How To Climb Harder Than The Other Newbs: Training Wheels.

I made brief mention in my last post that I most often get the question "How do I get better faster?" from beginners.  Then, in typical fashion, I answered the question for pretty much every one but beginners, only giving one paragraph to the newbies.

Well, newbs, rejoice!  You get a whole post.  A short one, but your very own set of training wheels.

This is you.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  I was a newb once, too.  But I'm not anymore, so I can make fun of you all I want.  In all honesty, sometimes I envy your position.  It was fun seeing massive gains every week.  Now I fight for months to eke out half a letter grade.  Now that I think about it... you really DON'T want to get better faster.  It's just setting you up for earlier obsession over training minutiae.  And maybe depression.  Nah, forget it.  Take up golf.  Scratch that.  Golf is even more depressing than climbing.

Ok, so if you actually want to do this, here's how:

Stop trying the harder problems.

Not altogether, but stop spending your entire well of energy throwing yourself at a problem that you KNOW you look ridiculous on, just because it's a harder grade than your friend just struggled up.

If I were you, (which I'm not, thank goodness), here's how my time in the gym would look until I could regularly onsight 11b and consistently climb V3 or V4 without jumping, campusing, whining, crying, or my feet flailing around like an idiot:

1.  Warm up for an hour on very easy climbs.  Do them perfectly and smoothly.  DO NOT adjust feet after looking away from them, blindly searching for a better part of the foothold.  EVER.  True, you have a point... Chris Sharma barely uses his feet sometimes.  That's because he can.  When he does use his feet, you'll never see him blindly readjusting them.

2.  3 or 4 attempts at a route, or 45-60 minutes on boulders that are a few letter grades above your onsight level.  These routes or problems should take 5 or 6 attempts max to send.   Once you've sent, be sure to repeat them regularly.  Getting better isn't a fluke... so don't be scared to ruin the "feeling" of sending something hard for you.  Eventually, it will be a warm up.

3.  All other time....volume.  Mileage.  If you're route climbing, link several easy climbs.  Climb at every angle in the gym.  Crimps.  Slopers.  Pockets.  If you're bouldering, do ALL of the problems that are easier than your top grade.  Again, do them all perfectly.  None of that muscling through.  Mileage, mileage, MILEAGE!  All these moves have to become automatic for you to access them at a moment's notice.  Your bag of tricks can never be big enough.

4.  2-3 times a month, allow yourself a night to try something really hard.  Get bouted.  Get a glimpse of movement you can barely understand.  When trying something hard, come up with your own solutions, but always pay close attention to how the better climbers do it, particularly those who appear to float through moves you can barely muster.  Try to emulate their movements.  Yes, I know that your way works for you.  Try it their way, too.  Why not get better at both ways?

In fact, this is roughly how my sessions were laid out until I could consistently onsight 12b, had redpointed 13b, and flashed V7.  I might have waited a little too long to change things up.  You won't make that mistake, because I made it for you.  I know it's hard.  The temptation to get sucked into flailing with your friends will be constant.  It might even happen that you won't send a specific problem as fast as your friends who don't take my advice.  But you'll send all of the problems, and in style, not just that one.  You'll be able to do them over and over.  And a year or two down the road, when your friends are still only sending one problem of the grade, every once in a while, you'll have moved on to your very own, shiny, big kid bike!

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