Top 5 tips if your new to bouldering

In this article, I have tried to get across the main subject or teaching points that I use while coaching, coaching from a basic level all the way through. No matter what the level it often seems any one of these 5 points is the biggest stumbling block to the climber progressing.

These are my “go to” concepts for any first time session with a client feel free to use them and/or share your thoughts and other ideas with me.

Using the concepts below

With any of my clients, I always suggest, as with most subjects, breaking items down into manageable parts is a good idea, however, these ideas are quite large, they are large on purpose, they are supposed to offer something to consider while climbing rather than a specific technical aspect.

Take one concept, think about what it means and how you might implement it and consider it throughout the early stages of a climbing session, especially the warm-up. When you start to get tired, don’t worry, just enjoy your session.

Try and keep one concept in mind for 5 or 6 sessions, until you can consider and climb with all of them at the back but also for the forefront of all of your climbing and movement decisions.

Look at your feet!

The title is too simple, or at least is fairly obvious to most and is a common thing that many new climbers are told, what I mean or what I suggest is to really look at your feet, take your time to focus, be mindful and to watch you feet move until they are on or in the position you want them to be. All too often a climber moves the leg and then foot, get close the require foothold and then looks away at the last second. Looking away before the foot is properly connected to the hold will lead to inaccuracy, lack of confidence and sudden impact of pressure reduce the friction of the grip.

It is better to place the foot slowly and accurately and weight it confidently and thoroughly, this is only possible if the foot is looked at from the move until completely on the hold.

Look at your feet and take your time, slamming your feet onto the lower grades holds is ok for now and you most likely will get away with it, but as the footholds get smaller and smaller the more accurate you will need to be so why not learn now?

Climb with different colour feet

All to often new climbers (indoor climbers) start off on the lower grades climbs and desperately try to get to the top, to do this they grab the handholds and smash feet on the footholds, while this works for the time, it will teach very bad habits. By using any colour footholds you will have to make decisions each time you move, decisions on balance and precision. Leaving the decision up to where the route-setter (the person who put the holds on the wall) put the holds while learning to climb will take you longer to learn.

This is often a hard task as it is so different to how most people climb, to start with try using the same colours along with different colours while forcing yourself to make at least 3-foot moves for every hand movement.

Try to pause before each handhold

Being able the reverse the move you have just done is a solid sign of a climber who understands good technique and balance, being able to reverse can be the difference between success and failure.

To be able to reverse requires lots of different techniques, ones which as mentioned in the intro I will not go into here, its enough just to think about this style, to practice climbing slowly and in style attempt to pause before each handhold is grabbed, pause for as long as you can, at the start this may only be a second, try to find ways to climb that allow you to be in balance and pause for longer and longer if not forever!

Use your toes, not you’re mid-sole

There are many advantages to climbing with your toes or the toe part of your shoe on the hold, one of the main ones is too able to twist your body without having to lift your feet. By placing your midsole on the hold you are restricted in the movement of your foot, as you try to rotate (which you will soon I am sure) you foot will pop of the hold or you will need to lift yourself up/jump to allow the foot to move, this takes a lot of energy.

Using the midsole of your shoe is also inefficient because of the lack of latter strength an ankle has and its inability to effectively drive your body upwards. The midsole also has the least grip and also is simply not designed by the shoe manufacturer to grip the hold.

Use your toes on the holds with your heels facing out from the walls to gain the most from your feet at this earlier stage of your climbing career.

The top is not the finish

A fast and simple way to achieve or at least to start to consider climbing slowly and effectively is not to think of the top of the boulder problem or route as the finish. Try to climb each problem as if there were 800 meters more climbing left to do, simply snatching for the top in any fashion is no good.

After all, the top is arbitrary, if you visit another climbing wall or the route setting finishes lower than expected does this matter?

If you complete a problem, great, but climb it, again and again, learning and increasing, if you can, you efficiency until getting to the last hold is as simple as the second.

By climbing with the idea in mind that you will need to climb another 4 to 800 metres you start to attack the problem differently, energy is conserved, the technique is thought through and rests are taken when they are available.

This concept is the one I see most gains from, it combines allows the progress of all the ideas I have mentioned and many I have not to be built on.

Indoor climbing in Bristol: Where to go?

For indoor rock climbing in Bristol, there has never been so much choice!

There are now high-quality indoor rock climbing centres all over Bristol; 1 in Bedminster, 1 in St Phillips and 2 in St Werburghs and smaller but important wall in the University of the West of England. With these indoor climbing centres in place and all of their varying qualities and styles, it is the perfect time to start climbing (if you have not already).

So what’s the difference between these indoor climbing centres?

All of the indoor climbing walls have their own style, features and facilities so why not visit them all. All the climbing centres have fantastic facilities and offer many different options and services. You might not have thought it, but unlike traditional fitness gyms, the indoor climbing world and its climbing centres are still very diverse.

The indoor rock climbing walls in Bristol are split into 2 camps, 2 are ‘roped’ indoor rock climbing walls (using ropes and harnesses) and 2 are purely bouldering (indoor climbing at low levels).

Roped indoor climbing walls

There are slight exceptions as the ‘roped’ climbing walls also have some bouldering, however, these are by no means extensive and are largely there to satisfy the needs of a few and tick a box. Although The Redpoint climbing centre’s recent expansion has certainly progressed its bouldering facility a lot further and is now looking a great place to boulder if it’s your local climbing wall.

The ‘roped’ climbing walls or Top Roping and Lead climbing centres are just that, they have rope in place and both have large areas for Lead climbing and top roping. A partner is required and the skills of belaying and rope work are required. However, both have started to introduce ‘auto-belays’ (where no partner is needed). Harnesses and belay devices are also used, either by hiring at the climbing wall or having your own.

The climbing centres all vary in height and within themselves have walls are varying heights and angles, they range from 9 metres to 16 metres. Both Redpoint Bristol and The Bristol Climbing Centre are ‘roped’ indoor rock climbing centres.

Bouldering indoor climbing walls

The bouldering climbing centres us no ropes, no harnesses and no partner is required, although it is much fun to climb in a team of friends or family. The climbing is at low levels and is above safety matting, this makes bouldering a really attractive idea for many taking their first steps into climbing and those wanting to ‘get on’ and climb.

Both The Climbing Academy and Bloc Climbing centre are bouldering-only climbing centres although Bloc (or rather its company name The Climbing Gym Ltd has recently opened Clip ’n Climb, a purely auto belay centre more in the style of a play or theme park rather than a traditional climbing centre (Redpoint also have their own version of this).

Whats the best climbing wall in Bristol?

Well… it is almost impossible to say (sorry, no quick answer here), so many factors come into play. The style, the facilities, the staff, the coffee! the parking, the food, where your friends go and perhaps, although most indoor climbing centres would not admit it, simply, which one is closest to your house.

Bristol Climbing centre: The original, the most steeped in history, the best routes, the largest grade range, the best for children lead climbers and the nicest place to sit outside in the sun after a climb.

The Climbing Academy: The original bouldering centre, great cafe, hardest problems, strong climbing, friendly towards those nervous about heights and intrench in the elite climbing community.

Redpoint: Huge lead wall, great cafe and restaurant, best after climbing facilities, large facility, consistent setting, plenty of staff on hand and great kids and youth sessions.

Bloc Climbing Centre: The largest bouldering facility, open and light, great coffee, climbing for all, plenty of focus on beginners and improvers and at times a 50% split of female and males.

Indoor climbing with your children; How to start.

By its very nature climbing is a simple sport. No matter the climber’s age or ability they are often, if not always, trying their hardest to climb their best.
As the climber and the difficulty of the climbs progress the holds get smaller and the footholds worse, however, no matter the size, everyone in the family or group of friends are always trying their best and overcoming their own individual challenges.
Climbing is a sport where often you are only competing against yourself, this type of sport, therefore, lends itself perfectly to any group of friends or family of various generations wanting to get fitter, enjoy the same activity, while spending more time together.
Any parent aspiring to become a climber finds themselves on a level footing with their whole family even if it there first visit the indoor climbing wall. I cannot think of another sport similar to that.
No matter how old the family members are or how big the gaps, starting to climb indoors is the best activity to bring all the family together.
How can I start climbing with my children
All of the climbing centres in Bristol have ways for you and your children to start indoor climbing safely. There are 2 main ways in which you can get your children involved in indoor climbing that all of the centres adopt if one way or another.
The children can join one of the indoor climbing clubs or sessions
You sign them up for one of the many climbing courses or clubs that the climber’s centres have to offer, these climbing sessions are always fully instructed and are similar to a rugby or gymnastic club. The sessions can be a ‘one-off’ or one of the regular sessions (depending on the centre).
During these sessions, the children are often taught one of the many climbing skills along with balance, agility and coordination, while also of courses, keeping the climbing sessions fun and safe, hopefully inspiring them for life (For full information visit the climbing centre websites found at the bottom of the article).
Bristol has some of the best freelance climbing coaches and instructors in the UK and the indoor climbing walls all use them regularly. It would be hard to say which wall has the best sessions for children, the best bet is to try them all out to find which one suits your needs more.
The parent or adult becomes the registered member
An adult can gain the skills required to join an indoor climbing centre either through an experienced friend or by one of the climbing centre Induction sessions or beginner classes.
The over 18’s then becomes a ‘member’ (on successful completion); as a member, they are then allowed (at time of writing) to bring along two guests of any age and any skill and take responsibility for them during their time in the climbing centre.
Each climbing centre in Bristol allows up to 2 guests, any more that than and you step into group territory and would be required to book an instructor.
Gaining the experience through a friend
As I have mentioned a member each climbing centre allows a member to sign in 2 guests, that also applies for adults, if an adult came as a guest (to Bloc as an example) for a minimum of 10 hours then they would reach the requirements to register themselves and so take on the ability to sign in their own 2 guests. It is them the member job to educate and supervise the guests.
Learn to climb at an indoor climbing centre
Roped
As you might imagine the ‘roped’ climbing centres have a higher barrier to entry as belaying and other ropes and PPE skills are required for a safe climbing session. Both of the roped climbing centres, Undercover Rock and Redpoint have adult beginner courses that vary in length from 4 hours to 8hrs and are often split over a few days. For more info on these indoor climbing, courses visit their respective website www.undercover-rock.com and www.redpointbristol.co.uk
Bouldering
The bouldering inductions (beginner courses) vary between the two bouldering centres, The Climbing Academy Bristol allows you to watch a video to gain the level of experience to meet the requirements of their registration while Bloc requires that you complete an Induction session with a climbing coach for a minimum of 15 minutes (anytime).
Many parents take both approaches
Many parents wanting to start climbing arrange a mixture of both of the options above. The benefit of the Adult being the members is that you are free to use the climbing centres as you wish. During school holidays and wet weekends you would have a perfect activity for you and 2 (normally the maximum) children or friends.
One of large benefits of your child or children joining one of the climbing clubs or sessions, of course, that your are free to do as you wish, often it is not a requirement to stay on site during the session, leaving you can catch up on that book or grab yourself a coffee.
All of the groups and clubs run by the sessions are fully instructed, all the centres have fantastic coaches and instructors and often you may see the same instructors working at different indoor climbing centres in Bristol, so you know they have a wide level of experience and are in the industry for life.
Learning what needs to be learnt to become a member along with signing you child or children up to a class mean gives you a lot more freedom during those long school holidays or rainy Christmas months, perhaps also you child can pass on some of the skills they have learnt to you.
Why start climbing indoors with your children
Indoor climbing with you child or children is the best sport I know of, it allows by it’s very nature you both to climbing together, in the very same area and try with as much effort as each other. All the hard climbs, the easy climbs and the children climbs are mixed together, there is now adult area. This means that you take it turns to literally climb the same bit of wall (albeit a different colour climb) and have the same fun experience. It’s fantastic, it always bring a smile to my face to see parents and children climbing together, especially if the child is beating the parent!
So don’t wait, give an indoor climbing centre a call and get you and your family climbing. Check out a previous article on the indoor climbing centres in Bristol which summarises the difference and what I view are each their best qualities.
Or if you would like a private Bouldering Induction session or would like to learn how to climb with ropes with me or one of my coaches please contact me here to find out when the next class is available.
Undercover-rock – The Climbing Academy – Redpoint Bristol – Bloc climbing centre

Shextreme film festival: Female representation in extreme sports

 

Shextreme.tv recently held the first ever female film festival. Ruth the founder asked me to be a part of a group panel discussion with the topic being the representation of women in extreme sport and how to even the landscape of the media.

The whole night was fantastic, it was full of talented women from all areas and all sports and I was absolutely honoured to be a part of it.

Below were the questions asked of myself and the panel along answers I wrote after the event, with a bit more clarity.

 

1. What does this topic of the representation of women in extreme sports mean to you?

A greater representation of women in all extreme sports will always contribute to a greater number of people talking about sports like climbing or snowboarding and hopefully taking them up.

I am so passionate about the lifestyle benefits of climbing; the way it has the ability to change so many peoples’ lives in a positive way. Climbing is a perfect vehicle for people who may be struggling at home, in school or within themselves to gain more confidence, improve their health and outlook on life.

So to me, it’s not that the representation of women because they are women that is important, it is because women represent such a huge amount of people in the population that extreme sports could help if they were to become involved in them. To help women join into extreme sports we first need an improved and greater representation of the women already involved in those sports.

 

2. What are the factors that will help more female voices come through?

I know its cliché to say this but role models are such an important aspect of any sport. However, you do not get role models until you have a huge base of grass route athletes, so actually I believe the biggest factor to helping voices to come through is the size of the core or base.

The number of novices forming the base of a pyramid really has to be strong and diverse to help elevate and push role models to the top – role models do not rise up on their own. The average athletes or hobbyists really drive them up by liking, sharing, and often literally crying out for someone to lead them.

This highlights why the beginnings of sporting lives are so important. Building up that base level, increasing confidence and hunger to try hard and importantly being seen to try hard is crucial to building a pyramid that is stable enough to keep those role models and their voices to the top.

Secondly, after recently talking to Holly and Sam at Bloc I have once again seen sadly (or at least considered) the idea that women’s voices simply are not always heard in the same way as men’s, where a suggestion from a woman in a group of men may go unnoticed and a man’s exact same comment will be acted upon.

Now I’m not sure of the accuracy of that and I struggle with thinking about it because I am a man and I’m fairly confident – I do not do that (but perhaps I do, I guess that’s the point they were making), however it does make me think that while we are trying to work out what women can do to help get there voices heard and how and what to create that perhaps it’s not the fact that women are not shouting loud enough, or not making the right films, or doing the biggest jumps or hardest climbs, but that we need instead to start educating men about the realities of the way women feel about us and way we act around them, react to them and dare I say even stifle them and their ideas (hopefully without knowing, if at all).

 

3. How do we actively improve diversity in the media landscape for women in extreme sports?

Nights like the shextreme.tv film festival, more specific sessions and women only events is key to the success of diversifying the media. I know many who dislike the idea that women specific ‘anything’ is needed however I absolutely believe that women firstly need their own arena until the playing field is levelled.

I mentioned this earlier, but I believe that the base or participation is the crux of the situation. We need a huge and growing base of women in each sport to make sure that nights like this and other similar events always sell out and continue to grow.

Online we also need the equivalent, with the internet and social media as it stands now it has become so easy to lose people and lose their great achievements in the mix of streams of social media pages and sites and life. However, with a large base of active members who are talking, shouting about and sharing what they see and love, you cannot help but create a media landscape that is more diverse.

We of course need those who are skilled, talented, and with enough drive like Ruth to put on events like Shextreme festival and others to create these beautiful films and other works but without all those aspiring people they would get washed away and stay unseen. I guess what I am saying is it’s just called ‘support’, support to actively improve diversity in the media. We have to support it and every possible occasion in every possible way.

Steve Winslow[/fusion_text]

How to climb the 4 most asked about competition problems at Bloc

[fusion_text]After the recent competition at Bloc (9/9/15). I recorded myself climbing all the problems with the intention of releasing the videos to help out all those struggling with the solutions. However life got the better of me, it got really busy and I actually forgot I had produced them, I was tempted to leave them unseen as the problem numbers have been taken down but thought it was a shame not to share some of them. I have added the 4 climbs that most people asked me for help with.

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