© Red Bull/Toby Ziff
I’m super-pleased to welcome Shauna Coxsey back on the blog, this time for a longer interview. As GB’s most successful competitive climber and a two-time bouldering world champion, Shauna is usually found suspended in a gravity-defying position on a climbing wall (or doing fingertip hangs on the Beastmaker), however, she kindly made time to answer my questions about her climbing career and training.
Today, Shauna chats about climbing’s Olympic debut, reveals what a typical week of training looks like and shares her favourite places in the world to climb. If you’re left wanting more, don’t miss Shauna speaking at the Kendal Mountain Festival later this month in association with Entre-Prises. It’s guaranteed to be a good one.
How are you feeling about climbing’s debut into the Olympics as a trio of combined climbing disciplines?
I never imagined that climbing would be part of the Olympic Games during my professional career. It is incredibly exciting! I cannot wait for our sport to be showcased on the biggest stage on the sporting world! Climbing was only given one medal at the games and this is the reason for the combined event. I think this was the best decision so that all of the competitive disciples of climbing can be seen and enjoyed.
Out of lead climbing and speed climbing, do you favour one over the other? And how often do you get to practice them?
I have spent a lot of time lead climbing in the past. It was my preferred discipline for a number of years and I’m loving going back to my routes! I hadn’t realised how much I missed the feeling of being up high on the end of a rope trying my absolute hardest. Speed climbing, on the other hand, is totally new to me. It was never something I had considered trying in the past. I really did not expect to like it as much as I do. It is so much fun! I’ve been climbing for over 20 years, so it’s been a while since I tried something totally new in this sport. It’s refreshing and challenging in the best way!
Can you tell us what a typical week of training looks like?
This varies throughout the year but during the off season, I’m generally training six days a week. Most days are double sessions. Lots of climbing, some work in the gym, three Beastmaker sessions, a couple of runs and lots of stretching. On top of that, I organise events, volunteer as a trustee for Climbers Against Cancer and work closely with my sponsors.
What kind of upper body strength training do you include in your sessions?
Every session I do starts with a little Theraband and power band routine to help keep my shoulders healthy and mobile. I do three Beastmaker sessions a week to work on finger strength but I also do some pull-ups to warm up. Finger strength is so important in climbing as your fingers are your contact to the wall. Upper body exercises are added into most gym sessions and I often train before or after climbing too. I do so many different push and pull exercises!
You’ve mentioned your Beastmaker sessions. What do these involve?
My Beastmaker sessions can be anything from a quick 10-minute pull-ups set to a 2-hour finger strength session. It’s really important that finger training is specific to the individual to avoid injury. I work on weighted two arm hangs on the smallest edge and also one arm hangs. I also train different grip types – half crimp and open hand – and arm positions.
Do you do anything else to develop your finger strength?
Climbing is a great way to train finger strength. That might sound silly, but if you know what your weaknesses are it’s easy to train on the wall. If you’re bad at crimps then try more crimpy climbs. If you’re bad at pinches use more pinches. Most centres will have a training board with lots of holds on that don’t change and these are really useful for training grip – as well as many other things.
You’re very flexible – do you incorporate stretching or yoga into your training?
Stretching is so important and I enjoy doing it but it’s definitely something I could do more of! I try to stretch every day, but it’s something I have to force myself to do.
In December, you snapped the tendon in your right ring finger. Has it fully recovered?
Yeah. It’s been a long road to get my finger fixed-up and it recently caused me some issues again, so I have had more treatment and I’m hoping that it won’t be long before this injury feels like a distant memory!
What are the physical challenges of frequent climbing sessions?
Training is hard work. It’s both physically and mentally demanding and pushing through the hard sessions can sometimes feel impossible. If you’re physically capable of getting through a session then the only thing stopping you is your attitude. The hardest sessions are the ones that count the most.
We’ve talked about the physical side, but how much is climbing a mental challenge?
Climbing is quite different to most sports as we’re always trying something new. In lead and boulder competitions we’re competing on climbs we have never seen or tried before. This requires a lot of practice and experience.
Do you get nervous before competing?
Yes, I definitely get nervous. I think nerves are a really good thing. With practice and patience, you can learn to embrace them and use them. Before I go out to climb I clean my shoes, have some Red Bull, take a deep breath and smile.
Since you founded the Women’s Climbing Symposium eight years ago have you seen a change in the number of women climbing/bouldering?
Definitely, but that is consistent with the overall rise in the number of people climbing of all genders and ages.
When you’re not bouldering indoors, where are your three favourite places in the world to climb?
For climbing outside, I think my favourite place is at home in the Peak District. I have travelled all over the world and I still absolutely love coming home. I also love spending time climbing in South Africa. It’s such a great place to escape and enjoy being in a totally different environment. My third favourite is Fontainebleau. It can be a little tricky to get good weather but when it’s good, it’s impossible to beat.
What are your favourite items of kit for training and competing?
Comfy Adidas shorts and sports bra, my 5:10 shoes (the Anasazi Pro for bouldering, Hiangles for lead and Moccasyms for speed), a can of Red Bull, Friction Labs chalk, skincare kit with Rhino Skin, a good sander and some decent nail clippers, some epic cheesy music and a good crew to keep the psyche high!
Who are you sponsored by right now?
Adidas and Fiveten, Red Bull, Entre-Prises, The Climbing Hangar, Leighton Vans and Friction Labs.
Kendal Mountain Festival present Shauna Coxsey: High Hopes in association with Entre-Prises on Saturday 17th November, to book tickets visit www.mountainfest.co.uk/programme/event/shauna-coxsey.