Episode 9: Climbing Culture with Dallas Mix

Episode 9

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Traditionally, climbing attracts individuals outside of the mainstream. This has contributed, at least in part, to the sport being defined by a uniquely supportive culture, distinguishing it from many other competitive individual-performance sports. The recent inclusion of climbing in the Olympics, however, has signalled a pivotal shift into the mainstream, attracting not only new athletes but also large corporate sponsorships. Today, we are joined by Dallas Mix, Head Coach for the Calgary Climbing Centre Performance Team and Technical Coach for Team Canada, to talk about the culture of climbing and how to maintain its character as the sport moves into the mainstream.

Our conversation covers a range of topics, from the various disciplines within climbing to Dallas’ coaching methods and how he trains younger athletes to be more resilient. Dallas unpacks the strength and mobility needed to excel at climbing and why he is passionate about fostering positive relationships between teammates. We also discuss the mental demands of the sport and how Dallas helps younger athletes prepare for high-pressure events. Climbing requires intensity and focus, but it also teaches you how to reckon with failure, again and again. Today’s episode is bursting with information, so make sure you tune in to learn all about the beauty of climbing and the lessons Dallas has uncovered as a coach!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Understanding the distinctions between indoor and outdoor climbing.
  • A breakdown of how indoor and outdoor climbing is incorporated into the Olympics.
  • The differences between lead climbing and rope climbing.
  • A look at the equipment involved in climbing.
  • The primary demands for strength and mobility training in climbing.
  • Dallas’ approach to training different age groups, including children.
  • How Dallas uses isometric contractions when training his athletes.
  • The risk of athletes developing eating disorders in weight strength sports.
  • What Dallas does to ensure his athletes are healthy.
  • Tools Dallas uses to test different metrics of strength and velocity in his athletes.
  • The culture of climbing and how to protect it as the sport becomes more popular.
  • How competition can affect relationships between teammates.
  • Fostering the radical idea that the better your teammate is, the better you’ll be.
  • The “ape index,” how it’s measured, and how it affects you as a climber.
  • How Dallas improves joint mobility in climbers.
  • Some of the awkward physical positions that climbing puts you in.
  • How mobility training can prevent injury and the difference between flexibility and mobility.
  • Concentric and eccentric contractions and how to use these forces in training and rehab.
  • The critical role of core strength in connecting your upper and lower body.
  • Understanding the quasistatic nature of climbing.
  • Why engineers and people with ADHD seem to be drawn to climbing.
  • The mental demands of climbing and why you need to learn to be comfortable with failure.
  • Examples of how you can learn to regulate your nervous system in high-stress situations.
  • How Dallas helps his athletes build resilience.
  • The lessons that climbing can teach you about life.


“Because of the Olympics, there’s tons of money that’s coming into climbing. Tons of athletes are joining, and we’re desperately trying to hold onto the culture that was created in an environment that was very separate from those team sports.” — Dallas Mix [0:43:26]

“[Our assistant coach] is helping champion the idea that the better your teammate is, the better you’ll be. The group of young women that I work with is so amazing. They’re receptive, they’re trying, and the result is going to be explosive.” — Dallas Mix [0:46:20]

“Taking your joints through a full range of motion every day activates all of the tissue that connects to that joint.” — Nate Ernst [01:00:10]

“90% of injuries usually come from too much force on tissue at their end ranges. If you can strengthen an athlete in their most vulnerable ranges, you’re essentially injury-proofing them.” — Nate Ernst [01:04:08]

“There is a difference between flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is the ability to get into a range of motion. Mobility is being strong throughout that range of motion.” — Nate Ernst [01:06:42]

“The balance, the tension, and your ability to move one limb while holding everything else statically, that’s what is really important.” — Dallas Mix [01:12:57]

“Athletes need to have a healthy perspective. If they need to win more than anything else, then they’re going to encounter failure, and that failure will be devastating.” — Dallas Mix [01:25:56]

“You are stronger than your fear, or your pain, or whatever it is in the way. The faster you stop worrying and start problem-solving, the more chance you have of overcoming that scary move, that dynamic move.” — Dallas Mix [01:35:42]

Links Mentioned:

Calgary Climbing Center

Dallas Mix on Instagram

Huberman Lab Podcast

Nathaniel Ernst

Nathaniel Ernst on LinkedIn


NATEFIT on Facebook

NATEFIT on Instagram

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Episode 9