• Ask Sean McColl

    Ask Sean McColl

    World Champion Climber. Future Olympian. Canadian.

ask “Sean McColl”

Thanks for all the questions, keep them coming! Make sure you read the “FAQ” (Frequently Asked Questions) which can be found here. Note: I’ve limited the number of comments per page to avoid having to scroll very far down the page. The newest question that was answered will be at the bottom. You can always find older questions by clicking “older comments”

Comments (1808)

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    Trey

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    Hi Sean, nice new layout. I’ve been watching alot of WC’s the last months, and you’ve been climbing awesome. Congrats on that.
    Could you maybe tell something about your training regime? Do you use periodisation, and if so, what do the cycles look like? Do you do any specific strength or technique training? Would be cool to hear a little abut all that.
    good luck with the last two cups, we’ll be cheering for ya!

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      Thanks for the kind words! For my training regime, I’ve posted a few articles in what I do (see: http://seanmccoll.com/category/training/). Sometimes I do all the boulders in the gym, other time I do circuit training. 30-60 moves 6-8 times a session. Usually my sessions are pretty short, 2 hours. That being said, I’m fairly efficient while training, not a lot of rest and a pretty quick warm up. If I want to train for 2.5-3 hours, I have a slower warm up and try to space my rests a bit more. When I want to get physically stronger, I switch to 2 or 3 times a week of bouldering. Hard boulder problems and near the end, I sometimes do campusing or specific drills. I looked up “periodisation” and I’ve never heard of the term, but I think I do most of it normally. When I have no competitions, I’m trying to get stronger, then when I feel like I’m strong enough, I go into endurance (around lead season) or 5 minute bouldering (bouldering season). Overall, I just try to stay fit. Mentally, feeling good is the key to training. If you’re doing moves, even if you don’t feel so good that day, you’re still doing hard moves which is beneficial to training. I train 4 days a week for about 2.5 hours. I try to train efficiently and eat good food so I have energy while training!

      Reply

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    Michael

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    What kind of food do you eat and do use a strict diet? Do you avoid certain things?

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      Sean McColl

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      I don’t follow a very strict diet, but I try not to eat anything too “unhealthy”, especially around competition season. I’ve stopped drinking pop and for the most part have also stopped eating candy. I find it’s nice to relax though and eat a bit of chocolate or some candy, I just don’t eat a whole bag like I did before. Before comps, I tend to avoid red meat and recently I’ve been just trying to eat until I’m actually full and not keep eating just for the sake of eating. I love so many different types of food so sometimes it’s hard to actually stop eating when there’s still more on the table.

      Reply

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    John S

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    You seem to be a really strong climber and I’ve always found the physique of top climbers interesting. I’ve seen Daniel Woods do several one-arm pullups and a video of you doing a human flag so I was wondering to what extent you can do cool stuff like this (if you ever tried) ?
    -One-arm lockoff (say at 90 degrees)
    -Human flag
    -Weighted pull-ups
    -One-arm pullups
    Kind of pointless question I guess but at least I’ll know what to aim for, hehe.

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      I can one arm lock-off for probably 15 seconds.
      one arm pull-up, about 4
      human flag, 5-10 seconds
      ONE pull up with 110 pounds
      front lever for 5-10 seconds

      Reply

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    Miguel

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    Hey Sean, great website man! I like the new layout. One comment though is that I’d love to have an easier way to browse the pictures. Your image gallery is full of awesome pictures, but it’s not the easiest to browse.
    Anyways, talking about pictures. I have a few good pictures of you, since I’ve been the official “tour de bloc” photographer for a little while. My question is, what’s the easiest way to send you a few pictures to use for your site?
    In my portfolio, i have one that would be pretty cool for your site:
    http://www.bonuel.ca/blog/portfolio/sean-mccoll-in-canmore/

    Keep climbing strong, but more importantly keep having fun!
    Cheers,
    Miguel

    Reply

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    Gelu

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    Hi Mr. McColl,

    Sometimes, when talking about bouldering problems or routes, a climber would say ‘this route fits my style’ or ‘the third problem in the finals was not my style at all’.

    What’s ‘your style’? And, in your particular case, what do you mean by that? Is ‘your style’ the kind of moves and holds you are excel at? or simply what you enjoy doing?

    Along with that… It’s common advise to try to work on your weakest points. The areas when there’s more room for improvement. It is also a difficult advise to be followed since it involves doing stuff you tend to find extra challenging or/and frustrating.
    So… do you consciously try to climb out of your comfort zone, out of “your style”? Or do you simply try to climb with different people in different areas?
    How does that fit in your training?

    Would love to read your thoughts on all that.

    Greetings!

    PS.: Not a native English speaker, feel free to edit/correct any mistakes!

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      A route in my style would be some sort of compression. I feel very good when I have heel hooks in and usually feel good when my feet are very high as well. I’m not extremely flexible, but I tend to like having quite high feet. My anti-style would probably be very small pinches. I tend to end up just not pinching them. Another weakness of mine is that I get a bit too set on my method and I sometimes forget to look for new ones. My style would also include routes between 20-40 moves. When they get longer than 40 moves, you have to have a bit more endurance and recovery.

      I find that my body is suited to shorter power endurance routes. When talking about weaknesses, I guess we could say that routes longer than 40 moves isn’t really my style. Do I train my weakness, in a nutshell, yes. For the good portion of a month, I did circuits from 40-60 moves. I don’t mind training on my weakness because it’s really only me who can see them. Sometimes it gets very frustrating, but I have my friends to keep my psyche up and keep me motivated.

      I also love climbing with people with different styles and even the same. You can easily build off the motivation of others when you’re not so psyched and I hope I do some of the motivation when others aren’t so psyched as well.

      Reply

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    Joe Eibl

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    Hi Sean,

    Congrats on your recent send spree. I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on the Room Project in Squamish (Singularity). It looks insane. Have you put much time into working it?

    Cheers,

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      Well “The Room Project” has been done from a move in by Tim Clifford and he called it “The Singularity”. I personally don’t know why he didn’t start from the obvious jug rail, but I’ve been told he just did it from the first move in and decided to call it the problem. I’ve tried it for about an hour and the first move is pretty easy. If it’s not soaked in the next month, I might be able to try it again. If I ever did it from the rail, I’m not sure whether it merits a different name. Maybe Singularity is V14, and the sit is V15?

      Reply

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    peter

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    Hi Sean,
    I want to ask you about how you designing routes for power endurance /endurance training. I train 20-30moves routes, and you probably 40moves. It is pretty hard to design proper routes each training. I need a lot of time to prepare two 20 moves routes so it is impossible in my opinion design 7 40 moves routes each training. What is the trick?

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      Hey Peter,

      I sometimes create 20 move circuits at well, that’s my “min” range. I go up as high as 60. To start off, I’d highly recommend a good training partner, or a few. This way, if each of you create a different circuit, or even 10 moves that link into each other, it goes much faster. Let say you create circuit X1 on Monday; the next time you train, you can start your session by climbing X1 and then creating another circuit X2. The next time, you start on X2, then make an X3… ect. If you’re making circuits with people at different levels than you’re own, you can grab the same holds but use different feet. Obviously if the climbing level is drastically different, it just doesn’t work so well.

      When I’m creating routes that are below 30 moves, all the moves are very hard, almost falling on most of them. I try to make myself fall around the 25 move mark but not because I’m pumped, just physically too tired to keep going. The more you create circuits, the faster you’ll be able to make them! I also only create one new circuit per training and then I repeat the circuit 3-4 times. Like I said above, I then re use that circuit in the first half of my next training (more or less).

      Hope that helps!

      Reply

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    Marc

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    hi Sean, i want to ask you if it’s possible to go from 7C boulder level to 8A+ in 5 months of really good and continuous training? not just in 1 specific style of climbing but most of them. and i know it depends on lots of factors, but i just want to know if you’ve seen someone improve that fast before and in this grade range. Thanks. Goodluck for the finals

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      Marc,

      To lead off the discussion, in a nutshell, YES, I think it’s possible. 5 months is a crazy amount of time when you think about how much training you could do in that time. I take roughly 1-2 months to get from “unfit” to “extremely fit”. Also, you’re just asking me if it’s possible; I think that for every person, their training to achieve this is going to be different. I also have much more time to commit myself to climbing. If someone trained 3 days a week, ate healthy, had proper motivation and climbing partners, then 7C – 8A+ is only 3 steps and I think it’s doable. The last step would be the hardest 8A – 8A+ for sure.

      Reply

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    Eric

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    Congrats Sean,
    I had a question about recovery.
    Since you have been climbing a long time, does your body get really sore from climbing or does it only get a bit sore?
    Do you take more rest days if you feel that you are not healed yet?
    How do you gauge when your body is healed enough to climb or train again?

    I feel that my body takes a while to heal after hard bouldering. I am frequently not sure when I’m considered healed because I don’t want to further tear muscles. I try to allow them to heal so that I get the most out of my workouts. I generally climb one day and rest one day when I boulder. But lately, I have been trying to boulder for 2 days in a row to get my body use to climbing for trips. I just don’t know if climbing 2 days in a row is beneficial because you get stronger from recovering.

    I really enjoy you site as it gives me insight to comps, how you train, your thought process and the ability to communicate to a pro climber.

    Thanks,
    Eric

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Recovery is very important but I know that we always want to push ourselves to the max, especially in training. When I’m doing hard bouldering, I always do it after a rest day, and the day after hard bouldering, I tend to move into circuit training. When I do a 2.5 hour session, it’s true that I’m using a lot of muscles and your body needs time to remember. If by the next day, I don’t feel great, I’ll just tone down the bouldering or circuits I’m doing. I rarely will skip a day of climbing even if I’m feeling sore. To answer the first question, I find that my body as a whole is sore from climbing, but I might be very used to it. That’s also why before a competition, I tone down my training in the week before it and take a full 2 days of rest. After a big competition, I sometimes rest 2 or 3 days, and in between competitions (say I competed last weekend and again this weekend, I’ll usually climb for only 2 hours in between the two competitions in total.

      My advice would be that if you’re training 2 days in a row, do the stuff that’s hard on your body on the first day because you know you’ll be more tired on the second. Try to eat things that will give you energy as well before you climb.

      Reply

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    Olivier Plante

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    Hi,
    I’d like to know what you do when things are not exactly how you want them to be. How do you stay in the mood even though it seems to stay at the same level, not progressing.

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      I’m going to guess that you mean while you’re training and staying on the same “plateau” or just fed up with training in general.

      This is another common obstacle among athletes. I usually overcome my plateau’s by changing my training, or even simple things like what I’m eating before training. Overall, I start changing things, as random as they seem. When I have a good day at training, or one that I excelled at, I try to remember what I did differently that day. If I can’t find anything, then I just try to repeat whatever feels normal. Your friends can also help you by suggesting different ways to train and get stronger. One last thing that helps overcome this dilemma is to set goals. Nothing spikes your motivation like trying to obtain a certain goal. Make the goal achievable but hard.

      Hope it helps, let me know if you need anything more specific

      Reply

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