Time to Climb America Tour: Melvin “Sloth” Rivera

Melvin Rivera on the Time to Climb America Tour in Bishop California

Hailing from the Silk-City streets of Paterson, NJ this climber has been grabbing plastic & stone for over 4 years now. Whether it be his local go-to spot in the Gunks of NY state, taking a drive up to Rumney, NH or flying out to Red Rock and Bishop. See what motivates this “Joe-Schmo” climber to be crushing V7s and 5.12s outside.

Melvin Rivera on belay in Red Rocks Nevada Time to Climb AmericaMelvin Rivera first walked into NJ Rock Gym roughly 4 years ago and has never seemed to have walked back out. You can find him in the place 7 days a week either running 4x4s bouldering or projecting routes on lead with this lion like roar. When Mel is not climbing he has the drill & allen keys in his hands setting routes just for fun.

Mel joined us on several stops on the Time to Climb America Tour last year. As someone who works the 9-5 job, pays bills, and has responsibilities like the rest of us, we asked Mel “How do you do it? What keeps you going?”  Mel shared with us what keeps him climbing and climbing stronger:

 I try and go to my rock gym a minimum 3x times a week. While I am there I have formed somewhat of a routine that’s still in the making… 3 years later.

When I first started, I would just do it initially for the satisfaction of finishing a climb. It was a rush to get two hands in the finish box, but soon after I wanted not to just the climb but also the control and power to do the climb. This went well beyond just the satisfaction and gratification of finishing the climb.

The ability to not be flailing around like a strong idiotic chimp was essential to me, I want to have so much control that it was unfathomable. Soon after I started training I began asking for tips around the gym about the technique, my fingers, muscles, form and overall power.

I quickly got two answers:

 A) Get strong by climbing more (long term results)

 B) Train and get more immediate results.

So it began… “The training for fun”

Melvin Rivera with the mono finger hold in the Dacks

  1. I became more aware of my pains and what they meant. This lead to treating all pains as threats to my climbing. I treated everything that wasn’t normal as a serious problem!
  2. I added a routine that involved a lot of core/ ab exercises and also arm and finger strengths such as different hand positions and lock-offs. (I am a huge fan of lock-offs!)
  3. Last but not least… climbing slower… like really slow… like “Sloth” slow

Soon, I began enjoying the amount of control I had in the climbing I did. I enjoyed not having to rush to the next hold because of the amount of control I had on my previous hold and/or position. I can say with much certainty that I am static climber. I despise dynamic climbers, dynamic movements and last but not least the “Dyno” I am not in the least bit a fan.

Hanging out bouldering www.TimetoClimb.com

I have been climbing a little over 4 years now and the one thing I hold near & dear is that I have zero injuries related to climbing. Not to say that I have not had ‘pain’, I have pain but nothing that ever stopped me from climbing. If something bothers me, I will downgrade my climbing or do it less frequently, but never do I stop. Some of my friends have what I call the “climber’s mentality”. They will climb, climb and climb some more… They will never take good breaks and then still climb more.

They will have a small injury and decide “yeah I can climb through this” and before you know it they are missing for a month or two. When I ask them “Hey where’ve you been?”, (I already know the answer….) “yada yada, because I blew out my A2 tendon”. That’s something I personally do not want. The sadness of not climbing and the obvious pain of injury. I strongly believe that static climbing is what has kept me injury free for a very long time.

Mel deadpointing power of the pesimist www.TimetoClimb.com

Adding on the Pounds:

I recently started climbing with extra weight to help with my mobility and overall control under certain situations. I had to start all over again, going from the bottom up with the extra weight.

1st week –  I tried all v0 and v1,

2nd week – v2 and v3 ,

3rd week – v3 and v4

By the end of the month I was projecting v5’s in the gym with an extra 10lbs on my chest. I felt somewhat held back with the weight. You’re probably thinking “Duuuuh” … but not me, I wanted to feel normal, and I didn’t.

Right around the 6th week of climbing with the vest did I start to feel normal again. Now almost 3 months later I can’t seem to climb without it. It just doesn’t feel normal. I feel great climbing with the extra weight and doing my normal routine. Once in a blue moon I will remove the vest when I get really frustrated on problem or route… this is essentially my “cheat”, it becomes almost unfair if I climb without my vest.

It is amazing what your body can become used to doing. It is even more amazing what is possible when 10lbs is removed!  Still, I don’t do it frequently, because even if I can achieve the climb without my vest, I am unsatisfied till it’s done with it. I feel more content when I can achieve my climbing with my vest on. This is why I am thinking about adding more weight, 2 to 5lbs around my ankles. This means starting all over again.. I have to mentally prepare myself for this step-back. It’s very easy to jump back on the hard crew and think you can crush it without getting hurt.

Mel bouldering Ironman Traverse in the Buttermilks in Bishop California

“When training for fun goes for broke”

The real fun begins when I am getting ready for a climbing trip. Depending on where and for what I am going on such as sport leading, bouldering etc. I tweak my routine. By nature I am a boulderer so if I am going on a bouldering trip I will add in a 4×4 routine (climbing up-down the same route four times). If I’m climbing in the high east, such as the Gunks,  I will try and add in more thin crimps, flakes and some nail biters. If I’m exploring the west I will do a little research and figure out what kind of stone I’ll be grabbing. I look up descriptions and read on textures for example ‘Red Rocks’ I came across a lot of large slopers, thin shakey flakes along with odd body positions. I also change up my diet by eating more chicken and less carbs… I will also throw in more apples and bananas.

Mel leading on Bonaire 5.9+ Classic

Letting the relaxation kick-in:

You cannot climb all day all the time, it’s just not possible, not without serious consequences. You have to let your brain relax and your muscles will follow. I spend my off time in the winter by snowboarding and my summers riding around my motorcycle. Once in a while I will try something new like kayaking for a few days or hiking around small parks in short distances.

Lastly, Life wouldn’t be fun if it was easy … when in doubt just keep reaching.

  Looking to go Bouldering? We recommend checking out this spot in the Northeast:

Nine Corners Lake: Bouldering in the Adirondacks

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