How to get better at “Rock Climbing”
In this day and age, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and forget what we are actually training for. In this post, I'm going to cover how you can get better at rock climbing. Not indoor climbing. Not at party tricks. Rock climbing.
There are various way this can be achieved. I'll focus on the most important things and leave the complex alternatives for another post.
As the sport of climbing grows we are seeing more and more people specialise in all disciplines of rock climbing. The following ideas are going focus on sport climbing but can be equally applicable to bouldering or any other discipline. One thing to note, when you get to the pointy end of your limit you'll more than likely need to get more specific, but until you are doing the basics well, don't worry about the finer details.
Go Rock Climbing
I would argue this is the most important thing anyone can do. If you are not doing this, I feel you shouldn't be even attempting to do anything else. Yes weather, work and day-to-day life are the biggest hurdles when it comes to "going climbing", but you need to be doing everything in your power to make this happen. If you want to get better at rock climbing, you need to go rock climbing. Simple.
Once you are at the cliff, the first goal is at least 10 pitches a week. Ideally 15. This might seem like a lot at first but, breaking it down, it is super achievable. 5 climbs, 3 times a week.
Once you have got the "Go Rock Climbing" sorted you can start thinking about ways to use the cliff to get better.
The Cliff Is The Best Teacher
During different times of the year, it is always a good idea to alternate what you are doing to keep forcing yourself to adapt. Doing the same type of climbing day in, day out, all year is a guaranteed way of plateauing.
These are some ideas to make sure you are getting the most out of your rock days:-
Try Hard Days (projects, onsights, flashes)
Having dedicated days to push yourself, mentally and physically, is one of the best ways to reach the next level.
Hard onsights and flashes are a great opportunity to surprise yourself and practice putting everything together. More often than not, the experiences had during these try hard moments can be pivotal in helping you level up.
Going deep into project mode and honing the intricacies of hard climbing is another exceptional way to learn to become better. If you can share the project mode with fellow climbers this will help elevate the learning. Group learning is totally underrated, especially in a very individual sport like climbing.
Challenge Your Mind
The more comfortable you are on the rock, the harder you will climb. There is only a small percentage of climbers that are comfortable climbing above bolts and pushing themselves. If you can be relaxed and be fully in tune with the current situation you will climb better. No matter how many fingerboard or limit boulder sessions you do, if you can't translate that strength to the rock and be fully relaxed on the cliff, you are limiting yourself.
Don't be afraid to fail. If your mind is trying to protect your ego, this is a good sign that it's time to try.
Practice What You Think Needs Improving
Being in the mindset of analysing yourself all the time and continuing to think about becoming better is a sure way to get better. When you have ideas or you have identified a weakness, make time for it. Explore ways to address it and continue to monitor.
e.g. If you climb slowly, practice climbing quicker. If you get scared by long runouts, practice taking falls.
Different Angles, Sectors And Rock Types
The more you can trick your mind and body the better. Variety is key. At every opportunity try and keep things interesting. If you climb at the same cliff all year round, it might seem you are getting better until you change locations. Don't be afraid to mix it up.
Whilst not at the cliff, there are a few things you can incorporate into your daily life to improve. The number one thing I would recommend is stretching. It doesn't have to be anything magical. Just make time for 15 minutes a day and focus on the areas that you think need stretching. Having more flexibility as a climber opens up so many options when it comes to adapting to different crux sequences.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how you can take your rock climbing to the next level. Climbing is a complex sport and it is easy to get overwhelmed and dive into the complexities before doing the basics well. If there is one thing you take away from this post, it is to do the basics well, then build on that.
If you are interested getting more insights into your rock climbing days, be sure to checkout out the Sequence App.