START WARMING UP BEFORE YOU CLIMB
Nothing puts me on edge more than watching a climber stroll up to the crag, tie on to a steep and challenging route, and begin climbing. I physically shudder at the thought that I am about to witness a career-ending injury, not because I am a very compassionate person, just because I’m worried it will ruin a perfectly good day of climbing.
Having been around climbers enjoying the sport for a number of years, I am frequently surprised by how many established climbers often forgo any kind of warm-up. The whole idea of a warm-up is to help the body transfer oxygen freely to the muscles. If you are taking on a challenging route, surely you want to be in the best physical condition to give yourself the best chance of success,
PEOPLE ARE WARMING UP WRONG
I have an annoying tendency to approach climbers, even those I don’t know, and ask them why they have chosen to forgo the warm up, I often get the same reply. “I want my muscles to be fresh for the route”. Well, if your muscles are fatigued after your warm up, then you aren’t doing it correctly.
You should warm up on a route so easy, that you can lower off it and then complete it a second time without having to take any rest. If you need to rest in between laps, you’re warming up on a route that is too challenging.
Alternatively, if you really don’t like the idea of putting any fatigue into your muscles at all, you can do some light cardio for 10 minutes. I have seen a couple of people doing star jumps. I usually end up riding my bike to the gym and consider this most of my warmup. Then after a couple of stretches and climbing drills, I am ready to climb.
Also, don’t be afraid to rest in between your warm-up routes and your targeted routes. Once I have warmed up, I usually take 10 minutes to organise everything which provides ample rest for any muscles engaged in the warm-up. Sports climbers, who might be on the rock for longer, often take 15 minutes in between the warm-up routes and their steeper, crimpy routes.
WARMING UP FOR INDOOR CLIMBING
When you are in the climbing gym it becomes much easier to warm up. Often the easiest routes in an indoor gym are easier than outside on the crag. Because you have so much choice, introduce some climbing drills to your warmup routes to improve technique. Climb the route only facing to the left or only facing to the right, then one-handed. These maximise the time spent warming up by reinforcing your techniques and mentally preparing yourself to climb.
When I am climbing outside on the crag, I sometimes find that by the time I have warmed up then rigged a top rope, I am already starting to cool down again. This is why it is so important to wear the appropriate clothing. Wearing another layer to stay warm at the bottom will help you prepare for your route by ensuring your muscles don’t cool off before you attempt it.
Warming up is a bit of an art form. What works for one person doesn’t work for someone else. But that is the fun of it. Everyone needs to find what works for them. However, it is time that the entire climbing community embraced the warm up. It could be a real day-saver if one day your body isn’t ready for the stress you put it under.
Do you have anything to add? How do you warm up before a climb, Let us know in the comments section below.