Be A Better Climber, For Beginners

Following up on this post, I wanted to write a "next steps" post for folks that have just begun climbing but want to improve.

If you've been climbing for a few months pretty regularly, and you're doing around V1-V2 boulders and around 5.9 on ropes routes, this post is for you. You've figured out the basics, you own gear, and you can handle yourself fairly well independently in the climbing gym, but you want to start breaking through into the intermediate grades and improving as a climber. Here are my tips for those of you that fit that description:

Tip #1: Climb! A lot!

In general, the more you climb, the better. This tip would only not apply if you're suffering from seriously torn-up skin or at-risk tendons. The volume of your climbing, especially when you are a new climber, is super important! Climb as much as you can without getting burnt out.

Tip #2: Climb with people that motivate and inspire you.

Though this doesn't have to be stronger climbers, climbing with people stronger than you certainly doesn't hurt - the climbing community is a wealth of free information that others are ready to give to you. They can educate you, yes, but simply watching stronger climbers climb will teach you technique, beta, and can inspire you in ways that climbing alone simply won't. Even if your climbing partners aren't stronger than you, climbing with people that are motivating and inspiring and will help you reach your goals is super-important if you're looking to excel in this sport.

Tip #3: Vary your climbing.

Boulderer, gettin' weird on ropes

It's natural, especially as you become a more experienced climber, to be drawn to one type of climbing or another (whether that be bouldering or ropes). One pitfall I think many climbers fall into is not being willing to vary their climbing. Even if you are a hardcore boulderer, climbing ropes once out of five sessions is extremely valuable to your training as a boulderer. You're doing a higher volume of moves, and thus, learning technique and improving your strength at a more rapid rate. The opposite is also true - if you've decided you would rather lead climb (or even top rope) than boulder, it is critical that you work bouldering into your training schedule. As you advance, ropes routes become more "bouldery" in nature, with each individual move becoming more difficult and more powerful. Training boulders is the singlemost rapid way to improve your power as a climber.

Tip #4: Take projecting seriously.

Projecting is really, really valuable, particularly when you are a new climber and are learning technique and movement basics. Focus well on your projects - find a climb that is really hard for you, and stick to it. Work out every move, then focus on stringing them together. This is going to teach you a lot more about minute body movements than anything else will, particularly if you are finding climbs that take you a week or more of sessions and 100 attempts to complete.

Tip #5: Warm up well!

Warm up slowly. If you have the time to take 45 minutes warming up, do it. Stretch a lot - particularly your hips and hamstrings, which need a full range of motion when you're rock climbing. Warm up your  muscles, either by doing dynamic stretching, plyometrics, or through climbing, low and slow. Spend a solid 20 minutes doing those things before moving on to a solid 20-30 minutes of really low, slow bouldering. V0's, V1's, V2's, until you reach one level below your "projecting level," and maintain a light pump during your warm up. Take your time! Be patient with your body and treat it well, focus on improving your range of motion and warming your muscles and tendons so you can help prevent injury while projecting.
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The Business of Being Busy: How Being Busy Has Become A Status Symbol

How many of you have ever found yourself in this scenario:

Friend: How are things going?
Self: Oh, pretty good, BUSY! How are you? [While sitting on the couch trolling Facebook on your phone]

Here's the thing. I'm a pretty legitimately busy person (right now). I may sleep late, but my work schedule is wacky and my job is very physically demanding. I put in a lot of hours outside the gym doing things for my job just because I love it THAT much. Between blogging, keeping up with my own athletic schedule, and coaching, I probably am putting in 12-hour days pretty regularly. But, if you think about it….it's not like I'm sleeping the other 12 hours. I have a few hours a day where I'm just….chillin'. Usually texting my friends, trolling Instagram (my faaaavorite), hanging out with my husband, adulting….you know, whatevering around. So why is it that we feel the compunction to say "SOOOO BUSY!" when our friends text us?

I've totally found myself in the above situation, and I don't quite understand how being busy has become a status symbol. Is it because others will see you as more highly valued, and more highly demanded, because you are busy? Or is it because others will see you as having a higher work ethic if you're busy? Maybe others will see you as more goal-oriented, or your life as more exciting and fast-paced, if you're busy.

The 'status' of being busy is an American phenomenon (this article covers this issue in more depth). In other countries and parts of the world, being overly busy - or being perceived as overly busy - is actually seen negatively, as the person appears to lack control over their own lives, and to have poor time-management skills. There is real danger in being too busy (and I myself need to remember this, pretty much every day, when I am Instagramming, emailing and Facebooking for our team at 11:30pm, in my bed, on my phone, in the dark). Work overload leads to burnout, takes your attention away from important tasks and decreases your focus on social support, which in turn reinforces said burnout.

Find a balance. Create a schedule. Schedule in time to meditate, or use meditation as a transitional exercise between work and home. Get home from work, put way your electronic devices, and take a walk to transition to your relaxing, at-home, after-work time. Disconnect your email from your phone. Get more sleep. Spend more time with your loved ones. Eat good food. Talk about deep, and important, life-affirming topics with people you care about. It's okay to not be busy. The work will be there tomorrow, you can take the time tonight to disconnect.
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