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A Girl Who Climbs

A blog of bouldering

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Advice & Tips

Climbing For Yourself

A few things have changed this month. I’ve got a new job to pay the climbing bills, and with that comes different time schedules and general re-adjustment. This means I’ve not been able to climb with the people I usually would, but instead of popping down for a solo climb, I’ve waited until the timings aligned so I could go with them. There is nothing wrong with this, but since I really want to up my climbing game, hitting the gym once a week just isn’t going to cut it! Realistically I’ve got the time to fit in a quick session, so after putting it off I finally just went down and climbed on my own.

 
It was pretty cool as the gym was quite, so I happily worked a couple of problems and moved on to things I wouldn’t normally try. Surprisingly I  found climbing solo made me work harder, I took fewer breaks and just tried to get stuff done. There was no-one there to see me succeed or fail, and it really didn’t matter because I was enjoying myself and making some progress. Also, it wasn’t half as scary as I thought it was going to be!

 

Bouldering with others is awesome, I really enjoy the social aspect of the climbing community, plus sometimes having someone there watching can give you that extra little push to finish a move or problem. However, depending on how I’m feeling that day, having a bunch of people watch me can also work the opposite way. I guess it’s all very personal, and getting the right balance can be tricky. Sometimes it’s good having people around who inspire you to try hard, but equally it can be nice to solo climb and face your own battles to achieve your own goals for yourself!

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To balm or not to balm ?

To balm or not to balm, that is the question?

I’ve been getting into a habit of looking after my hands post climbing, and I think it has helped my skin. This in turn helps my climbing, as there’s nothing worse than a nasty flapper, or pinking your fingers and having to wait for them to heal. Giving your hands some extra care can help prevent these.

Moisturising or using a climbing balm is the easiest option, I’m currently using ‘Handy Gurugu’ from Lush, which smells amazing! Climb On and Monkey Fist are also great balms I tend to use. I like to treat my skin before bed by using a thick layer of the product, and put some cotton gloves on to sleep in.I find that the chalk is particularly drying on my hands, so giving them some moisture at night always feels good.

Another option is using a soft nail file to smooth down calluses, as this can stop them from peeling or becoming flappers. To me, having softer and more pliable skin means there is less chance of rips and tears, and pain in general.

Of course this is all my own opinion and experience, and I know plenty of climbers who don’t balm and that works for them. The argument for not moisturising is to harden the skin and get it conditioned to the environment.

I vote to balm, and if you’re feeling crafty here’s a climbing balm DIY recipe.

I would love to read your thoughts and opinions on the subject šŸ™‚

 

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Grade Yourself | Part 2

Let’s face it, being up high with odd-shaped holds to cling onto is a little crazy, even more so when it’s by choice. Countless times I’ve written about how it’s okay to be scared when you’re bouldering, and I still belive that it is. However, the fear shouldn’t stop you from trying hard, it should push you. This is something I’ve known for a long time but only just started acting upon. A couple of months ago I wrote about ‘Grading Yourself’ which you can find here, and after a quick review it now looks something like this:

Confidence : V1 V2

Grip : V4+

Footwork: V3

Movement: V3

Dynamic: V2 V2+

Eight weeks down the line and a bunch of climbing session later, I feel like I’m making some progress and starting to level out the factors. Obviously the main thing here for me is still confidence, which I have found is getting better as I try to be a little braver each time I climb a problem. Also the fact that I can do a pull up now has helped so much on the metal side. Being more dynamic has been easier as my confidence in myself has grown too, it’s good to see how one thing can have a positive impact on another.

So now it’s all about keeping the ball rolling and staying onboard with the progress, plus listening to people when they tell you that you can do it! I’m starting to make a conscious effort to climb on holds and angles I would normal avoid, because ignoring them won’t help me improve in the long run šŸ™‚

 

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How To Tape Your Finger For Climbing

You’ve probably seen climbers in the gym with their fingers battered and covered in tape. Taping your fingers can help you to still climb even when they’re a bit achy, or prevent a tweak from becoming an injury. Taping holds the tendon against the bone, and stops the already sore pulley from being over stressed. Learning how to tape is a useful skill, so I figured it would be good to write a post on it. I’ve only taped my finger a few times when I had a small pulley injury, which you can read about here. I used the technique shown below, which is variation of the figure of 8 method. I found this the easiest and most supportive taping method, as it’s fairly easy to do yourself.

 

 

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A Boy Who Climbs kindly demonstrating the taping method.

 

 

1. Relax the finger that needs taping and make a fist to tuck the other digits out of the way.
Starting at the bottom pad of finger/proximal phalanx, wrap the tape around 3 times towards yourself, keeping the finger relaxed.
2. After 3 turns, cross the tape diagonally along the side of the knuckle ensuring knuckle is not covered.
3. Wrap the tape 3 times around the middle pad of finger/middle phalanx, and diagonally along the other side of the knuckle, ending back where the tape started.

 

 

tape
I really like the Psychi finger tape as it’s really hard-wearing and sticky, which stops it from peeling off.

 

 

Hopefully that makes sense, and the pictures are helpful! Ultimately if your tendons or pulleys are hurting you probably shouldn’t climb, as sad as that seems, but I hope this helps you prevent an injury.
Please feel free to leave any thoughts or tips in the comments on taping fingers šŸ™‚

 

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How To Do A Pull Up | A Newbie’s Journey: Part 3

After working on negative pull ups for around eight weeks, the time finally came when I did a pull up! In fact I did a pull up on a campus rung, on a bar, and just to make sure I did one last one on the nice holds of a Beastmaker. It was all with close grip but it was awesome, and there will be video footage to follow! It’s still a difficult motion to do as I can still feel the sticking point, but now I can just about push past it.Ā I think a mixture of climbing twice a week, plus working on negative pull ups has helped strengthen and hone the muscles required to pull myself up.
It feels good to reach a goal after working at it for so long, I’m still psyched about it a week later! Knowing I can haul my body weight up has defiantly boosted my confidence on the wall.
So what’s next in the pull up adventure?
– Completing 5 pull ups with good form
– Work on wider grip
If you’re working on pull ups, keep going and it will happen.
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P.S You can find Part 1 here, and click here for Part 2

Heel Hookin’ | The Active Way

I’ve been avoiding these like the plague since I started climbing, which is now two and a half years. Resting heels I’m fine with but the active heel hooks, used to propel yourself up the wall, I find unnatural and  scary. I never quite trust myself, and as soon as my heel hits the hold I’m convinced my ankle will snap. However, at the weekend I managed to conquer the heel hooking fear and I’m still alive to tell the tale, all limbs in tacked!
Being scared of using my heel resulted in me overusing my arms, to the point were I would end up locking off. The pure fear of ‘death by heel hook’ somehow gave me super strength to pull up and lock off. As impressive as this is at the time, all it really does is make it harder to use the heel, and ultimately puts myself at a higher injury risk. Having my heel on the hold but not engaging it makes it unstable and therefore more likely to come off. So in the process of trying to not come off the wall, I would make it even more likely to happen! I also found it difficult to wrap my head around how you move upwards via a heel. It’s been explained and demonstrated to me so many times, but I could never connect the movements. For some reason when Marcus (A Boy Who Climbs) explained it yet again for the 3012584 time:  “Put your weight on your heel and move your other leg out to open your hips” the penny dropped.

This explanation finally made some sense to me, as it generated the mental image of flattening yourself against the wall, by weighting your heel and moving your other leg out. As you can see in the video, I didn’t go far but it worked and I felt myself move upwards which honestly caught me off guard!

I’ve come to the conclusion that the main reason for all of the unease was down to not understanding the mechanics of the movement, so that’s something I can look for next time I get stuck with something in climbing, skating or life in general.

It’s a big personal achievement to use an active heel hook, and if you’re struggling with it then just know that not everyone finds it an easy or a natural movement. Confidence, trust and time will get you there, along with some solid practice. Hope this helps!

Bouldering Outside First Time Tips

I’ve only ventured out onto real rock a handful of times, and it has always been awesome. However, there are a few things I have discovered on these trips which I wish I had known before hand. Here’s a short list of things to keep in mind as you head out on your first outdoor bouldering adventure.

Travel Light
Only take to the boulders what you really need because if you’ve got a long approach up hills and over fields, you’ll be cursing that extra pair of shoes and spare bottle of water in your bag.

Pack Sensible Food
Take the right type of food to keep your energy levels up. Snacks that are individually wrapped or don’t require handling to eat are generally better, as you’re less likely to eat the dirt and chalk covering your hands.

Look After Nature
You should leave the area you’re climbing exactly as you found it, if not in better condition. Don’t litter, be careful with the chalk and try your best to keep the ecosystem happy.

Keep Clean
Try to keep your climbing boots as clean as possible by standing on towels/blankets. A friend uses a spare square of carpet which is ideal to clean off the mud/moss/bugs to help avoid foot slips.

What to Wear
Dressing in light layers is key, especially in the UK where the weather can turn ever so quickly. It’s also good to keep some spare clothes in the car too, just incase.

Get Ready
You still need to warm up when you’re climbing outside. Jogging and using resistance bands is a great way to start, as is climbing very easy problems or traversing to get your fingers acclimated.

Safety First
If you’re not climbing you should be spotting whoever is, stay alert and aware of what’s going on around you.

It’s Hella Scary
I found climbing out on real rock can be very scary at first, especially if you’re use to an indoor gym. Build up your confidence, work on whatever appeals to you and don’t get bogged down by grades and lines.

So there it is! From my very limited outdoor experience I feel like I have learnt so much. A few more real rock adventures and I’ll have it all down hopefully.

Tips and advice are always welcome in the comments šŸ™‚

 

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How To Do A Pull Up | A Newbie’s Journey: Part 2

I’ve been practicing negative pull ups for about four weeks now. Although I’ve not been as consistent as I would like, I have started to see some improvements. I can actually do a full negative without flared elbows, I just imagine trying to bend the pull up bar into a ‘U’ shape. Thank you to ‘@adventurepursuitsptandsp’ on Instagram for this visual aid, it really helped! In fact I can perform 2-3 negatives with fairly good form before it feels like my arms are going to fall off, which is definitely a huge improvement from a wobbly, half negative.

I’ve pasted together the first and most recent negative pull up videos, and during the edit I was shocked to see how slow I was going at first! I think it was because I didn’t feel controlled, but now it’s much easier. The next crux is towards the end of the negative, which would be the start of a pull up. I can jump into that position and pull up from there, I can even get a lock off! However getting that initial engagement to pull me into that position is the hard part.

So even though ‘Pull Up Day’ is still far away, I think I’m making steps in the right direction. At the very least it’s all starting to make sense šŸ™‚

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Grade Yourself

The conversation all started from talking about our weekend climb at Kendal. I absolutely loved the training board pictured below, I even caught a quick clip of me climbing it on my Instagram feed. It was kind of like a home climbing woody packed with great holds and movement, it made me want my very own! I spent more time playing on the problems set on that board, than I did bouldering in the whole centre. The angle was deceiving as holds were further away then they first appeared, and it was steep enough to make you work for each move. It wasn’t particularly high which made me feel happy to try harder because I wasn’t scared of falling.  I was as surprised as anyone when I flashed a few problems, but I guess it was because I had found my prefered climbing environment. Instead of accepting the congratulations, I made excuses such as: they were good holds, it was a short sequence, it’s easy because I’m shorter etc, to which A Boy Who Climbs told me off.

Board Kendal Probs
I’ve plotted some of the problems I climbed

I think I find it hard to recognise achievements because I feel unbalanced in my climbing abilities, and it seems to make everything feel muddled. I’m genuinely not bothered about what grade I climb, but I would like to know where I currently fall on the scale. This is what I find  difficult to grasp and nail down. After much discussion he ended up breaking down and grading my skills so I could understand a bit better of how he saw me as a climber, instead of how I saw myself.

Confidence : V1

Grip : V4+

Footwork: V3

Movement: V3

Dynamic: V2

Having someone assess my climbing from outside my own brain was super helpful, as it’s easy to beat yourself up and not acknowledge when you do something great and strong. From this it’s also easy to see my biggest weakness and strength. Working on my confiednce and movemet will hopefully help me level out so I become a well rounded climber. I’m still not sure what I’m capable of and I know it’s going to be a long journey. Out of everything, confidence is the hardest thing to train and the only way to do it, is to do it! It could be worth asking your climbing partner or someone close to break down your climbing elements in this way too.

Happy climbing!

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