So your friend dragged you to the climbing gym and now you've got the bug. You've been going every week- your skin hurts, your forearms are on fire, you looked your fear of heights right in the face and showed it who's boss- and you're cancelling tomorrow night's karaoke plans so you can finally finish that route because you were SO CLOSE LAST TIME YOU WERE RIGHT THERE.
We all know the feeling. It's thrilling. Adrenaline-inducing. Addictive. But it's also a little infuriating. You touch back down to the ground, sweating, hands on your knees, and then a girl who's five feet tall practically floats up the route that nearly collapsed one of your lungs. How did she make that look so easy?? Well- the following is a list of techniques that, with practice, will unlock whole new levels, and they'll also turn what's barely doable for you into a nice warmup.
1. Trust the shoes. Wanting to place your whole foot- particularly the arch- on a hold is instinctual. Instead, embrace your inner ballet dancer- engage that calf and point your toes. The front end of your climbing shoe is built to withstand a great deal of pressure. This will give you another couple inches (a game changer in the climbing world) and will also engage your…
2. Legs. This sport is not just about upper body strength. That certainly helps, but, especially as you come across some not-so-great handholds, you'll need your legs to do as much work as possible. Wake up, quads! And, while we're here, don't forget about…
3. The hips. You may have noticed that the most graceful climbers often don't face the wall. You'll see them walk their feet up staircase-style, and not only does this look seriously fancy but it also gives them a significantly better reach- if your left hip is on the wall, your left arm can easily extend a good half a foot higher without destroying your right forearm.
4. Remember your core. Notice how engaging your center of gravity takes the load off your limbs. Your abs and pelvis can bring you closer to the wall and will improve your balance.
5. Foot-foot-hand, repeat. As human primates (emphasis on the human), our preliminary experience with climbing comes from ladders. Left hand, left foot, right hand, right foot. Such is not the case here. Give those biceps a break by extending your elbows completely- then find your feet. Two foot moves in a row, maybe even three, will help you get your body (especially the hips!) into the best possible position for your next reach.
6. Rest. It's easy to overdo it. Take a seat and relax. Strike up conversation with your fellow climbers and maybe even stretch! And while you're doing that…
7. Watch. One of the best parts of an indoor climbing community is the opportunity to learn from others. We are all, to some extent at least, visual learners. Watch a pro and anticipate their moves. See where they surprise you. Notice their steady pacing. And if you see a hold that somebody on the wall isn't seeing, say something! Often, the best climbing is achieved as a team effort.
These techniques help us climb smarter, not harder. Engage your entire body and try to find the easiest way up the wall. You'll be surprised by what you discover!