Monday, September 22, 2008

Product Review: CLIMBING: Training for Peak Performance

Product Review: CLIMBING: Training for Peak Performance (Second Edition)

My Summary – excellent, up to date and well worth the money

Google Books extracts available here

Who is this guy and what is the product?

CLYDE SOLES is a writer-climber with varied experience in the field. He has summitted 8000-meter peaks and has written for magazines and authored several books, including The Outdoor Knots Book, Rock and Ice Gear, and Climbing: Expedition Planning.

Book Description

Climbers at all levels benefit from working to build core strength, opening the door to higher levels of achievement. This new edition of the Mountaineers Outdoor Expert series classic is completely updated and expanded. There is new instruction on yoga, Pilates, and herbal supplements, as well as an expanded section on core training. The book contains more information about rehabilitation after an injury, plus several new training programs.

What does the product claim?

This book is for climbers of all ages, abilities, and interests who wish to improve their performance. Whether you are a weekend warrior who enjoys moderate routes and wants to climb harder classics, a mountaineer interested in moving faster at altitude, an ice climber who wants to move more efficiently over frozen terrain, or a big wall climber who want to increase your stamina, you will find what is needed to reach the next level.

Where can I get it and what does it cost?

$12:89 at Amazon (USA) or £9:46 at Amazon (UK)


Paperback, 269 pages. Lots of photos, good index glossary and sources for further information and study.


I have had this book for a couple of weeks but have only now got round to reading it and must say that I am impressed.

Nowadays so much of our knowledge comes from the "interwebs" and if you are interested in training and physical fitness there is a lot of information out there – diet, routines, motivational videos. However, the world of the internet is a varied and inconsistent domain. Some information is good, some great and some very poor indeed. Additionally, on a website there is rarely the scope to enter into detail and provide the sort of context and background that is necessary if you are to build up deep knowledge. Blogs are fine for soundbites or discussion, but not for real eduction. There is still a role for books. They can develop arguments, explain complex concepts…..and you can read them in the bath! Books are good and this is a good book.

Clyde Soles has put together a detailed manual that states its aim clearly in the introduction: Training should be Fun! And the preface explains the motivation of the book:

Most climbing training books and articles focus on young advanced sport climbers with indestructible bodies and a lot of free time. That information is often ill-suited to middle-aged climbers with limited time, pre-existing injuries and other interests. This book is intended primarily for this latter group. Other outdoor recreationalists who play in the mountains, be they hikers, skiers, or cyclists, will also find the instructional material here useful because their sports share much in common with climbing.

Speaking as a middle-aged (is 40 middle-aged?) outdoor recreationalist (check out my other blogs for some of my hill activities and training) with some old injuries, this appeals to me!

There is a lot to this book and the material is presented rationally and in an accessible style. It is not dumbed down but written for intelligent adults. That is refreshing when many books are either polished by journalists with no feel for the subject or occasionally scientific tomes with little application for everyday life.

Soles looks at nutrition, mental issues, aerobic conditioning, coping with altitude, resistance training, joint mobility/flexibility/balance, recovery/rehab and program design.

The sections that I found particularly impressive (often revealing Soles’ knowledge of very recent research) included:

  • Nutrition – especially the section warning of dubious supplements which have little value. Soles also mentions the viability of intermittent fasting ( this blog has pointed to lots of research on this subject) and seems in favour of an Eat Stop Eat style fast – i.e., going without food for 16-24 hours once or twice a week for weight loss.
  • Aerobic Conditioning - the discussion of intervals is useful and while recognising their role Soles also notes that there are benefits to longer endurance training, as I've noticed Rob Shaul say.
  • Body Tuning – the treatment of joint mobility, stretching and balance work is really thorough and up to date taking account of recent research – e.g. stretching before exercise is discouraged. This blog has previously discussed the utility of balance training and there are some good ideas for improving balance in the book.
  • Recovery: Rest and Rehab – has some great ideas for treating and rehabilitating injuries.

There is a lot in this book and it will repay careful and repeated study. Additionally it is a bargain! Compared to some of the electronic books available out there which contain a fraction of the information in this volume, CLIMBING: Training for Peak Performance is superb value for money.

Should I buy this?

Yes. If you are a climber, hiker, hill walker, skier, mountain biker or anyone that enjoys activity in the outdoors there will be something in this book that you will benefit from. Even if you are simply interested in general fitness there is much here that will help you improve your performance.

This is a very good book! Read more about it on Clyde's own website

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