Training Secrets from the World’s Best Rock Climber
Chris Sharma may be 32, but he’s still pushing the sport’s limits as a pioneer of deep-water soloing.
Chris Sharma has been dominating the sport of rock climbing almost since the day he took it up at the age of 12. In 1996, at 14, he took home top honors at Bouldering Nationals. A year later he became the first person ever to complete a 5.14c climb in North America (Necessary Evil in Utah’s Virgin River Gorge). And just this March, a month before turning 32, he became just the second climber to conquer the 5.15c climb La Dura Dura in Spain, currently the hardest sport climbing route in the world.
Chris Sharma's Vital StatsAge: 32
Weight: 165 pounds
Hometown: Santa Cruz, California
Watch Chris Sharma ClimbSharma climbs his longtime project First Round First Minute.
After nearly two decades at the top, Sharma is far from done. His latest venture is bringing the thrill of deep water soloing to a competition format. To that end, he’s organized the new Psicobloc Masters Series competition, the first of its kind in the U.S.
Held July 31 to August 2 in conjunction with the Outdoor Retailer summer show in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Psicobloc event features climbers going head to head on a custom-built wall perched over the 750,000-gallon freestyle skiing aerial training pool at Park City’s Utah Olympic Park. “I think in a lot of ways it could be a before and after for competition climbing,” Sharma says of the new highly accessible and thrilling format.
It’s Not Supposed to Be Easy
As climbers, we're always looking for something that’s just past our level. Sometimes we get frustrated because it’s too hard, but our goal is to try to do something that is beyond our limits. If it feels easy then we’re not actually at our limit.
Go Out and Climb. A Lot
I’ll usually climb four days a week. Other times when I’m just having fun and climbing a little more recreationally, I’ll climb six days in a row.
Ditch the Gym
I’ve never actually trained. I’ve always just been a climber. Some people like to work in the climbing gym or follow a program and then they’ll go out and try to achieve their goals on rock. I’ve always just gone straight out onto the rock and tried these projects over and over again.
Diet by Feel
I’ve never followed a strict diet. I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat a lot of red meat. I try to eat a lot of fish and I’ll eat some chicken and turkey. Once in a while, I’ll have a hamburger. I’ll have a beer or glass of wine for sure. I just gauge it by how I feel.
Over the last few years, I’ve been taking supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, plant-based vitamins, and fish oils from Nutriex. When I’m climbing year-round punishing my body all the time it does give me a little bit of an edge.
Train Until You Crack
To get better you have to break yourself down, and you have to push yourself to that point where you’re almost getting injured. You really have to have a lot of body awareness to know where that point is so that you actually don’t injure yourself.
Eight or nine hours of sleep a night is my sweet spot. I really focus on having these crazy solid rest days where I just lay on the couch and fully let my body regenerate.
Be Your Own Coach
I think it’s really a mistake to blindly follow a training plan. It’s important to listen to your body.
Getting Older Means Getting More Regimented
I’ve always had a lot of natural talent, and I kind of coasted on that for a lot of years. Sometimes I wouldn’t even climb for like a month and then go to a competition and just cruise in and win it. But now I’m 32 and I definitely feel like I have to maintain my level a bit more.
Failure Isn’t Bad, It’s a Motivator
Failing on climbs gives me motivation to push my limits. Sometimes it can be frustrating for sure. But that’s the catalyst to actually push yourself.
Enjoy the Journey
I spent four years working on La Dura Dura. Those moments of success are so few and far. Ninety-nine percent of the time you walk away not succeeding, and that’s just part of the process.
Climbing is my lifelong journey. And in the same way you go running and you have days where you really feel in tune, you have some days where you don’t feel that good. It’s this never-ending process. Accepting that and enjoying that for what it is, that’s really where the life of climbing is.