Climb On!

Mike Kimmel tests his bouldering skills. Photo: Meghan Kimmel

Mike Kimmel tests his bouldering skills. Photo: Meghan Kimmel

For Coach & Climber Mike Kimmel, It’s all about multitasking

By Kim Fuller

Mike Kimmel started climbing when he was 15, and immediately fell in love with the sport. He eventually worked as a route setter and climbing coach to support himself through college and graduate school. Now, as the youth program director for Grand Valley Climbing, Kimmel also works as a high school teacher and an instructional technology specialist who supports teachers.

“Helping people learn new skills has been a driving force in my career path,” Kimmel says. “Coaching climbing is almost the perfect balance for me because I can take all I know about teaching theory and what I know about how people climb and combine them.”

Climbing is addictive, he says, because it’s physically and mentally challenging, fosters a great community, and allows people to experience nature and travel.

To balance training and performance, Kimmel says it takes diligent effort and planning.

“I work full time for the school district, run the youth programs and competition team for Grand Valley Climbing, and have a six-month old child and two dogs — so I really have to design my training schedule well in advance,” he shares. “Picking a career that allows for time off throughout the year (and summer) is important to allow for longer climbing trips.”

Kimmel admits the lifestyle requires sacrifices.

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“So, for me, it’s meant less sleep and learning to get better at multitasking,” Kimmel says. “I’ll get my cardio work in by running the dogs or working while on a stationary bike, and I do my flexibility work while I play with my daughter. It helps that my wife also climbs and is very understanding of how much it matters to me, and I plan my training schedule to peak around climbing trips.”

Kimmel climbs four days a week and does supplemental training on the off days.

“At least two days a week I will be up at 4:30 a.m. to train from 5-7 a.m. before school, and I try to do longer sessions on the weekends,” he says. “Depending on where I’m at in my long-term training cycle, I’ll either be focusing on bouldering and building power, or roped climbing and building up endurance.”

For bouldering, Kimmel says he focuses on maximum power and complexity of movement — finding the hardest moves he can complete and refining them to feel consistent.

For ropes, he has been working on repeats — picking five long routes and doing each one three times back-to-back.

“This is a great exercise to learn to push through both physical and mental fatigue, which are common barriers to climbing well,” he shares. “I’ve worked extensively with sports meds and physical therapists to develop specialized training plans. Zack DiCristino, the team PT for the USA Climbing Team, was instrumental in helping me develop an injury prevention training protocol that has helped me get stronger without getting hurt.”

Kimmel says he is always searching for the next best boulder in Unaweep Canyon outside of Whitewater. Longer term goals include at least one trip for some sport climbing at Wild Iris in Lander, Wyoming, an area famous for powerful climbing on small pockets.

“Knowing this, I’ve been doing a lot of specific finger strength training,” he says. “It involves a lot of hanging from different two-finger combinations and using very small edges, down to about 6 millimeters.”

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Mike Kimmel’s Pre- and Post-Climbing Fuel

Pre-Climbing: Coffee, water and some fruit or an energy bar. “This is dependent on the type of climbing, and trying hard on long climbs requires attentive nutrition so you don’t have a sudden crash in energy,” Kimmel says. “This is something I’m constantly working on. I like feeling a little hungry when I climb, but not eating enough is definitely detrimental to performance.”

Post-Climbing: “High protein and fat to help muscles heal, and staying well hydrated is also very important to preventing injury,” he says. “I really like imperial IPAs and trippels, which are probably not the best for physical recovery, but can feel really rewarding after a hard session!”

Contributor Kim Fuller is a magazine editor and writer based in Vail.