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New Climber Q

Climbing is a new world for me, I appreciate your input! My wife and I began climbing, and I'm curious about how to ease into this sport.

We took a beginners class at a local climbing gym, which really offers a lot. We are looking to stay at the gym for a while to develop some skills, but here is my Q: Both instructors mentioned the importance of 'taking it easy' to prevent injury. This is a pretty broad thing, and I'm not sure how much is too much. Do I need to climb 1-2 times/week for a couple of hours for a few months before I gradually stay for a longer time, or increase difficulty? My wife and I are in good physical shape. 

I understand that there is no single answer, but some input from experienced climbers could really help here more than google can... Thank you in advance for your help on the matter! 

My interpretation would be to take it easy on the difficulty rating of your climbs. I've seen way to many people who come into the gym, generally those bulked up weight lifters, and throw an elbow or shoulder out.

A lot of people try to overcome the lack of control and flexibility with big dynamic moves. While dynos are rarely required, and a part of climbing, if you watch the best climbers at your gym they are smooth and fluid in their movements.

The only way to climb better is to climb more.. With that being said there is definitely a point to which you are over doing it. You mentioned that you're in good physical shape, so I'm sure you know when enough is enough. Plus, if you can't figure it out for yourself, your body will do a terrific job of telling you. Just be careful for the first few months because you will gain a lot of muscle strength but your tendons do not get as strong as fast (i.e. forearms, wrists, and ESPECIALLY fingers).

Be very careful with your fingers. A high percentage of injuries to new climbers are to the fingers, mostly because they're excited to climb all the time and usually end up going all out and tweak something, pop a tendon, or get a pulley injury.

All in all, just listen to your body. If you feel weird pain somewhere, take a few days off. My climbing mentor once told me that it's better to take a week off from climbing than the rest of your life. Pretty sound advice.

Climbers can have some unusual PT that places manifold the amount of stress on your skeleton and tendons you would normally encounter in day to day life.  the smaller body structures are most vulnerable.  Take for example door sill pull-ups by your finger tips.  This is a good way to get bad tendonitis if you push the training too aggressively, especially if you are no longer young.  Grip strength exercises can also screw you up if done too aggressively, too frequently, or excessively long sessions.

Another problem is loading joints and ligaments beyond capacity when articulated in exotic positions, or while they are near/at maximum articulation.  I fractured a wrist once while bouldering in Joshua Tree when it was fully pronated in a arm jam below my chest that slipped, causing the joint to articulate beyond my range of flexibility.

There is the obvious damage rock surfaces can wreak on you hands, elbows and knees.  Josh is notorious for tearing up hands, even the most callused individuals are at the park's mercy.  My arms are streaked with scratch scars from the park, some over forty years old.

Intensive climbing activity in rock slippers can deform and damage your feet.  This is caused largely by the same factor that damages some women's feet: wearing shoes that are way too tight.  I know a couple of guys who you could positively Id with only a glance at their nasty, deformed hooves.

Obviously you can do only so much to prevent the last two maladies I mention, but a gradual toughening up of you body will reduce the likelihood of most climbing injuries not directed related to a fall or weather.  


Thank you, whomeworry... Your reinforcing words remind me of an old t-shirt I had decades ago... Maine-Life In The Slow Lane. Like my caution for Mother Nature's wrath, I like to over-plan, take it slow, and never be over-confident...


Yes yes...your tendons need time to catch up...your muscles will out-pace them...

...also, keep that Rotator cuff low-intensity elastic band exercises or something...

September 29, 2020
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