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The Hive’s Elite Climbers Discuss Reopened Gyms

Ivan Luo and Kindar McNamee discuss climbing in reopened gyms following their training in isolation

Following three months of stay-at-home measures, climbing gyms across Canada are beginning to open their doors. Reopened gyms are becoming comfortable with new regulations. This week, The Hive entered its third stage of reopening while Quebec’s Bloc Shop and Allez Up announced their reopening for June 22.

As climbing gyms begin to figure out which regulations will work for their facilities, climbers without access to these reopened gyms have begun to wonder what climbing in the “new-normal” will look like. To answer the question, we sat down to speak with B.C. competitor Ivan Luo and 2020 Junior Bouldering Champion Kindar McNamee, two of The Hive’s elite climbers.

Though these two are competitive athletes, they reflect many of the regular climber’s fears. McNamee said, “At first, I was worried that going back to the gym would not be as exciting as it used to be.” This is understandable as each of us have been away from climbing for so long. It can be difficult to remember how we fell in love with our sport. Fortunately, McNamee went on to say, “My passion for climbing came back immediately.”

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YES!!! I am SO happy to be climbing again!!! Guy and I climbed at the Hive Vancouver for around 2 hours. I was a bit afraid that it wouldn't be very fun since it would be quite different, but it was GREAT! The mask was very annoying, though. It was hard to breathe. I was always out of breath after doing a hard climb. The liquid chalk was also not ideal. Small price to pay. It felt so good to be back on the wall, though!! 🎥 by @guymcnamee. @flashedclimbing, @MECambassador, @MECnation, @evolv_worldwide, and @evolvcanada, #highfrictionday, #flashpodium, #climbfreeclimbfreelessly, #mecambassador, #mecnation, #climbingcompetition, #climbing, #hiveclimbing, #LSN2019, #evolv, #competitionwall, #ybn2020, #champion, #bouldering, #boulderinglife, #ywch, #boulderinggym, #leadworldcup, #ywch2019, #rockclimbing, #climber #evolv_worldwide, #flashedclimbing, #athlete, #liveclimbrepeat, #training #trainingmotivation, #climb

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Even still, climbing is not the same as it once was. Luo said, “It feels different than pre-quarantine that’s for sure: a lot of safety measures to follow, keeping distance away from other people, cleaning up equipment after use, and washing hands when entering or leaving the building.”

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With booked time slots, the pair found themselves having to adapt to get the most out of their sessions. Luo has begun warming up outside of the gym so that he can maximize his session. He said, “I found that I’m spending my time training more wisely than before because I only have two hours each time.”

Though spending time more efficiently is good, the pair have found that it has come at a cost. McNamee said, “The social aspect has changed.” With only two hours to climb, a climber must move through their session with speed if they wish to accomplish everything they are hoping to.

With that said, climbing in the gym has been good. McNamee said, “It feels great. I love climbing and I have missed it a lot. I am excited to set new goals.” Some of these goals appear to be found in outdoor climbing.

This sentiment is shared by Luo and is indicative of a general trend toward competitors stepping outside to climb. Over the last couple weeks, Becca Frangos and Tosh Sherkat each completed hard outdoor sport routes. These ascents may preface a potential sending spree this summer.

As for the managerial side of things, both Luo and McNamee were impressed by the measures The Hive took in keeping their community safe. Luo said, “The Hive is doing an amazing job at keeping climbers safe. Lots of surface cleaning for the gym staff, limiting to only 50 people in the gym at a time, requiring face masks, liquid chalk only, and yet still having new routes every week for climbers to climb! Very thankful for the Hive community and the staff and gym owner for all of their hard work to make this all possible!”

So how are the two climbers feeling post-isolation? How did they work to retain strength? McNamee said, “Guy and I built a hangboard stand on our deck. On the stand, we have two hangboards: Beastmaker 2000 and Metolius 3D Simulator. We also added some Digit crimps and pinches. Each week during the isolation we did daily stretching, high intensity interval training twice a week, core workout twice a week, strength training twice a week, and hanging three times a week. We really missed actual climbing, but we don’t have room in our townhouse for a climbing wall.”

McNamee’s approach is similar to the efforts of most climbers’ training during isolation. Hangboards and fitness are awesome, but they are difficult to stay motivated on. Though they do represent a lot of the strength training that climbers need to succeed, it can be difficult to believe that they can supplement actual climbing. According to McNamee, however, training during isolation worked. “I noticed that I was stronger. My finger strength has really improved. I can hang on tinier holds now. My arms have also strengthened a lot. Also, my flexibility has improved.”

For Luo, the feeling was similar, though his method of training was rather different. Luo said, “I was lucky enough to have access to a home wall where I was still able to make up some boulder problems or 20 move circuits! Still kept up with my weighted hangs three times a week, and did a lot more strength training! I thank my training partner Kin Wah Lai for that! Honestly these past three months away from the gym went by pretty fast to me, because I have always been psyched to train and looked forward to the days where I’m able to climb indoors again.”

Luo is happy with his strength gains. He said, “I have noticed that I am more confident hanging on smaller edges and able to do more one arm hangs on crimps. Still getting used to climbing around on volumes and dynoing, but I hope the touch will come back soon enough. “

For the two climbers, the reopening of climbing gyms has been exceptional. They have enjoyed their sessions, and though things are not quite as they used to be, the new-normal is working for them. Climbing in masks is not fun, but it lends a sense of additional safety. The Hive’s extensive safety measures have allowed for their reopening to move smoothly with their climbers.