4 (Realistic) New Year's Resolutions for Rock Climbers
by Christopher Schafenacker
While most people in North America live according to four seasons, climbers (or at least those north of the Mason-Dixon) recognize only two: indoor season and outdoor season. The former is the season to send projects, the latter is the season to prepare to send projects. Logging hours in the gym is a part of this, of course, but real improvement won’t arrive unless training is structured and goal-oriented. The indoor (or winter) season, then—which conveniently coincides with New Year’s—is also about rooting out our weaknesses and resolving to, well, resolve them. Athletics-oriented New Year’s resolutions are important, but climbing is a lot more than just pulling power. You can’t send without access to the crag, a strong head game, and good strategy. And you won’t be sending for long if you don’t have adequate safety knowledge. Any climber’s New Year’s resolutions should account for these factors, too, then.
4 Realistic Resolutions for Improved Climbing in the New Year
1. Fall More One of climbing’s great ironies is that to fall less, you need to learn to fall a whole lot more. Sending your hardest means climbing at your limit, and you can only climb at your limit if unimpeded by fear. This doesn’t mean losing respect for dangerous situations; it simply means gaining comfort in risking a fall when doing so presents little or no danger. The more safe falls you take, the less you will worry about falling. As your nervous system learns that the act presents no danger, the natural impulse to panic at the possibility will subside. This—and learning to climb to failure—shows you where your limits truly lie, which is essential knowledge when trying to push through the pump.
2. Learn to Fail Fear of falling is related not only to (perceived) danger, but to ego, too. We’ve all blown a send after pulling all of a route’s hard moves, simply because we’ve wanted it too badly. Nerves are a natural part of climbing, and yet they grow unmanageable when our ego is unchecked. Not wanting to fail leads some climbers to climb only within their comfort zone, while it leads others to project beyond their ability. It’s easy to avoid admitting that 5.12b is hard if you only ever climb 5.11d or 5.13a. This year, resolve to face failure by building a healthy grade pyramid that forces you to acknowledge your true level, be it above or below where you’d like to admit.
3. Actually Warm-Up Climbers talk a lot about safety, but rarely does warming up figure into the conversation…despite the fact that joint and pulley injuries are far more common than those related to natural hazards or technical errors. Wearing a helmet and mastering the skills needed to climb in your chosen discipline are crucial, but no more so than preparing your body for the strains of the activity. Every climber’s pack should include a band and portable hangboard to ready their muscles, joints, and fingers before pulling on. After all, a foot-slip on your 5.easy warm-up is all that’s needed to shock-load your system and ruin your season.
4. Get Involved Climbing wouldn’t be possible without the generous volunteer work of route developers and access organizations. Even if there’s nothing you’d like to change about your climbing, then there is good reason to make changes to your involvement. In Massachusetts, the Western Massachusetts Climbers Coalition (WMCC) manages the state’s largest climbing areas, while the Rumney Climber’s Association (RCA) cares for the Northeast’s premier sport crag. Both organizations rely on membership fees to finance their efforts, so if you climb on the rock they maintain, it only makes sense that you pitch in to ensure your—and everyone else’s—continued access.
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