Publisher: The Mountaineers Books, 2002
Author: Clyde Soles
Author Clyde Soles -- in a technical and exacting way -- has penned a, yes, technically exacting book on fitness training with the emphasis on the climber. We too don't believe in trends and fads, and we too want to see replicated proof of how-tos and what-to-dos for training before we'll recommend them. So if you want trendy recommendations, fancy exercise advice or a prod to try some fad diet, routine or supplement, this book won't give it to you. We're smiling already! Of all the training books we've seen for climbing and extreme sports, this one reigns supreme.
What Soles' writing gives the reader is solid and conservative advice on all the basics, including nutrition, stretching, strengthening, mind-body fitness and aerobic exercise, with all the in-between stuff too. Although Soles does slide from time-to-time into technical science-geek-speak about ATPs, lactate threshold or infraspinatus muscles -- some of which may leave some readers' eyes rolling backward -- the book is highly readable and very understandable. It's clear that Soles has done his homework.
All in all, the fitness advice is solid -- with a nice and constant eye on the climbing reader. The stretches are good and basic, the gym workouts for strength the same. On the downside, the models needed a bit more instruction themselves since poor form is scattered throughout the stretching shots and in a few strength-training shots. We hope this won't lead readers astray since the written instructions are so good.
In general, we love Soles' advice, but we would be remiss if we didn't point out what appear to be a few personal biases that he's let color the book's pages. For example, he says road running is "inferior to trail running" in the section on aerobic training. If you're talking pure aerobic training, road running works out your heart. No inferiority there. Most of the advantages to trails (less repetitive pounding, softer surfaces, more strength gains on hills, etc.) have nothing to do with training your heart. Then there's the section on gym training where he says that gyms are proud of their weight machines, "largely because they cost huge amounts of money." Well, no. Mostly because for beginners it is easier to teach an exercise on a machine and there is less chance of injury. And for most of the general public, ease of a workout -- heck, just getting to one -- comes first. Free weights are grand for others who are more serious -- or those, regardless of level, who are willing to focus more on their technique."
Nevertheless, Soles does a superb job in one compact book of putting together a basic fitness summary that climbers of all levels should be able to relate to and learn from, which should of course help their climbing skills too.