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A Girl Who Climbs

A blog of bouldering

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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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How To Do A Pull-Up | A Newbie’s Journey

I know so many people and climbers who find doing a pull-up easy, but no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to engage the correct muscles in my back to make me go up! However, I like to think there’s no reason to be discouraged by not being able to do something, even if it feels impossible. I’m sure you’ve seen ‘Magnus Midtbø: The One Finger Pull-up’, the Norwegian climber performs some crazy training sequences I previously thought to be impossible for any human. Go check it out if you haven’t seen it.

Being exposed to so many pinkie finger front levers has kind of inspired me to work my current limits. The main reason I want to be able to do a pull-up is mostly for confidence. I think knowing I can do a basic pull-up or chin-up will help me belive I can make some of those strong moves when bouldering. I know that if I want to get better at climbing then I should just climb, but I don’t feel that there is any harm in adding a few other training bits into the mix. Also, it will work alongside learning to use the campus board for training. So all that’s left to do now is to do it! My plan is to dedicate some time before each climb doing the following couple of exercises on the bar:

Holds: Jumping into the pull up position and holding for as long as your muscles will let you before failure

Negatives: Jumping into the pull up position and slowly lowering yourself down

I don’t think there’s much point getting to complex, so I’ll see how it goes with these.
Naturally there will be some clips and photos of my progress over on Instagram and Twitter, but I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a blog post on it too.

Any advice is welcome, just leave it 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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The Campus Board | A Newbie’s Journey

Now found in pretty much every climbing gym, the campus board is a well recognised piece of equipment. It was invented by Wolfgang Güllich to aid his training for the very first ascent of the route Action Directe (9a) in Germany’s Frankenjura.

Since my local wall have just put up a new one, I decided to give it a try.

I currently cannot campus particularly well, so realistically there is no point me trying to 1-4-7 my way up some thin slats of wood. At any rate, I’m of the understanding that the campus board is a training tool for improving explosive power and contact strength, not specifically to get better at campusing. That being said, it is a training tool so I think if it’s used sensibly it can give a performance boost and some climbing gains.

 

Before even glancing at a campus board you really need to have climbed for over 2 years, and should be over the age of 16. This is to help protect your finger tendons and prevent injury.

Beginner Tips

-Always warm up first

-Keep open hand grip

-Use the foot hold so there is less stress on fingers and upper body

-Work easy exercises and build up

-Many sets with little rest, to failure

I’ve dabbled a little and done a few basic exercises, to which I received extreme forearm pump! I still have a very long way to go, but I really enjoyed mixing up some training. What I’m aiming to get out of using the board is some finger strength and dynamic movement. A few beginner exercises I’m working are dead-hangs, up/downs and laddering. There’s no point me showing you how it’s done, because I can’t do it just yet. There is video evidence on my Instagram page! So I’ve linked Moon and Crux Crush articles below which are a haven of campus board information.

http://www.moonclimbing.com/blog/moon-blog/school/campus-boarding/

http://cruxcrush.com/2014/09/15/how-to-train-on-the-campus-board/

 

Happy climbing!

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Be Boulder Indoor Climbing Centre | Climbing Gym Review

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (agirlwhoclimbs on both… shameless plug!) then you may notice that I tend to hang around the same climbing gym, as all my photos at the moment have the same holds and mats in the background! Haha. I chose this climbing centre as my first to review because this is where I very first discovered bouldering in all its glory. It only seemed right to start at the beginning.

Be Boulder Indoor Climbing Centre

Be BoulderIMG_2340 - Copy is an indoor bouldering gym found in Widnes, a small town close to Liverpool and Manchester in the UK. It only opened in 2013 around Christmas so it’s still fairly new.

Walls – 3/5
The walls are built by Entre Prises and look enticing with a little bit of everything e.g slab, cove, boulder. They have a sandy texture which is good for smearing and replicates some outdoor textures, but this also means it can wear the rubber down on your shoes. I personally feel that the space could have been used better, and it would have been nice to see a solid 45 degree wall or a cave/longer roof. However there is plenty to play on and try. Another aspect making this gym unique is that it has a top out boulder. This means you can actually climbing on top of the boulder like you would outside to finish a problem. You can work on your mantle and heel rock over for topping out, or my personal move is the salmon…I’m still practicing.

Problem Quality – 5/5
Despite being on the smaller side, Be Boulder does have a lot to offer in terms of the problems and the quality. Set by Alex Fry, this iIMG_2341s the place to climb if you want to get beastly strong. Currently using a tagging system, so any colour can be any grade, this allows the climbers to get a feel for holds they may never have tried before at their current climbing level. The grading is pretty good, although there are some higher graded problems that feel lower and vice versa, but arguably you’ll get that in most centres. As good as grading is to help gauge where you are, I wouldn’t stick to climbing that grade. If you see a problem you like the look of, no matter the level, just go and climb it and have fun.

Atmosphere – 5/5
The staff at Be Boulder are very welcoming and friendly, which makes for a relaxed atmosphere. This gym does seem to get quite a few parties/groups of minions kids in, and due to the size of the gym you may find yourself taking a longer rest than usual as they excitedly climb all over the walls. The gym staff will usual post on their Facebook page when the parties and groups are due in so you can plan your climbs in advance.

Amenities – 3/5IMG_2308
There is not climber specific training area (e.g. system board/campus rungs), but they do offer a gym area at the back with pull up bars, weights, foam roller etc. Also a beast maker, hanging board and climbing/swing rope are available, all of which is free to use if you’re climbing.

Climber fuel is readily available aka coffee and tea, as are a variety of snacks to keep your energy up, and plenty of sofas to plonk your tired bones down on. You’re very welcome to bring your own sandwiches and snacks.

All of the above is pretty cool, but what I love the most is that they have recently started selling Mad Rock gear! If you live in the UK and you’re a gear geek then you may understand my excitement. Mad Rock is so difficult to get hold of here, so having Sharks and a R3 crash mat on the door step is pretty awesome. Everything is available to buy or order on the website if you click here.

Conclusion
I have taken breaks from climbing here to climb at The Climbing Hangar in Liverpool, and The Boardroom in North Wales, yet I always find myself coming back. This is an awesome gem of a bouldering centre, and I like to think of Be Boulder as the small but mighty gym. I’m excited to see how it grows and develops, and would encourage you to make a trip to try it out. Don’t forget to check them out on all the social medias too – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook!

-A Girl Who Climbs

Yay Progress!

It has taken me some time but I finally nailed this problem 🙂 Wahoo! I also filmed myself climbing which is not something I would ever normally do. However, I was getting scared on the last move and no matter how many people told me that the hold was so close, I would not believe them. Haha. So I figured I had to see what they could see, from where they were. Filming your climb is a good tool for improving, and I guess the proof of that is in the clip. Like I said, there were so many falls and down climbs before this video, and part of me wishes I’d filmed them too because those climbs can be even more important than the finish. That may be something I do on the next problem.

Happy vibes.

A Girl Who Climbs

Indoor Climbing Tips for a First Timer

Going climbing or bouldering indoor for the first time can be a little unnerving, especially if you don’t know what to expect! Here are a few tips that might help.

smileyWear comfortable clothing. Whatever you would be happy to wear for the gym is normally pretty good for indoor climbing. Tracksuit bottoms/yoga pants/leggings are good because they are tight at the ankle and won’t catch on holds. As it’s generally always cold here in the UK, I found layering tops handy so you can take them off as you warm up.

Trim your nails. There is nothing worse than catching your fingernail on a hold! Also, specific shoes are worn for climbing that help you get friction on the holds, they are uncomfortable but not painful. Trimming your toe nails is a good idea too, and also bring socks if you’re wearing rentals.

Warm up. As in any sport, warming up is very important. At first I’d feel a little self conscious trying to warm up by climbing set problems, so I like to traverse (climbing across the walls using any holds) if the gym is quiet enough. If not, normal cardio exercises like skipping followed by stretches are also a good way to start.

Just go for it. Start on something you feel comfortable with, and feels achievable. It might be scary, but the more you relax the easier it is, and the less likely you are to hurt yourself. I still hold my breathe on climbs, which doesn’t help anything! Breathing is what keeps us alive after all, so don’t deprive your body of oxygen. Sometimes it’s good to sing a song in your head as you climb, or think ‘foot, foot, hand’, and focus on the foot movement.

Have fun. Enjoy the climb, whether it’s getting higher up than you’ve been before, playing games on the walls with friends, or reaching the last hold in a problem. Take satisfaction in the progress and achievements you attain!

– A Girl Who Climbs

Buying Your First Pair of Climbing Shoes

When you’ve got the climbing bug and become tired of paying for rental shoes, it’s time to go purchase your very own boots! Exciting. I’m sure you’ve done your research and know what you want, but it can be overwhelming. Downturn or flat, lace or hook and loop, Evolv or Boreal? Overall, your first pair of shoes will take a beating as you learn, so cheap and cheerful with a good fit is the best place to start. Here are a few points to consider to try to make the shoe shopping stress free…

Try them on. The Internet may have the better variety and prices, but I can’t stress how important it is to go out to the shops and try a bunch of different shoes on. Your foot shape can make or break a pair of climbing boots. Personally I have small, wide feet so I find it harder to fit into brands with slimmer designs, or even female specific shoes.

shoe calculator
Climbing Shoeculator!

This leads nicely into sizing. Bouldering particularly seems to be a contest of who can downsize the most (depending on the brand). Downsizing isn’t always necessary, but sometimes a shoe can hurt more if it’s too big. There’s not really a set rule for sizing in each brand, as every shoe is as different as every foot. Bare in mind that climbing shoes will be uncomfortable, because they make your foot into a little claw, but they should not be painful. For bouldering you want a tight, glove like fit so you can get feedback off the holds.

If in doubt, use the banana fingers shoe calculator, it’s extremely good at giving you a gauge of what size you’re looking for in each brand and fit.

Another way to check if the shoe is a good fit, is to physically measure it against your foot. A rough guide for the length of the shoe can be tested, by holding the sole of the shoe against the bottom of your opposite foot. Make sure the shoe heel is level with your own. From this position you can see where the toe of the shoe lines up with your big toe. A good guide is to have the tip of the shoe toe, come halfway up your big toe. This will give you a tight performance fit, perfect for bouldering.

These were my first pair, Evolv Elektra

Also check what material the shoes are made from. If the shoes you are buying are leather, they will stretch by 0.5 to 1 full size once worn in, where as synthetic shoes will hardly stretch (if at all). Remember that the first few climbs will break in your new boots, so they will get more comfortable!

For a beginners first pair of shoes an all-rounder with a flatter shape is probably the best, so long as they have a tight fit. As for fastening systems, lace ups are good for adjusting the fit of the shoe, where as velcro/hook and loop are easier to take on and off. I’d suggest getting whatever you’re more comfortable with as they both have pros and cons, plus most shoes come in both options.

So, that ended up a longer list than I anticipated, but I just wanted to try and touch on everything! Hopefully this has helped, but if not and you were just looking for a list of shoes, here are a few starter recommendations:

Boreal Joker, Evolv Defy or Elektra, Red Chilli Lady Spirit or Durango, and of course the excellent Five Ten Anasazi, if the heel fits and you have some extra cash.

– A Girl Who Climbs

Bonus Tips

* Cotswolds will price match a website in store, if you can show that your size is in stock online.

* Banana fingers have amazing customer service, and will post you out more than one pair of shoes to try for sizing, and sending the shoes back is easy enough.

* Epic TV shop is extremely well priced, and have free shipping to the EU.

* Check out EBay, you can get brand new boots for a fraction of the price once you know your size.

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