Ever heard of the 10,000 hour rule? “The principle holds that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to become world-class in any field” by Malcolm Gladwell. Many climbers ask me how I get better at climbing. I usually say keep getting on rock or plastic, especially if you have only been climbing for 0 - 2years. Your body is still adapting to climbing, building the correct muscles, skin and movements for the job. So the more hours you climb the better you will get! I definitely have not accumulated 10,000 hours climbing, walking or hugs!!!
I still find it quite amusing when a new couple goes climbing for the first time. Especially, when the guy has layers and layers of weight lifting muscles and the girl is super petite. I always see the girl crush him on the routes. Just proves that strength only gets you so far! So how do you improve your technique? Personally, I learnt the basics from more experienced climbers. Similarly, you can get the basics from technique classes that climbing gyms provide. After that, I observed climbers who had flawless technique, to learn more. I watched foot placement, hand grips, body position and balancing points. My goal was to look smooth and controlled on the wall, like a ballerina. So even when I warmed up, I treated it as technique practice and I climbed as effortlessly as possible. Work hard on being in balance for every foot placement and hand movement. Remember, you and your body never stop learning technique, so let it embrace you!
When any task is in front of you, you may be faced with little voices in your head saying “What if I fall?”, “This is too dangerous”, “I don’t know if I can do the next move?”, “I’m so pumped”, “I don’t want to get hurt!” … the list is never ending. The further I progress with climbing, the more I realise that believing in yourself and pushing through your mental barriers is what can enable you to reach your goals. Physically we are usually totally capable of performing the move or task – we just have to believe it. Here’s an example. I have been pumped silly on a route, and it was imminent that my blood vessels were going to explode. My bricked forearms make every move feel more and more desperate due to my loosening grip. I ‘think’ I’m going to fall off but I’ve discovered if I push through, I would often make it at least a few more moves higher, or sometimes even end up with a send! ‘Pushing through’ literally means in that crucial moment, believing you are capable of something, that you may have no prior evidence of being able to do.
Fear of falling, who has not been through this??? Why? We are just not programmed to enjoy falling. So how can we overcome this fear? Think of a ladder, you can put the fear of falling into brackets of certain heights say on a scale from 1 to 10: 1 being the easiest fall to 10 being “I could never do that!”. Keep in mind that you will have to build up to doing all these falls. Here is an example below, although you can make your own progression up with what you feel comfortable achieving, and with less levels if you want. Please make sure you are on an adequately long (and preferably steeper) route, with room to spare and have gear backed up when you are taking longer falls. Additionally, have a belayer you trust and remember that whilst you are facing a fear - safety comes first!
Be Kind to Yourself
“Self-compassion - extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering” Wiki. Every person struggles with this; we can be so hard on ourselves especially when we fail! Sometimes, I don’t even realise I was being extremely negative on myself. Until you actually realise and accept that you are being negative, you can’t improve your thoughts. Ever been called a strong climber and brushed it off? I have done that a million times. People don’t say things because they don’t mean it, so take a minute to reflect on what they say and be happy about an awesome compliment… let it sink in a little! When you are a climber, it is super easy to compare yourself to other climbers, gosh, I definitely have. I remind myself that climbing is fun and we are all here to help out each other. I have helped and been helped by climbers. We are always learning, so why do we need to be competitive and/or compare yourself? No one’s is going to go up to you and say “You are weak you, shouldn’t be on the wall!” it’s all in your head or those people are not worth hanging around with! Think of how you view other climbers when they struggle, fail or succeed. I bet you usually have kind thoughts for them, so do the same for you!
Pin point your weaknesses!
My goal is to be an ‘all-rounder’ climber. I know we like to train or climb to our strengths, but that will only get you so far. For example, thanks to some crack climbing I remember finding a hand jam on a sport climb and I was so glad I knew how to jam! So my advice is to ask your friends, video yourself or self-assess what your weaknesses are. 2 years into my climbing, I worked really hard on my goldfish beta memory, flexibility, endurance and technique. My climbing improved exponentially and even now I continue to pin point and work on my weaknesses. Simple but effective stuff!
Rest is best!
Psyched to climb every day? Be careful when you’re new to climbing. Your body is growing the muscles you need to scale those walls. Muscles grow faster than tendons, and this can cause strained/inflamed tendon injuries like tennis elbow etc. Also, the more tired you are when you climb the easier it is to make mistakes or go for a hold half-heartedly. It’s leading you into injury territory. I have been quite fortunate with injuries so far, touch wood. I usually climb 2 days in a row max and do some cross training on my rest days. Listen to your body!
So give these little tips a go; you don’t need to be strong to be an awesome sauce climber. Just have a great attitude, work on a bunch of little improvements, enjoy the process, be silly, sing, fart and wiggle that sexy climber butt!