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Klaus Isele: The Golden Touch

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While he was working on Silence (5.15d), Ondra experimented with Isele on a strategy to help get the crux moves ingrained into his body. The solution, seen above, was a hybrid between visualization and beta-specific resistance. Photo Andrew Bisharat
What first got you started in osteopathy?

During physical therapy school, you have mandatory internships. … I interned with a very good osteopath, and he was simply in his own league. He understood the patients as people. He saw their whole situation. And his anatomical and physiological knowledge combined with clinical reasoning was profound.

What’s the most exciting part of working with top athletes?

The sweaty palms! Feeling that you are in it as well. The excitement, the up and down, the crisis! The solution of the crisis. The community. The World Cup after-parties. The traveling, the people . . . Damn. I think I am addicted.

Tell me about something fun that happened at a World Cup after-party.

I think there were some French guys … they climbed a statue in Vail and nearly got arrested, but somehow his friends convinced the police not to imprison him.

You work with Adam Ondra, the best climber in the world. What separates Ondra
from the rest of the world’s climbers?

His determination and passion! He isn’t fancy . . . he doesn’t dress in trendy ways. He is easygoing but only cares about climbing like I have never ever seen in my 10 years of work with top elite climbers.

There is a lot of talk about “engrams” in high-end athletic training, not just climbing. What is an engram?

Think of it as a path … an engram in our brain is a connection pattern. Look at the stars. Connect some of them with imaginary lines. Then you get constellations. Every star is like a neurological cell in your brain. Connect the right ones, and there you go—your backflip is possible. But if you try your backflip wrong too many times, you will have a good and bad engram, and they compete. That is the danger of learning new things.

Are there good mental strategies to avoid generating bad engrams when working a route at your limit?

It’s not a mental thing. The rule is simple: the last repetition should be the best. After your best go: rest for a few minutes. If you are studying for your final exams, would you see a bunch of TV series after all the learning? No!

On a scale of 1-10, how important is flexibility? And why?

Can be 1 or 10. Flexibility is nothing without control and contraction. Just because I can reach something does not mean that I am able to pull out of that body position!

What are your personal climbing projects?

I’d like to sit on a port-a-ledge on pitch five of a route I just opened with friends in Greenland. From the ledge, I will throw out my fishing rod to cast 200 meters below into a fjord! No internet, nothing but rock, nature and fish! That’s my dream.

What is the future of physical therapy for you?

The old system of having a national coach that is the trainer for 10 to 30 athletes will not be the future. I could maybe have one or two more athletes like him and that’s it.