I began climbing in November last year, and it very quickly became a regular part of my routine. Climbing is such a fun way to build strength, stay healthy, and keep your mind occupied. Here are 10 things that have helped me become a better climber over the past few months:
Buying my own pair of climbing shoes encouraged me to climb more (partly due to the expense😅 but mostly) because I feel more confident in shoes that are suited to my feet and the level of climbing I’m currently at. It’s also nice to have shoes that other people’s stinky feet haven’t been in. I went for these as they’re a great price for a first climbing shoe. Take a look at Ellis Brigham, Rock + Run and Decathlon for other styles, although I’d really recommend you go in store to get the perfect fit!
- Watch other climbers
Watching other climbers in the centre, and on YouTube and Instagram videos, really helped me to learn and understand different climbing techniques. You can find so many helpful videos on YouTube, and Movement for Climbers is a great place to start. Following your climbing centre’s insta means you can stay up to date on all the new routes. It also helps to follow/search the centre’s location and hashtag, as other avid climbers will often upload videos of themselves climbing certain routes that you can copy from.
- Practice practice practice
And practice some more. Keep trying climbs you find difficult – within reason. Just because you can’t do a climb on your first try doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do it on the second, or even thirtieth try. Practice makes perfect.
- Trust your legs!
For most people, your quads and glutes are a lot stronger than your arms. Trust your leg strength as relying on your arms means you’ll tire quickly – meaning less climbing time. Pushing yourself up using your lower body and core is easier than pulling yourself up using your upper body.
- Do the route in your head
This is known as mapping. Take a look at the route to determine which holds are for your feet or hands, and imagine where you will move your limbs and adjust your balance to get up the wall. It helps to remember that climbing often requires alternating bilateral movement, meaning you’ll move your right hand/foot then your left and so on, or vice versa.
- Try different types of climbs
Some people are better at dynamic climbing, whilst others are better at static climbing (I’m definitely more of a static climber!). Static climbing is slow and careful, whilst dynamic is faster and fluid. You’ll find that climbs often require a mixture of static and dynamic moves – there’ll be certain points in the route where you can hold yourself in place (known as a ‘lock-off’) while you reach for the next hold, and other points where you’ll have to move quickly between holds. Some routes will focus on strength, like overhangs, whilst others focus on balance, as you have to use the wall or get your body around the corner of the wall. I find overhangs so difficult and used to avoid them, but I realised that would just stop me from improving so I make sure to do a few, even if I can’t complete them at first. Challenge yourself to do climbs that scare you or you find difficult, and do climbs above your usual climbing grade – you might surprise yourself!
- Warm up
It doesn’t always feel like it, but climbing requires a lot of strength and engages muscles we don’t use every day. It helps so much to do some stretches and exercises before you start to warm your muscles up. Remember to warm your hands up too, and practice exercises that build up finger strength.
- Practice yoga
Yoga and climbing actually go hand in hand. Both require you to be aware of and control your centre of gravity, focus on your balance, test your stamina, improve your flexibility and move fluidly between moves.
- Go with other people
You and your friends are definitely going to have different strengths and weaknesses so you can help out and encourage each other. If you’re at uni, you can join the climbing society, and even if not, climbing centres do tend to have groups (like a women only climbing group) where there’s likely to be a range of climbing abilities. Going with climbers of different abilities means more people you can learn from and ask for help on routes and techniques.
- Don’t chalk up straight away!
Excess chalk can be a hindrance as it can make holds feel slippy, as the friction between your hands and the hold is reduced. Only chalk up when your hands start to feel sweaty. A brush can come in handy (climbing centres provide a few) if holds are completely covered in chalk and difficult to get a grip on.
Bonus tip: don’t let go.
Feel free to share your on tips with other climbers in the comments!