Climbing to become better

When I started climbing again after a two year break (did lots of skiing instead) I was of course shit at first. The basic technique is there, but my body’s forgotten how to do fine control of a lot of muscles I use to climb up the wall.

I don’t climb to be the best climber. I climb because it’s fun. It’s the same with skiing. That being said, I do enjoy being good at something. To clearly define what good is can be quite hard, but I knew I was not good coming back to climbing. Something had to be done.

I usually only have time to climb for about an hour. But no matter how much time I have, I divide my climbing session into 3 sections. A warm-up, a challenge, and a reinforcement. This way I hope to reach a level of climbing that I will enjoy more, since I wont fall of the wall thinking:

I used to be able to do that.

I use this technique to learn new things, and I think it’s applicable on learning new as well as old things in general.

Warm-up

I start by climbing routes and problems I will be able to do pretty much without thinking. Sometimes I will do new routes, sometimes simply climb something I’ve done before. The idea is that I want to get in the right mindset, to switch my body into climbing mode if you will (I’m usually coming straight from work, so I’m in working mode).

The warm-up doesn’t always have to be super easy. As long as I do something that I can easily get absorbed into (and that is related to climbing).

Challenge

This is where I start doing routes and problems I haven’t done before. I’m essentially doing some kind of project that forces me to learn something new.

While climbing any project I want to fall of the wall.

A friend once told me that he aimed for a 70/30 success ration when trying to learn something new. That is that 30% of the time he would actually succed, and 70% of the time he would not. It’s an ideal check to see if you’re challenging yourself enough.

Reinforcement

In the reinforcement section I will again climb routes I know I can do. Important here is to not lower my level to much. I will try to redo climbing projects that I’ve managed to do before, but might have struggled with, or climb routes of a grade that I should be able to do, but where I don’t see an immediate easy way to do them.

If I have a lot of time, I might go back to work on my climbing projects after climbing some easier routes. Switching between challenges and reinforcement every 20 minutes or so.

As I become better at climbing again. I more and more just climb what I find fun (either for the challenge, or because of some interesting move). This is when I’m back at a level I find to be good enough to just enjoy my climbing again. Time to time I will make efforts to become better, and then come back to my three step learning:

Warm-up, challenge and reinforce.

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Caffeine boosted climbing

Just climbed my first 7b boulder! 

It’s been one of those days when whatever I do just end up awesome. Did some calculus in the morning, turns out Stockholm city library is an awesome place for productive work. It’s a shame they don’t open up earlier in the mornings.

On my way to the climbing gym (which I go to pretty much every day now) I grabbed a coffee. Everything after that coffee has been extraordinary.

I’ve been working on several boulder problems around the grade 7a/7b for the last week. Today I just sent all of them.

Moral of today: Hard training and coffe pays of.

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Enforcing habits, lessons from seasonal living

We all dream about building a life with good habits (at least I do). Habits might be to bring us a long life, or to become good and successful at something.

From my experience we all already have a lot of habits, some strong, some not so strong. Most people will brush their teeth at the start of a day, or start watching a YouTube video when you have spare time, like waiting for the bus. I can name a few habits myself that I want to be rid of, and some that I think are really good.

During my seasons I’ve noticed how I build some very strong habits. I then completely break these at the end of season. My first season as a ski instructor in Sweden I tended to get hungry (and by extension cold) just before lunch and before end of day. My solution to this was to always have a chocolate bar in my pocket.

Eating half a bar of chocolate every day for three months was not my healthiest habit (but I moved around so much that I didn’t gain any weight).

Perhaps the strongest habit I’ve had is the one of going skiing every day. Eventually you come to a point where not skiing for a day will make you crawl in your skin. When the ski season ends I usually have to find some other habit to substitute skiing with.

Experimenting a bit with this idea of substituting habits I now find myself in a very interesting position. Every three or four months there is a golden opportunity to rebuild my habits. I can throw out my bad habits and substitute them with something of my own choice. (What about eating an orange every time I feel like eating chocolate?)

To try this out I’ve tried to build some habits while working in Stockholm (to varying success). Skiing has been substituted with work. But it turns out I’ve also been able to do proper excercise (almost) every day, as well as learn and improve on some of my skills. I haven’t done any leaps in my ability, but it’s been a steady process of improvement.

So what habit should I start with next ski season?

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Welcome back to Sweden, welcome back to normal life

As you might notice, I’ve gone full hippie in previous posts. Mostly, because that is pretty much what I did while in New Zealand (without the drugs and some of the more dubious hippie things). I’ve also changed my travelling habits a bit. Previously I would try and do as much as possible, while I now try to focus on fa few things at a time. (I think this is what I’ve been trying to communicate in previous posts.)

This of course means that there is less of new and exciting, instead I’m hoping to structure my life around evolving and exciting. Meaning that I will (hopefully) get better at the things I do, and share my experiences on this road of improving my skills in cool stuff. I’m right now in Stockholm in Sweden, working and earning money before the ski season starts. During this downtime I’ve had time to start rock climbing again, and also catch up on my studies (I voluntarily study language and math because it’s fun).

Before I start writing about any of these things, I have some thoughts about something I discovered through my ski seasons, habit building.

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Happiness in simplicity

Focus and doing what you like

Last post I wrote how living in a campervan during my last ski season somewhat changed my perception on life. Living in the van enabled me to focus much more on the activities that I wanted to spend my time doing, and simply skip out on other things.

To say that this is something we should strive to achieve in our lives might be a bit naive. But the idea that a lot of things are unnecessary and that simplification is the answer is something I will take with me. This is of course a  cliché topic, and it’s something that I wasn’t taking to heart for a long time. My impression is that simplicity is something that is very easy to say that you practice, even though very few people do simplify.

To live more minimalistic is something I think we can definitely learn from in today’s stressed society. It’s something I’ve been trying to do for a while, but not really understood until now. Living minimalistic is not the same as living frugal. It’s the same as living with few interests.

[Insert arbitrary picture of my campervan here, picture is on separate computer, so have a kitten meanwhile]

For two months I was doing three things. Skiing, swimming and climbing (to some extent the skiing was two things, adaptive skiing and park skiing).

I have a lot of other projects and ideas that I would like to do. But for this limited timeframe I decided to not worry about them and solely focus on just these three things.

This enabled me to become good at these few things, like really good. (Ok, I’m not a good park skiier yet, but had some massive improvements).

[And I’m not good enough for badass pictures, so more kittens]

In a world where we increasingly have different success stories to inspire us it can be really hard to find focus and become good at something. Just committing to one or two things is really scary, because then you will become bad at all the other things right?

But what if you could excel at one thing  and just don’t give a *** if you’re bad at everything else? At least for two months, wouldn’t that be awesome?

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How living in a campervan for two months changes your perception of life

There are a few things every backpacker will tell you about travelling. Like how you realize laundry and showers aren’t that important. You go without a washer for such a long time that you start wearing your underwear inside out. When things get unbearably smelly, that’s when you decide to find someplace to wash your clothes.

The idea here is that there’s plenty of things we take for granted that we actually don’t need. And you don’t realize it until you’re in a situation without it.

Nothing goes without something else taking its place however. If you don’t have time for that laundry (at least not as often as other people) that time must go somewhere else.

Living in a campervan some household chores become very time consuming. I did everything in my power to simplify them or avoid doing them (turns out there is a staggering amount of healthy food that doesn’t need cooking).

What happened was that ended up with a lot of free time. Time I could spend in the climbing gym, or on the slopes. I never once thought that I should spend more time at home, because I brought my home with me wherever I went. Another effect was that I avoided shopping. It turns out that my will to go shopping is directly proportional to how much space is available to me.

There was of course times when I decided to just sit in my van and read a book (aka chilling out at home). For me I felt very free doing this though. Whatever I did was by my own choice. I’ve never felt so in control of my own time as during this season.

I contribute my sense of control and freedom to simplification, which I will write a bit more about next week, as well as how you can get into park skiing even if you’re terrified of jumps (park was what I ended up doing most of during my season).

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What living in a campervan for a ski season looks like

I’ve just finished my ski season on New Zealand. It’s been great, especially skiing in the terrain park, something I haven’t done much of before. I’ve not been working this season and therefore needed to keep costs low. One of the cost saving solutions I came up with was living in a rebuilt minivan, or mini campervan.

It turns out living in a camper for two months is way easier than I thought. It also chsnges some of your views at life.

So what does a normal day look like in my campervan?

6.50 My alarm goes off. Hopefully, but not always, making me wake up.

7.10 I’ve crawled out of my warm and cozy sleeping bag and into my cold and stiff skiing clothes. This is probably the hardest thing during the day, and the only time when I’m actually cold. Getting a proper winter sleeping bag was a worthwhile investment.

7.20 I’ve driven over to the place of the road where I hitchhike from. Since it’s the cheapest rental can I could get my hands on I’m not allowed to drive it up the mountain. You meet somewhere interesting people hitching. I’ve hitched with the Chilean slopestyle team and some millionaire horsefarmers to name a few.

8.10 I’m up the hill. Head over to the adaptive room where I check what clients I’m volunteering with for the day. I also eat breakfast around this time.

8.40 I go for a few lapses in the terrain park. Somewhere between 9.30-10.30 I usually end up going with an adaptive client or skiing with some mates.

The cycle of volunteering, skiing with mates and doing park lapses continues through the day, usually with lunch and coffee somewhere in there.

16.00-17.00 I’ve hitched down the mountain and feel really hungry. If I’m ambitious I cook food by the lakeside in Wanaka. Otherwise yogurt or some sandwiches from the grocery will suffice.

18.00 I go swimming or rock climbing. Sometimes I go for a run before.

20.30 I end up in a bar/cafe having either tea or sometimes a beer. Sometimes I just go straight back to the campsite and read a book.

22.30 I’m back at the campsite, I’m exhausted and go to sleep within 5 minutes.

There you have it. My last two months is pretty much just a constant repeat of the above. Next post I’ll write about how living in a campervan will change your perception of priorities in life.

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Coffebreak in Tokyo

So here I am, standing in a hidden Japanese bookmarket drinking coffe. I’m not going to buy any of the books, I’ve yet to master the art of reading Japanese. Yet I’m smiling inside, this might be the first time I’m really enjoying a big city.

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time in Tokyo. Being one of the largest cities in the world, Tokyo can offer pretty much anything you can imagine, except big and wild nature. For me, who likes hiking up mountains, any larger city is usually a big disappointment. There’s an overload of costly activities, none of which I actually want to do.

At Sols coffe stand in Kuramae, I end up getting a regular customer card, even though I’m only in the country for a month. The guy who is working there ends up telling me about a bookmarket where he also has a coffe stand. This is how I end up at Bettara Stand, a bookmarket held once every month in Nihonbashi.

Last time in Wellington, I was introduced to coffe culture by a friend. As it turns out, another friend who’s lived in Tokyo for almost two years now, has also gotten into coffe after working at a cafe.

Through him I’ve now been introduced to a Japanese subculture of coffe enthusiasts. It turns out there’s quite a lot of smaller coffe stands and cafés, not just selling a cup of coffe, but also trading coffe beans from all over the world.

Sols stand is just one of these places, usually found in backalleys and smaller streets. It’s a cool hipster culture, except the fact that there are no such thing as Japanese hipsters.

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トトロぽい (Mt. Mitake)

Japanese forests are dark. If you’ve seen any of the Studio Gibli movies you probably have quite a good idea of what Japanese nature looks like. Especially nature featuring movies like Princess Mononoke and Totoro has a special feel to them. (If you haven’t seen any of these movies, I recommend you stop reading and watch one right now, it’s going to be time we’ll spent.)

When Miyazaki made these movies he used different places for inspiration, sometimes cities or buildings in the movie are modeled after actual existing ones. One such example is in Mayou no Takyubin, where the main city for the story is modeled from my hometown, Visby.

That the nature in Gibli movies tend to be Japanese becomes obvious when you go for a hike in the Japanese mountains. More so when my friend Haruka grabs a big leaf and poses beside a lightpole saying トトロぽい, translating to “It’s like Totoro.”

[Insert imaginary picture here]

Indeed, Mt. Mitake might be one of the most Totoro-like hikes I’ve done. Extra reinforced when my two hiking friends Haruka and Sakura starts humming to the music from the movie.

A cablecar takes us up the first part. Then it’s walking all the way to the shrine at the top. A sudden rain shower convinced it’s it’s time for snacks. To our surprise it’s not only rain falling from the sky. Extreme weather seems to become more and more usual as it suddenly switches from rain to hail.

When we after a day of exploring the mountain go onto the last cablecar down a gruesome discovery awaits us. There are no more buses for the day.

At this point it starts raining again. It’s a wet but still fun experience walking back to the station. Singing in the rain.

The train back to Tokyo includes the now obligatory “after hike trainnap”.

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しまなみ海道 Cycling in Japan

The wind lightly plays with my hair. The smell of ocean is in the air. Even though we Japan recently entered the rainy season it’s sunny today. It’s just a perfect day for some cycling. Except for when I try and sit down on the bike saddle. Then it feels like someone is stabbing me with multiple knives in my butt.

I’m cycling I between Shikoku and Honshu, two of the Japanese main islands. One of the roads leading to Shikoku passes over several smaller islands and bridges, and most importantly, does have a cycle road. The ramps leading up to the bridges has a low inclination, so you can see a lot of cycle tourists as well as professional cycles here.

Nancy, who lost her shoes in a previous post, invited me to this trip. Also tagging along is Elisabeth, a girl from Holland. Starting early in the morning we take the bus from Onomichi, which is on the Honshu side, to Imabara on the Shikoku side. There’s plenty of rental stops for bikes along the way, so you can choose to do a shorter daytrip if you want. Our plan is of course to go all the way back to Onomichi.

There’s just one problem. The only bicycles that are still available at the rental stop we go to are long distance road bikes. Almost like racing ones. And you know what those kind of bikes have? Very hard saddles.

You’re supposed to have cycling pants while riding this kind of bike. Cycling pants has some extra padding for your butt, and thus you get the extra movement benefit of a hard saddle without your skin turning blue.

Halfway through the trip I can no longer wit down on the saddle any more. Nancy, not expecting her Japan trip to involve mountain hiking and long distance biking is having a big sweat. Strangely, Elisabeth, who’s from a country with no hills, has no problem at all cycling up the ramps to the bridges or over the Japanese hills. 

When we eventually feel done with the island hopping for the day we take the ferry back to Onomichi. The trip gives me inspiration to do a future cycling trip through Japan. I’m going to buy cycling pants for that though.

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