By Ysabelle Antuña
Let's talk about going back to the sport we were learning to love or already loved: climbing, either bouldering or sport climbing. It has been almost a whole month since the indoor climbing walls opened up again here in England. And while it has been exhilarating going back to the gym, seeing friends, just being able to be anywhere other than at home. Maybe it's bittersweet because what once used to be easy is now very hard.
Do you feel as if you were terrible at climbing, you have lost all technique and strength? Or perhaps that you can no longer focus your mind only on climbing while you are at the gym?
It's been over a year since the first lockdown, and you have survived a global pandemic! Feel good about that. Okay, but what does that have to do with climbing? Your mind has not been solving boulder problems; your body hasn't been moving the same way for a year, the flow and the route reading have gone to hibernation. They are still there; they just need a little nudge to come back to you properly.
Start with creating good positive habits like warming up before you get on the wall, 5-7 minutes of dynamic stretches. Getting psyched, telling yourself you can do the route before you do it, and visualizing yourself on the top. Try more accessible routes, mindful of technique. Pace yourself, be kind to yourself. Do foot swaps on things that don't require foot swaps, so you practice your technique on the "simpler" routes, flag, smear, hold your body in tension while doing a V0. Be proud of finishing all of the "easier grade" things. And then start building your way back up, V0, V1, V2, V3, V4, etc. Also, when you go to the gym, pick 1-2 routes (please not more than that) to the grade that you were climbing comfortably before all of the lockdowns started, work on that route as a project for the days, weeks that you are back in the gym. If in the beginning, you can't even start it, don't be discouraged, continue practising technical moves on the simpler routes, and I promise you, you will go back to your level.
There is no shame in starting something again, as if for the first time. We want you to fall in love with the sport again! Overall I will leave you with three recommendations for loving climbing once more:
1) Don't let your mind psyche you out or be pessimistic about your level or skills; be kind to yourself and get excited about what you are trying.
2) Listen to your body; we want you to come back slowly but surely with no injuries. If your body is telling you your fingers hurt, take a break, finish for the day. Rest.
3) And remember to stretch at the end of your sessions and even on your days off. Most of us have been sitting at home for a long time or doing repetitive work.
The importance of pacing yourself now that you are back in the gym will help ensure your endless love for the sport, confidence build-up, skills build-up, strength build-up, and your body and your mind will thank you.