The Fitness of Helping Others

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one point in my past, a person told me with great disdain, “You only want to help other people because it makes you feel good about yourself.”

Think about that for a second.

What, if anything, is so inherently wrong about feeling good about yourself?

Lots of people struggle with negative feelings about themselves, much of the time. Judging oneself harshly is a common issue – finding oneself lacking and being filled with self-loathing. Many people tend to be way crueler in their own self-assessments than they would in assessing anyone else.

Getting outside of yourself by assisting others in need can help you put negative feelings and judgments about yourself in perspective. You see that you can do good works and that you have something valuable to give.

And guess what – it’s actually okay to feel good about yourself when you do this!

There are proven health benefits you’ll get from serving others, as a 2013 study reported in BMC Public Health concluded, including the following:

  • Reduced incidence of depression
  • Improved sense of overall wellbeing
  • Lowered risk of death later in life

Note that these are not direct physical fitness benefits. However, I believe that we tend to separate the mind from the body too much in our culture. Mind and body are inextricably linked, and a healthy, happy mind obviously has an impact on your quality of life and your overall fitness.

Enough about all of this “selfishness” – the personal, individual benefits YOU get from giving. Now, take a moment to think about the people (or animals, or environment) whose lives you’ll touch and help improve from your willingness to donate whatever you have to give – time, money, skills, expertise, labor, whatever – and imagine how much they can potentially benefit from your generosity.

One caveat about giving to others: Make sure you are giving freely with no expectations of a specific outcome or of getting personal recognition or gains. You are giving simply to give, free and clear.

Also, it helps if the way you choose to give resonates with you personally. For example, if you hate working with children, volunteering to work with children probably shouldn’t be you service effort of choice.

Doing something that you actually enjoy or at least don’t mind doing will put you in a more giving frame of mind, and if you come into an activity with positive energy, those around you will more likely than not pick up on it. Ditto for negative energy.

By helping others, by volunteering, by giving back in whatever way works for you, both you and others benefit. Everyone wins, and everyone involved reaps rewards. What could possibly be wrong with that equation?

Volunteer for the health and fitness benefits you will gain. Feel good about yourself when you do.

Go ahead, be selfish.

Maintaining Strength During the Climbing Season

Climbing outside is so much fun that it's easy to ditch training for months on end -- but you might regret it if you do.

Climbing outside is so much fun that it’s easy to ditch training for months on end — but you might regret it if you do.

Do you ditch training entirely during the climbing season, and just climb for months on end as your training?

Let me start by saying that if you just want to climb and you don’t mind a) losing strength gains gradually over the course of the season; and b) potentially incurring some repetitive use injuries or muscle imbalances, you should go right ahead with this plan.

However, if you would like to avoid a) and b) both, you’ll likely want to keep some of the strength training elements from your off-season training plans in play during your on-season. You will just want to severely taper down the volume of each workout as well as the frequency of workouts. You do this to avoid cutting into your actual climbing performance as much as possible.

The question changes from “How much of this type training can I get away with and still make gains?” to “How little of this type of training can I get away with without losing my gains?”

You shift the focus of your lens to performance climbing, but strength work has to stay in the periphery, as does opposition muscle work, for best results in terms of strength maintenance and overall body balance.

The steps I take in my program involve the following:

  1. Examine my list of strength-training exercises I do in the off season, and try to whittle out any that I don’t deem completely necessary. This is hard for me as there’s a reason for each exercise I do!
  2. With that list in hand, I prioritize the exercises, and split them into two or three shorter lists of 3 to 6 exercises that can be done together. Each list represents one short workout. I am free to combine them if I want to stack workouts, though – it’s up to me!
  3. In each workout, I do way fewer sets of each exercise. I still try to lift heavy, though – this is strength maintenance, after all.
  4. I try to not go to failure. I definitely try to leave one rep in the tank, lifting to fatigue rather than failure. I lift the same weight I have been lifting throughout my strength-training cycle. Sometimes I even add weight, as I have consistently gotten stronger during my climbing seasons the past few years, too.
  5. I lift far less frequently. I aim to get a lifting session in at least once a month (working to hit all lifts on my list at least 1x a month), but no more than 2x a month.
  6. I try to lift when it interferes with my outdoor climbing performance the least – when I know I’ll have a bunch of rest after lifting. But at the same time, if that month deadline looms, I bite the bullet and lift anyhow (usually!).
  7. I understand that lifting during my performance season may negatively impact my performance in the short-term, immediate future. Over the long-term, the benefits of keeping my muscles strong and balanced outweighs this short-term drain on performance.

By keeping lifting in play through the climbing season, you may actually end your season stronger in terms of pure strength than you started it. You also will be working more on climbing fitness, movement, tactics, and technique throughout your season(s) outside. This means that by the end of your season, you may be experiencing new peaks in performance that weren’t possible the previous season. And then, you’ll repeat for better results in the future.

Sport Climbing Tips: Picking Out Your Projects

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Do you love to project hard routes as much as I do?

If your answer is, “Heck no, I just climb for fun/exercise/recreation and get on whatever,” then this article is not for you!

However, if you love to project routes (i.e. give multiple attempts on routes until you redpoint them…or not, as the case may be!), or you want to give projecting a shot, read on.

As a longtime project climber, I have found that the following approaches work best for me:

  1. Sample what is out there before you settle on your project(s). Even on a super-short trip, getting on more than one route will give you more of a taste of what an area has to offer. Of course, if the first potential project you try is the most awesome climb you’ve ever tried…well, go ahead and stick with it if it makes you happy. I still usually like to try a few routes before I project anything, though – that’s just my preference.
  2. I think it’s good to have more than one project at a time. I like having a number of projects going that involve different styles, skills, and difficulty levels. I usually have shorter-term, easier projects (routes I know I can do fairly quickly), and I save those for the days when I don’t feel super awesome, actually. This works for me, because I want to put my full-energy, best days into my dream projects, the routes that push me and that I’m not sure I can ever send. I climb to push my limits more than anything, so I enjoy having one or two long-term projects like this.
  3. Having more than one project at a time keeps boredom at bay and helps me avoid repetitive use injuries, too. It also helps me avoid stagnating/plateauing on any given project (mentally and physically). Having just one project can lead a person to develop the skills and strengths for that route and that route alone, and then when they get on something else of a similar difficulty, even in a similar style, they might find themselves stymied. Keeping diversity in the projecting can help keep this from happening.
  4. About those “dream projects:” I think these are a great idea so long as you don’t get frustrated or pissed or put expectations on yourself about when you “should” send them by. For a dream project to work for me, I must absolutely love the climb from start to finish. No moves that I loathe or dread – even the hard moves are amazing and fun. Because we’re going to have such a long relationship, I feel that it’s important to love a project like this. A dream project pushes me harder than the projects I can send in a reasonable amount of time. Dream projects make me a better climber; they also teach patience and perseverance. Progress is measured in small ways, and this can become a beautiful process of learning, patience, and self-discovery.
  5. I always try to include a project or two, dream project or no, that really test and work my weak links – providing me with a steady stream of stimuli to try to improve those areas every time I get on those routes. I also always try to include a project or two that cater more to my strengths – because it’s fun to feel strong and to climb to your strengths.
  6. I don’t feel obligated to stick with a project if I start to get bored with it or don’t like it or something else captures my attention more. Climbing is supposed to be fun (right?), so if a project is not enjoyable for you to try anymore, you might want to take a break – maybe just for a few days or weeks, or maybe forever.
  7. I do what I feel like on any given day of climbing, and it’s totally my choice. Above all, never forget that it’s up to you; it’s your climbing. You do it for you and for nobody else. Do what you like!

Climber. Writer. Climbing Coach/Trainer. Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). ACTION Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Avid Lifelong Learner.

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