• 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

    eric

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    Hey Sean,
    I was wondering if you used off the shelf gear. For instance, are your La Sportiva Solutions just the regular solutions anyone could buy or are they tailored to your specific needs?

    A bunch of other questions:
    How long do your shoes last?
    What are your favorite shoes and why?
    Do you use specific shoes for certain problems?
    Whats your reg shoe size vs. climbing shoe size?
    Do you ever use socks inside your shoes?
    What do you do with your old shoes?
    Do you think shoe brand and model make that big of a difference?
    Do your shoes smell funky and how to do you combat it?

    Thanks

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I use 100% off the shelf gear. I find it also wouldn’t make too much sense if they made “exclusive” gear for their sponsored athletes. The main point of sponsorship is to promote the brand!

      Now for your other questions:

      a) I have a ton of different shoes for different purposes. If I wore only one pair of shoes, they’d probably last around 3 months.
      b) I love the solution because of the variety of climbs I can do in them. I find I’m actually a better climber when I’m wearing them so I train in different shoes.
      c) I rarely use specific shoes for problems. I generally just wear solutions, pythons or muira VS if it’s outdoor on tufas or something like that.
      d) I wear size 41 in Street shoe and only downsize to 37.5 across the board. Downsizing 4 sizes I find is an old school method.
      e) The only time I’ll wear socks inside my shoes is if it’s colder than -12, or if I forget my shoes and have to use rentals ^^.
      f) If my old shoes are still usable, I’ll give them to whoever needs / wants them. If not, I get rid of them.
      g) Shoe brand and model definitely make a difference. The rubber is the biggest factor, and smaller factors are how well the shoe stays on your foot. During a competition, you don’t want your heel popping out of a crucial heel hook or something of that matter. For some climbers who don’t need to use their feet, I would think that this matters less?
      h) I find my shoes don’t smell bad, I suggest keeping them in a clean non-humid place to store them. I also have a shower every day which keeps my feet clean!

      Hope you like my answers ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Jesse

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    Hey Sean,

    I can’t crimp! I open hand everything and its a huge disadvantage. I’ve always openhanded. I climb around V7-8ish, but I have to pick and choose my sends since I am so weak on crimps. I was wondering if you could suggest some exercises to strengthen my crimping ability. I’ve been told that deadhang workouts are supposed to be good, but I don’t really know how to structure such a workout.

    Thanks and good luck at the ABS,

    Jesse

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      All I did was use open hand until a handful of years ago. It uses less energy, the downside is that you can’t pull as far. If you want to get better at close position crimping, deadhand workouts are the way to go. When you do your deadhang workouts, make sure that you stay in closed crimp position. You’ll find that the first few days, you’ll fall out of close crimp position fairly fast. When it happens, jump down, rest, and go again. There’s no point in hanging there longer if you’ve lost the “posture” of the close crimp. That’s what I did to get better at crimping, and it somewhat worked, I feel more in control crimping now, although I still prefer open hand.

      For the workout, I’d say you’re aiming to hang there for 10-20 seconds. If you can do it longer than 20, then the hold is too good. Less than 10 is not so bad, but less than 5-7 is too hard. I’d recommend 1-2 minutes rest in between each set. Another one is crimp ups. You start in a crimp position, and fall down into open hand. Then you use a bit of momentum and crimp back up into the close hand position. This is very dangerous though, and I’d recommend you start this drill using footholds before you try to do it straight hanging. When you start to lose to posture in your hands to get back up into a full crimp, jump down, rest, and start again.

      Reply

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        Jesse

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        Thanks for the fast reply. I’m gonna give this a try during my next session!

        Reply

      • Avatar

        Chad

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        Really interesting exercise Sean. I had a same problem as Jesse. Last year I start with crimp deadhangs and it helps a lot (crimp without thumb). I know crimp ups too but I never try to make them. What kind of activity is good to connect with it? (I mean for example do it with fingerboarding, bouldering, campus boarding…)
        thank you

        Reply

        • Avatar

          Sean McColl

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          I would say that campus board workouts are the best as it can work on dynamic movement. I’ve never done any hard finger board workouts with the exception of deadhangs.

          Reply

  • Avatar

    Hans Montenegro

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    Hi Sean, I hope your fine. I am really happy to recieve your help. thanks for all answers.

    I have two question.
    1. when you said “Iโ€™ve never done any hard finger board workouts with the exception of deadhangs.” how is your deadhangs? how long? how hard? how much time?
    2. when you practice deadhangs, do you climb too?

    thanls again.
    Hans

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I try to go on the smallest holds I can hold for at least 5 seconds. Ideally, I’d like to hang between 5-15 seconds. If I can do more than 15 seconds, I can add some weight. I do it maybe 5 times with a good 2 minute rest in between.

      Whenever I do deadhangs, I usually do a very good warm up, then straight into this. After the deadhangs, then I can go and do some circuits or hard bouldering after. I find it’s important to do the deadhangs at the beginning of the workout so you’re fresh!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    John S

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    Can you recommend any good exercises to improve lock-off strength? I’m particularly interested in one-arm lock-offs. The exercises i vary between are pull-ups, weighted pull-ups and frenchies (sometimes also ‘typewriter’) but I only do either of these once a week because I boulder quite a lot.

    Thx

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Improving lock off strength is just training I find. You start with average size holds and lock off for 10-15 seconds. Then make the holds smaller and smaller, the same thing with the feet. While you’re locking off, don’t just try to stay in one position, always almost try to move higher and higher with the lock offs. I’m afraid I don’t know anything super specific for lock offs besides repetition ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply

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        John S

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        Thanks, I figure repetition might be the best way. Good luck in ABS! I’ll be cheering for you for sure!

        Reply

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    Evan Pavan

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    Hi Sean, I saw your post about injuring your ring finger(s). I also recently slightly tore my A2 pulley in my ring finer. How did/do you cope with this injury, especially being a professional because it’s killing me inside. Mine feels fine when the tendon is straight in an open hand dead hang but I can’t crimp without pain because the tendon is being pulled away from the finger in a crimp grip.
    Now the best advice I could find online was to take 3-5 weeks off from climbing but I can’t imagine that. I don’t want to make this worse and turn 3-5 weeks into 3-5 months but I also don’t want to sit on my ass if I’m able to train open hand/ taped or something. Thanks in advance for the advice.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I did have two similar injuries at the same time. I would try and talk to specialists as I think every case is different. I stopped climbing for 1 or 2 weeks completely, then when I started again, I taped it so I couldn’t hurt it further, and I doubled my warm up time. If it ever hurt, I stopped for the whole session. I also iced it for 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off 6 times in a row, for the first two weeks in ice water. It’s painful, but I think it helped as well.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Matt

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    Hey Sean,
    sport season coming up and we’re all psyched to touch the stone once again!
    Unfortunately I’ve already hit my classic barrier.. ๐Ÿ™

    I would like to know if you have any tips for a boulderer in it’s transition into sport climbing?

    I have climbed a few fairly technical V12 problems in a couple of days this year, but I get very frustrated as I struggle 2 weekends on a 5.13a sport route which even suits my style, and if I do manage to clip to chains, physically I feel absolutely drained..

    I don’t think I overgrip, nor that my technique is faulty, my fear of falling is well under control and I don’t think I have strenght/power problems for a 5.13a..
    But still knowing these didn’t help so far..
    Clearly I don’t get the picture and I don’t know what is the remedy for me to climb something more challenging at the crag.

    Any ideas how to push my personal bar as a boulderer?

    Thank you in advance,
    Matt

    P.S. I wish you a healthy year of climbing blessed with reached objectives ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I’ll suggest a few things that I think could help. Firstly, it sounds like you’re strong and confident on rock, so I believe that you’re block is coming from Rhythm. Do you pace yourself well on your outdoor routes? If it’s easy, you can go fast, then just before some hard moves, you have to slow down, control your breathing, then punch through the hard moves.

      For training, if you’re in a gym, I recommend circuit training. Set 20-30 moves circuits, that go in circles on one bouldering wall, and try to do it 6 times in two hours, taking lots of breaks in between. You’ll get very drained of power and pretty pumped for the first week or two of training like that. When you go outside again, you should find that your arms can do 20-30 moves much better and if you can focus on your rhythm, then I would hope to see improvement.

      Also, make sure you’re eating enough, drinking water. That’s a pretty big mistake and I forget to do it a lot as well. Good luck!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Hans Montenegro

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    Hi Sean, I hope you are ok.
    I know you do physical training (core, pull up, strech, etc. (No climbing))

    I want to know how long are the physical training for you?

    I do 3 times a week but each time I add a new exercices, and now I have 2 and halft hour to phisical training and strech, I start to become tire and lost motivation. ( I dont know if I do to much).

    Thanks for your help.
    Hans

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      I only do that kind of training when I don’t have any competitions around (in the next month or so). I usually try to do it once or twice a week, for around an hour or two.

      I think the max that I’ve done it in the past is twice a week for two hours after warming up and doing a few hard boulder for the first 2 hours of my training.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Hans Montenegro

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    Hi Sean,
    I hope you are ok. I want to ask two things.
    1. Do you have any medicine or method to get better you finger when it is cut with the rock?
    2. Do you have any method to do for preparation for a competition (one week before) ? like diet, training or rest?

    Thanks again for your help.

    Hans

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      When I cut my fingers on rock, I just put on tape, and file it down as much as I can so it doesn’t get worse. I don’t mind so much climbing with tape unless I’m doing very specific boulders. For the second one, I have quite a routine that I have for competition but everyone is different. I like to eat pasta before competitions or rice dishes. I try to avoid red meat the evening of a competition as well. As for rest, before “big” competitions, I’m resting for the better part of one week before it, especially if I have 3 comps in the next 3 weeks. For smaller competitions, I’ll take one or two days of rest, depending on when semi finals and/or finals are. I find that the best part is to get into a routine and just follow it to the letter. When something doesn’t work for me, I take it out of my routine, to prevent the same bad thing happening (also known as superstition). I have to admit I’m a bit superstitious but when it works, it feels great!!

      Reply

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        Hans

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        Thank you Sean.

        Reply

  • Avatar

    Hans Montenegro

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    Hi Sean,
    I hope you are ok. I want to ask for a mental help. I want to know how you manage your feeling and mind when you find a morphological boulder problem. And you cannot do some moves because they are big moves.
    I feel like the frustration gets me down
    Thanks for your help
    Hans

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Being short, I know that some boulders are just going to be harder for me because I’m short. If the holds are close enough together that I an actually span it, I try to believe that it’s possible. I keep my mind open to new possibilities. It also helps if you can find someone else around your height to do the move. If they can span and for the move, then now you can have something to strive for.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    eric

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    Hey Sean,
    I just bought The Stick to massage my forearms. It works wonderfully.
    What’s your take on massaging your forearms or fingers?
    Do you believe it helps with healing?
    Do you see or know of any other pro climbers that take massaging seriously?
    I also use it to massage my golfer’s elbow, do you think this helps the tenon deal at all?
    Thanks for your time,
    Eric

    Reply

    • Avatar

      eric

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      Meant so say “I also use it to massage my golferโ€™s elbow, do you think this helps the tenon healing at all?”
      Sorry about the typo.

      Reply

      • Avatar

        eric

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        Ouch, meant to say “tendon.”
        I should really read what I type before sending it. Sorry again about the typo.
        Sucks that I can’t edit my post.

        Reply

        • Avatar

          Sean McColl

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          I mostly massage my forearms just during warm up and at training. I don’t have a habit of doing it every day or in any sort of training regiment. I find it’s important, but massaging my forearms is quite a hard task by myself and because there is no Canadian physio, I don’t get it done all that much. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to know one of the French team’s physio, but I usually only ask for massages when my forearms are actually sore, or hurting.

          If it’s some sort of injury, I might look into it more. I know that to fix my knee, and hurt fingers, my physio in North Vancouver was a miracle worker in my eyes!

          Reply

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