Maintenance - by Dave Sarkar

by Dan Crossdale
Posted: 5th Jun 2016

Blog sponsored by Scarpa.


It’s a funny word ‘maintenance’, for me it conjures up images of blokes in greasy blue overalls, with blackened faces, drinking pint mugs of tea and fettling machines with spanners.

Maintenance can mean many other things too- for instance The Depot Leeds is enjoying a spot of maintenance and looks all the fresher for the new paintwork not to mention the improved circuit board and cave sections. But for the purposes of this article I’m talking about keeping yourself going through the summer months (in my case) or any other time when you are busy and you begin to feel your climbing performance drop.

The first thing you have to do is accept and acknowledge that you are busy and there is little you can do about it. There extreme measures, of course, like throwing a tantrum (which my wife tells me I do on a regular basis), quitting your job, leaving your partner and family as well as moving continents to begin a new life. Climbing folklore is full of these stories and I know plenty of friends who fall into this category. For some it has worked, for some it hasn’t.

I, however, am not one of those people. I quite like my wife and children (in fact I’d go as far as to say I love them dearly) and although I did quit my job – it wasn’t to become a dirtbag; it was to build a different life away from workplace stress. I was convinced that I would climb better, stronger and get back to some of those youthful, carefree climbing adventures I enjoyed in the 1990’s. It’s turned out somewhat differently and I find myself in a cycle of feast or famine type work where I’m either working flat out for days at a time or not at all.

The not working at all bit works fine for short style climbing trips but in order in improve my climbing I need routine above all else. With routine comes the capacity to plan and training is as much about planning (and sticking to a plan) as it is with any physical activity you might do. I know this as during the winter months I get my routine back as I’m working standard days with weekends off and therefore enjoying training a lot more. Sometimes I find myself looking at normal jobs and thinking – ‘you know I could probably climb better if I took that, I could get to Malham and Kilnsey regularly, boulder more and really begin to get fit’. How strangely the human brain works as it was only two years ago that workplace stress and boredom was sending me into total meltdown!

The answer is to be smarter in those busy times and I’m beginning to get better at using the times when I’m working flat out for both some exercise and a little relaxation. One example is - I’m writing this section of the article just after going for a short run in The Lakes before meeting clients at 09:30am. This I can do as I now know from experience that I won’t want to when I get back after being outside all day at 5.30pm. Running, fingerboards and half hour yoga sessions are all manageable so if I have a morning at home free I’ll run or cycle to The Depot, do some circuits, a little stretching or core work in the backroom and then run/cycle back to do some work in the afternoon and early evening.

There are a myriad number of small ways you can claw back time when you are bogged down with work. The most simple and easy is schedule climbing time in – The Depot is über convenient, especially if you have a car. Just make sure you have a simple and effective plan of action – do you only have half an hour? Then blast out some timed intervals on the circuit board? Training power – then do some limit bouldering on the Beastmaker boards and leave when you still feel fresh. Need to work on your core? Then get You Tube going and develop some simple TRX exercises, I’m in favour of developing just three or four specific exercises and really working on the form for those as TRX is all about form – you need to do the exercises perfectly for them to work properly. The Depot has it all!

If you don’t have a car then there are other simple ways to get a little training in, get off the bus or train early and run the last half hour home. Invest in a fingerboard and develop some exercises, it doesn’t matter that you are a beginner as long as you start off real easy and build up very carefully you will make huge improvements in your strength. There are plenty of core exercises you can do at home or anywhere for that matter and for a small investment a Swiss Ball is a highly useful piece of kit to help develop a set of core muscles.

When that rare day off appears and you feel it would be nice just to chill out and do all those niggly admin jobs it is important tro get out if the weather is good. Out on the crag or boulders you will really re-connect with what climbing is all about and remind you why you train and why you climb, if you can climb with friends all the better.

When I’m at my local sport climbing venues (Malham, Kilnsey and Gordale) I find it really frustrating whenever I get on any project I’m working on as I never quite feel fit enough or strong to get anywhere. Now I understand that these venues are brutal and unforgiving in terms of required fitness but these venues have the best sports climbs in the UK on them and I’m about to give up climbing there any time soon.

What I have begun to find is if I spend at least one hour on that project whenever I am there I do make a little progress and I have turned a negative thought ‘What’s the point in trying anything hard when I’m not going to get back here until two weeks time’ into a positive one ‘OK, I just managed that hard gaston move today and even linked it into the next three moves, I’ll make sure I’m developing some shoulder exercises so that the I find the move easier next time I’m here.’

After that one hour session I’ll go into maintenance mode and just work out at whatever grade I am feeling good at for the rest of the day. Chilling out, enjoying time with friends and enjoying my natural surrounding being a very important part of that time out. You have to really appreciate the time off and the exercise you’re doing as these are the things that will make you feel better and not come away feeling rubbish and frustrated.

That’s it for this time – the next article will look at setting yourself up with the right equipment for bouldering and then the few articles after that will focus on some local bouldering venues and my favourite problems for beginner and intermediate climbers. I’ve got over 25 years experience in the area so there’s sure to be something for everyone.
So, climb happy, climb safe and remember every hold you pull on makes you stronger!

Happy adventures,



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