So, this is lockdown.
I’ve lost count of how many lockdowns this is now. Is it ‘Lockdown 2: Lockdown Harder’? Or is it ‘Lockdown 3 and the Temple of Doom’? Who knows at this point, really?
I’m asking, seriously though, because I don’t even know what month it is anymore, never mind what day it is. It’s like that bit between Christmas and New Year, where you lose track of the date and forget how to write, but they decided this wasn’t enough and made the executive decision that we needed more of that vagueness; oh, and that leaving the house should be punishable by law.
Climbing gyms up and down the nation have been forced to close their walls and now all of us plastic pullers need ways to stay in tip-top, crimpy shape. We can no longer look to illegal raves to provide us with the aerobic and cardio workout that we so crave, due to the deterrence of huge fines and also the fact that they are illegal.
A “normal” life has been put on hold. The good times with good friends, good coffee and good pizza must wait as we all try to make the world a safer place. But we still need exercise for our physical and mental health.
THE BATHROOM “PROBLEM”
As climbers, it’s important, nay vital, to undertake rigorous and demanding climbing specific training. This can include eating chocolate cereal for breakfast every morning, treating yourself to another beer to go with your third takeaway this week, and watching through ‘The Office: An American Workplace’ in your underwear, covered in Doritos dust. We’re climbers: we try not to take things too seriously.
Take me, for example, during the first lockdown (known as ‘The Fellowship of the Lockdown’ or ‘Harry Potter and the Dangerously Incompetent Government’) I decided to create a boulder problem on my back wall. Crimping my mitts on the edges of bricks, I found a doable route starting from next door’s adjacent wall that went to my upstairs bathroom.
Getting from the downstairs window ledge to the upstairs one proved to be the crux. It was a bit of a committing move, that involved a horizontal press into the neighbour’s wall, but I got it done.
Finding myself very high up and realising that there was no way I could down climb that move I just described, I resorted to nudging the bathroom window open with my head, enough so that I could throw myself forth and land unceremoniously in the bathtub. I did mention to the Hangar’s route setters that having to open a window with your noggin during a boulder problem really adds “something” but they have yet to take me up on this idea and set a problem in this manner.
The need for activity is compelling during these times, I find. The obvious place to look is at a fingerboard and then, not just look at it, but put your fingers in the little slots and hang from it. We can definitely keep our digits happy and strong throughout lockdown. You don’t even need a finger board. A good bit of wood that you can edge your fingers on, that has been nicely finished and mounted somewhere in your house will do. I know I’ve been in lockdown too long because, hot damn, that was a sexy sentence! However, mounting a finger board indoors isn’t an option for me as I live in a rented property and my landlord has what I consider to be an unhealthy attachment to the current intact, whole and undamaged door frames within the house.
Feeling the power of my fingers slipping away by the second, my housemate and I set about constructing an A-frame out of discarded pallets and random off-cuts of wood that we were able to obtain via non-nefarious means. After the minor incident of my housemate banging his thumb with a hammer then standing on an upturned nail (which, yes, went through shoe, sock and skin) we had ourselves a sturdy frame from which to mount our board and commence hanging. “Sturdy” may not be the right word. “Rickety” may be more appropriate due to fact that its stability comes from two buckets of water placed carefully on the base. Us climbers are a resourceful bunch.
I’ve also taken to yoga to kick start my day. You can find many yoga channels out there on various video sharing platforms; some of which, you may discover, are run by frauds and charlatans. Here’s my advice: Beware the yoga instructor telling you to do poses such as ‘horny rhino’ and ‘horny triceratops’ or any other horny animal for that matter, fictional, pre-historic or otherwise. Along with yoga though, I’ve discovered push up challenges and the awesome world of calisthenics, giving me so many ideas for how to train. I’ve started performing tricep dips using the dining chairs and doing vertical jumps from squatting position right on to the dining table… well, it’s not like I eat there, they might as well prove to be of some use to me.
HANGING 2: BANNISTER BOOGALOO
Due to recent inclement weather, I’ve had to abandon my ‘Chimp Master 3001’ (that’s the name I affectionately gave to my finger board and supporting frame, buckets of water and all). I’ve covered it with a tarp for protection. Always put a tarp over your wood if you think it’s going to get wet (Oh, my word, I have been in lockdown a long time).
It’s time to improvise, if I’m going to make my fingers strong and powerful. You know what they say, “Look after your fingers and they’ll look after you!” With that age old proverb running through my mind, I purchased a pair of wood rock rings (along with a lot of other crap I’ve bought online lately but that massage gun is making the lonely nights less lonely). They are versatile, portable and perfect for what I had in mind. Once I’d threaded a climbing sling through the upstairs bannisters supporting struts, and decided that I could live without my deposit, I was hanging like a chimp and doing the most tentative and careful pull ups you’ve ever seen.
Don’t let your mind go into lockdown too. It’s like the late, great Bruce Lee said (and it may seem somewhat counterintuitive to end this with a quote from a man who was known less for his climbing abilities, and more being able to chin people dead hard, but I think it definitely carries weight across all walks of life): “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities. Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own… like practicing dynos into your bathroom window.” Okay. I added that last bit but you get the idea. You can love it, or hate it, but we’re all doing it. Might as well have some fun.
Hell, you could even write a blog and submit it to the Hangar.
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