Ask an Athlete: Zach Lerner


 Pro Athlete Zach Lerner volunteered to answer questions about climbing, diet, and training. “Ask an Athlete” was Friday at 1PM on Mad Rock Climbing‘s Facebook page


Here’s the whole Q&A:

Chris H.: How do you avoid injuries? Especially tendon related ones.

ZL: Hi Chris, I actually like to take a proactive approach to avoiding tendon injuries. For example, my fingers feel healthiest when I hang-board! If I do feel an injury coming on, I’ll ice immediately on and off for a few days.

Will N.: Hey Zach, do you ever rope up? Do you think getting route endurance helps at all with hard bouldering?

ZL: Hi Will, I grew up sport climbing at the NRG, however since I moved to Colorado, I mainly boulder. However, endurance is very important for hard bouldering, competitions, etc. Having endurance helps flash and “onsight” attempts immensely!

Colin C.: How do you pick what lines you project? Do the moves have to feel just right and fun, or does the line have to look cool, or is it just something about the problem that speaks to you? But what goes through your mind when you think about a project?

ZL: Colin, I don’t have a set of qualifications for picking a line to project. When I get inspired I get INSPIRED, which means I get completely obsessed about doing the line. The aesthetics are very important for me. I get inspired by the general quality of the line, and the surrounding atmosphere. When I’m motived on a new project, and I’m really INSPIRED I usually can’t sleep well (or at all) until I do it!

Nicholas O.: Hey Zach, how do I impress girls that boulder harder than me? Be a good spotter? Carry a crash pad? Something just isn’t clicking, thanks for the help!

ZL: Hey Nicholas, the best way to impress girls that are stronger than you is to be confident. The worst thing you could do is get embarrassed and look away or act intimidated. They hate that! Be kind, ask for beta, ask them if they want a spot before giving one, be encouraging, have fun, and smile!

Will N.: Heard nothing but praise for NRG rock. Confirm? Best line in the gorge?

ZL: Will, the quality of NRG has ruined my desire to climb at well-known places like Rifle, and Maple Canyon! Best line: Mango Tango!

Zack N.: [What about] … training in a place nowhere near a gym or any local places?

ZL: Zack, I grew up in central PA, where the closest gym was over 2.5 hrs away. In my case, I built a home wall, then a co-op wall in an old barn. If that’s not possible, put up a *hang-board or campus-board. [*Ed. Note: We own the Warrior Board from Nicros, but SoILL and Metolius hangboards are hugely popular.]

Red E.: Hey Zach, im a 16 year old climber who mainly focuses on bouldering, I have been bouldering for around 7 months now and im currently bouldering V8 problems (and lead 7a’s), I try to train atleast 3 to 4 times aweek for 3 hours each time. What would you recommend as a good daily training routine or exercise at home to strengthen fingers, muscles, overall strength, etc…?
Many thanks, Red.

ZL: Hi Red, I can hear your enthusiasm in your message! Keep that up, and you’ll progress. To supplement your climbing, try strengthening your fingers through a basic hang board or campus board routine. Start slow, 1 x week, then progress to 2-3 x week. I like to structure my training into cycles: strength, power*, power endurance, rest, repeat! [*Ed. Note: The difference between power and strength is that power is a short burst of intense effort and strength is  sustained effort.]

John Pickles: In addition to your training…whats your diet like? Are you all pizza and beer or are you pretty strict with yourself? I know being a MR athlete you may be tempted with Korean BBQ all the time. [Ed. Note: MR takes everyone out to Korean BBQ every Outdoor Retailer – especially athletes.]

ZL: Pickles, Pizza is my favorite, which means that it’s an integral part of my diet! I never limit quantities of food, but I always look for the healthiest options, i.e whole grains, fruits, healthy fats like avocado and olive oil, chicken instead of steak, etc.

Valarie H.: What’s your least favorite part about training and how do you get psyched up for it?

ZL: Hi Valarie, my least favorite part of training…is not seeing results. One of the reasons why I like training so much is because it’s a good way to track progression. I stay motivated to train by sticking to a training plan and rewarding myself when I have a good workout! Coffee before training also helps me a lot!

Colin C.: I have heard that hang boards and campus routines can be some of the most injury causing training. I know myself I have popped at least 3 tendons on a hang board. And tips or tricks to keep the fingers in good shape?

ZL: Warming up is essential for proper hang boarding/campus boarding. If you don’t have access to a climbing wall, use hand putty, etc. to warm up. Training should be progressive and slow. As you know being injured sucks, so I personally like to err on the conservative side. (When I train, I’ll stop before I get too tired or if I feel even the slightest bit tweaky).

Pickles: So even though you may have a specific training regiment, lets say you miss a day of training for one reason or another. Do you try to incorporate that missed day into your other training days, or do you just skip it so you can keep on schedule? An example: Maybe you had the chance to climb for 4 days out in bishop, do you jump right back into your training or do you give yourself rest days

ZL:  Hey John, When my training goes off schedule due to climbing trips I think it’s best to give yourself the rest! Personally, I find that I get my best results from quality training over quantity training… i.e. training after getting enough rest. If my training is going to be interrupted by a work trip (no climbing), then I’ll train vigorously on both ends to try and make up the difference.