Your Questions

Round 94

I’ve recently develop pain on the inside of my left elbow, which I believe it is tendonosis. I have been stretching, icing and taking NSAIDs and Fish Oil, but with little improvement. I realize I should take a bit of time off, but I am heading to Barcelona in 2.5 weeks, so I’ve been training (probably overtraining) for that. The elbow pain is not bad enough to slow me down, but is enough that I know it’s there. What should I do to maximize my climbing time in Spain? –Scott (Oregan)

That’s a tough one, Scott. With a trip so close, I suggest doing little or no training between now and the trip—after all, you can’t “cram” when it comes to training, so any last minute training will, in your current situation, do you more harm than good. However, a full week of rest will give the tendon a chance to quiet down a bit. Chances are the pain will return while climbing in Spain, so make it a top priority to ice it for 20 minutes at the end of each climbing day. Take fish oil every morning and evening, but only take NSAIDs in the evening. (Heavy dosing NSAIDs long-term can actually weaken tendons!) Tendinosis (failed healing) usually develops when people escalate training, rest too little, and it often reveals as part of a developing overtraining syndrome. Long-term, you need to cut back on training and continue with daily stretching; hopefully, you’ll be able to work through this in a few months. Good luck on your trip!

Dear Eric, I am wondering how to improve my mental performance? I usually climb a lot harder crux moves in the gym than I can outdoor. I think I’m overgripping holds because of the pressure and fear when climbing outdoors. Should I get on climbs so hard that I’m forced to fall more often? –Ante (Croatia)

Hi Ante, Your problem is very common. Yes, you must work through this fear by falling! Get on some steep, well-bolted routes and push yourself—it’s a process that takes time. Focus on steady, deep breathing and dwell on the climbing moves rather than your fear of falling. In time you will learn to climb up to your limit on lead…and to the point of falling. There are also various mental training techniques that can help too, but I can’t spell them out in a short email. However, I’ve written a full book on the subject of mental training. You can learn more at

I have developed some bilateral shoulder pain which sometimes refers up my neck and can give me a headache. I often have knots in the muscles of the upper back (rhomboids, teres major/minor area) and occasional pain across the top of the shoulder. This pain can be quite bad and can leave me incapacitaed for a short period of time. How should I deal with this? –Dave (Australia)

David, What you are experiencing is not all that uncommon, especially among climbers who spend a lot of time climbing on steep terrain. The muscles of the upper back and shoulders get worked very hard and often develop adhesions. A few things. Take a week or two off and see if the condition improves—hopefully you don’t have a shoulder joint or neck problem. Also, research “trigger points” on the Internet—learn the specific stretches to release them and try to find a “shepherd’s crook” to apply direct pressure to the trigger points in your upper back. I’ve had great success with this, when I stretch and massage these trigger points daily. Finally, people with chronic muscle cramps are often magnesium deficient. It’s VERY common, especially among athletes. Search the Internet for a supplier of Magnesium Malate–this is the best form of magnesium to relieve muscle cramps. Take 2 or 3 each day indefinitely—long-term, you may find that your muscle cramps are less frequent!

Eric, I recently finished your book Training for Climbing and thought it was excellent. Still, I have a couple questions that I hope you can answer. First, what’s the best way to warm up and cool down during an H.I.T. workout? I built a small system wall in my apartment and I don’t have a treadmill or other exercise equipment readily available without leaving my home. My other question relates to outdoor climbing—specifically, if I’m doing a 4-3-2-1 cycle, during which phase can I do projecting of routes? –Edwin

Hi Edwin, Glad you like my TFC book! Here are short answers to your two questions: 1. To warm-up at home for HIT, I suggestion you do a set of jumping jacks or rope skipping to get your heart rate up. Then do a set of pull-ups and push-ups, followed by about 30 minutes of bouldering on your home wall. Start with some easy problems and gradually work into harder problems. Do a few max boulder problems, then rest for 5 or 10 minutes before doing your HIT workout. All totaled, this is a pretty good home workout! 2. Ideally, the 4-3-2-1 cycle is more of an off-season training cycle for use during the winter or summer, when you aren’t climbing outside all that much. During your “on-season” of frequent project climbing, it’s tough follow a strict training cycle and still take enough rest days so that you are fresh on our outdoor projecting days. A popular approach during the on-season is to do a week or two of climbing/training focused on max strength/power (and bouldering) followed by a week or 2 of endurance (AE) training/climbing, involving roped climbing (with hard projecting/redpointing). You can repeat this program over and over again during your outdoor climbing season. Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes.

I’m building a bouldering wall for my recently purchased HIT strips. I’m planning to build a 55 degree wall, but in your articles you suggest a 50 degree wall. Is there a big difference between 50 and 55 degrees? –Lorenz (Scotland)

Hi Lorenzo, There is not a big difference. The HIT strips are optimized for a wall overhanging 50 degrees, but they are very usable at 55 degrees past vert. (My personal home wall is about 52 degrees past vertical.) Either way, get ready for some serious strength gains! Be sure to ease into HIT system training, and warm up well. Tape your fingers if skin wear becomes an issue…it is for most people, as they start to add weight. New HIT strips have a lot of texture, so you might sand off a tiny bit of texture where your fingers wrap over the holds (leave all the texture where the first pad of each finger grips the strip). Expect to take a few workouts to figure out the right weight (to be added) for each grip, but you’ll quickly dial it in…and soon be amazed at your gains in strength!