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Climbing as a sport displays many different physiological demands, it relies on both aerobic and anaerobic alactic energy systems due to the short but high-intensity duration nature of the sport. Because of the strength and conditioning required in climbing and the very short recovery periods between climbs, there is usually insufficient time for a proper aerobic metabolism recovery, blood lactate concentration has been shown to be very high in climbing. A high blood lactate concentration causes decreased handgrip endurance as well as fatigue throughout the duration of the climb, levels have shown to increase to 3-10 mmol/L. However, it is important to note that anaerobic recovery is also through aerobic metabolism and athlete may be climbing for many hours and will rely on the oxidative system for muscle contraction and recovery for the high intensity activity throughout the climb, Philips, Sassaman, Smoliga, 2012. Isometric contractions are vital in climbing as they allow for the stabilisation of the body while the climber decides their next move Long periods in static positions can result in high heart rate and increased oxygen intake causing the activation of the muscle metaboreflex. Long duration of isometric contractions causes muscular fatigue so to include isometric contractions into training programs at different joint angles in resistance training exercises is extremely important. An example of this would be a seated leg curl maintained at a 45-degree knee flexion for a set period of time. Whole-body power movements are used to great extents in climbing, an example of this being ‘dyno,’ when a climber jumps of a surface in an attempt to reach another hold that is unreachable. This requires great strength and activation of knee, hip and ankle extensor muscles, power exercises are vital in improving these movements, exercises that may be useful include hang clean and push press.
Different stimuli require a climber to manage and respond correctly in order to have a successful climb or competition, the psychological demands are often performance anxiety and fear of falling. Some stimuli are considered stressful causing distress or anxiety resulting in negative effects in some while in others are considered positive enhancing function. Negative effects as a result to stimuli can cause a difference between demands and the athletes ability to meet them an example of a negative effects is the fear of falling which is a non-associative phobia and can develop without any trauma.. Alternatively, positive effects can increase the capacity to meet the demands of the stimuli by trying harder and improving themselves. According to, Niewunhuys, Pijpers, Oudejans & Bakker,( 2008), in their research the cognitive ability of a climber is vital in success and is embedded in the ability to plan a technical route and plan a strategy that maximises the efficiency of movement. This is all based upon the athletes climbing style, ability as well as their body type. There may be multiple ways to finish a route or maybe only one and climbing experience takes a massive role in this. Familiarising oneself with a climbing route is associated with a decrease in anxiety as well as climbers who have shown confidence in their abilities being able to complete more difficult climbs.
In elite boulder competition it has been recorded that the winners have certain anthropometric characteristics showing that it might be an important factor in winning which isn’t unusual to be a factor in other sports. Because of this the athlete will be tested in different areas, one is an anthropometric and strength characteristic test to find out the weight, height, muscle mass (kg), muscle mass index, grip strength, specific strength and body fat percentage. This test will be used to see where the athlete is physically at to then work out if to change training and diet before competitions also working out where they need to work on their strength and grip. According to Michailov, Mladenov and Schöffl (2009), in their research “Anthropometric and strength characteristics of world-class boulderers” they looked at the anthropometric and strength characteristics of 7 world class female bouldering climbers around the same age as the athlete that is 21. The mean BMI, muscle mass and body fat was, 20.4, 16.6 and 41.6 and grip strength (kg) and specific strength (kg) was 28 and 21.6, giving better understanding to how to train to reach this goal for he competitions. There will also be an Anaerobic threshold testing, both ventilatory and lactate, this is important in bouldering competitions since there athlete doesn’t get much recovery time and have to stay in isometric contractions for some time to plan the next move, so it’s vital to train to get a quicker muscle recovery time and also to improve their VO2max. To measure the ventilatory threshold the athlete will have to breathe into a machine while in high intensity training and will also do isometric exercises to then do a quick blood test in the finger to measure the lactate accumulation in the blood.
The appropriate psychological profiling for this athlete would be the “performance profile”, Butler & Hardy, 1992, based on Kelly’s personal construct theory, 1995, where the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses are identified and written down to give both the athlete and coach a better understanding over the overall performance and progress. The performance is broken down into psychological, physical, social, technical and tactical aspects, this allows the athlete to put themselves on the level they think they are at through a 1-10 scale system as well as together with the coach, setting a level of 1-10 on which will act as the foundation for a goal setting. A performance profiling is vital for improvement and progression, it will help identify and give an appropriate intervention. The different aspects could be the athlete putting themselves on a low scale in foot work or confidence therefore the focus will be on these features while less time will be focused on things like speed, endurance and awareness where the athlete might exceed.
Before competitions an athlete needs to mentally prepare themselves, by using the “performance profile” by Butler and Hardy, (1992) they can see what needs the most attention. When confidence is low the athlete could use a method called self-talk, Hardy, (2006), it is a statement addressed to the self, there’s difference ones such as positive/negative, Overt/Covert and Instructional/motivational. In a study, Theodorakis, Weinberg, Natsis, Douma, & Kazakas, (2000) tested the instructional and motivational method on 3 different groups, an instructional, motivational and control, where they got to perform different sport activities such as serving in badminton or knee extensions. The results showed that the self- talk groups performed better than the control group overall. As well as that relaxation is important to recover mentally and physically, in a research of Kaufman, Glass & Arnkoff, (2009) they recovered data about mindfulness and performance peak in climbing with result of enhanced performance, confidence and reduced anxiety in training.
Athletes have to go trough training stress which has to be dealt with the right way to avoid a prolonged recovery, overtraining and overreaching. In the stimulus-fatigue-recovery-adaptation model, Haff (2012), suggest that training stimuli causes a response that is affected via the overall magnitude of the training stressor, when more fatigue increases the recovery will be longer and will be a delay in adaption as well. Enough recovery is vital since long term injuries can happen as well as mental exhaustion. To prevent overload on the climber monitoring can be done with a wireless device worn by the athlete which records the airflow, pulse oximeter and skin conductance which can warn whenever there is need for a rest, other monitoring can be made such as TRIMP ‘training impulse’ which is a training method developed by Banister 1991, which measures training load, considers the intensity of exercise via measuring the heart rate reserve method as well as the duration of exercise. It uses the mean heart rate calculated via the relationship between heart rate and blood lactate, which has been gathered from an exercise and then multiplied by the duration of the session.
The following adequate recovery steps are for an athlete that is training 3-4 days a week for a duration of 3-4 hour, 2 months before a competition. Sometimes a longer recovery time is needed to prevent injuries. A proper warm up and recovery steps in training and competitions are vital for performance. Climbers should aim to warm up aerobically and stretch the whole body, this can be done via upper body and lower body dynamic stretching. Additionally, between climbs, low intensity cycling is a great way to reduce lactate levels and improve performance. Submerging arms in ice cold water has also recently shown to improve performance in between climbs. Other steps that may be taken include vibration and electrostimulation as well as limb shaking even though it might not remove any pains but will help with feeling less tense and swollen. Cooldown exercises are widely used however, very little evidence has been shown to be beneficial to performance however, post-exercise stretching has. Bouldering is an extremely technical sport which balances movement, flexibility and timing with balance and route reading. The best training to improve bouldering technique is bouldering, training the whole body is important to avoid im-proportional growth in muscles. Climbers strongly rely on their finger and wrist flexors in order to grip holds, hand and finger strength for bouldering is different compared with other sports containing similar isometric contractions so enough physical rest for these muscles is needed to avoid pulling of a muscle or overextend.
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