective technique to increase athletes’ performance and reduce anxiety levels.

B) Emotion-focused coping
It tries to reduce or remove the negative feelings caused by the stressing situation. It can be of use when there are external variables that we can’t act upon. Inside this group, Carver et col. (1989) put forward the following:

- Looking for social emotional support to alleviate the effects of the stress (affection, empathy and understanding);
- Suppressing distractors to focus on the stressing event:
- Praying, resorting to religion, superstition/magical thinking, that are passive ways of accepting the situation;
- Reinterpreting positively the event, in terms of opportunities and personal growth;
- Postponing the moment of confrontation; delaying the time of the face-off can be seen also as active coping because there is a behaviour aimed to overcoming the stressor, but it is passive as it implies a lack of immediate action;
- Accepting the problem;
- Self-control;
- Letting off steam, exteriorize the feelings related to the situation that gives rise to those emotions. Carver et col. (1989) suggest that this response can sometimes be functional, but focusing on it for a long time can compromise the adjustment to reality of the individual, and distract them from active coping.

Lazarus and Folkman (1985), also include in this group:
- Fantasy coping,
- Self-blame and
- Self-isolation.

C) Avoidance coping
It means going around the problem by not thinking about it, or relying on the opponent’s errors, or attributing one’s performance to external factors, or distracting oneself with other activities, or reacting aggressively to others (Le Scanff, 1999). Avoidance coping techniques include:

- Negation, in the sense of acting like “nothing happens”. Carver et col. (1989) claim that negating reality can make the event more severe than it already is and make coping more difficult;
- Behavioral disengagement, staying away from the situation. The individual even gives up trying to achieve goals where the stressor is at play;
- Mental disengagement, using alternative distractors to evade the event. Even though disconnecting is sometimes a highly adaptive response, it is often detrimental to coping adequately;
- Substance consumption, and lastly
- Humor as a way of distancing and distracting oneself while playing down the drama of the situation.

Bifulco & Brown (1996), Frydenberg & Lewis (1997) and Vitaliano et al. (1985) add to the avoidance strategies the wishful thinking (wanting the situation to not occur ot to play in a different way).
Frydenberg and Lewis (1997) add self-blame to this set.

Lastly, Covington (1992) still on the topic of avoidance, talks about excuses (self-handicapping behaviors) when the time comes to undergo a physical effort, attributing one’s performance to external and internal factors so to avoid error and protect self-esteem.

As for the most used techniques used in sports, and which of them are more efficient... that will be the topic for the next entry.

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: What stresses you out? (I)
Redpoint Anxiety: What stresses you out? (II)
Redpoint Anxiety: Coping Strategies (I)

  • Anshel, M. H., & Kaissidis, A. N. (1997). Coping style and situational appraisals as predictors of coping strategies following stressful events in sport as a function of gender and skill level. British Journal of Psychology, 88(2), 263-276. 
  • Anshel, M. H., & Weinberg, R. S. (1999). Re-examining coping among basketball referees following stressful events: implications for coping interventions. Journal of Sport Behavior, 22(2), 141-161.
  • Bifulco, A., & Brown, G. W. (1996). Cognitive coping response to crises and onset of depression. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 31(3-4), 163-172.
  • Billings, A. G., & Moos, R. H. (1984). Coping, stress, and social resources among adults with unipolar depression. Journal of personality and social psychology, 46(4), 877.
  • Burton, D. (1989). The impact of goal specificity and task complexity on basketball skill development. Journal Article in The Sport Psychologist.
  • Caruso, C. M. Gill, D. L; Dzewaltowski, D. A.; McElroy, M. A. (1990): Psychological and physiological changes in competitive state anxiety during noncompetition and competitive success and failure; Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (JSEP), 12(1), 6 - 20. 
  • Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach. Journal of personality and social psychology, 56(2), 267-283.
  • Covington, M. V. (1992). Making Grade: A Self-Worth Perspective on Motivation and School Reform, Cambridge University Press, New York.
  • Folkman, S.; Lazarus, R. S. (1985). If it changes it must be a process: A study of emotion and coping during three stages of a college examination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48 (1), 150-170.
  • Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1988). Coping as a mediator of emotion. Journal of personality and social psychology, 54(3), 466-475.
  • Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Dunkel-Schetter, C., DeLongis, A., & Gruen, R. J. (1986). Dynamics of a stressful encounter: Cognitive appraisal, coping, and encounter outcomes. Journal of personality and social psychology, 50(5), 992-1003.
  • Fornés, J., Ponsell, E., & Guasp, E. (2001). Ansiedad y estrés en enfermería. Rol de Enfermería, 24, 1, 51-56.
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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (I)

Just as we said in the previous entry, we are going to talk about some coping strategies that are used to face redpoint anxiety or adjust it.

The term coping strategies was defined by Lazarus and Folkman (1986) as “a broad range of cognitive and behavioral strategies that people use to manage the demands of specific stressful encounters”.

In the way of an introduction, let me ask you a question:

How do you react to problems?

  1. I usually don’t face them. I run from them, avoid them, they don’t pique my interest and I do not talk about them.
  2. I try to look at them in a different light
  3. I try to control or shape my feelings.
  4. I look for a way of solving the situation and try to act upon the aspects of reality that are causing it.
Do you react like this at the prospect of trying your hardest route, or when facing the stressing situations that life throws at us?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lock-off training in Sport Climbing (V). Goal-based Exercise Proposals.

Versión en español

After this long and verbose chain of entries, now it's time to wrap up the series by putting forward some exercises that attend to each particular objective. But first we will go over some previously presented statements that will serve as a kind of preface:

Conclusions about Lock-offs in Climbing

- A specific strength exercise is one that reproduces the mechanical pattern (joint angles, speed of movement), duration of force application and kind of exercise regimen (concentric, isometric, eccentric), along the same muscle groups (or parts of them), that is typical of the gesture that we want to increase performance on. An additional characteristic is that they can also be facilitated or the opposite, like when we use elastic bands or added weight (Wilson et col., 1996; González-Badillo and Ribas, 2002; González-Badillo and Izquierdo, 2008).

- Regarding the usual duration of a lock-off, and focusing on technically proficient climbers, most of the time it is so short that it's even hard to appreciate it. The static phase of every move is the one where the elbow is no longer flexing and we start to let go of the hold with the other hand; a very brief moment that, as we already saw, lasts for 0,15 to 0,30seconds. From these figures we can deduce an important practical aspect:

This phase is so short that there are circumstances, specially for boulderers, or when grabbing small holds on steep overhangs, or that when a move requires a lot of precision, where there actually is not enough time for us to apply all the force that we are capable of. In these cases -and here we are just talking physical factors- what comes into play is what we can call explosive lock-off strength.
- In other situations a lock-off can last longer (from 0,5 to 1 second) and condition the performance in certain circumstances such as roofs, crossing hands, transitioning from roof to vertical, clipping, or long moves on a slab. They are also more frequent when onsighting or bouldering than when working a lead route.

- The more typical, and as such, specific joint angles are 90-100º and 45-60º.

- Performing either a high intensity or a prolonged lock-off (like the lock-offs to fatigue method) is very stressing for the elbow anddangerous. The reason is that in a tiny area a lot of structures come together: bicipital aponeurosis, ulnar collateral ligament, ulnar nerve, pronator teres, finger and wrist flexor muscles... so that this region is prone to suffer from compression (neuropathies). In addition, each of them is disproportionately small for the load that it has to bear, making it prone to microtraumas and overload (epicondylalgia and tendinopathies) when the intensity is excessive or the workout volume is suddenly increased. As someone who knows a thing or two about the elbow says, they are not at all prepared for the effort we subject them to while climbing

- So, if we ever feel we have to train lock-offs, it should be only after a long enough adaptation phase, so that the structures are better prepared to sustain the punishment of climbing; this includes hypertrophy, and changes in composition, visco-elastic properties and stiffness, metabolic changes, etc. The scale here is in years of constant and progressive activity (perhaps as long as 5), not in months.

Who can train lock-offs and when?

It goes without saying that beginners must NOT work this quality, not even those with an intermediate level. As that point it is better to focus on the development of a rich perceptive-motor repertory as the main physical work. In my opinion, there are JUST SOME cases, regarding particular goals, that justify training them, and this assuming an already advanced level. Even then, not the whole season long, and carefully picking the methodology:

- If you have ample (5+ years) of climbing experience, and an already high technical-tactical development that allows you to solve most sequences in a more efficient, not-so-static fashion

- If you have extensive (3+ years) upper body strength training experience, and are familiar with the pull-up gesture, strong enough and well-balanced shoulders, and high pulling force (15-20 pull-ups, and 5 or more with 10-15 kg added weight);

- If you aren't fully recovered from a previous weakness or injury in your elbows (at least 2-6 months of progressive rehab). NOTE: if the day after training lock-offs you notice elbow or shoulder pain, stop that training and take immediate measures no matter what;

- So, if after all the information you still deem beneficial to train this muscle action in some of its variants because it is a limiting factor for you; and you find a method that will not harm your technique or your tactics (see this previous entry); then, depending on your objective, you could perform 1-2 sessions a week for 4-8 weeks, resting 24-72 h between sessions and making sure you feel well-rested, always at the beginning of the workout and after a good warm-up, of some of the following proposed exercises:

Objective: Maximum Strength Lock-off

This would be the case where you feel limited in many of your climbs by your capacity -once the most efficient method is found- to hold a high percentage of your body mass, or to hold a position with just one arm for longer than usual.

1- Maximum lock-off: Suitable for climbers who can lock-off with one arm for more than 2 seconds and less than 5. Those who can hold longer could skip to the explosive methods described later. The methodology is as follows:
  • 2-5 sets of 1-2 seconds with complete recuperation (3+ minutes); 4-week cycles at most (ex.: 1st week 2 sets, 2nd week 3 sets...). Then we either stop it or rest for some weeks and start again changing some parameter (like number of sets or duration of effort) or, better yet, doing a different exercise for 4-8 weeks with a reduced load.
  • The load will be such that we avoid muscle failure, using added weight or facilitating (rubber bands) as needed. Don't worry, your gains won't be smaller this way, an you will reduce your risk of injury. We can use the concept of Effort Level (EL), that is the margin in seconds that we leave before muscle failure for a given load. For lock-offs we could use an EL of 1-4. We will choose the load like this: if we have to do 1-second sets with an EL(3), we will use a stronger aid or by the contrary add some weights so that we could hold the lock-off for 1-3=4 seconds, but we will only do 1 second, leaving that 3-second margin.
  • Depending on our level we can do it one-handed or with both arms.
  • Better to use a bar or a really good hold, preferably with our palm(s) facing us.

2-A facilitated exercise, good for familiarization, could be to grab the bar with our arm(s) already flexed, and always keeping both feet on the floor and maintaining the same elbow angle try one of these two: a) pull with the arms for one second max, or b) flex our legs a little so that some of our weight is transferred to the arms for around one second.

Objective: Explosive Lock-off strength

We learned that in a maximum isometric action, the highest force to time ratio or maximum explosive force is reached at 0,10-0,15 seconds, that incidentally is the usual length of locking-off while climbing. This doesn't mean that we are constantly working our explosive force while climbing, because most of the time the intensity is too low. But for those times when we need to apply a lot of force in a hurry (overhang, small holds), the goal would be to get the highest possible peak force at those 0,10-0,15 seconds. In other words, that we can unleash our capacity to generate a lot of force inside the available time window.

Here there are the exercises I propose, from easiest to more difficult, always keeping the load at a 30-50% of the maximum (the one that we could reach without the time constraint). We could do 1-2 cycles of 4 weeks each: 2-5 sets of 2-3 repetitions each, resting 3-5 minutes between sets (ex.: 1st week: 2 sets x 2 rep, 2nd week: 3 x 2 rep, 3rd week: 4x2rep, 4th week: 4x2rep...):

1-Explosive lock attempt. This consists of trying to perform an explosive contraction against an immovable resistance. This method was first proposed by Olsen and Hopkins (2003), based on the idea from Behm and Sale (1993) that the main stimulus for explosive strength development is the attempt itself and the force generated per time unit in that attempt, more than the actual muscle action or movement that results from it.

Attempt of Explosive Lock-off against a fixed resistance: starting with the desired angle, try to lock-off as fast and hard as possible. Note: the strongest among you will feel your feet leave the floor.

2-Jump-to-lockoff with both arms. Jumping to a good jug or preferably a bar, so that the angle of the elbow is the desired and we can apply force as soon as we make contact; hold the position just for the time needed to stabilize (ideally, less than 0,5 seconds), and drop back to the floor with our elbow still flexed to avoid additional stress. We can start doing this after having used easier methods (like facilitated lock-offs) without suffering pain. We can progress from using our body weight to adding some extra weight if we have already a high level and need further improvement (but never going beyond 30% of the maximum).

Jump-to-lockoff with both arms. Phase a: preparation to jump

Jump-to-lockoff with both arms. Phase b: jump and lock. Note; if you use added weight it's better to wear a weighted belt or vest than hanging some discs from the harness

3- Jump-to-lockoff with one arm.

Objective: Neural improvement for fast and efficient switch from dynamic to static contraction or vice versa.

Objective: Neural improvement for fast and efficient switch from dynamic to static contraction or vice versa.
With this we try to make our muscles used to fast regimen change (like static to dynamic), because it is a common situation in our sport. It is compulsory to have enough level on both types of contraction before working this capacity (ex.: 15 pull-ups with our body weight, more than 30 seconds hanging with flexed arms or more than one second with one arm, perhaps we won't ever be able to do it). We could use these exercises from least to most difficult:

1- Static-dynamic pull-ups (Cometti, 2000). There are several versions, and we need to keep in mind that the deceleration before the locking-off phase can cause sore biceps and triceps 1-2 days after the session. So, be careful:
      -Variant 1: Pull-up + 90º lock-off. This is the one that I consider the most specific. Given that we have enough strength, we pull as fast as possible until reaching 90º and holding the position for 0,5 to 1 second. I prefer this way to the popular one where there are 3 stops at 3 different angles both in the concentric and the eccentric phase like in Ruben's video 3:25 to 3:52
            *Variant 1b: Even more specific and probably more funny, but requiring high explosive and technical level. It consists of doing a long dyno where we have to swiftly flex our arm upon contact to fight the resulting cut-loose.
Nacho Sánchez, Tolmojón, 8B+- Tamajón (Guadalajara, España). Photo: Raul Santano
             *Variant 2a: Lock-off + pull-up (really advanced) Start by locking-off at 80% of the maximum and then doing an explosive pull-up at 30% of the maximum. The challenge here is the fast switch in load. I suggest you use rubber bands, rest your feet on something or even this solution:

Phase a: one-armed lock-off
Phase b: hold with both arms and pull-up

           *Variant 2b: Jump + lock + pull-up. This is one step above the previous one, more explosive and for elite level. It begins by jumping to a hold, doing a short lock-off and finally an explosive pull-up. There is a video of Nacho Sánchez performing it while training for Insomnio, his second 8C boulder (2:12 to 2:15)

     -Variant 3: pull-up + lock-off + pull-up. Here the load is constant, around 57-80% of the maximum both for the static and the dynamic phases. This exercise could be indicated for working the strength-endurance to the change in regimen. The number of repetitions will be higher, and the goal is to reach failure in the last set of the session.

2- Ladder hand-walking. High transfer to roof climbing. Depending on our level and goals, we will do the usual 2-5 sets of 2-4 reps with a complete rest.
Jurgen Reiss training. Source: http://www.juergenreis.at

3-Pull-up and release one arm. It is a fast pull-up that ends raising one arm as if we wanted to reach a hold. If we can have something to actually reach and touch it will be faster and more real.
Variant a: Reaching up when the elbow is at 90º
Variant b: Reaching up with the elbow at 45º
4- Campus board: The static phase in this exercise is the moment that we spend "tightening" the elbow prior to reaching with the other hand, that my video analyses show is identical to the 0,15-0,20 seconds typical of climbing. This makes it very specific, but if we lack some system to facilitate the exercise (like pulleys) the intensity tends to be too high and we run into the eternal problem: the control of the load. Partly because we are not always aware of its importance.

Nacho Sánchez seems to display the qualities needed for the campus board
About the campus...
This is why, no matter if we focus on the fingers (with small edges), the pulling force (with long reaches) or the explosive component (like what we described today); and given that there is always some mix of the three...

... This is an exercise that must be reserved for advanced phases, and only by those who are familiar with other, easier methods, that have provided them with the strength necessary to pull and, more importantly, to absorb the deceleration/acceleration of the body when reaching the next edge.

How are you struggling up a campus board if you can't do 15 pull-ups in a row?
Each time your hand lands on the next hold your body sinks, your elbows fly; do you wriggle your whole body when reaching because you can't simply ascend by flexing your arms?
Keep in mind that what our muscles can't cope with, is in part transferred to the supporting structures like tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, cartilages...

This is true for all kind of exercises. But the campus board is so explosive that shoulders, elbows and fingers have no time to give us warning before getting overloaded by a brusque movement. Why is it so common to hear people say their elbows hurt when doing campus? And.. has anyone taken a moment to think what capacity does this exercise develop? What can it be used for?
Well... as you see it can be used for several things (but not all of them at once, please!). Be careful, picture your elbows taking turns to bear the weight of your whole body.

So, some planning is in order, ask yourselves what quality you need to improve at each moment, use the easiest method available to you, keep away from injury and develop steadily. Only that way you will get long-term results.

Good luck!

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