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A Girl Who Climbs

A blog of bouldering

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Persistence Pays Off

It’s been a while!

I guess the reason I haven’t posted is because I felt like I was in a climbing limbo. It can be so frustrating being at a stage were problems are either a breeze or way too hard, even more so as this will differ with each gym you climb at. The thing with climbing and bouldering is, there is no flat standard. They are such free sports in the sense that there is no hold, crux, or problem the same. It’s not like another discipline with a basic skill set that you can practice repeatedly. For example, I think it would be tough for everyone to go to their local wall and practice the same heel hook, whereas anyone can grab a football and practice keepie-ups/kick ups. It’s not so straight forward. So, unless you can pinpoint and mimic exactly what you’re struggling with, it’s hard to train it. This isn’t a complaint! In fact, it’s one of the reasons I think bouldering is so compelling as it makes you challenge yourself.

I’ve always said that I’m not a natural climber and it’s something that I’m constantly working on in one way or another. Back in January I broke my (very long) gym sabbatical in hopes of generally improving myself in a kind of blanket training, and I’m happy to report after 3 months it’s starting to pay off. Despite it being a long, hard, slog, going to the gym twice a week has 100% upped my climbing game and helped nudge me through the limbo and even a grade boundary.

 

So, persistence pays off. If you’re struggling please don’t give up, train hard and it will work out in the end.

 

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Improving By Accident

 

Everyone wants to get better and climb harder, and unexpectedly I’ve started to notice small improvements in my climbing. It feels like I’m nailing moves that I have been struggling with for a few months, and this in turn has started to unlock parts of bouldering problems for me which were previously unattainable.  

 

I’m not really one to stick to a training schedule, as much as I wish I could, so these improvements are not from following a well-crafted programme, plus I enjoyed ‘off-season’ to the max over the festive period! All I can put it down to is visiting different bouldering gyms, I think the variety of angles, holds and problems has had a positive impact on my climbing.

 

Maybe try hitting a different climbing gym if you feel like you have hit a plateau. Either way it was a nice surprise to acknowledge, and I think it’s important to recognise the small improvements as these are the steps up to the bigger event, like pushing through a grade boundary.

 

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Review | Scarpa Vapour V Womens Climbing Shoe

I bought the Scarpa Vapour V way back in August when I was looking a comfortable, downturned boot. The price of the older style dropped considerably when the new model arrived, so  I managed to pick them up cheaply. I was still trying to break in my second pair of Five Ten Anazasi LV boots at the time so the Vapours unintentionally took a back seat for a little while, until more recently!

 

vap-1Fit –For someone with wide feet these are a great fit. I wanted a more comfortable shoe so I didn’t go with bouldering fit when sizing. Instead I went to a store and tried a few different sizes on around my normal size, which resulted in me going up half a size from my street shoe (UK 3). There is still good toe pressure and heel fit with this sizing but much less pain! They don’t seem to have stretched noticably but that could be because they are still breaking in. I have read some reviews that say the Vapours are particularly painful on the Achilles tendon. The only time I experienced this was when the small, blue leather tag inbetween the pull tabs was rolled down into the shoe, but as soon as I flattened it out it was fine.

 

Specifications – The Vapour boots have an asymmetric toe box, a full boarvap-2d sole and are moderately downturned. I can really feel the benefit of these features when I’m climbing on a steep angle or on a roof. The downturn makes it feel like the toe ‘clips’ onto the holds, and the full board gives my feet solid support. One of the main things I really like about the fit of this shoe is the half sock/mesh tongue. It’s really comfortable on the top of my foot and makes getting the boot on and off particularly easy. The Vibram XS Edge rubber is a decent all-rounder but not as sensitive as other brands that I have tried, however I think the overall shoe build compensates for this.

 

Performance – The Scarvap-3pa Vapour shoes are great on all types of climbs, but I find that they perform particularly well on roof/cave and angled walls due to the downturn and solid toe box. They edge well and have a decent amount of sensitivity, I never really worry about standing on small holds when I wear these shoes. They seem to be breaking in nicely and I’m happy to report that downturn is still there and they have not flatten out. I would like to try these outside though, as I have only climbing plastic in them so far.

 

Aesthetic – I’m a big fan of the blue and grey colour pallet as it’s gender neutral and understated. Even the new version which have yellow piping detail are easy on the eyes.

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Conclusion

After bouldering in these boots for about a month I am really impressed with how they fit, feel and perform, and I can see myself sticking with the Scarpa brand for future shoes. They are a versatile shoe for a beginner or advanced climber as they perform great in every department. Personally, I’m happy to have found a comfortable fitting shoe which is easy to get hold of and I feel has helped me improve my climbing skills.

I don’t think you can ask for much more from a boot!

 

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Climbing Out of a Bad Situation

A few posts back I wrote about how I’ve been having a hard time with climbing, as I’ve not had very good sessions lately and it was starting to get me down. It even made me question if I should take a break. However, I stuck with it and climbed once a week even if I really wasn’t feeling it, and I am so happy I did. I wish I could pinpoint the moment or cause for the sad plateau, but I guess that would make life far too easy. So even though at the time it sucked to not be feeling as strong as I knew I could be, simply persevering with the circumstances appears to have paid off. That and the fact that A Boy Who Climbs was very kind and patient with me, and gave me the much needed push to continue.

 

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Bouldering last night was great and it was so lovely to be back in a good place with it. I enjoyed trying to grip the awful holds, attempting moves I found scary and over all just throwing myself up the walls with gusto. I’m so excited to climb again at the weekend!

 Sometimes turning up for training when you really, really don’t want to is half the battle for any sport. Don’t let yourself feel defeated if you’re having a rough time. If you put in the time then you will feel the rewards in the end despite it feeling like you won’t – promise!

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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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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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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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