#1 Choose your own path when necessary!
When climbing indoors, the circuits and routes are carefully laid out for you to follow by routesetters, but this doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself to their vision of climbing. Make up your own routes from scratch, add in an extra handhold or two to a route that is just that bit too hard for you, or try using footholds of any colour while sticking to just the one colour for your hands. A great game that will expose you to a lot of new movements and help your route reading indoors, is where a group of climbers each take turns adding 3 extra handholds of their choice to a never ending sequence, with any choice of footholds.
#2 Comparing yourself with others is not just a waste of time, it'll set you back
It’s only natural to want to know how well you’re doing compared to others when you've just started climbing, but don’t let yourself get suckered into losing motivation because someone else just warmed up on your project route. Some climbers you’ll see have been doing this for a long time now. Besides, one of the most fun things about climbing is that there are so many variables involved everyone has their own superpower - appreciate other's strengths and cultivate your own.
#3 Training is overrated – it’s not (all) about strength
Climbing is the best training for climbing.
If you feel like you should be climbing V3 but just can’t hold on with your fingers, don’t worry – to misquote Finding Nemo: “Just keep climbing, just keep climbing.” All the strength you need, right up to nearly elite levels, will come naturally and in the right order for your body to integrate it all, just by climbing at your own level, whatever that is right now. Climbing is the best training for climbing.
#4 Be social
Even though bouldering is done without a belay partner holding the other end of a rope, it doesn’t mean that it is a solo activity! Climbing in a group of psyched people has been scientifically proven to double the strength of everyone involved.* Not to mention that you can share techniques and generally enjoy yourself more if you have other people to bounce off. If you want to join in with a group of psyched people but don’t have any to hand, try our free Adult improvers sessions.
#5 Don’t work, play
Even though it is hard physical work and demands presence of mind, climbing is meant to be enjoyable no matter if you’re a beginner or a IFSC athlete. So don't stress about performance - this is your time to enjoy the whole experience of climbing: moving, figuring things out, successes, failures, learning new things... Sometimes dialling back the intensity actually enables you to get more done in the long run.
#6 No pain, more gain
If there is one mind-set we would like to change at The Arch, it would be the “No pain no gain” mind-set in climbers. Don’t get us wrong: you’re going to sweat, you will feel muscles you never knew you had, in places you never knew existed the morning after your first sessions, and your fingertips are going to feel like they’ve been sandblasted - but “No pain, no gain?” Not smart.
#7 Be like water
Climbing uses your whole body - it's complex, it's precise, it's balance-meets-power-meets-flexibility Jedi stuff. You’re not isolating your deltoids on a Nautilus machine, or slogging it out on a treadmill while watching the news. Alongside getting stronger and more flexible, you have to absorb a whole new set of proprioception skills relating to balance, tension, body awareness and other ninja-like abilities. Come with an open mind and a willingness to experiment with unusual techniques. What you can do might surprise you.
#8 Every day is a school day
Even though babies can climb before they can walk, climbing movement is a lifelong learning journey with no fixed destination. There is no single climber out there who understands everything about climbing movement and can explain it all to you (except Johnny Dawes maybe...). You need to get up and do it yourself, but you can also learn a lot by watching other more experienced climbers and asking them "why" and "how" type questions.
#9 Learn to read!
If you’ve got this far we’ll assume you’re ok with your a-b-c... So what are we talking about? Reading routes from the ground before you start climbing is one of the most important skills you can learn in climbing. Stand in front of the route so you can see all the holds, mime the hand moves in the air around you, up until the finishing hold, and try to picture your body on the wall at the same time, seeing where your feet will go and what position your body will be in. Remember, lots of chalk on a hold from other climbers usually means it is a handhold, and almost no chalk but lots of black rubber marks means it is probably a foothold.
If you are scared of the height or position you are in, then don’t climb any higher, or try to make your climb easier at the very least.
Learning to fall over without hurting yourself is a more important life skill than learning to climb, swim, or even taking a great selfie. You should feel comfortable at any height on the bouldering wall, and aware of how you are going to land if you let go with either hand, or if your foot slips unexpectedly. If you are scared of the height or position you are in, then don’t climb any higher, or try to make your climb easier (see beginners tip n.1) at the very least. The height should feel like a nice thrill, not abject terror. Regularly practice falling safely from different heights and off different angles of wall – if you don’t know how, take an Introduction lesson.
*not really, but it sure feels like it.