7 things I wish I knew before I started bouldering
Guest Blogger Hannah Morris talks through some of her top tips for bouldering beginners which she has found out over the years.
7 things I wish I knew before I started bouldering:
As I look back on almost five years of climbing, it’s difficult for me to remember a time when heading to the climbing gym wasn’t at the core of my routine. I first started climbing during a difficult time in my life and the sport quickly became an integral part of my week.
So, if you’re starting out bouldering, and you’d like some guidance on your new favourite sport, here are the 7 things I wish I’d known when I started out five years ago.
1. Look after your fingers
In a classic case of ‘’do as I say, not as I do”, the biggest piece of advice I could give to anybody starting out in the climbing gym is to warm up your fingers. Finger injuries seem part of the course in bouldering. You’d struggle to find a seasoned climber who hasn’t known the anguish of a pesky tendon tear. Say ‘dreaded finger pop’ in the gym loud enough and you’ll see the collective shudder of climbers who’ve spent longer with their hands in ice baths than they’d care to remember.
2. Knees are important too
The same can be said for our knees. As the years progress and our joints start to creak and complain, us boulderers start to remember all the times we shock loaded our knees with stylish descents (or mega falls) onto the matting below. Our knees are pretty important pieces of kit, and they take a pretty bad beating in the climbing gym. We’d do well to pay them the respect they deserve by climbing down when possible (it’s generally good gym etiquette to down-climb rather than land on someone too). Hopefully, our knees and our backs will thank us later in life.
3. Rest days are as important as training days
So you’ve recently discovered bouldering. Naturally, you love it, you want to be in the climbing gym all the time, rest days feel like torture, and you’re counting down the minutes until your next session? Yeah? That feeling doesn’t ever really leave but learning how to get the most out of rest days helps to maintain focus, avoid injury and encourage progress. Give your body some time to adjust to this crazy sport you’ve just taken up and be mindful of not trying to do too much too soon – you’ll see the benefits. At least that’s what we tell ourselves to make rest days more bearable.
4. Technique is everything
Bouldering well is a skill. Like all other movements, climbing is more easily achieved when done efficiently. If you want to climb harder and avoid injury as a beginner, nailing good technique should be a priority. Practice your footwork and your body positioning, make use of training tools such as the circuit board and don’t rely too much on your biceps to pull you up the wall. Think straight arms, pushing through your legs and keeping your hips close to the wall. This will help you to conserve energy on the wall and it might even give your shoes an extra few month’s life too. Not kicking holes in the toes of your shoes is aspirational for all, you heard it here first. This leads us nicely on to number 5.
5. Shoes make a huge difference
6. Tape is your friend.
The humble roll of climbing tape can be used to aide all manner of climbing ills. A wrap of tape can hold together the gnarliest of flappers, preserve skin, support joints and prevent finger injuries. If you’re a beginner boulderer and you’re lucky enough to not know what flappers are yet, I’ll save you the trauma for now. You’ll find out soon enough!
7. Grades are completely subjective.
Bouldering grades are a complex thing. There are a number of different grading systems and much debate as to how we measure ‘difficulty’, exactly. It’s easy to get pulled into the trap of chasing higher and higher grades in the gym but it’s worth remembering: grades are little more than a route setter’s best estimate of difficulty. Whilst setters are very experienced in these estimates, they’re still entirely subjective. There is no objective difficulty in bouldering, because there isn’t a single common trait shared by everybody and everybody climbs slightly differently