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A Girl Who Climbs

A blog of bouldering

The Fear | Getting Out Of Your Head

Holding yourself back is the worst because you know you’re doing it, and you also know it’s down to you to stop it. Staying in your comfort zone is something I think we are all familiar with, but it’s an aspect I really need to push out of with my climbing.

 

I recently read this post by Iron Octopus Fitness, which was about fearing how much you could achieve if you were not too scared to do so. This kind of struck a chord with me on a climbing level, as much of my climbing and bouldering experience has consisted of trying to conquer fears. Whether it’s anxiety or confidence, it has been a long journey but I’m glad to still be on it! I think the most confusing thing is that I have no issues trying hard and being sure of myself when skating or playing roller derby. So why do I struggle so much with bouldering? Well, firstly I would never have been brave enough to sign up to roller derby if I hadn’t built up some confidence from bouldering. I think a lot of the newness I experience in roller derby didn’t feel so bad because I had already done it all with climbing, e.g new place, new people, new skills etc. The second time around it wasn’t so scary. So, I think it all boils down to confidence, climbing has given me the confidence in other aspects of my life, so now it’s time to believe in my climbing abilities.

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Ultimately, when I don’t try a move or problem, I know it is down to me and my fear/lack of self-assurance holding me back. Too many times have I fell off a climb and proceeded to undo my shoes for a shoe break, or gone and got a never-ending cup of tea. Putting off and delaying things is just a waste of time. Really, I should just get over myself and enjoy the climb, because if you aren’t enjoying something you don’t have to do, then why bother doing it?

 

Try hard for yourself, be confident and embrace the fear!

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Ease Climbing Aches | Be Your Own Therapist

As you probably already know A Boy Who Climbs is a sports massage therapist, which comes in handy when there are some climbing aches! However, I know not everyone is lucky enough to have their own therapist on hand to explain the best way to help you and your muscles. Here are a few ‘self-care’ things you can do for yourself at home, to help get some relief from those aches.

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Foam Rolling

This is essentially a self- myofascial massage, which helps to relieve pain and increase blood flow to the area. You can pick up a foam roller on Amazon or from a sports shop easily nowadays. They come in different textures for different depths of massage so you can pick what’s best for yourself, depending on how brave you are! Foam rolling is extremely easy; you basically roll the sore muscles back and forth on the foam tube…that’s it. Just like a massage it’s great for any kind of sporting ache.

 

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Much like foam rolling, trigger pointing is another form of self-massage but it works on a smaller, much more specific area. A trigger point is what some people refer to as a knot, but is a tightness in the muscle tissue that can cause an achy feeling in another area. Due to desk work and climbing I tend to have tight traps (trapezius), and even though it’s painful, rolling on a bouncy ball helps to reduce the trigger points.

You can use anything that is round and firm like a tennis ball, or even a lacrosse ball if you’re barbaric. I found this bouncy ball in a pound shop and it’s the perfect size and density.

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Heat

If the first two techniques are too much for you, nothing can beat a nice soak in the tub. Epsom salts are great to add to your bath as they help relax the muscles. This could be a placebo, as the warm water gerneally does plenty on its own, but it feels great either way. Epsom salts are easy to find in any pharmacy store, usually nearly the painkillers.

 

As much as I’m sharing this to help, it’s also a personal reminder to take these steps to help myself out in the long run! Of course, nothing can beat going to see someone specifically trained in the area, but there’s no harm in helping yourself out along the way.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them belwo and I will get A Boy Who Climbs to answer them  🙂

 

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FlexEX | Review

I’m sure you’ve been told a million times before that you should always stretch before climbing, which is sound advice, and this also includes stretching your fingers. After a light brush with golfer’s elbow a month ago which I posted about here, I took some advice and bought the FlexEx. I’m not going to lie, I was slightly dubious about parting with money for what are essentially coloured, latex loops. However, I was not disappointed and now I always use them before climbing. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a few pictures/videos of me messing around with these bands.

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The colour depicts the difficulty. Yellow = Easy, Red = Medium and Blue = Hard. You can double up or mix and match the colours for more of a challenge.

First impressions, I thought the exercises and stretches would be far too easy for my seasoned climbing mitts. How wrong I was as the FlexEx are small yet mighty. I was genuinely surprised by how difficult the basic stretch was, and it was in that moment I realised two things:

  1. My finger strength is awful
  2. These bands are awesome

In terms of using them to help with golfer’s elbow I would highly recommend them. I mostly used the yellow band with the basic stretch once a day, which was enough to feel some good aches without bring on a flare up. There are so many different exercises you can do with these little guys, I’ll link the site with videos here. They’re really easy to get hold of in the UK too, I ordered mine from Amazon.

I’ve had a bunch of friends and climbers try them out and they went through the same emotional process of doubt, surprise and joy. I think these are an extremely useful tool for any climber, no matter their current grip strength. I like how small they are, which makes it easy to take them to the gym or crag without taking up any extra space or weight.

 So overall a big, stretchy thumbs up for FlexEx.

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Finding The Balance

Things on the blog have slowed down a little because I’ve not really been climbing, which has made it hard to write posts. In fact I feel pretty guilty as the reason for climbing less is because roller derby has started to take over my spare time. It’s hard trying to find a balance between the two sports, especially when skating comes more naturally than climbing. However I’m starting to even out my time, and I have seen some unexpected improvments.

I got back on the wall at the start of the week and it felt awesome, I realised how much I had missed it. It also made me think that climbing has given me some good foundations to build on for skating, and now I can see how roller derby has started to help my climbing. I’ve gained better core strength, I’m more confident with footwork since I figure, if I can do it on wheels I can definitely do it off wheels. I don’t feel as scared as I did when climbing up high, and generally moving around the wall feels more natural.

Even though it didn’t feel like at the time, the inadvertent bouldering break has actually been a good thing. So it’s okay for things to change on the priority list, and taking some time once in a while is okay too, especially if it helps you appreciate some improvements.

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New Adventures

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there is so much beauty and nature readily available on your doorstep.  I’ve been away exploring the countryside, which is why it has been quiet on the blog and social media side of things lately.

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I headed off to the Lake District with A Boy Who Climbs for a few days, and stayed in a lovely guest house in Bowness. We ate like champions whilst admiring the lake and forest views. It was nice just being somewhere different and much more green than our home town, plus having the option to walk everywhere was great too. However, getting carried away and accidentally completing a 10 mile walk, and then realising we had to do the same back was not ideal, but the beer certainly helped.

So now I’m back home, feeling refreshed and ready to get back to the walls. I’ve been having a rough time with bouldering lately. Between having my elbow flare up and hitting a plateau it has not felt great. So whilst we were away I was trying to figure out what to do to fix the funk. I’m debating on trying some roped climbing, as I think it will be good to learn something new in the same field. The height it definitely what’s putting me off though! As soon as I get my mind around being up that high on a piece of rope, it will all be okay…

So watch this space, rope climbing may be happening soon!

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Slopers | How To Climb Them

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Notoriously slippery, rounded and very tricky, slopers are something I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks now. There was a problem in the gym that was full of them which inspired the training, as the route quickly became a project. I made it through in the end, and so here we are with very sore fingertips and some pointers to share!

So, how do you climb slopers?

 

What I’ve found to be the most important element of climbing on slopers is body position. E.g If you can hang directly under a sloper with your arm relaxed, you can suddenly find some friction. It’s all about learning where you need your body/weight to be, in order to create the most positive hand hold, which will all depend on the problem flow/direction.

Secondly, how you hold the sloper is also important. This will differ from hold to hold, plus route and wall angle, but looking for the part with the most texture isn’t a bad idea. I also found that half crimping the hold helped me out too.BM

Lastly, it’s commonly known that slopers can sense fear. If you don’t fully commit to holding that hold whilst trying hard, it will reject you and make you slip off!

If you follow me on social media you might have seen a video of me having a crack at the Beastmaker 1000 slopers. As frustrating as it was repeatedly falling off these holds, it was equally amazing when I got a little further and held them a little longer.

You can always do more than you think you can! I would love to hear your tips for holding slopers, leave them in the comments 🙂

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Climber’s Elbow

I managed to pick up a minor injury at the weekend whilst climbing. I was trying the same move over and over, which was a deep lock off on a volume. This makes it sound way more fancy than it actually was. Basically I was trying to pull down with my left arm, into a lock off, to help me move upwards. I felt a funny ‘zing‘ in my elbow, but after a small rest everything seemed okay. It wasn’t until later on when I went to put my arm through my backpack strap that I felt the horrible nerve pain.

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After A Boy Who Climbs (who is a Sports Therapist) poked and pressed my elbow for a bit, he came to the conclusion that I had given myself Golfer’s elbow, which is basically tendonitis. This is the second time I’ve managed to damage myself in this way on this same arm, the first time being from an extremely graceful fall at roller derby. Some ice and rest has helped, but I must admit I’m still a little nervous to climb on it, so when Ed of Betamonkeys suggested using FlexEx to exercise, I figured why not!?

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These little stretchy bands are surprisingly good and come in 3 difficulties. Plus they’re so small you can take them anywhere, making them perfect for pre-climb warm ups. I’ve used hair bobbles and elastic bands to mimic this type of thing before, but these bands are much easier to use. A proper review will follow!

No-one likes being injured, much less not being able to exercise and climb. However it’s only minor, and the down time is an important stage for healing, so that’s where I’m at for the moment.

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Learning and Improving | Every Little Helps

I’m not what you could call a ‘natural climber’. I’ve never been particularly outdoorsy, I didn’t start climbing from a young age, or have the built-in bouldering knack at my first session.  In fact, it was pretty much the opposite. I was scared of being up high, terrified of falling, and struggled to get my limbs to co-operate (the latter is still an issue). Yet there was something about bouldering which had me hooked, most probably the challenge.

A couple of years down the line and I’m still working away at bettering my climbing-self, which in a very long-winded way brings me round to the point of this blog post.

There is always time to learn and improve.

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One of my draw backs at the moment is flexibility, which is arguably the easiest thing to improve. I’ve been extremely lax with yoga, so I’m here to make a compromise in the form of weekly stretches tailored to climbing. I’ve said it before, but the hardest thing about yoga is actually rolling out the mat to do it. Stretching however somehow seems more accessible, and Netflix friendly. This small exercise will hopefully morph into a full yoga session at some point.

Specific areas for me to work on for climbing are shoulders, hips and legs.

So here’s the plan at a minimum:

-Low intensity jog on the spot to warm everything up

-Cow pose for shoulders

-Frog pose for hips

-Seated forward fold for legs

Hopefully stretching like this at home at least once a week will help me out on the walls, as I know I can definitely fit this into my week somewhere. It’s always a good pre-climb warm up if you throw in some dynamic stretches too.

As the title says, every little helps.

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Climbing Shoes | The Struggle

I’m a sucker for gear, no matter what sport, and one of the things I love about bouldering is the shoes. However, as someone who has small but wide feet, finding climbing shoes has proven fairly difficult.

 

Street size I’m a UK 3, and I know that there are plenty of female climbing shoes out there in stores and cyberspace readily available. However, the women’s version of a climbing shoe always tend to be low volume, which makes it difficult to fit my cube-like feet into them. So why not try the male versions? Trying to find my street size in the men’s version can be difficult regardless of brand. Yet the most frustrating thing is when you are required to downsize. My feet cease to exist in some boots! I have no issue with downsizing to get a snug fitting shoe, I understand that. What I don’t understands is how a UK 6 in one brand measures exactly the same as a UK 4 in another, yet due to having to downsize the size options and availablity become very limited.

 

I’m sorry for the rant vibe, climbing shoes and their sizes are a quirk of the climbing world. Of course finding shoes that fit your feet is not an impossible task, sometimes it just feels that way. Evolv, Mad Rock, Scarpa and Five Ten are all brands that I have tried and found good for wide feet, and would recommend for anyone in a similar situation. In all of these brands I have size matched or gone up half a size, you can read some reviews here.

 

Ultimately I know that there are plenty of amazing companies who can source and order shoes in the size you require. Equally there are so many climbing shoes and brands that I have not even tried yet. It’s highly possible I’m simply jealous of everyone with average feet who get to try any shoe their heart desires!

If you have any advice, please leave a comment 🙂

 

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