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A Girl Who Climbs

A blog of bouldering

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Advice & Tips

How To Break In Climbing Shoes

Unfortunately my current shoes are on their way out due to lots and lots of wear. As much as I want to go shoe shopping for some new ones, I think it’s time to start wearing some of the boots I’ve got stashed away. I generally size my shoes bouldering tight, which means they are going to need breaking in. Having experianced a few different pairs of climbing shoes now, I’ve found that the breaking in period is always different. My Evolv Shaman LV took around 2 months, whereas my Five Ten Anasazis LV took about 2 weeks. Branding, fabric, sizing and your own foot shape makes each breaking period unique. Of course climbing shoes will wear in as you climb, but sometimes it’s hard to get them on your feet to start the process!

Here are a few tips to help:

– Use plastic bags over your feet to help you slide into your shoes

– Instead of breaking them in on your climbs, try wearing them at home for 20-30mins over a few days

– Wear your climbing boots whilst wearing very thick socks

– Heat your shoes up with a hairdryer until the rubber is warm to touch and then quickly put them on, let them cool down on your feet so the shoes mould to your foot shape

– Try stuffing the shoes as tightly as possible with thick socks before heating them up, and let them cooldown with the socks still inside to help stretch them out

– Wear your  boots at the end of your climb to practice some easy problems

You can mix and match some of the tips above to suit your needs. I hope this helps to make your climbing sessions pain-free!

Leave your own tricks for breaking in boots in the comments 🙂

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Should I Climb if I’m Sick ?

Long story short,  it’s not advisable.

I came down with a delightful common cold last week, and being stubborn I decided I was still going to boulder despite not feeling 100%. A quick Google search told me that if your illness symptoms are ‘above the neck’ e.g a common cold, you’ll mostly likely be fine to do some low intensity exercise. Awesome! So an hour before I climbed I had some food, took some flu capsules and headed off to the gym thinking everything would be okay.

At the time I genuinely felt better for climbing. I was sending problems, chatting with friends and overall in good spirits. However when I woke up the next day I felt awful! I was expecting some climbing aches, but I had sinus pain, a worse cough, headaches and a general drained feeling.

What I had failed to acknowledge in that Google search was that climbing and bouldering are not really ‘low intensity’. These sports put stress on the body and mind but not in the most obvious way. A shoe break here and there, or a little rest with a snack and you feel good to go again.

Climbing with a cold resulted in my not climbing for a week because I felt so bad afterwards. If I had just rested up properly for a few days I imagine I would have felt better in a few days.

It’s a lesson learnt anyway 🙂

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Training Tips | Film Yo Self

I love scrolling through Instagram and having a look at all of the #Bouldering videos on my lunch break. I’ve even shared some of my own climbs on there too. Filming yourself climbing is such a great tool for improving, and something I would never have thought of doing at the start of my bouldering adventure. In the latest clip I shared, I was reaching the hold but struggling to keep the contact. If you could have asked me at that moment what it was that was preventing me from sticking the hold, I honestly could not have told you. It just felt like it was there but then it wasn’t, a little frustrating overall. However, after watching myself back a couple of times it’s easy to see my right foot turns in causing my knee to face the wall, which results in pushing me away.

 

Sorry for the crummy video quality, I didn’t expect to write a post on it!

This mini revelation has stuck with me and on my most recent climb (at a different gym) I was more conscious of my foot placement, which resulted in some good progress. So if you’re struggling with a project or certain move and you’re not quite sure why, try recording yourself and see if it helps.

Happy climbing!

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Plateau Low

There’s nothing worse than being psyched for a climbing session, only for it to turn out to be not so great. It feels like I’ve had lots of these kinds of climbs lately and as a result it has been a little disheartening. I feel like I’ve hit a plateau, but after taking the time to think about it I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more a mixture of things which are causing me to not give it 100%. Luckily, all of these factors are things I can fix.

Firstly I realised I was probably getting a little bored of being in the same environment. Don’t get me wrong, having a local stomping ground is awesome but it’s even better to shake things up and climb in different places. Secondly, I know it’s not rocket science but being fully rested before pulling on some plastic makes a huge difference, both physically and mentally. I’ve learned that if I’m genuinely tired then I need to call it a casual climb, otherwise it just doesn’t end well. Following on from this, because I was feeling lousy about climbing I was eating comfort food during the session. However I’ve recently started changing what I eat pre-climb, and what I snack on during a session which you can read about here. This is really helping to level out my mood and motivation (#Hangry) which makes trying hard easier. Lastly and most important of all, being in a rubbish frame of mind can be a deal breaker. I’m learning to treat each climb with a clean slate instead of holding grudges against the problems/holds/gravity.

For me, all of the elements above are linked and have a knock on effect which eventually comes full circle. With all this in mind I realised it was time to try and break the chain to get rid of the plateau feeling. So I had a hefty weekend lie in followed by a good breakfast before I headed off to the Depot Manchester with A Boy Who Climbs. We packed some good snacks and I decided to just enjoy the day without any expectations.

Needless to say I had a great climb and feel like I’m back on track.

 

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Climbing Snacks | Making Better Choices

When I go bouldering I’m that person surviving a long session on an energy drink and sour jelly sweets. Psychologically they are the things getting me up the problems, when in reality they just give me a caffeine infused sugar spike, so when my energy levels crash later on so does my mood. Needless to say climbing feels harder and a good time can quickly turn bad, but this is easily fixed by making better snack choices.

Depending on how you train when you climb depends on what your body will need to re-fuel. Generally I think it’s good to have something more substantial to eat an hour or so before climbing. Anything slow release and carbohydrate based like banana and pancakes, (personal favorite, I am a pancake fiend) peanut butter on wholemeal toast or yoghurt and granola are high-quality munchies. Add a cup of coffee and you’ll be good to go for a couple of hours.

During the climb if you need that quick surge of energy, something fast acting like jelly sweets are great for a swift one/two hour session. However if it’s a long day at the wall your body might appreciate something more slow burning. I find the best food snacks are anything in a wrapper so I don’t end up eating chalk. Individual malt loaves, a banana, mini cheeses or dried salami sticks are all good. Eating little but often for a day of climbing seems to be key, as having a long break and a larger meal can leave me feeling sluggish, and wanting to nap instead of climb.

Drinks-wise water is always good, having regular sips keeps you hydrated and any hunger at bay. If you want to get fancy you can concoct your very own isotonic sports drink for a longer session. Simply mix 1 part fruit squash to 4 parts water, and add a pinch of salt.

Ultimately like most things in life, what you eat all depends on you as a person because you know yourself best. I can’t comment on the best thing to eat post climb, because I have been known to devour a burger followed by cheesecake and a couple of beers after a long day climbing.  I’m no professional but I don’t think that’s ideal for nutrition or health, but I can confirm it taste pretty damn good! However, if you want more in-depth information, from an actual professional, on what to eat for all climbing aspects then check out this article here.

Hopefully this post has made snack choices for keeping your psych up and hunger levels down much easier. Let me know your preferred food alternatives in the comments.

Happy climbing!

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Beta Beaten

After watching so many people complete a route, sometimes it’s hard to just go and climb it instinctively without using the same beta. It took me a while to realise that what works for others might not always work for me, and that’s fine so long as I’m not making excuses!

 

I’m 5ft 2”, so when I try and finish a climb with beta from someone who is 5ft 8”, it’s easy to see why it might not work. Vice versa, if someone tall tries to climb something how I would, they’ll mostly likely end up with their knees in their eyeballs. I’ve made the mistake of getting stuck on beta plenty of times, instead of looking at the obvious factors. I end up determined on doing the move a certain way because everyone else can, despite it not being suited to me or how I can climb. Even if you’re the same height as someone this still doesn’t automatically mean you’ll climb a problem the same. A lock off in a climb is a crux for me, but for someone who is stronger it won’t be an issue, regardless of height similarities. Further more, even if you find someone matched with your build and strength, there is still climbing skill, technique level, and flexibility to be taken into account. Mostly it comes down to the fact that everybody is different, so we don’t all need to climb the same problem the same way, which is wonderful and part of what makes climbing awesome.

 

I think the key is to not overthink and simply climb however feels natural, regardless of what other climbers are doing. Don’t get trapped in beta! That shoulder height, left heel hook may work wonders for your friend but if you can’t do it that way, find your own and enjoy it.

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Ice Ice Pulley

“I’m currently experiencing my first climbing injury, I’ve hurt my ring finger pulley (A2). Luckily it’s on my left hand and I’m right handed. It’s pretty painful to touch and hard to make a fist, but it’s not very serious. I did it by slipping off a honeycomb hold, but I think the real problem was that I didn’t warm my fingers up properly.”

fingers

I wrote that down the evening that I hurt my finger back in November, at the time it felt like the end of the world, but in reality it was just a little strain!  Luckily for me, my partner (A Boy Who Climbs) is both a climber and sport therapist, so combining his anatomical knowledge and personal experience of a few finger injuries himself, he instructed me on what to do to.

Firstly when we got home I made sure to ice it. A bunch of frozen peas will do the trick but Marcus has this nifty little Torex finger sleeve that I used. For a few days I took Ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling too, I guess this is optional for a minor tweak but at the time I felt it was better to be safe than sorry. Also I didn’t climb for a few days, and when I did get back on the wall I taped my finger for a bit of support, mainly mentally. There’s something about seeing some tape on your fingers that makes you feel a tad safer. Even after a week it was still a little achy on certain holds or moves, so I either held the hold differently, skipped it, or tried something else.

Overall it took about two weeks to stop hurting completely and get back to normal, nothing too drastic.This small hiccup has taught me to warm up my digits properly. Some of the ways I like to get my hands acclimated before climbing are by making fists, gentle stretching and massaging  before beginning on larger holds, and working up to the gnarly crimps.

At the end of the day it’s all just common sense, you know yourself and own body best, so listen to it.

Happy climbing!

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There are some links to helpful information on pulleys and taping below:

http://www.climbing.com/skills/avoid-finger-blowouts

http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=6193

http://archclimbingwall.com/to-tape-or-not-to-tape-2

Finger Tendon Pulley Injury

Christmas Eve Eve Eve…

Remember back in school when it was coming up to Christmas, and all of your lessons would consist of playing games or watching a film because the teachers were winding down for the year? Well, what better way to re-live some nostalgia than by throwing in some bouldering! I’m getting my last pre-Christmas climb in at the gym, and I intended to turn up in my gingerbread leggings and play some climbing games…


-Take a Hold Out 

Not literally, although if the gym owners are cool with that then go for it! Find a problem you can climb comfortably, and then eliminate a hold so it can’t be used to complete the climb. This is fun to play with a couple of friends, because if they’re anything like mine, they’ll purposely take out holds you wouldn’t!

-Add a Hold In

Again not literally, unless it’s okay. Make up your own problems by sticking to certain colours, or by selecting a starting point and taking turns to add a move onto the sequence. Repeat until your arms fall off from forearm pump.

-Wall Twister

This is easiest on a roof. Climb up to agreed starting holds and then try to touch as many holds as you can with your feet. Don’t dislocate your shoulders though…that could ruin Christmas

-Traverse Train

Choo choo! Traverse the walls whilst holding hands with someone, this is harder than it sounds!

 Don’t take it too seriously, it’s not Monopoly after all, and have some fun on the wall.

 Merry Christmas!

The Grading System…

There’s no scientific equation to determine an exact grade, as there are too many differing factors. To establish the difficulty of the climb, the problem is broken down move by move. For example, if in a whole problem there are three or four ‘V2’ moves, that climb could average out at an overall V3+. Then taking the holds into consideration, this can either make it harder or easier again. Another element to keep in mind if you’re climbing in the gym, those problems will reflect the route setter’s style, build and strengths. So it’s easy to see why it’s hard to be definite, and this is why I’m trying to take the grading system a little less seriously.

Whether you boulder or rope climb, inside or out, I think it’s safe to say we have all fallen prey to the grading system at some point. You go somewhere new, try a problem graded at the level you usually climb easily, only to get spat off it. Or on the flip side, you have a crack at a higher grade and finish it like it’s nothing. It’s all very confusing.

Each individual climb or route is never going to be the same experience for every climber. Also a problems difficulty can be relative to the climber, which is why grades aren’t always the best way to track your progression. Having goals is awesome and having a grading system is important, but I think basing your climbing solely on grades can be perplexing and disheartening.

Don’t get consumed by the grading system or beat yourself up over it. If you see a climb that looks fun, don’t be put off by the tag or colour depicting the grade- just try it!

In all honesty it doesn’t matter what grade you’re climbing at, as long as you’re enjoying it and trying hard 🙂

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