AskAnAthlete With Pro Michael O’Rourke

Elegant Universe
Ask-An-Athlete: Session Two
with Michael O’Rourke

Q: How did you get your first sponsor?

A: Mad Rock: We can actually answer this one: he met our Team Manager Tiffany Hensley in Boulder, CO, then contacted Mad Rock’s manager in LA.

Q: How do you recommend gaining finger strength? I have been climbing for about 6 months and I find I lose strength in my hand before anything else.
A: Hi, Heidi. I have found that I can increase my finger strength by doing workout sessions on a campus board. It helps with your contact strength when you are trying to stick a difficult move. [Mad Rock: It’s definitely good. Zach Lerner also suggested starting slow on the campus board. ]
Q: Any tips for dealing with wrist pain, or crimping and grabbing pockets at funny angles?
A: I would just make sure that you are fully warmed up and if your grabbing something that feels funky/tweaky just move on. Pockets are also not my favorite in the gym because they put a lot of strain on the tendons, and that can be damaging if the route is not set correctly.

Q: Is there anything specifically you try to do when falling so as to not hurt yourself? 

A: Its always good to take a few practice falls before you get up too high, just to make sure you know how good the landing is. And if it is a [unexpected] fall, try and keep your arms and legs tucked so they will be less likely to get injured.

[Ed. Note: For long falls, MR Athlete Timy Fairfield suggests crumpling the legs and rolling onto the back. Timy’s company FuturistClimbing actually makes flooring targeted to negate fall-related injuries.]
Q: Whats your favorite climbing shoe, and why?
A: The Sharks! They have a great downturned toe, the heel has a great design for grabbing onto little edges, and they are very comfortable.
Q: What is the hardest route you’ve ever climbed? Where is your favorite climbing location?
If you could climb anywhere, where would it be? And finally, do you like scooby snacks?
A: I’ve climbed V14. My favorite location is either Bishop or Joe’s valley. If I could climb anywhere, it would most likely be Fontainebleau in Europe. And of course I like scooby snacks
Q: What kind of self-care do you do to keep you in tip-top shape for climbing?
A: After every session I will have a good meal, either meats or pasta, along with a protein shake. Other than that, I make sure I get a good night’s sleep and have a good breakfast so I am ready to start the next day of climbing.
Q: What has increased in your climbing since you moved to CO and joined Team ABC?
A: Well the first 9 years of my climbing life, I was in a small gym, and touched real rock maybe twice in those years. So as soon as I moved to Boulder, I was ready to start climbing outdoors, and after a few months of climbing on real rock my fingers became very strong. Team ABC is a wonderful team with motivated little crushers, and climbing with them really helped my technique and my mental focus in competitions.
Q: If you have just injured yourself, for whatever reason, how slowly would you work back into it?
A: It really depends on what type of injury… If it is a hand/forearm injury, I would take your time getting back into it because those are the parts you put the most stress on when climbing. When you get injured, your going to lose some strength from not climbing, no matter what. As long as you take it slow and don’t push too hard, you will gain your strength back in no time.
Q: How would you recommend building shoulder strength?
A: As a boulderer, I believe that weight training is key to progress quickly. When I train shoulders, I have a couple different exercises all fairly basic and all with dumbbells. I do front raises, side raises, dumbbell presses and reverse flys. 
O'Rourke at ABS14
O’Rourke at ABS14
Q: Do you think strength comes faster when climbing outside? If yes, what factors contribute?
 A: I believe you gain finger strength a lot faster climbing outside than inside, because holds outside are considerably smaller than indoor holds. And after climbing outside for about a week, you get accustomed to grabbing smaller and smaller edges, making your finger strength better.
Q: How do you improve your footwork?
A: To train footwork, we would play a game “called quiet feet” and the point of the game was to climb problems and delicately place your feet on holds without making any noise from your feet hitting the wall.
Q: What are you’re goals for climbing outside? How do you prepare for competitions? What are your top five boulder problems you’ve done?
A: Let’s see. 1) My outside goals are to have fun climbing outside and travel to the best climbing areas in the world in search of the next best climb. 2) For comps, I will prepare for a competition months in advance, and in those months I will try and get two sessions in a day… One sesh for climbing, and then the other one to do weightlifting. 3) My top 5 boulders are Slasher in Joe’s valley… Nothin’ But Sunshine in RMNP… Circadian Rhythm in Poudre… Free Range in Boulder Canyon… and Get Over It in Big Elk Meadows.
Q: What’s the number one exercise you would recommend?
A: Campusing either on a campus board, or just throughout the gym.