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Book review - Make or Break by Dave Macleod

By johnkettle, Feb 24 2015 12:39PM

Five years ago Dave published ‘9 out of 10 climber make the same mistakes’ and in doing so gave climbers a veritable goldmine of tactical, technical and lifestyle guidance to up their climbing game. After four years in the making, Make or Break has now landed and focuses exclusively on climbing injuries. Like its predecessor it takes a holistic approach to the subject, exploring the unconscious choices and mistakes that often precede injury, as well as tackling the numerous treatment options.

For me the most original and essential content comes in the first six (of twelve) sections that address the overall approach to climbing and how this directly affects your chance of injury. Technique, posture, activity and rest are his ‘big four’ pivotal habits that can either reduce or increase your injury rate. In an attempt to filter out all the poor advice available online, research evidence given for every treatment and protocol is rigorously divided into scientific, clinical and anecdotal (experience based) to avoid confusion. Dave has done literally years of research into this, and as a result this makes a great layman’s reference book for those averse to reading academic journals.

Dave thoroughly hammers home his three big take-home points of; seeking top quality coaching as a preventative measure, using the most expert medical support you can afford, plus seeking second and third opinions to avoid mis-diagnosis. Anyone with a climbing career blighted by injury will find themselves nodding in agreement with many of his statements!

The next five sections delve in greater details into the most common injuries (and their treatment options) with chapters devoted to fingers, elbows, shoulders, feet and lower limbs, providing an excellent reference tool for that next tweak. The final section entitled ‘Further Reading’ begins as a reading list of all things scientific, but blossoms into valuable further advice, plus the inspiring ‘tale of woe and hope’ that puts it all into a human context with Dave’s own injury history.

For many readers the significant barrier to getting the best from ‘9 out of 10..’ was its editorial style and delivery. An intense, dry and academic style made it heavy going, the superlative content being its’ saving grace. So how does ‘Make or Break’ compare? While it’s definitely no coffee table picture book, readability had increased considerably with the addition of pictures, diagrams, quotes and even occasional jokes to aid digestion of a fundamentally dry subject. The ‘human touch’ of anecdotes and real-life stories on each subject would be the icing on the cake for me, and bring it to life a little more.

How likely is it to be read by those habit-forming teenagers in their first decade of climbing is questionable - I think a condensed, colourful, celebrity-laden ‘Espresso Lessons’ version would better capture that market. For now that responsibility remains with their coaches and mentors. As such I believe it’s essential reading for anyone who considers themselves a coach, and anyone who intends to progress their climbing beyond their 20’s will benefit from this future classic.

Available from Dave's website and online retailers.


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john kettle

climbing coach and guide