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.