More important than your coffee in the morning - ok, maybe not quite that important - is how you warm up. It's the tone setter. Gets you loose. Preps your body to try hard. And if you do it wrong, can result in absolute disaster.
Let's Get Physical.
No, I'm not going to tell you to jog around and get your heart rate up until you break a light sweat, then do 30 minutes of light stretching and calisthenics. You've heard all that already, and you still don't do it. Neither do I. When I show up to the wall, no matter what my intentions are, I'm WAY too psyched to start climbing to do jumping jacks and toe touches. If you want to do your yoga workout before you climb, feel free. Just be sure to wear a sweatband and some sweet spandex. Then you can start really warming up while I'm sending the project of the day.
In all seriousness, warming up improperly has destroyed a climbing day for every single one of us. When it does go bad, its usually due to one of a few specific reasons.
1. Ego. A group of hot climber chicks just showed up to the crag, and you decided to warm up on the classic 12c instead of the 11a you have dialed. At the 3rd bolt, you wanted to say take but the redhead was watching you. She didn't notice you getting flash-pumped on your warmup, but she'll notice later when she's crushing the project you're getting worked on.
2. Not Enough, or None At All. I know, you believe that getting on the project immediately will provide you with much more energy than you'll have if you do these two warmups first. You're only halfway to the rest, you're getting pumped stupid, and you lunge to a small crimp and hear a devastating pop in your finger. No worries, you've got lots of extra energy.
3. Not Specific. The project is a 13c that leaves the ground with a steep V8 thin pocket problem, and you warmed up on the slabby 10c. Maybe you even did the juggy vert 11b. You must be ready! Umm, probably not. Your fingers hate you.
Yoga gets you WARM! For yoga.
No matter which class of warmup idiot you are, there are several basic and surefire ways to combat the dreaded flashpump and be sure that you're ready to put forward your best performance.
1. No Ego. Don't be afraid to say take if you feel the pump coming on too much. Even if you've done this pitch a hundred times, you've never fallen, and a hot redhead is watching, say TAKE. You can always cover it up with, "I'm just gonna hang here and brush these crux holds for whoever's next."
2. Get It In. If you've been doing this awhile, you know when you're ready. If you're new at trying hard projects, and don't really have a handle on what "warm" really is, then a good place to start is by doing at least 3 routes, starting a full 2 numbers below your project, and increasing the difficulty a little with each route. A good pump isn't a bad thing, particularly if your project is going to be endurance oriented.
3. Be Specific. Simple: if the project is steep, do some steep climbing to warm up. If you're slab climbing, do a little friction and edge climbing to warm up and get your brain and body ready for it. You don't have to stay "on route" during your warmups. If the only option is a 5.9 jug haul, grab the little crimps in between the jugs, or just make a few hard moves on purpose. Boulder at the base if you need to.
4. Familiarity. Some people seek out new climbs to warmup on. I love to warmup on routes I've done a thousand times. If I have the route dialed, I can easily change the pace if I feel it's needed. I can sprint and get a little winded. I can rest and stretch my shoulders. I can change beta and play around if my brain needs to loosen up. I can downclimb if my body is resisting my efforts to warm up. The only danger here is that you'll know how you "should" feel. Keep in mind that it's a warmup... and working out the kinks is its purpose. If you didn't feel as good on it as you did last week, that's ok. It's just as easy to feel better on a project as it is to feel worse on a warmup. Don't let your emotions cloud your goal for the day.
Don't let the flashpump get you down.
I'm very aware that it isn't always just cut and dry. Warming up for your current project may need to be completely different than warming up for your last big send. Here are a few situations, complete with a few tried and true warmup methods to get you prepped to clip the chains. Keep in mind that most of these methods assume this is a true project, and you aren't counting attempts. If you like to count your go's and keep them as low as possible, you'll abhor my suggestions.
1. 3 or 4 bolt Bouldery Crux, Right Off the Deck. If you're in redpoint mode, and you aren't counting attempts, then a surefire way to warm up in this situation is to stickclip as high as you can and then go bolt to bolt through the initial difficulties, taking it easy and getting your muscles firing. At the top of the crux, where the difficulty eases considerably, lower off, pull the rope, and rest for 15-20 minutes. Then fire it. You'll be through the crux before you know it, and on your way to the chains.
2. Long, Easy Climbing to a Chain Guarding Crux. If it fits in, use that intro "pitch" as your final warmup. Just below the crux, a bolt or two from the anchors, is where it gets tricky. You MUST take here. It'll be tempting to keep going. You feel so good! You might do it this time! Or, you might blow it, blow your warmup, and blow your day. Instead, call it a working burn and say take. Rest a few minutes, then fire the crux. Once. Twice at most, and only if it's not so steep that it requires shenanigans to get back into, which will take more out of you than you think. Lower off. Rest 30 or 40 minutes and then go for it.
3. No Real Crux, No Real Rest. Even though this is not my natural pace, it's my favorite style of climbing. Racing the pump can be fun, but requires a good warmup and precision movement to keep it together. If you're on attempt #57 or something, and you have the moves completely dialed, then just go for it after getting a decent "half pump" on your warmups (which you should be sprinting through, rather than using availiable rests). If you're only on go #6, you might need to refresh your memory about some key foot sequences. Go bolt to bolt. Say take no matter how good you feel. You can use this opportunity to brush all the holds, go over any tricky spots, and get your confidence going. At this point, don't try the crux move 8 different ways, no matter how easy the peanut gallery says their beta is; do it your way, once. You should lower off feeling pretty fresh. 45 minutes later, you're gonna need to choose a new project.
The stickclip is your friend.
4. No Real Crux, Rests Everywhere. This one is the easiest to warm up for, but maybe the easiest to shortcut. If you don't get warmed up enough that pump will set in deep, and won't go away all day. Your project is a 140 foot, 45 degree jug haul, and there isn't a hard move anywhere... you should just warmup on it, right? If that were the case, you'd have onsighted it and wouldn't be ruining your season with a perpetual flash pump. Fact is, you have to get pumped to warm up for getting pumped. Do 3 or 4 routes, mimicking the pace of the marathon you're going to be on later. Rest and recover often, move at your speed, and breathe steady. Keep your heart rate low. Let a little pump set in... a little more on each warmup. Rest an hour or so and go to work.
5. Nerd Gate at the First Bolt. Your project is a 13d that steps off the ground into a vicious 3 move V9 boulder problem, followed by an amazing 13b that, at this point, you have mostly dialed. Warm up by stickclipping past the nerd gate, brushing the holds, and doing a couple of relaxing big links on the remainder of the route. Get the holds all brushed up and ready, but take care not to get pumped. Lower off, rest 20 minutes or so, and try the boulder problem. You may not stick it first try... don't fret. Assuming you know the moves, and you just have to execute, don't spend an excessive amount of time doing and redoing a single move here. Lower off, rest just a few minutes, and try again. When you stick that move, you're going to the top.
Grab draws. Hangdog. Just look good doing it.