• 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)

  • Avatar

    Ben

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    Sean,

    I’ve watched a lot of your competitions and I’m a big fan, keep up the good work!

    I’ve been climbing for about 2 years, I’m about v8/12.b climber and I’m 20. I climb every day but often feel like it lacks direction; often I go to climb and just seem to do whatever comes to mind for the 2 hours I’m there – I’m sure a stricter regimen would help me gain results.

    I am hoping to compete in the future, but I’m definitely not strong enough yet. I do both bouldering and lead climbing, but I’m more focused on bouldering. I would say my strength is in my strength to body weight and weakness is in hand strength, flexibility, and power.

    Your strength and body control is what really impresses me when you climb. Do you have/could you suggest what a weekly workout plan might look like for someone like me? How does your weekly workout break down?

    Thanks,
    Ben

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      If your weaknessed lies in hand strength, flexibility and power, then you should be doing drills in your training to improve them.

      For Hand strength, dead hangs is a great way to improve that. For flexibility, stretching… For Power, you should should be trying to set 4 move problems that are at your limit. Let them have pretty good feet and just work on those problems. You only have to work on each problem for 15-20 minutes because you don’t want to get too annoyed with them either. Have good rests in between burns and try to make each attempt count. It’s very good to have a general idea of what you’re going to do at training, even if it’s as vague as “I want to do volume today” or “I want to do finger power”. From there, you should try to narrow it down further until you arrive at a specific exercise or movement that you’re working on. I harp on this again and again, but try to find a training partner as well, someone who can motivate you on those days you’re feeling lazy 🙂

      Reply

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    Ruben

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    Hey Sean, in between work I often try to find good climbing video’s. I try to film as much as I can when events are nearby, because often coverage is terrible from an event. I’m wondering, for example Valence. Not a single HD video is available from there. They film everything, but they rarely share any material. They just make an 8 minutes compilation and that’s it. So that is my question. Do you get this material sent by the IFSC? Do you know a good source to find these vids that are made from competitions?

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      I know how you feel, I’ve been a slave to the HD button for a long time now. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to get those videos either. It’s probably a good time to talk to the IFSC and see what happens to all those videos. Being the end of the season, they might not be as busy as during the active season. If I’m lucky, as I was in Kranj, someone in the crowd has steady enough hands to film one of my climbs and post it!

      Reply

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        Ruben

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        Good to know you feel the same. Yeah it’s great that some people take the effort in filming properly. I filmed in Puurs myself, just because I felt the climbing community needed HD material of climbing competitions. This sport is so undercoveraged. It would be lovely to have a network of people, so that there is always someone at a certain WC that can film in HD, just like we have Puurs and Kranj in HD, but then for every event. Let me know how IFSC responds to your call, i’m sure they’re not going to leave you unanswered. They have that 2 or 3 camera HD material just sitting there… 🙂

        Reply

        • Avatar

          Sean McColl

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          On a random side note, I know that all their camera equipment was stolen (on 2 different thefts) while in Barcelona at the last world cup… Cruel Cruel world.

          Reply

    • Avatar

      Gelu

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      Hi guys,

      You may know about this already but just in case…
      The IFSC sells the video, directly taken from the live stream, in IFSC TV

      You can download any round of any comp for £1.50 each (or watch it online for £1).

      As I said, it is the exact live stream so if in the original one there was a problem (black screen, no sound…) it’ll show up again.

      Not the best image quality but if you are into comps it may be worth it.

      In my case I’ve downloaded each bouldering final from this year’s WC.

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Sean McColl

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        I’ve heard about this, but was never able to find the link off of ifsc.tv or anything. I think it’s a good idea, but I’m opposed to having it cost money. I’d prefer if you post it somewhere even with advertisements which would cover charging people to download the video.

        Reply

      • Avatar

        Ruben

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        You know that i’ve been regularly visited the 247.tv/climbing page, but only found old stuff and never I found the list you showed us. Good to know it’s there.

        Reply

  • Avatar

    James Nater

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    Hi Sean,

    First off, I think it’s awesome you have an “ask sean” page and you actually answer people’s questions. I’m sure you’re super busy and to find time to do this as well is really cool.

    Anyway, how’d you get into climbing to begin with?

    For me, it was after seeing the documentary 180 degrees south, and have been climbing, mostly at the indoor gym, since mid-september and am now climbing in the V4/V5 range and am almost able to flash 5.11 climbs. It’s become an obsession really, I’ve never been more stoked on anything in my life… other than skateboarding which I’ve been doing for the past 11 years.

    Also, when did you start entering competitions?

    I eventually want to start climbing comps. I get stoked just thinking about it. Ultimately my goal is to score the opportunity to travel around the world with like-minded climbers who are just as stoked on climbing as I am. If I could just climb for the rest of my life… I would be completely happy (I know I’m not the only one that thinks this haha).

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I got into climbing with my family. Our local tennis club shut down when I was 10, and we wanted to try another sport as a family. We got year long passes to the local climbing gym, and it just kind of took off for me. I entered my first competition 3 months after I started climbing and managed to win the beginner category. I was quickly added to the local climbing team and started climbing a few days a week. More and more I climbed until I was training 3 days a week and preparing for worlds!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    John S

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    I got a question that I don’t think you’ve covered (might be wrong). How important is sleeping well for you? How many hours do you try to sleep each night, when in training and competition mode?

    Thanks

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Sleeping is very important to me. I try to get 9 hours of sleep every day, and I know that sometimes around competitions it just doesn’t work out that way. If I’ve slept well the week leading up to a competition, if I’m stuck sleeping 4 hours before the competition, I’ll be fine as well. Around a 2-3 day competition, I find our bodies can do anything, from eating too little, to eating too much and the same with sleep.

      Sean

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Patrick Fitts

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    Sean,
    How many sizes so you downsize your climbing shoes? I’ve heard of some climbers downsizing to fairly extreme extents, upwards of 4 or 5 full sizes. Do you believe that this makes a considerable difference?

    Thanks,
    Pat

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Contrary to what a lot of people believe, I don’t downsize my shoes that much. I like to have them comfortable yet tight. In European sizes, I wear a 41 and I downsize to 37.5 for Sportiva across the board. I can fit a 37 and probably squeeze my foot into a 36.5, but I just find it unpleasant. I think that going down 4-5 sizes is a thing of the past with the exception of maybe a few slip on shoes. I find that as long as my heel stays on in important heel hooks and I have good sensitivity, then the shoe fits.

      Sean

      Reply

  • Avatar

    lz

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    Hi Sean,
    This may have already been covered so I hope you dont mind answering again. How do you specifically prepare yourself for a bouldering event. For instance how are you preparing for Hueco? Are you just bouldering four days a week in the gym? I am curious about work to rest ratios and how you structure your week. Thanks again, I look forward to following you this year. Best,

    lz

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Right now, in preparation for Hueco, I’m just trying to get back on my training regime. I’m trying not to eat all the delicious goodies leftover from Christmas and trying to get back into training 4 days a week. Specifically at training, I do at least twice a week on hard boulder problems, trying to create boulders that take me longer than an hour to do. I still try to do a bit of circuit training because I find it very easy, especially on low motivation days. I just make a circuit, do it 6-8 times and it’s done. While bouldering training a lot, I do back to back days at training less often because I’m tired. I also try to condition on my off days, although it doesn’t always pan out like that. I hope this helps.
      Sean

      Reply

  • Avatar

    David

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    This will undoubtedly be a little different, but what would you say are your greatest assets for climbing? If you look at elite level climbers almost all of them have at least one overarching strength, while some are fortunate enough to have a combination of several. For example, I would say the the total body fitness of Chris Sharma or Alex Puccio; the athletic ability of Carlo Traversi; the timing of Ty Landman; the power of Daniel Woods; or the determination of Adam Ondra. These are a few examples of what makes these climbers the elite athletes they are. So what would you say are world class talents of yours? Can this be developed or is a certain portion “God given?”

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I’m not really sure how to respond to this question. It’s not usually any one person that can tell why a climber is good at what they do. I’ll try though. I find that I’m good at understanding movement, I’m determined and I love the thrill of competing and all the emotion that comes with it. I look or see how a move is done and then I try to copy or repeat it. When I’m training, I can follow a very strict training regime and finally I have so many people encouraging me to do what I love, that climbing for me has never seemed boring. I’m always learning new things and I’m constantly trying to improve my climbing ability. I look at someone’s strength and I try to obtain it, even if I never actually get to that person’s level, the process will make me stronger. I know I’ll never be as strong as Daniel Woods or fit as Adam Ondra, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Given the chance, I love climbing with all motivated athletes and I’m lucky enough to know quite a few. Whenever I can go climbing with them, it’s an amazing adventure!

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Joel

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        I will add (from watching you) that you are a good problem solver too. That might be through experience or maybe that’s a unique skill that you have developed. You plan, execute, and adapt your way through a problem better than the other competitors.

        Reply

  • Avatar

    Pure

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    Hi Sean,

    I’m in the process of opening a climbing gym. Looking into a couple of types of gym walls, and I was hoping to ask your advice. Are you a fan of any particular style of wall? Any specific design features in a gym that you would recommend? Any particular company you like? Any generals advice on things to avoid / include?

    Finally, panels or gym rock?

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I like to have lots of variety while I’m training. Another important factor if possible is to have a very wide climbing wall, both lead and bouldering. If you have it wide, you can split it up into different sectors for your gym, and it’s much easier to see if you ever hold a competition. I find you can have much more variety when your walls are wide. I love Walltopia and the holds from HRT. They keep their texture longer than others and they’re used often in world cups as well!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Hans Montenegro

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    HI Sean,
    I want to know how you structure your week.
    4 days.
    2 times hard problems
    Circuits
    Core
    Mon :hard problems
    Tue:Circuits
    Wed:hard problems
    Thu: (rest ) Core
    Fri:Circuits
    Sat:(rest )
    Sun:(rest )

    I really apreciate to know whe you rest.
    Thanks so much
    Hans

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      If I was training 4 days a week and doing 2x hard boulder, one day circuits and one day core, it would look something like below.

      Monday: Rest
      Tuesday: Hard Bouldering
      Wednesday: Rest
      Thursday: Hard Bouldering
      Friday: Rest
      Saturday: Core
      Sunday: Circuits

      Reply

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        Hans Montenegro

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        Thanks Sean. For the information.

        Reply

  • Avatar

    Alex Coe

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    Sean,

    When are you going to be down in Hueco? I’m going down around the end of March with some friends for my first trip!

    Any good moderates you’d recommend?

    Cheers,
    Alex

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I’m trying to go to Hueco after ABS Nationals end February. I haven’t been to Hueco in a few years so I couldn’t really say what’s good anymore. I think the guidebook might have 4-5 star problems in each grade though. I wish there was a new guide book as the “most recent” one was published in 2005 I believe.

      Reply

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        Alex

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        Word, I’ll just keep on using videos as my guide ha.

        Do you have any particular problems you’ve got your eye on?

        Reply

        • Avatar

          Sean McColl

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          Yes, a few. Hopefully you’ll see them once I’ve ticked them off my sendlist!

          Reply

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