Saturday, 23 May 2009


One week into my island life, a few things needed adjustments, a few others definitely not.
Let's see them. I have a fully conditioned mansarda in the villa, all for myself: wooden beams in the ceiling, nice warm cotto italiano on the floor, I have not worn any proper shoes in a week, since the last time that I went bouldering, and I'll return on this later. Then, I teach three of the four students that are here, and this means alot for me, both in terms of money earnt and, not less important, in terms of trust. On the matter of the teaching, I am realizing what a golden life I live in the Florence school: there I teach young girls (and the random guy), that are a nice company, an even better sight, and most of all are, despite all the difficulties of working au pair while studying, lightning fast to learn.
The drawback of living here now is that two of the students are a grown Austrian couple, and I am experiencing how hard is to teach them. We don't share any common language, and it's very very difficult to make them understand not only the grammar rules, but moreover the structure of the Italian phrases. Anyway it's a good challenge, and when we were at the restaurant yesterday night with the school's director, and they ordered their dinner in a proper, polite Italian (even if a shy one) I was proud. I was even happier when I discovered that my dinner was on the school's expenses, second time in a week. Success.
What needed fixing, as you may have thought, is the climbing. As the most loyal readers may remember, I had been here bouldering in January 2008, and despite the horrible weather I was immediately psyched. A hill covered in granite boulders is something that pleases the boulderer's eyes. So, I was disappointed when my eyes were filled by tears when, on my second trip to the boulders, I found out that the problems that I had done the previous day were the only ones that were doable. In one year the Mediterran vegetation has grown so high and thick that it's now absoultely impossible to get to the bigger boulders. NNFN.
I tried to get to a very nice bit of granite, only to discover that it was going to be a major epic, trying to navigate a steep hill jungle with my two pads (the landings are rough, with rocks all under the main boulders), while also trying not to kill myself in the process. The bushes are thick, sometimes chest high and covered in a strange white foam (WTF?), and sometimes they turn into nasty plants full of pointy thorns. I gave up. When I sat down to drink some water in the +30°, a half centimeter red tick walked through my pad. I went away, thinking about taking my revenge in autumn, when hopefully the bushes will be less in bloom and the temps more gentle. Januay must be perfect, considering that anyway in the shade the bouldering was amazing even if the sun had shone all day long on the red rock. Bliss.
What probably doesn't need much fixing, though, is my climbing. I am enthusiastic. The only day I've climbed I've only done vertical, easy stuff, and it felt great. I dare to say "I was definitely again on my feet!"
I did one other couple of problems, precarious moves around an arete, and really they felt very very good.
So, how do I spend my time now without bouldering? It's very simple, I spend my time playing my bass in the mansarda, and lifting tons of iron in a rusty gym 200 meters from the villa.
A few thoughts about weightlifting and training for climbing.
The major advantages of weightlifting are that you are allowed, if not forced, to admire yourself in the mirrors. Every good pumper knows that the mirrors are to be sure that you are performing the excercise correctly (every good pumper avoids the machines for the free weights), but every good pumper knows that few things are more precious than watching oneself while training and thinking "I am on a good path" or "My inner pecs are a bit underdeveloped compared to the outer ones" or "I am amazing!".
The crossover pumper (the one that go to the gym as a pause from climbing) takes also great pleasure in secretly watching the "real" pumpers' reactions to the crossover pumper feats of strength when training the back muscles. Usually these mute wars of nerves take place at the Pulley, or at the classic Lat Machine. The crossover puller has to avoid Flat Bench competitions and especially Leg Press ones. Oh well...
Finally, again on the matter.
Every time I hit the weights, lately one cycle of 8 or 10 summer weeks every year, I realize how easy weightlifting is compared to training for climbing. All you need is to be concentrated. It's so simple, unidirectional. Even if you're preparing for Mr. Olympia, as complex and severe your routines may be, the only thing you will ever have to do is grab some iron and move it in two directions for a number of reps and sets. Nothing more.
The enormous complexity of climbing, on the other hand, doesn't need to be talked about here. Power, power andurance, endurance; isometric, concentric, excentric efforts; explosiveness, speed, fluidity; technique; dozens of different grips and prehensions; slabs, roofs, overhangs.
Well, for a moment, it's good to kick back and relax. Grab a weight, move it around, have a shower and go for an aperitivo.
Last but not least, a final thought.
I usually need a good night's sleep to feel good the following day, rady to give battle to the world. Let's say at least 8 hours, but 9 is better. In order to achieve this, I usually run on a tight schedule during the working days. Let's say, start to get ready for bed (shower, coffe machine, dresses for the next morning...) at 10 30, in bed at 11, alarm at 7 45. This obviously doesn't live much room for good tv shows, cinemas, concerts, some good books, or a decent walk in the city centre to worship the totty.
Well, some time ago, I stayed up until midnight to watch a film until the end, and when I finally went to bed at 00 40, very very late, I thought "Oh, well I don't care if I'm very tired tomorrow, because I don't have to train nor to climb."
So, in shock I realized that climbing and training are the milestones which I measure my life to.
Love it or hate it, that's how I roll now.


Pellet said...

nice post man! and as I just rolled over my left ankle thursday evening, breaking a ligament and being forced not to boulder for at least a couple of months, it sure brought me a good suggestion for the next weeks' training... faremo di necessità virtù... have a great time on the island!

lore said...

auguri marco, guarisci in fretta!!! maledette caviglie!!! (e spalle, dita, polsi...)

Stubbs said...

Great post Lore, just gave me the extra psyche I needed to pick up some iron! Will be hitting averstal for a few weeks this summer if you have time off and want a trip!