With more than 100,000 licensees in France and the democratization of the discipline of bouldering, climbing (formerly called rock climbing) is undoubtedly the activity that has the wind in its sails. Here are our tips for attacking this sport, which is intense in sensations and rich in the development of morale and self-confidence (in addition to sculpting your dream body).

So before attacking the mythical vertical walls of the Yosemite domain (California) in free solo mode, a bit of training and warming up is recommended. Climbing can be practiced at any age, as proven by Marcel Remy at the height of his 94 years, but don’t forget that the objective is above all to have fun. Here are some tips to get you started safely.


If you suffer from vertigo, choose the discipline of the block

You now have two types of climbing, cliff climbing and bouldering. And if the classic version scares you because of the height, then the bouldering discipline should suit you because the surface to climb does not exceed 5 meters high for beginners. And even if this practice does not need the usual equipment (rope, carabiners, harness, etc.), it is almost risk-free because large mattresses (crash pads) are in principle placed underneath to cushion your fall in the event of a fall. ‘failure. If you are in France, we recommend the famous site of Fontainebleau, considered a true paradise for bouldering enthusiasts.

Exercise your fingers too

Yes, because you will sometimes find yourself in situations that are not always advantageous for your body and dangerous positions where only your fingers will remain attached to the rock face, so it is better to trust them. You have to be able to rely on your fingers (no pun intended) sometimes to save yourself from a fall. With simple exercises that consist of performing short suspensions of 3 to 10 seconds with different finger grips, you will manage to develop the muscles and tendons of your hands. With stretched or slightly bent fingers (arched or pincer style for connoisseurs), this warm-up technique will allow you to have more robust fingers. An exercise to be repeated several times and often because this technique is as important as it is slow so you will have to be patient to see concrete results during your climbs. The goal is to have the least bent fingers possible during the ascent.

Learn to analyze a wall

It seems obvious but yet, some attack a route without having looked at it beforehand. The goal is to visualize the wall, to learn to read it with all the points and places where you can slide a hand or a foot and thus reach the top. Understanding, observing and analyzing the path you are going to face must be systematic. Project yourself and imagine your ascent and the path you will have to take on this wall before attacking it. It leaves less room for improvisation but when you start, it can help. Set estimates between each take and thus create mental images that will help you to leave with confidence. You can also find out about the spots you are going to climb by reading topos on the web, it can be useful.

Work on your zenitude

With yoga sessions or breathing exercises. Because the main quality of a climber is to keep calm and cool even in extreme situations. His ability to face all types of problems thanks to a self-control over his body and his breath. And Yoga seems to be the best for this because it improves flexibility and your respiratory system, it promotes blood circulation and relaxes the muscles. Climbing and yoga are therefore complementary enough to develop your balance and your breath.

Try climbing with straight arms

A classic beginner’s mistake is to climb and hold on to grips with bent arms. It allows you to squeeze harder and stay more glued to the wall because you use the muscles of the forearms but it also tires faster and then you have no more energy to continue. The best thing is to try to keep your arms as straight as possible. And transfer the required effort to the legs which have much more muscle and strength. It is therefore preferable to bend your legs and exert pressure on your arms only to reach for the next hold. And contrary to what a neophyte might think, the bulk of the work happens in the legs. Balance depends on the positioning of your body, so learn above all to work on your legs and feet to be very stable on your supports.

Failure is your friend

Climbing is one of the sports where you fall. You must know it. And to fall is to progress because it allows you to visualize your failures so as not to reproduce them again. Taking risks and going beyond your limits only works if you accept failure. The risk of falling but also of succeeding and that’s how we move forward. The progress passes by the acceptance of the failure and in no case by the renunciation. Get out of your comfort zone and forget the gaze of others because there is only you on this wall, with your motivation and your determination as unique allies. The fear of falling is a real brake on progress in climbing so you have to learn to fall without hurting yourself and then nothing will stop you from moving forward.

Watch your diet and drink plenty

Climbing is an intense and physical sport that requires a lot of energy so a healthy diet is more than vital. It takes strength and endurance to practice this activity, so you have to adapt your meals accordingly. Eat fresh foods and vitamins as much as possible because they provide a better energy rate. Already, as a general rule, it is important to eat well to be healthy, so for this kind of sport, you have to watch your diet even more. The goal is to stay light and efficient so no things too heavy to digest either. And of course, don’t forget to drink as much as possible before exercise to stay hydrated during exercise. Specialists advise up to two liters of water per day. Your body will thank you afterwards.

Respect recovery periods

When you start and get passionate about this sport, you tend to climb as much as possible. It’s normal and that’s how you progress of course, but it’s also advisable to take breaks. Your body needs rest to assimilate all the effort and your brain also to memorize and store this information. It all depends on your form and body size, but it is best to observe recovery periods after several cycles or sessions. The muscle fibers can be torn during violent efforts and they must be given a little time to rebuild. In addition to stretching after a workout, stay calm for at least a day every two or three sessions depending on your state of health.

Don’t climb alone

Even if in theory, you are alone on this wall and faced with your limits, you can get help from a friend or a buddy. The mind is very important in this discipline even if it is supposed to be an individual sport so in case of weakness, it is also important to get help. Whether it is a physical or psychological doubt, the person accompanying you will have a role to play. To motivate you or to help you gain confidence with encouragement, the buddy will not be too much. The top would be to have a partner who is better than you in climbing because he will be able to give you good advice and thus help you progress. Choose someone you fully trust and above all do not neglect the safety rules. Create a routine for checking the equipment with each shot and this gesture must be systematic,

Make sure you have good equipment

From the carabiners (draws) to the rope and the harness (or harness), the choice of climbing equipment is essential. It would be a shame to mess up a wall because of defective material, wouldn’t it? There are also the items used for the anchoring device (cleats, friends, etc.) and there too, you must not compromise on quality. As far as your little person is concerned, it is advisable to wear good, well-fitting slippers. Gloves and a helmet can also help, although it’s more of a psychological aid. A small chalk bag at waist level if you are bare-handed can also be useful. And don’t forget to check everything well before embarking on a vertical ascent.

Know the rating system

The climbing rating is an evaluation of a route according to its type, its commitment but above all its difficulty. The climber who succeeds in the first ascent of a route is generally the one who gives the first grade for the route. The rating system may vary from country to country. In France, the rating is indicated by a number (3 – 9) but it may be different in other countries. This evaluation is a little subjective because of the differences that climbers can feel according to their abilities and specialties, however it remains the best way to have an estimate of the general difficulty of the route.

Sasha DiGiulian
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