Improve Your Sport Climbing (13): Tactics, Part 4 (EASY)


Tactical No-Brainers: Easy Decisions to Help Promote Performance Improvement (C)

Stack the odds in your favor when you’re climbing and training by paying attention to the following tactical areas (some which I’ve discussed in previous entries, and some which I’ll discuss in greater detail in future entries):

  • Eating/Drinking. Don’t worry, I’ll talk more thoroughly about nutrition in a future entry. However, what and when you eat and drink is definitely a key tactical decision, and one that should be implemented to your advantage in order to enhance your climbing performance and your training outcomes, too. If you just can’t wait to read more about nutrition, grab a copy of Dan Benardot’s  Advanced Sports Nutrition-2nd Edition to get a head-start on how to be an intelligent athlete both on and off the rocks. (Hints: starving yourself throughout climbing days/training sessions is not a very smart way to manage bodyweight or energy levels as a climber, and eating a low-carb diet is also a great way to sabotage your athletic performance).


  • Limit Alcohol Consumption. I’ve talked about this before, but I feel the need here to reprint this from a previous blog entry a couple years back. And again, I’ll start by saying what I said then: I really don’t care if you drink alcohol all day every day, so long as you don’t cause harm to those around you. It’s your choice. But if you’re interested in pushing your body to its limits as an athlete, you should at least know and understand the sacrifice you’re choosing to make by consuming alcohol in excess. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines binge drinking as more than four drinks in a sitting for women and more than five for men; heavy drinking is an average of more than one drink daily for women and more than two drinks daily for men). Below, I’ve listed 10 reasons why climbers (and other athletes) interested in peak performance might want to consider limiting their alcohol intake. Please note that these are only some of the athletic-performance-related issues associated with alcohol use; while some of them do relate to general health issues as well, I’m not going to list all of the negative long-term health issues associated with overconsumption of alcohol.
  1. Alcohol consumption increases muscle damage when consumed after workouts. Drinking 1 gram of alcohol per kilogram of body weight after exercising resulted in a greater loss of muscle-damage-related power, according to a study in the March 2010 “European Journal of Applied Physiology.” However, drinking .5 gram of alcohol per kilogram of body weight had no significant impact on muscle damage.
  2. Drinking alcohol increases your muscles’ recovery time after a workout, as indicated by the University of Notre Dame’s Office of Alcohol and Drug Education (OADE).
  3. Alcohol impairs hand-eye coordination and slows reaction times, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Current Comment on Alcohol and Athletic Performance.
  4. Drinking alcohol can cause hormone imbalances. Of particular interest to athletes is alcohol’s potential to decrease testosterone levels, as noted by the UC San Diego Athletic Performance Nutrition Bulletin: Alcohol and Athletic Performance.
  5. Alcohol consumption can result in weight gain and increased body fat.
  6. Alcohol disrupts your body’s natural sleep cycle. Sleep deprivation delays muscle recovery, promotes hormone imbalances and reduces your brain’s ability to learn new information, notes OADE.
  7. Diuretic effect. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because alcohol’s a liquid, it’s not dehydrating. It is. Learn more by reading “Does Beer Make You Pee More?
  8. Drinking alcohol may increase your risk of muscle cramps. Since excessive alcohol consumption lengthens your muscles’ recovery time and causes more muscle damage, it also has the potential to predispose you to muscle cramps. For more on this, read Beer Consumption and Muscle Cramps.
  9. Excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact your performance for up to five days, notes the OADE, in part by impairing your brain’s ability to learn.
  10. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause chronic muscle damage and weakness, inhibit nutrient absorption and lead to malnutrition, as well as potentially causing an array of additional health problems, according to ASCM.


  • Smoking/Other Drugs. I feel no need to convince you or to provide you with evidence that smoking isn’t a performance-enhancing habit, nor are other recreational drugs. It’s your choice, of course; in terms of climbing performance and training, these, too, represent tactical decisions about what’s more/most important to you.

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

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