11th Sep 2008


Hey, I'm climbing about English 6a or F6c/7a indoors but I've noticed my form can be totally variable. I'm trying to work out what's throwing me off my game (inspiration, type of route, specific techniques, diet etc) and I'm experimenting a bit with pre-climbing food. So, my question is; what's your favourite pre-climbing munch and how long before a session do you munch it? Also, if you're feeling a bit slack, what gets you motivated again?

Happy climbing :)


Hi Kate, these are a good set of questions and are issues that do need considering.

In terms of your inconsistency, that’s a tricky one for me to help with. What I do know is that some climbers are very consistent and some just aren’t! I think you’ve picked up on a good point with the diet question because how you’ve prepared nutritionally can help or hinder your climbing.

Type of route is certainly a big one. We all have our strengths and if you are cranking 6a on steep juggy stuff with big footholds, then converting that to 6a on a slab might not be so easy. There are very few people who can climb every style well, the ones who can have applied themselves and worked their weaknesses.

Your day at work can have a big effect. Are you feeling mentally drained, just a bit low, not quite up to par? These things will affect your psyche and possibly you will not have the same go for it as normal and therefore not pull off hard moves or be able to push yourself on a hard onsight. And of course you may be physically depleted too.

Are you cross training at all? Maybe look at your week and the exercise you are doing and see if instead of helping your climbing it’s having a detrimental effect.

Also, nobody can be awesome all the time! Just accept that you are going to have a good and bad days, that’s just the way of things.

In terms of climbing food, there are obviously many different climbing scenarios: all day at the crag with a big walk in, an evening of routes at the wall, a short boulder session in the peak etc etc.

So I try to cater my intake to these differing scenarios.

I always make sure I never eat too soon before I climb. I like to allow my food to digest properly before trying to crank. For me 2 hrs feels long enough (bearing in mind I don’t eat meat, this takes the body longer to digest). Therefore, when I am having a full day out at the crag I will not sit down and eat an ice cream tub full of butties!! If I did, I’d have to have a lie down and chill for a couple of hours and waste the day. But, each to their own. Some people like to have a proper lunch and take advantage of the break. But I find this can break up my momentum and I can lose my flow.

So I will nibble/graze throughout the day. I tend to eat fruit based snacks. As generally, the energy is made quickly available to the body and isn’t difficult for the body to digest. When the body has to work hard to digest a foodstuff, this is when we feel tired after eating. Dried fruit is good as the energy is slightly slower released than fresh fruit.

I also think malt loafs are great. Obviously they have a high percentage of carbs but by nibbling on small chunks I’m not asking the body to do too much in one go.

I’ll probably try and eat while I’m belaying and obviously I drink a lot of water too.

If I’m at a crag with a big walk, this can take it out of you, so it’s important after the walk to eat something. When I am in Ceuse (45 min walk up a massive hill) I take these Swedish oblong crisp roll things. They seem to work very well for me. They are quite small but give me enough energy until I need to top up again.

The thing is every BODY is different and experimenting is good. It’s taken me years of faffing around with food to find what works and I’m pretty sure I’m there now. I don’t have a particularly fast metabolism so can manage with not loads of food throughout the day. But that’s me, I think that’s why fruit based things work for me but I know they don’t work for everybody.

Lastly, I have a good breakfast everyday. Whatever I’m doing. In Ceuse it’ll be a pretty big bowl but generally not as big as that. But I like mixing different cereals with fruit and nuts and I’ll always have oats as the base. So I’ll either have muesli (not crunchy types, these are full of fat) with another cereal or I’ll just put normal oats in and mix up with those. Since eating breakfasts like this , I have found I can go a lot longer before I have to eat and I just feel generally better. But I have to make sure I give myself time to digest this bowlful of nutrition before I start climbing.

“Also, if you're feeling a bit slack, what gets you motivated again?”

This is a tricky one. But generally a change of scene or routine works for me. Going to a new venue really gets me fired up, all those routes to onsight. I do have periods of low motivation and I find it very frustrating. And I’ve never found a definitive way to fix it! I just try to accept that I’m having a low motivation period and know that I’ll come through it, try to keep going with some training and generally when I come out the other side I’m pretty psyched.