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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

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Austrian Sport Climber - Pure Muscle
Visits Land of Enchantment

(With Excerpts from Climber's Diary--and Update on 2007 Climbing Results)

Jürgen Reis navigating an overhang. Photo by Jürgen Christmann – Austria – www.cuadro-austria.com  

After reading and benefiting from the German edition of our book Lean For Life (and then our other books in English), Jürgen Reis decided to visit Albuquerque and experience the Ripped lifestyle up close and personal. After a week of eating, training and getting acquainted, Carol and I are convinced that he is the real deal. Jürgen, 30, is the author of two best-selling German-language fitness books, The Peak Principle (Das Peak-Prinzip) and Peak Power, and is working on a third. He’s now in his sixth year as a member of the Austrian World Cup team of sport climbers. In September 2006, he placed second in the Austrian Championship in Graz.

He is pure muscle and bone. In action on the climbing wall or in the gym, his muscles spring to life. It’s almost as if he has no skin.

Photo by Carol Bass.

Jürgen grew up in a sports-minded household in Dornbirn, Austria. His father, Erwin Reis, is the Fitness Director of his hometown, where Jürgen still lives. He tells us that his father is instrumental in bringing the biggest mass sports festival in the world, the World Gymnaestrada (www.wg2007.com), to Dornbirn in July 2007. 

His parents divorced when Jürgen was 7; he lived with his mother, Monika, until age12, when he went to live with his father and step mother, Andrea. Even when he was living with his mother, however, his father remained nearby to offer support and encouragement to Jürgen and his younger sister, Sonja.

His mother had no car and no TV; she apparently didn’t want either one. So the family walked or biked everywhere. “I spent a lot of my time climbing trees,” says Jürgen. “My mother has always been very active. I think my athletic potential comes largely from her.”

When he was 9-years-old, the family went to a regional sports fair, where Jürgen saw his first climbing wall. The seed was planted. Climbing became his "dream sport." No climbing facilities were available to him at the time, however. He started serious training at 14, doing chin-ups, push-ups, running, jumping, etc. (everything he could think of) to get stronger and fitter. At 17, he built a small climbing wall in the family basement. Six months later, he entered his first climbing competition--and won!

His goal, as a teenager and now, is to compete with the ten strongest climbers from all over the vertical world in the renowned Rockmaster Climbing Competition held each year in Arco, Italy.

Jürgen Knows His Body

Jürgen may be the most determined and disciplined person ever to visit with us in Albuquerque, and there have been many.

On the first morning of his visit, around 6:30, I went to the guest bedroom to tell him breakfast was about ready; he was gone, on an early morning jog. He did this every morning he was with us—and then happily went for a walk with Carol or me after breakfast. He’s so full of energy that he doesn’t seem to be able to stop “bouncing around.” He liked that phrase and adopted it as his own.

I usually fix the current version of my “Old Reliable” breakfast for our guests. Jürgen politely accepted on the first morning. After that, however, he insisted on preparing and eating his own version of the “Old Reliable.” He’s the first guest to do that--a good sign. I like someone who can think for himself. He knows what his body needs, and he sticks to it. 

We’d planned a combination weights and aerobics workout on the first full day of his visit. Suffering from jet lag, he resisted what I’m sure was a strong urge to strut his stuff for “Old Man Ripped.” He settled for an easy warm-up and stretching to help his recovery along. Again, he refused to deviate from what his body needed.

When he was ready for a weight workout, he took every “work” set to the point where he could barely move the weight; clearly, he’s a HIT man. By contrast, I stopped when I couldn’t do another full rep. I believe my way is better for most people; it’s good to save a little for the next workout most of the time. But Jürgen obviously knows his body, so I didn’t question what he was doing. I was impressed with his willingness to push to the limit. That’s good when your body is rested and ready. As noted, he knows when it’s time to take it easy.

Finally, he does not train his lower body with weights. The reason is simple, and no doubt correct. Whereas a heavily muscled upper body works against a runner, muscular legs work against a climber. As you saw in the photo at the top of this article, sport climbers are often required to make their way along the ceiling like a spider. Jürgen calls heavy legs “ballast,” which is not good for a climber supporting the full weight of his body by his finger tips and toes. Not only does he know his body, he knows his sport. 

Great Day at the Climbing Gym  

Carol and I knew nothing about sport climbing until we started exchanging emails with Jürgen. When it became clear that he would be coming for a visit, we started exploring the subject in earnest. We learned that sport climbing is typically done indoors on intricate man-made surfaces. A Google search revealed that there is a terrific climbing gym right here in Albuquerque. Stone Age Climbing Gym ( www.climbstoneage.com ) has been open for 9 years and has the largest climbing wall in New Mexico (12,000 square feet of climbing terrain and over 10,000 square feet of floor space).

Several weeks before Jürgen was scheduled to arrive we went down to check it out. Wow, we were impressed. The walls are huge and covered with a wide variety of hand and foot holds. I use the word holds advisedly because they are often small and precarious, seeming to offer minimal support. It looked scary to us, but everyone--men, women, girls and boys--seemed to be having a good time.

Mark, the assistant manager who showed us around, was very friendly and familiar with the Climbing-World Cup competitions. He explained that climbing offers a total body workout with a focus on upper body and core strength (especially the abdominal area), as well as flexibility and endurance. He assured us that Jürgen would be most welcome.

When we arrived with Jürgen, owner Bryan Pletta was there to greet us. He had Jürgen sign a release form and waved him in as an honored guest with no charge. After some warm-up and stretching, Jürgen headed for the campus board (see photo below). A campus board is a tool for training strength, but its greatest asset is its ability to build power. If a hold on a climb can’t be reached, you need to move toward it explosively and that’s where power is needed.

Jürgen suspended in mid-air by his finger tips on the campus board. Photo by Sebastian Nagel, Austria: www.gestaltungssache.at

Although it was early afternoon on a weekday, there was plenty of climbers in the gym—but none were using the campus board. Jürgen said the campus board is used primarily by elite climbers. He then proceeded to demonstrate why. Jürgen exploding upward with one arm, hanging on with his finger tips, to grab several holds higher and then repeat with the other arm, back, shoulder and arm muscles contracting in bold relief, was one of the most impressive feats of upper body strength I’ve ever witnessed. To see him climb to the top hand-over-hand, and then down part way, and back up was a sight to behold. He did about three sets, and was done. It took ten or 15 minutes including rest periods. It’s HIT training, on a climbing board.

Because he was climbing alone, Jürgen expected to do bouldering, or climbing without a rope, staying low to the ground (gym rule is no more than 25 feet up) and traversing mostly sideways. But two very fit looking women (Jürgen called them “local climbing ladies”) heard his accent and came over to ask where he was from—and soon offered to belay for him, which means using a device to take in slack rope as a partner climbs to catch a fall. Before we knew it, Jürgen was preparing to tackle the most difficult climb in the gym, one that had been managed by only one other person--a professional climber Jürgen happens to know. (Like other elite pursuits, high-level sport climbing is a small world.) Cody Roth grew up in Albuquerque, where he got his start right there at the Stone Age Gym, and now climbs competitively in Europe while studying German. He competes with Jürgen in the World Cup series.        

With only three tries, on an unfamiliar wall, Jürgen succeed on the gym’s most difficult route, failing only to navigate a short extension at the very end of an upside-down stretch. Local climbers will no doubt remember Jürgen's visit for a long time to come. It was a great day for all concerned!

Stone Age owner Bryan Pletta and Jürgen talk climbing with Clarence looking on. Photo by Carol Bass.

[For more about Jürgen, visit his website: www.juergenreis.com   If you don't read German, you’ll enjoy the amazing photos; they hooked me.]

Excerpts From Jürgen's Diary

Tuesday, January 9th  

(8:30 p.m.) I leave the second flight in a rush on this mega-long day. 8 hours time lag, 2 flights and finally Albuquerque Intl Airport! Where is he? He promised to wait for me behind the Security…Security? The last one was a domestic flight...there is no security any more ...Five steps ahead he appears behind a column. I run almost straight into his warm welcoming. Clarence Bass, 69 years old and directly behind him his wife Carol, 63 years old. “You look much younger and better I ... YOU LOOK GREAT!” are my first words. He grins embarrassed but with the clearly evident portion of  “I know, of course!" Simply unbelievable – also for Carol time seems to have stopped at least two decades ago. Forgotten is the long journey and the endless entry procedures.

Wednesday, January 10th 

I allow myself one active rest-day. After a short obligatory warm-up-walk/jog in the morning, Clarence presents me his "Old Reliable Breakfast" - for decades in use and again and again optimized. He exercises since he is 12. “Looking back he never succeeded in adding muscles by adding calories.” – “Getting stronger” is his hard but also for me only truth. And I am able to convince myself of this during his workout around noon. After a Tiger's Milk and coffee snack the “General” rushes - a certain grave “winning soldier charisma” cannot be denied – into action! A telephone coaching in between? No problem…before that the training log gets 15 min. undivided attention - all aims are fixed.

His next great aim: A photo shooting at 70 – he wants to be even better than with 65! He raving over my photos and the “climbing body.” He also thinks that this is a  "winning way of life" in the long run.

So...fine weather ...? In 10 min. Carol is coming from the office – ready for the sun! A walk to the foothills in front of the house is waiting! WHAT A GREAT DAY!

P.S.: UFF - The woman has really got a proper power walk – Kudos to Carol!

Thursday, January 11th

Addendum to Wednesday evening: Yesterday's evening was holding still more. “Do what you want, I have already cooked!” Clarence takes the "discussion" about dinner easy or it does not take place at all. While Carol is enjoying a considerable meal with me he is already working again. Yes! The two of them spent yesterday many constructive, working but also affectionate, personal hours together. But after breakfast they went different ways regarding meals and also regarding their daily schedules. He is a professional – she too. Of course mutual help is permitted: Carol prepared 2 portions of her breakfast oatmeal. A portion landed in the refrigerator: The perfect after-workout snack for Clarence in the afternoon.

After dinner a thorough interview with Carol is waiting: My training and nutrition plans - in detail. She really analyzed everything and there were also some interesting parallels.

But back to Thursday morning

Today's breakfast was a "class for itself" again. He admires my "early bird qualities" - the warm-up in the morning belongs to me – wherever I am. I love it – out of bed, into the jogging shoes and greeting a wonderful day “moving Hello” during a relaxing morning run!

Body fat check in his lower level: The Tanita scale shows 5% for me - and also for Clarence the sensational value 6% - insane! He is just like me, at the marathon average value of 6% even in winter! For me there is a climbing unit waiting in the afternoon: Therefore it is staying aggressive by means of a light breakfast of vegetables and non-fat yogurt instead of Clarence's "Old Reliable" breakfast. Yesterday he has already told me: “Never copy something of me, that is not yours!” I hold on to it and he is content. There are no social obligations. He does not count calories any more for a long time. Form, mirrors and scales decide on small, fine changes. It is also possible to keep the top form this way. Instead he eats every day the same - seriously! Expect for Saturdays – there is a cinema evening together – but even then he keeps control. No question: he is a full pro. For him muscle build-up is ONLY a thing of quality - that is the intensity of the training!

When he was ill the last time? No idea...a cold or two during the last decade ... that has definitely a familiar ring. He presents me the last book still missing in my "Bass library" with a dedication. “Challenge yourself. Stop trying to get better and you are dead.“

Casually a question concerning book writing. “I love it to write in a team.” His answer, “Carol is my team.” She has completed literature studies besides her normal work in the enterprise a few years ago. Many young students were far behind her...this does not come without pride! His own greatest professional successes corresponded like mine also with Peak phases. The mind corresponds clearly with the body!

What now? No question: one more walk together under the sun of New Mexico!

The visit of the biggest climbing hall in New Mexico (Stone Age) is really like "training in paradise" for me. Managing director Bryan shows me the hall - honor guest status 100%.  It is simply unbelievable!  After warm-up, I train on the campus board for some proper High Intensity sets. Clarence is deeply impressed, HIT-climbing training fascinates him instantly.  Meanwhile two "local climbing-ladies" are immediately offering to act as climbing partners - training to success in the hall´s most difficult tour (8 a/9+/ 10 top) is the crowning conclusion of the day. [Editor: Climbs are rated on scale of 3 to 11, with 3 being the easiest and 11 the most difficult]

Back home again I work on the body tension, with Clarence observing. Some antagonist exercises with dumbbells and kettle bells follow.  He does not let me out of sight for a second during these units. Although his legs obviously hurt from standing for hours… he questions everything I do. The evening ends with a wonderful  dinner for me - Carol has cooked greatly. 

Friday, January 12

At breakfast, Clarence mentions now that I am the first Coachie who also decides on his breakfast by himself. Appreciating, because it seems that also for him control from outside and laziness are one of the greatest character weaknesses.

After a second walk with Carol this morning - again almost jogging – we are leaving for Santa Fe. On the journey Clarence is questioning my durable motivation. I put off the topic money and ask him whether he has ever done sports because of the dollars. He laughs. The excuse, "For Professionals it is easy, it is their job!” does not count for him, as little as for me. Also he exercises because he has found HIS sport and he enjoys it to still get better and better.

Carl Miller, former coach of the U.S. National team in weightlifting, and his wife Sandra cordially welcome us in the capitol of New Mexico. Their studio is like the competitive sport centre in the country sports school in Dornbirn. Both look after the athletes exercising there with an incomparable dedication. No shake bar, no cardio circles, instead hardcore training equipment and partly self-developed, very effective equipment and dumbbells as far as I can see. He has already coached numerous world champions and world class athletes. Carl is 2 years younger than Clarence - I would probably not survive weightlifting with him; -). Sandra, 60 something, demonstrates us her latest whole body exercises with dumbbells: jumping! on balance boards - unbelievable !!! A karate world champion is warming up at her side meanwhile.

The following visit to the "Miller dream house" in the mountains over Santa Fe only reminds me of films: warmth, passion and hospitality everywhere! Carl immediately questions my training – thank God that I have got the plans with me. Over the following lunch we also discuss training strategies. His remarks are absolutely "high end," he even promises to send me additional documents. The man had also undoubtedly a very positive influence on Clarence; they have been friends since teen years!

Back home I have to take a walk organize the concentrated knowledge of Carl and to assign it to parts of my book - the way is correct! A purchase in a "health supermarket" and dinner complete the long, perfect day.

Saturday, January 13

An aerobic training day with Clarence is waiting. The morning walk is a dream. Everywhere neighbors on their way to work greet me friendly.  Hardly back in the house there is no more “dreaming” - Clarence immediately puts me on his body fat scales. Still 5% - for sure! He explains the detailed, evaluated data to me and laughs: Due to his metabolism and complete physical fitness the scales have supposed he is 12 year old - exactly like me! “Then I still can pay you a visit for some decades!” He laughs self-confident! A little walk in the sun before our workout –  the cinema for the evening also wants to be chosen, and of course the training diary has to be prepared. EU stress ; -) pure in the house Bass!

Workout with Clarence...all right! He is enthusiastic about my "Russian method" to push the body tension exercises (static holding in the end)!

In exchange I have learned the following:

  1. Cool-down sets for the immediate support of regeneration (like 1 warm up set) - is cool - feeling is extremely super!
  2. 90% is his principle -- get better from training to training.
  3. For all "not climbers" one to two hard whole-body cardio units with hard intervals (MP3 player intervals to the music are also possible, change, be creative!) 20-25 minutes total. Work intervals 30s-1 min, then more relaxed approx. 1-2 min. Cool-down/warm-up 5 min each.

He thinks he still has to lose some fat and build up some muscles for the photo shooting ... poor Clarence ; -) – by the way this morning he was already at 5.6% body fat! He was very disciplined the last days...like always, I think ; -) -- in addition his notes show a lean mass increase of 2.5 kg since October 2006 – and a fat loss from over 7% to this very low value at the same time.

Cinema also shows “common pleasure control” - both share a little popcorn bag + a small diet coke – by the way also yesterday in the restaurant sharing was the key. I find it a terrific strategy! A “Creative authors walk” with Clarence, and an attractive "Carol dinner" complete another perfect day.

It is really unbelievable how open and interested they are in getting to know new things.  

Sunday, January 14

After morning walk and breakfast, it is time for strength training with Clarence! In the morning some detail discussions with Clarence regarding the training plans for peak time. It is unbelievably who much knowledge and experience he brings!

So…Tiger's Milk protein/energy bar and coffee gone – let´s start into the last training together. An incredible hard workout! I remember training this hard on weights only several years ago - with World-Cup champion climber Andreas Binhammer. No question: Clarence WILL reach his goal to be as good as he was at 65. Even better – HIT, discipline and passion to his sports. I feel like after a very hard climbing day – absolutely “shut off”!

Thank you Carol and Clarence for this unforgettable stay at your home. You are absolutely “doing what you are praying [preaching].” I have learned in these few days much more than I expected. You are very active, superhealthy and disciplined people. But most of all – your ways are heartily, well advised and always with the “long term view” of a fulfilled, valuable human being!

Your friend,


[For more about Jürgen, visit his website: www.juergenreis.com   If you don't read German, you’ll enjoy the amazing photos.]

*  *  *

Jürgen's Update : Great Success in 2007 Climbing

9th Place at International Climbing Masters in France

After a not so good start of the national - and also the Worldcup season because of a cold, I was getting fitter and fitter. The greatest surprise was a very special invitation received in June. Beside the famous Rock-Master which is held in Italy (Arco) every year [Jürgen's goal since he began climbing; see main article], there is a “Number 2” of the largest Pro-Masters in the world, organized in France. Only the best 28 men in the world are invited. Guess what …. with my good results in the World Cup 2006, I was number 26 at the deadline in spring ;-). For the very first time, I was allowed to compete! Finally [longtime goal], I climbed in the summer 2007 at the Serre Chevalier Climbing Masters to a very good 9th Place. I missed the finals just on one hold! It was a really great run! All men were only the very best in the Current world Ranking ;-). I did everything perfect, I think - PEAK 110%! So this was my very best International result !

Two new books “ready for launch”

Right after that competition I “jumped” right into the first easy workout in preparation for the world championship in Spain, on 18 September [see results below]. I wore Clarence’s Ripped tank top [see photo in main article].

After finishing my third book “Peak-Time” in three years, Clarence even motivated me for my fourth book, Power-Quest. “Remember, the only limit is the one you set on yourself. TWO NEW BOOKS! Wow. Go for it.” he wrote in an E-Mail. THANK you Clarence – and all the best for Carol!

Jürgen Reis

World Championship results

Jürgen make it to the third-day, semifinal-round for the first time--only top 26 (out of 116) made semifinal--where he missed a hold early on. "I was maybe a little bit too fast on my way in the semifinals round, right on the beginning of a steep and hard part of the route," says Jürgen. Pretty darn good--his best result ever, and with a finger injury. It certainly portends great things for the future.


More about Jürgen Reis you find on his German Homepage www.juergenreis.com – his E-Mail address is info@juergenreis.at

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