Surviving Sending Temps

Photo: Brennan Robinson

We want it all – cold for velcro friction yet warm enough to be powerful. While I love crisp conditions at times, my muscles aren’t always on board. Many of you have asked about this regarding body maintenance on the road and in the cold. So, here are a few key things I’ve learned from consistent years of travel that have helped me sustain the nomadic climber life:

  • Kickstart the day with a full body conditioning sequence
  • Lacrosse ball is your best friend

FULL BODY WARM-UP before getting on the rock

First up, I start most days with a 10 min full body balance and strength series. This not only helps me wake up and focus, but also efficiently warms up shoulders, stabilizers, and core. It’s been about 4 years since I first tried waking up to a short pilates workout instead of a bowl of oatmeal, and I wish I would’ve made this switch a decade earlier! Initially I overlooked yoga, thinking it was boring compared to gymnastics. This is why I tried adding in a conditioning aspect, as well as activated stretching, and it made all the difference.

Below is a base range of motion (ROM) series. Try this out and see how it feels. At the end, I encourage you to add in 2 sets of an exercise that you particularly need to warm up or strengthen. A common example would be single-leg deadlifts for your core stability and hamstring strength when heel-hooking.

Main exercises in the flow

  • Down dog
  • Knee to elbow
  • Pushup w/knee to elbow
  • Push ups with twist (one arm tricep push up, other military)
  • Fallen triangle
  • Side plank with band extension
  • Cross plank crunch
  • Plank one arm and opposite leg lift
  • Top leg swing
  • High Lunge
  • Triangle series
  • Lunges with band push press (don’t activate traps)
  • Curtsy lunge with bicep curl
  • Single leg dead lift
  • Revolving half moon
  • Revolved crescent lunge and progression
  • Warrior III
  • Handstand

This video covers one side. Repeat the sequence on the opposite side, and play with adding on more reps of the exercises. I highly suggest getting a theraband; however, if you don’t have one yet, you can still do the band series without the added resistance. Note: I start repeating the sequence on the opposite side after the handstand. Follow along for the beginning of the plank series then go back to the beginning of the video to cue which exercises to execute on your opposite side. 

Additional Options to Add On

  • Push ups with jump tucks (stay in plank, jump feet up near hands and back to full plank)
  • Pigeon and Shoelace pose + fold
  • Core: low boat + matching bicycles


Remember to breathe! Focus on steady, deep breathing, and cycling though a full inhale and exhale in deep stretches.

Activate opposing muscle while stretching. Ie, if you are in a lunge, activate the glute of your straight leg, pushing that hip forward and towards the ground. Note: Before climbing, I stretch to warm up ROM, so am only holding positions for up to 7 seconds at at time. If I want to stretch to increase flexibility, I will hold each position for 30-60 seconds AFTER my session. 

Photo: David Salafia

Once you have a base sequence down, it also doubles as a “tweak” check. By doing similar movements every morning, I am alerted before getting on the wall if something feels strained or inflamed. I can then spend extra time rolling out that area with a lacrosse ball before starting my session, or avoid moves that day that will add extra stress to the problem area.

ROLL OUT After Every Session

Massage whenever you need it? Yes please. Literally just 5 minute sessions after climbing has helped me prevent potential tweaks and reduce soreness. Below is a video of the areas I target self-myofascial release for recovery and preventative work. I try to do this as soon as possible after climbing to help my muscles relax a bit and increase blood flow.

I’ve found doing this after projecting out in cold canyons noticeably reduces shoulder impingement and stiffness the next day. Taking the time to do so before my muscles tighten/knot up has been especially important when I’m camping out for days. You can easily use the side of a van, just don’t push too hard on the door ; ) 

Utilize a lacrosse ball along the blue line to myofascial release prominent rotator cuff muscles including:
supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres major, teres minor

HYDRATE before fueling or caffeine, and more throughout the day

I always used to underestimate how much liquid we loose through respiration out in the cold desert day and night. Dehydration is not only a concern for endurance athletes – capacity to perform high-intensity exercise can decrease as much as 45% following even just moderate levels of water loss at 2.5% of body weight (1). 

Athletic Performance 

Notably to climbing, dehydration reduces athletic performance in part due to:

• Reduction in blood volume (reduced nutrients to cells during exercise and while recovering)

• Increased rate of muscle glycogen use (which can lead to fatigue setting in faster)

Tendon Health

Tendons are mostly composed of tightly packed proteins called collagen (2) Collagen utilizes water in its structure to function.

Soft connective tissues such as tendons contain a lot of water; typically 60 to 70 percent of water by weight (3)

Keeping our connective tissue well hydrated helps shuttle nutrition to the tissue as well as remove waste product – both of which are beneficial to tendon health and recovery.  

That said, drinking water while out climbing in temps that are dropping down around freezing isn’t always easy. The best solution I’ve found is to pack a vacuum-sealed bottle of tea or hot water for the afternoon. Otherwise it is painful to drink cold water when you are tired and already struggling to stay warm!

Last few game changers were down boots and mittens. Putting these on in between burns kept my fingers and toes warm while letting my forearms get enough rest ; )

Wake up, hydrate, get moving, fuel and go. Try this out! Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments below.



  4. Additionally Interesting:

    Boots – my go-to winter approach shoes –

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