• 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 (1824)

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    luke

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    Hi Sean,

    First off the site looks great! And this question and answer format is a great idea.

    I was wondering about supplemental training such as Fingerboarding and Campusing. Do you find these beneficial and if so what is your regimem?

    Also, are you into any cross-training such as running, biking, ect..

    Thanks and keep up the great work

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      I’ve done some fingerboarding as well as campusing but notohing more than 2 days a week and not during the normal season. I usually do fingerboarding in my “offseason” so really when I don’t have very many competitions. I do campusing when my feet are tired or sometimes just when I feel like it. I think that fingerboarding is usually beneficial when your fingers aren’t physically strong enough. I’ll do some of that before bouldering season to get my fingers strong although my problem is usually fitness and being able to climb 40+ moves in a row.

      I know the benefits of cross-training but I find it hard to actually do it. Maybe I’m somewhat of a baby, but running hurts my knees so I prefer to bike. I don’t have a bike or a stationary here in Europe so I kind of just don’t do it. I try to go swimming for fitness as I like that, but lately I haven’t been finding the time to even do that. I do climb outside as much as I can and I’m still walking around the forest for a few hours with a crash pad and everything… I think that counts!

      Reply

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    Matt

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    Hi Sean,
    I know its been said before, but I’ll say it again, nice new layout and page, really appreciate the detailed posts, keep it up!
    My question concerns that 46 boulder competition format that you mentioned in one of your training posts I believe. What would be your strategy for a comp like that? start off with the easiest boulders and gradually work your way up? or warm up on a couple easy ones, then complete the hardest ones and do the rest of the easy ones later? how long would you rest between problems? And do take any longer breaks during the comp?
    thanks and good luck for the WC in Barcelona

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      There’s a couple different methods that people use but mine goes something like this:

      Day 1: I try to warm up on random problems with no line ups so I can get to some harder problems quick. I usually ONLY try problems I’m pretty sure I’m going to flash. Once I’ve done 10 or so, I’ll start trying some of the harder lines. For me, I only get 4 hours per day so after an hour and a half, I’m trying the hardest problems that suit my style. If I can do a couple, great, if not, then move on to something else. I try to do all the ones that suit my style to get my motivated to keep climbing. I also try some of the problems that I think are going to be too hard because of chalk on the holds the next day. When I’m too tired to work the hardest problems, I spent the last hour running around doing any problem I can. I’m usually wasted by the end of the first day because I’ve done over half the problems.

      Day 2: Never try a problem you’ve already done, period. I warm up on new problems and make my way back up. Usually halfway through the second day, I have under 10 problems to do, 2-3 of them being pretty hard. I try the hardest ones I can think I can do, and keep moving around. 2 out of the 3 years I’ve competed there, I had to do all 50 problems to make finals, 25 per day. On one year, I didn’t have to do 2 of the problems because there was 3 very hard boulders and I ended up doing one of them. That’s about it in a nutshell. I try to do 2/3 of the boulders on the first day, but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. I know that Dimitry from Russia completed all 46 boulders on the first day!

      Reply

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    Marc

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    Hi Sean,
    good luck to Barcelona!!

    I want to ask you about how you prevent injuries. I have elbow problems, what is your way to be health? Any ideas should be helpful.

    thanks

    Marc

    Reply

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    Chad

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    Hi Sean,
    I want to ask you about how you prevent injuries. I have problems with golfers elbows, what are your tips to stay health?

    thank you

    Chad

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      Hey you guys,
      I’m not sure if you guys just have similar names, or posting under aliases but sorry about that, I couldn’t approve the post before getting back from the World Cup in Barcelona.

      I think the biggest way to prevent injuries is to have a good solid warm up. I seems like something so rudimentary and yet I still find the need to stress it. Our bodies are very delicate especially when we’re pushing it to the extremes. After a good warm up, I feel great. Sometimes I warm up for 45 minutes before getting on anything super hard. I’m also not a doctor or physio but I’m sure they’ll stress the warm up as well. As for specific things to do to stay healthy, I really can’t be of any use there. I just try to eat somewhat healthy, have a good warm up and listen to the advice of a physio that you trust. I say “physio that you trust” because most physios just tell me to stop climbing for a couple months when I’ve gotten injured in the past.

      It wasn’t until I met a physio from North Vancouver that said I could still climb, but to go easy and everything. That’s why I say “trust”. I trust my physio so I listen to him.

      I hope this helps…

      Reply

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    Eric

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    Hey Sean,
    It seems that most of the questions deal with strength training. Besides trying to climbing as much you can, are there any special things you do to train your technique?
    Do you do things such as:
    Silent feet?
    Redo problems to find a more effective beta?
    Watch or talk to other climbers for better movement?
    Have a coach critique you?
    Read climbing books? If so, any suggestions?

    What activities do you feel has benefited you the most in technique?
    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Training technique is something completely different in itself. I find the best thing to do is actually climb with other people to see what kind of style they have and to see the different ways they deal with the climbing moves.

      I haven’t done any technique specific training in a long time, but I remember doing them while I was learning how to climb more efficiently. Not trying to sound arrogant here, but I find that my technique is fairly good, and I can usually see what the route setters was thinking while creating the move. I think that if you struggle with seeing moves in your head, try actually setting a boulder problem yourself. Physically put the holds on the wall, and sometimes when you think a foothold will be good in a certain place, you might find that you were totally wrong. After a few times, you’ll get better and better and you’ll start to learn that way! I’ve always found that route setting has helped me with my climbing in competition.

      I am very open to criticism from other climbers, but at the same time, it has to be coming from a climber that I “trust”. It’s the same as a physio vs someguy on the street telling you that your posture is bad. Similar in climbing. I think criticism is very good, and is very mandatory to becoming a better climber. I will also redo boulder problems, or even sometimes force myself to do something somewhat stupid if I think that the movement is going to help me.

      As for climbing books… I can’t say I read much on paper. I’m much more eager to read an online article than to actually go out and read a whole book. That being said, I like reading training articles from other climbers, and even trip reports as well!

      To answer the last question last, I think the best thing to improve your technique is to climb with people that you trust and you think have different technique than yourself. Climb with a girl, someone who is stronger than you, weaker than you, shorter than you, taller than you, everything that you’re not. When you’re climbing with them, try it using their method and see if it’s better. Sometimes it’ll be worse, but when it’s better, maybe you’ll have learned something! You can also use this to climb moves more efficiently!

      Reply

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    peter

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    Hi Sean,
    I want to ask you about overweight climbing. Did you train this way? Power or endurance trainings? And what about foot off climbing?

    thank you

    Pete

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      I’m not sure what you mean by overweight climbing? With a weight vest you mean? I’ve tried it before, but haven’t used much recently. I might start using it just for my ankles. I do mostly power endurance, as per my other questions. Power endurance and campusing training has already been answered!

      Reply

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    Hans Montenegro

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    Hi Sean,
    I hope you are fine. I want to say thanks for this page and for your answers.
    I want to ask for exercises for shorter people. I am a not big man, I have many good skills for climbing but my first problem is the big moves.
    Have you any advises to break this barrier in my mind? Have you special exercises to learn to do more big moves?

    Thanks for your answer, and have a good day.
    Hans

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      Big moves can be hard, and sometimes it’s hard to find beta for shorter people. I’ve always found that the best way to overcome that is to conserve your momentum and be very dynamic. So when you throw for that hold, try to think of where your foot is going to have to go next and use the momentum of the jump to help your foot into place. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but in the long run, especially in routes, helps so so much. As for special exercises, get some taller climbers to make you a boulder problem and when there’s an awkward move, you’re going to have to jump for it.

      Reply

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        Hans Montenegro

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        Thanks so much.
        Hans

        Reply

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    Conan Weeks

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    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for putting up these posts! I’d just like to say that we saw the live feed from Kranj, and were so excited for you….like yelling on the couch at our small netbook as if it were the Olympics excited! ha.

    For the question, I read somewhere that you trained on the piano early on, and I was just wondering if that has had any influence on your impeccable technique? It’s always slightly disturbing seeing someone cranking on a horrible crimp without any regard for their hands….like mashing a chord on the piano!…and I thought
    perhaps your musical training made you super aware of your hands from the beginning. I assume every elite climber ends up honing in on the best possible technique eventually, but I can’t help but feel like this has just made you that much more awesome. 🙂 I think it must be quite rare too as a lot of people with any considerable skill on an instrument would be apprehensive about hittting
    the local crag for fear of mangling their delicate fingers!

    Also, I’m not sure if you answered this before, but I was wondering if you are amped up on Jigga all the time if you are competing or if it depends on the climb or if you are just in the zone and not really tapping into any musical inspiration.

    All the best next season!

    Conan

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I’m not sure if the piano had any influence on my technique but I think it probably helped my finger strength. Because I started playing piano at a young age, I found that my fingers were always pretty good for strength. I also have pretty good feeling in my hands from playing so many notes. It might make a different while competing, but I think that after this long of climber, any high level climber will have that feel in their fingers as well. I was never worried about my fingers because I often found playing the piano was much easier just after climbing. There was something about dried out chalk that made a really good friction point on the piano keys…

      As for the last part, “amped up on Jigga”….? I’m not sure exactly what you mean. Pumped up, or caffeine, or deep thoughts, could you be a bit more specific?

      Reply

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        Conan Weeks

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        Hi, thanks for your reply! Sorry, I got a bit too colloquial there. Jigga is a nickname for Jay-Z…..what I meant to ask was if there was any particular music you liked to listen to before competing, or if you’re mainly just trying to tune out your surroundings and stay focused.

        Reply

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          Sean McColl

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          I try to listen to music that will just get me pumped up. It is usually a nice hip hop rap song, or a top-40 that I enjoy listening to. I try to forget about the competition while I’m waiting to climb and try to remember why I started competing and how much fun I have getting to travel and compete around the globe. Then when it’s time to climb, I try my hardest to climb well, and hopefully I’ll do well as well!

          Reply

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    Chad

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    Hi Sean,
    thanks for the answers first! That helps a lot to all of us.
    I want to ask you other thing. We just discussed one problem of local climbers: we are able to make 2 good attempts only in a route per day in our top projects. For example, we normally climb 8a second go, 8a+, some 8b and 1 or 2 8b+ per year. So top projects are 8b and 8b+ level for us. Is it a problem of small amount of volume climbing in our trainings or other factors? What should help?

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      It’s a bit different per climbers but yes I think you should do some volume training while climbing indoors. 2 tries on your project is not bad if you’re falling on the last move, and it’s 30m. If your project is a 20m route, and you fall half way. Depending on whether or not you know the top moves well or not, you can sometimes just come down and conserve energy. Resting is also very key, make sure you’re having enough rest time between your tries. Drinking fluids (water), and eating food that gives you energy is very important as well. I go out of my way to eat and drink while climbing, especially while climbing outdoors, or else I’ll forget. On a good day, I’ll warm up on 1-2 routes, do a slightly harder one, maybe an onsight and have enough energy to try my project 3-4 times depending on the length. If I do 5 routes in a day, that’s not bad, and I range from 5-9 I think. It’s also been a while since I’ve worked hard routes outdoors, so I’d have to figure out the numbers a bit more accurately.

      Reply

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        peter

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        Yes, I think about 30 moves routes, when you fall somewhere at the end of route. Do you think that it is ok to have energy only for two good attempts?

        Reply

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          Sean McColl

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          Two good attempts is pretty good, I think with some training you could get 3-4 good redpoint burns as well. You can also try to warm up faster now that you know that moves on the route you’re going to be working.

          Reply

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    Ruben

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    Haha Sean, that’s what you get for having interactivity on your website. Welcome to the world of spam 🙂

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      I’m a bit confused by this? You mean the VeteransComment?

      Reply

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