Sunday, 31 January 2016

ICONOCLASM

I've been thinking about this thing for years now, and maybe it's time for me to get rid of it by sharing my thoughts. Maybe I find out that I'm not alone. 
As it's easy to imagine, I've spent quite a lot of time in climbing gyms during the last ten or fifteen years. 
It seems to me, that many Italian climbing gyms suffer from a very clichéd behaviour. 
The usual pattern, at least for the gyms that I've regularly been to, is that a strong climber at some point decides to open a gym, or to go and work somehow at an existing gym, maybe setting, maybe coaching. 
Let's not take into account, for the purpose of this post, the not so irrelevant aspect that many of the guys who do this aren't qualified neither to set nor to coach. I mean, officially and legally qualified. Like, they attended a course, passed some sort of evaluation, got a qualification. 
Let's not take into account that many simply apply to others the kind of training that worked for themselves, without reflecting over the circumstance that they may have been training for decades and are not novices that want to go from 5c to 6b. 
Let's overlook this all. 
What always left slackjawed, is the fact that, in the gyms that I know well, there is always a star, a leader that all the climbers worship. 
I am always shocked by how everyone seems to be needing a boss to which refer, and whose words are thought to be taken as absolute truth.
I've seen things, that you people wouldn't believe. Groups of beginners destroying themselves on a campusboard for hours and weeks on end, because the rock star gave them a training plan. 14 years old, 40 kilos talents ripping their muscles with weighted pull ups, because the rock star wanted to test their strength level before coaching them. Groups of 10 novices following the rock star like dumb prisoners, each one with a crashpad on their shoulders, as the leader tries all day his dangerous projects, brushing a couple of rocks nearby to make the children play when off spotting duty. 
I've heard every kind of amazed, adulatory and self depressing comment about the leader: "I'll never be as strong as he is." "He could be in the national team if he wanted." "Only he, can climb this." and so on. 
I despise this servility. 
A strong climber that operates in your gym, is just that. He's not a leader, a life guru, or someone to worship. He could be someone to admire, if he deserves it, and when he deserves it. 
I wonder why these people always need a chief. 
To me, climbing has always been about the highest form of individualism, a radical behaviour that follows the rule that you are always alone on the rock. You may be tied to another person, but when climbing, you're alone. You're alone because you only have the responsibility of your own actions, and of the consequences that those actions can have on the other person. 
We are always alone on the rock: if we want to kick down a rock, we can do it; if we want not to clip into the bolts, we can do it. Because we are alone and no one can stop us. But if the rock falls on the head of someone, or if a nasty fall puts everyone at danger, it's only our fault. There's no sharing in climbing, there is only putting together small bits of individual effort. We share the experience, but not the climbing. 
This individualism was immediately evident to me, because before starting climbing, I'd always participated in team sports. 
All I knew was that everyone was stronger than me, everyone was better than me, and that I wanted to become stronger and better than all those people. 
My friends and everyone who was stronger than me, were more targets than role models. I copied what they were doing, maybe even their attitude, but only to have an easier target to destroy.
They were still friends and brothers in real life, though.
Even now, despite struggling to stay attached to the sport with everyday's life committments, I have no gods, no leaders, no models. 
There is a huge difference between esteem and idolatry; between matter-of-factness and self-deprecation. 
I don't know what people like in this attitude. Maybe it's because they think that some of the leader's golden dust will rub on them. Maybe it's because they like to shine with mirrored light. 
In doing so, they accept and embrace mediocrity, because they accept that they will never be as good as their duce, their leader, their god. They could progress, but... they will never be like him. Or her. 
I would like that these people kill their idols. 
I would like that they shine of their own light, strong or feeble, but theirs. 
I would like that they say: fuck you I'm not spotting you all day and carry your pads. 
I would like that they take the risk of wanting to get stronger and better that anyone else, or at least as strong and as good as humanly possible for them. 
But no, for them it's better to be part of a crew. It's better to hide behind a star and be happy to be their friend, their follower, their crashpad caddy, their belay slave.   
I don't even want to spend a word about the other side of this Janus' mask. The Leader, the Guru, the Star. 
Jesus fucking Christ, guys. Get a fucking grip. Have some dignity. 
Be great, be shit, but be yourself and not a pale face in the crowd of worshippers. Become your own god. Become your own model. Become your own target. 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

USUAL START OF THE YEAR POST. OR NOT?

It's the time of the year in which we tend to look back and do our math.
I was going through a few posts from last year and I bumped into the concept of sowing and then - hopefully - reaping the fruits. 
Fact is, if you don't sow you can only reap what Nature gives you, you have no choice. And Nature could also give you nothing. Or very little. And this very little could be reaped by others. So, you'd better sow. 
I kept sowing throughout the whole past year, and it's been oh so fun! 
I had never thought I could still take such a great pleasure in training. The weights. The Iron. Man, the Iron. It's so good, and it can do so good to you. I'm a bit bored about sharing all the details, about going on for ages on why you should sprint, hip-hinge, jump, snatch, etc. I still read about people training for sportclimbing by swimming, or cycling, and I'm fucking bored. I still read about people trying to lose weight by intermittent fasting, or keto-diets, without thinking for a split second in terms of quality of the weight you lose, of body composition, of relative strength, of fat-loss instead of weight loss, and I'm fucking bored. All the info we need to get smart training, at least under my perspective, that is the perspective of a nearly 44 year old male obsessed with strength, is out there. Feed the wolf that you want to grow stronger. 
Anyway, during last year, I not only rediscovered the Iron under new forms, I also found that I could devote myself to The Board even more. After a boiling Summer that I spent doing all the above mentioned, one day I took the decision that I was not going to set any new problems on my board, until I had climbed all the existing projects. 
It's been so far a great choice. A foolish choice, but a foolishly right one. 
I realized that I had the perfect bouldering right there, at a 5 meters walk from my kitchen.
I had projects that really intrigued me, with idiotic sequences made only to be at the exact limit for that problem. I found myself climbing projects that I had been trying on and off for years and it's been great. It's been stressful, also, like on rock. Hard projecting, or siegeing, is a mental task. To climb one particular problem that I had set more or less three years ago, I had to keep trying just that single problem for four weeks, four sessions a week. If you do the math, it's quite easy to see that, had it been on rock, with me being able to climb outside no more than once a week if I'm lucky, it would have been impossible. Not to mention weather conditions, driving, and so on. 
I completely abandoned the idea of being a climber, I fully embraced the idea of being a trainer, and I found that I've never lived climbing so happily. 
It could seem trivial, but really dedicating all my time to the board is at the same time an extraordinary relief and stress. 
I walk by my board dozens of times every day. It's always there. The projets are always there. It is always dry, and with fans and air conditoning I can make conditions perfect for most of the year. The holds are always grippy. Basically, you can only stick at it, put the hours in, and perform when it's time. At the same time, the only way to climb a new thing is to get better and stronger. You have no excuses. There are no techy escapes, you can't change anything. It's great really. After a couple of specific projects that I climbed with a lot of dedication, I needed to take one week off from climbing, because I was mentally exhausted. Now tell me, who needs rock when you can get stressed in the comfort of your home? 
Eventually, right in the middle of this new way of living climbing, I found myself on rock. 
Eventually, I also found myself climbing some old projects and opening a few new lines. 
Eventually, I had a lot of fun and satisfaction. 
The first post of 2015 was about two lives that I had lived and also about a beautiful trip to Cresciano. This first post of 2016 is also about a trip to Cresciano, in the very same days of my last visit one year ago. 
I had my sights on two problems, and the magnificence of my failure has been, well... magnificent. I barely tried one being stopped by a move that I judged morpho and reachy, before reminding myself that shorter climbers than me had iced it. Blame the glassy holds and feet... 
But when a door is closed, often a window is opened and I saw that window open and got in. Switching from glassy holds and heel-hooks to clean, crimpy holds and feet, I immediately felt that a new love was born. 
On the second day of the trip, I behaved well and saved my skin and muscles. I climbed the classic "Un Uomo Un Perché", a beautiful and hard 6a. I rested a lot and then found a nice one move wonder to the right of "Slopey Traverse" called "Dragon Fly Power", 7b. It was a great feeling to find myself on top of a new problem for once. 
So we went to the sector where we all had our projects. The athmosphere was great and I was happy and ready. On my third go I climbed "Frankie Minchia" 8a+. And I had and have no words to describe it. 
Riding on the wave of this unexpected success, on my last day we went to Chironico where, after a few tries and after saying "There is no way I am going to do this move!" I climbed "Vitruvian Man" without the chipped hold. 
Bliss. 
Sow. Be patient. Reap. 
There you go, a year. 
I really think that only by getting rid of rock climbing I can now enjoy rock climbing. I know what I can do with the right time and the right conditions. I know that when I complain about greasy holds and soft skin, it could be an excuse but often it's not. I know that I am just a trainer, a board climber at best, and that I need to be lucky to climb on rock. 
In the meanwhile, I started sowing again. 
Pics now. 










Friday, 30 October 2015

THE REAL THING

For a long time I've been thinking that I had become just a "trainer", not being a "climber" anymore. Given that I've ever been such. 
The compulsive and obsessed search for physical prowess had finally become a goal in its own, completely independent from climbing performances and from climbing itself. 
Being able to do multiple standing ab-wheel rolls, or one armers, or pulling mono one armers, and climbing 6b on rock showed no contradiction to me. 
And it still does. 
Then I fell to the syrens' chant, that kept me awake at night singing "The Force has multiple facets, Lore. Pursue them all in the name of our magic formula: STRENGTH X SPEED = POWER." 
Once I finally understood the Truth, I could finally sleep again at night. But during the days, I had to snatch, clean, power clean, power press, jump, sprint, hip-hinge, do finishers, barbell complexes, dumbbell complexes, static complexes, speed complexes, contrast training, and something else. 
When I added FOAs (Frontal One Armers) to the menu, my life was finally complete.
Was I still nothing but a trainer? Luckily yes, but a stronger trainer. In any case, I couldn't concentrate on nothing else but watching my body change and my traps grow. With veins on them. 
Drop 1 kg of fat, put on 1 kg of muscle, the scale shows no progress, but the mirror (and the calipers) never lies. 
Then one day, while I was on the way to Damascus (in Damascus there is a gym where I was going to have my body fat percentage and cellular density checked), I saw a burning bush. 
I stopped by to pee on it, but it said: "Lore, follow The Force." so I replied: "You fucking idiot, what do you think I've done in the last 23 years? Piss off!" 
To which the burning bush replied: "But do you know where The Force lies?" 
"Of course I do, you silly old bush! - I said - The Force lies in the Iron and in this fucking arms of mine that can tear you another one!" 
"Aaaaight then!" 
And I moved on toward Damascus, because I was already late for my visit. 
When I got closer, I stopped by in a bar for coffee, and when I looked down into the cup, I saw all the divinities that I worship: Ben and Jerry, Big Malc, Terminator, Ripley and Call, Roy Batty and Deckard, Lt. Col. William Kilgore, Kate Moss and many more. 
And they all said to me: "The Board, Lore." 
I understood. 
I had been enlightened. 
And my life changed. 
I was only a trainer no more. I had become a board climber and I was now ready: I am not afraid.