Whether you're training to be Spiderman or are looking for a new challenge, rock climbing is exciting, rewarding and brilliant exercise to boot! It works your core, back and leg muscles like not tomorrow and is a lot of fun too. Thinking about giving it a go? Expert climber and all-round adrenaline lover, Ethan Walker is here to give you som rock climbing tips to help you get started:
1. Listen to the experts!
Seek out proper training and guidance from somebody with experience. There are so many indoor climbing centres now around the country, with most major cities home to at least one or two walls. All these places provide the adequate training, courses and advice you'll need in order to learn all about the sport and climb in safety.
2. Check your gear
Give your equipment and gear regular checks. Forget about improving your actual climbing for a moment and remember to look after the equipment that is keeping you safe. Check your harness, check your rope, check your protection. Never forget that this is the gear that we are entrusting our lives to, so it is always worth checking, and then checking again.
3. Warm up
Always perform a good warm up prior to climbing, stretch well both before and after your session to avoid injury and aching muscles the next day.
4. Learn to relax
The tighter we grip, the faster our arms and hands will give out. Learn to control the way you grip the handholds, take it easy, keep cool and you'll be saving a whole bucket load of energy.
5. Use your legs, and trust those feet!
They are the strongest muscles we have, so why not use them? Once you learn to use them properly and trust that your feet will stick to those footholds, you will be able to shift your centre of gravity to be more efficient and take some of the pressure from your arms.
6. Control your movement
Really try to make a conscious effort to control unnecessary movement. Think about each foot and hand placement beforehand and try to execute the move using the minimal amount of movement needed. The more fluid and relaxed your movements become, the more energy you'll save.
Control your breathing. This is super essential. It will again help to keep you on the wall for longer as well as keep you relaxed and focused on the next move. When working through a tough sequence of moves, take deep breathes and try to stay relaxed.
8. Be confident
Picture yourself getting to the top and be confident in your ability. Visualise the moves over and over again in your mind and then turn that image of you climbing as efficiently and smoothly as possible into a reality.
9. Fuel yourself
Ensure you stay hydrated and fuelled properly throughout your session. Climbing is a full body workout and it’s important to give it the energy it requires to perform, together with the right food to maximise repair and recovery.
10. Practice makes perfect
Many people believe that the only way to be good at rock climbing is to be stronger, bringing them to the conclusion that they need to embark on strict training programs. However this is not the case. While having that extra strength is obviously going to be beneficial, the best way to get better at climbing is to actually GO climbing.
You’re far better off honing your skills through practice than engaging in intense 'training regimes'. Keep putting in the sessions, keep practicing your movement and technique and for the present try to put out of your mind the idea that bigger muscles will get you up that route you really want to do. If you focus on this I can guarantee you'll start to see gains and that strength will come to you naturally.
And lastly, have fun!