Winter Training: Bouldering
There are many different ways to train over the winter, and what you choose to do depends very much on what your aims are. We’re big fans of bouldering.
You might just be trying to maintain a good level of health and fitness through the cold and dark part of the year, or you might be trying to improve specific areas or skills. Last year we shared Jon’s tips on training for triathlon events through the winter months, with some great swimming programmes, and now we’re going to take a look at what you can do to work on a specific skill.
Bouldering is an activity that we love here at Cornish Rock Tors as it is an accessible and useful skill for both rock climbing and also for many elements of coasteering, such as climbing and traversing. It will do wonders for your strength, stamina and climbing technique, and you don’t need any kit to give it a go as it doesn’t require ropes or a harness and you can hire climbing shoes from the climbing center.
What is Bouldering?
Bouldering is a form of low level climbing undertaken never much more than 2 meters above a thick crash mat, and normally involves moving sideways a lot rather than just straight up. You start sat on the mats and follow a route of coloured holds up, down and across a wall, possibly with some sections inverted at a slight angle. Bouldering “problems”, as the routes are called, can be quite challenging and force you to think about and improve your technique. Improvements in strength will come in time, but you will find that perfecting technique will help you to master routes far faster than through brute force alone. The best tip that we can give you is to relax and hang off “your skeleton” rather than tensing up and using your muscles – it really does make it much easier.
Because bouldering is done at low level and without the need for a rope or a climbing partner, you can spend time repeating sections and moves until you master them, which is great, and also means that you can train alone if you choose, or at your own pace. Most climbing centers use a system whereby all of the routes of a particular colour are the same level of difficulty so you can move between different bouldering problems of the same grade if there is a move on one that you are stuck on.
The main thing to remember with bouldering is to take it easy; rest more than you climb to begin with because you will be doing more hard moves when bouldering than you would if you were climbing traditionally (going “up” with ropes) and your hands and arms will soon “pump” and let you know that they have had enough. It’s a good idea to use a stopwatch (on your watch or phone) to enforce 3-5 minute breaks between attempts, and use that rest time to do some light stretching or watch the technique of more proficient climbers around you and learn from them.
Before too long you will find that your stamina improves and you can also start to reduce your rest times. It is better to build up to this, though, rather than go too hard straight out of the blocks and then have to take a few days to recover with aching arms!
Come summer you’ll have improved your technique, strength and stamina and be ready for some of those challenging traverses on our coasteering routes!
Bouldering at Climbing Centres
Many towns and certainly most cities will have a climbing centre with either a bouldering room or a bouldering area in the middle of the hall, and will have climbing shoes to rent for a reasonable price. You can search for your nearest climbing centre in the UK here on the British Mountaineering Council’s website.
We’re lucky enough to have recently had an amazing climbing centre open in North Cornwall, just the other side of Wadebridge. The Tide Climbing Centre is Cornwall’s biggest bouldering facility (built in an old cattle barn with a large café serving coffee and cake for refuelling!) with loads of different routes and problems for climbers of all ages and abilities, and for those who are new to the sport, spread across 600m2. Alongside their entry-level bouldering, they’ve also got a steep, overhanging competition wall, a “top out” boulder (a large box that you climb up onto the top of) and technical slabs. If you’re local to Cornwall and looking for an enjoyable way to train on these dark winter evenings, planning a holiday to North Cornwall, or looking for something to do on a particularly stormy day when we can’t get you out on the water, we suggest you go and check it out.