To finish off the first half of training on Day 3 we climbed ropes. Perfect! Can you climb a rope? If you can you’re one of a select few because rope climbing, horizontally or vertically, is a skill that is almost always absent from most peoples movement ‘tool-kit’.

[I’ve spoken about why this is the case in a previous blog. Check it out here.]

Climbing a rope is tricky, for sure, but the ‘trick’ it seems is resolved by:

  1. Knowing the right technique
  2. Use your legs more than your arms
  3. Staying relaxed
  4. Enduring (initial) discomfort

Today we focused on two rope climbing directions: vertical and horizontal climbs. And we covered two techniques for each direction.

VERTICAL CLIMBS

Vertical rope climbs are relatively straightforward but organising your feet into a comfortable foot position while climbing is not easy. In fact, it is very uncomfortable.

There is a very real discomfort you have to deal with when trying to organise your feet on a rope. It’s a burn caused from folding the rope between your feet and using friction and your weight to keep it in place.

Discomfort is something you MUST endure if you want to climb a rope. Own it. But once you find the right foot position the pain abates and you realise that you need very little upper body strength to ascend.

Climb.

HORIZONTAL LOCOMOTION

In contrast to vertical ascents, horizontal rope locomotion is fun. No doubt about it. Your weight is evenly distributed between your hands and the back of your knee, which allows you to enjoy and explore the movement flow of rope locomotion.

Leg hook and hand transition. Repeat. Simple!

Well … you are likely to feel a burn behind the knees from the rub of the rope but other than this inconvenience (TIP: wear leggings), vertical rope locomotion is a personal favourite.

 

LUNCH BREAK & A COFFEE ‘HACK’!

 We break for lunch and are told that the running test is up after the break.

Yikes!

If you’ve been following my preparation for this appearance at MovNat Cert III in Austria, you’ll know that the running part of fitness test has been a struggle for me.

[If you are interested to read the back story for this journey go here.]

So here I am. It’s run test time!

And it’s time to road test a hack I’d read about months earlier.

“Coffee naps may increase energy more than coffee or sleeping alone, though research to support this effect is limited. About 2 cups of coffee right before a 20-minute nap may be the best way to reap benefits.”

I’d read about this hack a while back and had thought about putting it into action during the MovNat Cert III.

I mean, I’ll exploit any legitimate option to help me survive the run test because, let me be blunt, I am no runner. So yeah, I did this during my lunch break: ate light, drank two espressos and took a 20min power nap.

 

THE RUN: THE ASCENT

Apart from the Single Leg Squat test, the Run test is the one I’ve been the most concerned about.

I have an ailing knee condition. That’s a constant concern. Do I have the endurance? I’ve been working on it. Speed? We’ll see. Will we wear shoes or not? Altitude? All of these variables create a formidable mixture.

Before the run the MovNat group has a short team meeting with Erwan to discuss the terrain for the test. The trail is an ensemble of rock, sharp gravel, sand, grass, soft leaf. Everything. Apparently we also have a long rocky descent where the rocks are quote, “wicked”. 

The outcome: on this occasion the shoes are staying on, but Erwan says that he reserves the right to demand that our shoes are removed at anytime during the run.

The set up is simple: During the run Erwan will set the pace. Jerome will hold the middle. Danny will cover the rear. If Danny catches you then your test is over.

I was not sure how far the run is. I’d heard anything from 4-12kms floated among the participants and at this point in my own training I knew my limits.

I knew I could hold 5-minute kilometres over 5-8kms, depending on terrain. It’s not great but that’s my range. I also knew that I needed at least 1 kilometer to run my legs in. So if the pace was fast from the beginning then I might be meeting Danny fairly quickly.

The run begins and I set my own pace. This meant that I fell behind the lead group instantly. I watched Erwan and the lead group run ahead but I kept to my training, monitored the data on my iWatch and stuck with my plan. I’m not here to win. For me it’s about survival and I intend to not only survive this day but make sure that I have a working body for the slew of tests that will happen tomorrow.

I keep Jerome firmly in my sights and hold to him tightly.

Thankfully the terrain suited my ability. Undulating and steep; for ascents and descents. Which meant that the pace was part run, part power walk ascent and part descent, which in my training equals part recovery. In short, the kind of cardio that suits me best: short bursts, short endurance, recovery, repeat.

Hills are always deciders.

Few people can power-run a hill and then keep on running and there were few here in the group who could do this with ease. I’m no hill master but I’d been training hills like a mountain goat prior to Austria and when the hills hit I leaned my body into a power-walk that burned my quads and butt and as I reached the crest let fly on the descent / recovery.

In my own way I was keeping pace.

Despite dropping behind the main group I meet the lead group with Erwan at that top of the first ascent. I’m only a few seconds behind the lead group and Erwan’s watching all of the late comers arrive.

I feel pretty fresh.

We brake for a few minutes to ensure that the team arrives. We might be in the middle of a MovNat test but we also have to make sure that everyone remains alive! This is the Austrian mountains. There are multiple trails peeling off the main track and it’s easy to get lost. The weather is changeable and temperatures can drop quickly.

There is one down side to coming in behind the rest. My rest break is shorter! The early arrivals have enjoyed a good 5-8mins rest. Me? 2-4mins? I’m not sure.

Erwan pipes up, “Time to descend.”

 

THE RUN: THE DESCENT

The descent is very steep and the pace is frantic.

Sharp turns and lose stones require us to drop onto inverted quadrupedal in an instant in order to maintain speed and not lose balance. The edge of the trail is close and the margin for error is narrow.

It’s fast. Recklessly fast and my knees and quads are taking a pounding.

I could feel my knees and quads starting to fatigue and I had no idea how long the descent would last. We’d been hurtling down the trail for a while and I could not see the bottom. To survive I felt like I needed to calm my breathing, find a rhythm, reduce my step length. Even at the risk of dropping behind I needed to make some choices.

Jerome was always my marker and he was getting smaller! Not a good sign for me and I started to worry. Luckily the descent broke without warning and a horizontal gravel track ushered in the flat again. Perfect.

The group had really thinned out on the descent and I was not the last. I join the group and have time to recover.

Within a few minutes we recommence the run at jogging pace on an ash-vault country back road. I consult my iWatch and start doing doing the math. The pace has been quick, the ascents steep and the descents technical. May legs are feeling fatigued.

Then, as we jog Erwan announces, “The Run Test is done. Well done!”

It’s over! I’m done and I’ve done it. One of my worst fears has been overcome. I’m overjoyed and exuberant.

And then we arrive at a waterfall and a very VERY cold stream.

To Be Continued …

 

Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris