“Smell your feet” I heard.
“Go to hell” I thought. My friend, once a gymnast & dance instructor and now something of an all-round adventurer was helping me with a series of intensive stretches -intended to be done daily, so that I will eventually be strong enough to do the splits.
Later, I’m sitting with my back straight, my heels pressed together close to my groin, with my elbows pushing down on my knees trying to introduce them to the floor. This delivers a steady pain from my inner thighs and a fear that my hip joints will pop out like chicken wings being pried from a tender roast dinner.
“Ok, looking good” my friend calmly assures me -it’s his calmness that tells me something awful is about to happen.
“Now, breathing out, I’m just going to put gental pressure on your knees and help push them down…” He doesn’t. I must have given him a look that said (calmly)
“Touch me, and I’ll end you”
Moments later (and without bloodshed) he’s pushing my knees down and I’m counting the longest 30 seconds of my life.
Any person who has been climbing once -just once, can tell you that power comes from your legs and not your upper body. Climb a little more, and you learn the importance of core strength and stability. Keep climbing and you know that you have to have precise motor control of your limbs and gymnastic flexibility. I’m looking to acquire (and re-acquire) each of these attributes in my journey towards Big Wall climbing.
Not long ago, I was at a party -there were a few guys around and we were talking about doing the splits. I’d mentioned that until the age of 13 or 14 I could do the splits fairly comfortably, but that I’d lost the ability. Someone in the crowd must have said something to the effect of “I’m too old for that s#!t now”. I’m 26, and I think I’m too young to start declaring that I’m too old for anything.
In fact, one of the reasons I’d like to become a Big Wall climber is that I can appreciate how short life is and how our physical ability can so easily dwindle -I’d like to make use of mine while it’s available to me.
Later (before having written an impromptu post entitled “My legs feel weird”) my legs felt weird. I think it was one part recovery and 99 parts adrenaline being pumped through my legs -muscles that hadn’t been stretched in years. I was so tired, mid conversation in my friend’s kitchen I needed to sit down. Immediately.
So I sat down on the kitchen floor -in my mind this wasn’t unusual, and I considered myself perfectly capable of continuing to contribute to the conversation. A photo would later reveal that I had my head in my hands and looked very defeated.
A day later, I repeated the same stretches and felt slightly less awful at the end. Not to mention how comfortable I felt climbing using a knee drop technique (something I’ve never enjoyed) and I already know this is going be something helpful to continue doing.
I’m told it takes 21 days to form a habit. I am fairly certain that to eventually climb at a Big Wall level, I am going to need a lot of productive habits. So stretches/yoga is a pretty good place to start. My goal is to get to a point where I can comfortably do the splits and maintain that level.
Being flexible will mean I can take bigger steps and heal hooks and most importantly, climb with strong footwork so that my arms don’t burn out too quickly.
More on flexibility as it develops.