It was almost exactly one year ago that I decided to join my local rock climbing gym. I had the vague notion that climbing was fun, and the price was worth it since yoga was included. It turned out to be a great decision and has become something of a new obsession. I was told in my Introduction to Climbing class that for the first year, you should do nothing but climb. Sport specific strength training should wait until your tendons (especially in your fingers) have gained some natural strength from climbing. Because I have a history of jumping obsessively into new sports and promptly injuring myself, I took this advice seriously.
I’ve improved a ton after a year of climbing at the gym, and the better I get, the more interesting it gets, as the more difficult climbs open up to me. I also have a long way to go. I’m not looking to become an expert, but it is incredibly motivating to climb to the top of the wall on a climb rated harder than any you’ve done before. With my year anniversary has come the yearning to learn more about what I can do to improve. I already know that finger strength and the fear of falling on hard bouldering problems or lead climbing probably hinder my progress more than anything. I decided to turn to my favorite source [books] for information in my quest for improvement.
I decided to start at the beginning with Learning to Climb Indoors (2006) by Eric J. Hoerst. This is a book for beginners that starts with descriptions of routes and gear you will need to join a gym. Having climbed for a year, I already knew a lot of this, but I always like starting from the beginning to make sure I don’t miss anything.
Learning to Climb Indoors is a good, basic book for those just starting out with climbing. It quickly describes what gear you need, the difference between top rope, bouldering, and lead climbing, and how to get the most out of climbing. There is a chapter on the mental aspect of climbing, which is way more important than you might assume. In addition, a helpful glossary with climbing lingo is in the back. The book corroborates what my first instructor said, advising to wait on any sport specific strength training until you’ve been climbing for a while. That being said, Hoerst includes a chapter on some basic exercises and stretches that will keep you healthy and improve your climbing.
I thought Learning to Climb Indoors was well-written with a lot of helpful information and pictures. However, it was probably a little basic for me to be reading after climbing for a year. In addition, much of the advice on climbing technique is much better learned through hands on practice (and Hoerst recommends getting a coach for this purpose). It is much easier to pick up technique by watching and doing. Although some of the exercises and advice were helpful, I probably could have jumped right toTraining for Climbing by Hoerst, which supposedly has much more detail for those looking to improve. Fortunately, I bought Training for Climbing and plan on using it as a manual as I continue to climb.
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