Put simply D-Mac (as I’ve now christened him) was one of the reasons I fell in love with climbing. I read his first book “9/10 climbers make the same mistakes,” for one simple reason – I wanted to improve at climbing the right way. I’ve done many sports over the course of my life, however I’ve often approached them with a bit of a gung ho attitude. This time however, I wanted to avoid this approach. Instead I’d be patient, considered and rather more focussed with it all.

Climbing is a notoriously difficult sport to improve at, it’s highly technical and (as I quickly found out), simply being strong doesn’t necessarily grant you passage to higher grades. Just like any other skill,  beyond the “beginner gains” period where sheer volume results in improvement, training has to be smarter. 

Dave’s lessons though, transcend climbing. Even if you’re not into the sport, I don’t think there’s a person on the planet that couldn’t benefit from some of the insights from this book.

So here’s 3 of my biggest take home’s from reading Dave’s work…

Life lesson 1

“Interact with as many people, places, habits and resources as possible that have a social norm that oozes a high standard of quality, performance and effort. Whatever the variable, work its way into your norms”

The importance of our environment is absolutely crucial to our personal growth. Isolation and sitting within a cosy bubble eventually means stagnation. But, by placing ourselves in environments rich in different perspectives and good examples of what we strive to achieve, we naturally find ourselves adopting habits that promote growth. Ever been in part of a culture where everyone is routing for one another? Feels exciting doesn’t it? Like there’s something in the air that’s motivating everyone in that space. If our environment aligns with us and what we want to achieve, it accelerates our improvement. 

Life lesson 2

“Even when we see the climbing session as training, we still get hung up on trying to perform all the time.”

This one is huge and although I’ve spoken about this before, I felt it was necessary to reiterate it. If we want to improve at something we need to train more and perform less. I.e. we must adopt the mindset of practice over that of competing most of the time. I get it, you want to work hard when climbing, but going hard doesn’t always mean more gains. When performing at your limit (or very close to it) your body can’t absorb everything you’re trying to feed it. It’s too busy trying to haul your body over the line than to commit new skills to memory. Technique breaks down at your body’s limits, meaning you’re practising and thus ingraining sub optimal form. Try to be 100% at everything (performing), and you’ll fail to learn any one thing effectively. Practice at lower intensities and pay more attention to the moves you’re trying to perform rather than worrying about the outcome of executing them. Periodise your training and bank up hours of practice. Then every now and again make a withdrawal and cash in on your efforts. Test and perform at the end of one of these periods and not every damn session! Training > performing.

Life lesson

“Don’t kid yourself about age. It’s a handy excuse to give in and settle for an easy life”

Getting older doesn’t mean getting healthier or performing better are out of the question. Leaning on age as an excuse is a choice, let’s make that one clear. Age is often not limiting our response to training, so let’s stop throwing ourselves on the scrapheap too early. It’s not just climber in us that’s guilty of the “I’m past it,” mindset, we are in other aspects of our lives too at times. The issue is we get busier, garner more responsibility and simply have less time than we did when we were younger to do what we want to do. In particular with our schedule and robustness, we try to force square pegs into round holes by using outdated strategies that no longer fit the stage of life we’re in. A lot of folk live for their 20’s and don’t pay attention to how they’re going to adapt and make their training sustainable when things inevitably change. Priorities increase in number and change order.

The result – we settle. We settle for what we have, for where we got to once upon a time and assume we can’t get better. We let a job, for example, dictate health, fitness and climbing out of our lives. 

Age is just a number. You can still reach great heights sports performance and health & fitness wise if you’re willing to manage your expectations and be more realistic. If you stimulate your body, it will still respond. Age only becomes a limitation much later on in life than most people believe. Your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are no time to give in. If you can put aside lifetime bests, improvement is still possible.

If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, purchase it direct from Dave’s website, that way non of the proceeds get eaten up by Jeff Bezos! It also comes signed by the man himself if you purchase it directly –> Click here!

Coach Will