the adventure continues:- one requires a willingness to constantly accept critical feedback to grow and improve.

Recently while staying in the UK for a couple of months, I decided to get some real life coaching from one of climbings true coaching machines. I had decided to try and work on my weaknesses, but I thought I didn’t know enough about them to really identify what needed to be improved. So I spoke to Karine about this and she said she was genuinely interested in also having a couple of coaching sessions.

On the recommendation of some good friends in Kalymnos, Greece I decided to contact Neil Gresham. I had read a few of his articles in Rock and Ice Magazine on training, technique and diet regarding climbing. When Steve and Sue had mentioned his name I thought “ Ok lets do it”. As usual the net provides all sorts of wonderful ways to contact people, but finding Neil’s contact details was super simple.

I have always thought that you should just put yourself out there and make contact. Neil responded  extremely promptly and we began our dialogue with regard to what both Karine and I wanted to achieve. It was probably one of the best and most simple processes I have been through other than when I first met my first climbing coach Rob Hodyl. Karine’s sessions were definitely different to mine and I am not sure what they did as I was not present. It was their time and focus was the key element.

Note** The big questions for me were “what to” and “how to” train weaknesses whilst on the road and climbing a lot whilst not over doing it. I was very open to critical feedback.

Anyway, down to the sessions. This is the nitty gritty that we are all interested in right?

Pre Coaching Session: A simple questionnaire about your climbing life thus far including futures goals and outcomes (two distinctly different things by the way).

Session one: Assessment time.

Neil ran us through our paces in a bouldering session to assess our level of competency and basically look for any obvious technique issues. He asked a lot of key questions that were at times a little difficult to articulate answers to. This was a good thing as we had to seriously think about what we were doing.

Outcome: I need to focus my training on finger strength, bouldering and core engagement.

Finger board training at Rock City in Hull. – photo by James Rennnardson.
Bouldering at Wainstones in the North York Moors……Strength and Power training. – photo by Karine Deberdt

Neil’s Recommendations: Regular hang board sessions and TRX Suspension Training.

Session Two: Red-point Strategies and Projecting.

After warming up Neil put me straight on a grade that I had only tried two or three times previously. I had never really projected anything above about 9 shots before. Mainly because I am travelling and time in areas is limited to two weeks to a month and there are so many good routes to climb.

I worked the route on the first attempt, checking out moves and putting sequences together and then coming down and resting for about 40 minutes. I had never really given this type pf process a good go before and he was very honest with me about what I should be doing. This was what i needed……a fresh perspective.

Outcome: First attempt go draw to draw if you have to and work out what you need to do where and clean the holds. Try the harder moves a couple of times the way they work for you. However get all the way to the top. Long rest period, visualise the moves and recover well. Try the route again with a view to red-pointing it.

The Visualisation Process……a very useful tool for red-point sends.

Neil’s Recommendations: Use this process with a view to succeeding though red-pointing routes. You will fail when projecting at your limit, but there will be successes and there will also be great periods of learning. Its important to embed the process, the moves, find the rests and push through hard sections to the rests and recover where you can.

Rest and recovery strategies are a necessity.

My Recommendations:

Going and seeing Neil was a great decision at this particular point in my climbing life. I had lost a little motivation and felt I was plateauing and not moving forward. If you have any time to can fit in a session or two with him, it is only going to give you better insight and all be absolutely worth it.

After your sessions be sure to follow up with him and provide feedback…..I did! From the feedback I sent through, Neil sent back further information that has helped yet again.

I sent my project the next trip out.

My red-point send of “Exo6″…..a goal achieved.

Thanks again Neil.

There has to be a willingness to constantly accept critical feedback and rapidly iterate to make things better.

– Sam Yagan


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