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sydney173


Apr 30, 2013, 7:54 PM
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Frustrated Female Newbie
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I apologize if similar topics have already been posted. I scanned quite a few posts and couldnít really find the answer I was looking for.

I am new female climber. I have been climbing about once a week for about 3 months now. I will be climbing much more frequently this summer (outdoor and indoor). I am a bit frustrated with my progress. Obviously I know that rock climbing requires technique and learning those techniques takes a lot of time.

My problem is that I naturally have a very weak body. I am short and petite. My wrists are barely two inches wide and I have tiny hands. I have always shied away from athletic stuff because of my lack of body strength. I decided to change that about 2 years ago and have been working out consistently (cardio + strength training.) I hit a road bump 9 months ago when I broke my shoulder and right foot in a car accident. Any progress I achieved in the gym was wiped out. Once my fractures healed, I got back to the gym and started trying to get back into shape.

I fell into the rock climbing a few months ago. I climb with two experienced male climbers. They have great lean muscle tone and climb with ease. Granted, they have been climbing for quite a while, but I feel discouraged climbing with them. They are always telling me that I donít need upper body strength to climb. They claim that I can just use my hands for balance and use the strength of my legs and core to get up the wall. I have reached some success and improvement doing this, but I still suck at climbing. The highest grade Iíve been able to climb is 5.7 (and it isnít gracefully.) I feel like anything past that requires a pull up strength at some point, especially with routes that have an overhang. My climbing partners have no problem doing these moves and I often wonder how much of it is due to body type as opposed to technique. I also feel like reach is an issue for me due to my short stature.

I am going to keep focusing on developing technique, but I wonder if it would be equally as important to get my arm strength up. Lately, I have adding a lot of arm, back and chest weight training to my workout routine in hopes that it will get by body up to speed. And as I mentioned before, I will be doing a significant amount of climbing this summer.

I am just curious what other female beginner climbers experiences were like. Did others find it extremely frustrating to see their male counterparts power their way up the wall in ways you physically canít? Are my climbing partners correct in saying that I donít need upper body strength to climb? Perhaps I am being a bit too negative and expecting way too much progress for how much time I have put into this. Any and all advice would be well appreciated.

Thanks for readingÖI know it is a bit long winded.


olderic


Apr 30, 2013, 8:21 PM
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The party line will suggest that you find others of your gender and stature to watch and emulate at wherever you climb - gym or crag. Trying to tag along with tall leans guys and tying their beta may be frustrating.

Also it's typical to say that initially guys will progress faster by using upper body strength but in the long run technique will prevail and females often - out of necessity - excel at this.

Bottom line advice - learn to climb like a girl.

Personally I think a lot of this is BS but it will be the advice you will get


shockabuku


Apr 30, 2013, 9:27 PM
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Once a week for three months really doesn't equate to much of an investment nor would I expect too much progress. That's what - about 13-14 times in the gym? Ramp up to at least twice a week, three if you can manage. How much climbing do you actually do per day (measured in vertical feet)?

Having more upper body strength will help some but I would think that for most climbs at the grade you're climbing you would find technique to be more important. However finger/hand strength/endurance is pretty crucial. Usually a sufficient amount of that comes along within the first month (roughly) if you're climbing often enough, but I don't think once a week is really going to give you much gain.

All that said, climbing with someone your own skill level once in a while would probably help your mental approach.


caughtinside


Apr 30, 2013, 10:17 PM
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It's ok to quit.


Syd


Apr 30, 2013, 11:01 PM
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I've noticed that women, far more so than men, often have emotional barriers to climbing. It particularly seems to prevent them using their legs well. I've even seen a few burst out crying as a release after their first outdoor climb. My wife had little improvement for many years but after giving birth to our son, her climbing has skyrocketed. Now that she's climbing so well, it has given her a huge self esteem boost, which helps her climb even better and has encouraged her to get much stronger.


JimTitt


Apr 30, 2013, 11:22 PM
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Syd wrote:
I've noticed that women, far more so than men, often have emotional barriers to climbing. It particularly seems to prevent them using their legs well. I've even seen a few burst out crying as a release after their first outdoor climb. My wife had little improvement for many years but after giving birth to our son, her climbing has skyrocketed. Now that she's climbing so well, it has given her a huge self esteem boost, which helps her climb even better and has encouraged her to get much stronger.

This does seem to be the case for some, one of my previous climbing partners was a pro tennis player, fit, strong and with all the tools required to analyse what she was doing physically and yet she still wouldnīt trust her feet enough to try to push her limits and fall off something. She also suffered from a certain amount of an inferiority complex which is never going to be a recipe for success in climbing.
Itīs in the head, not the hands.


jt512


Apr 30, 2013, 11:24 PM
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Re: [Syd] Frustrated Female Newbie [In reply to]
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Syd wrote:
I've noticed that women, far more so than men, often have emotional barriers to climbing. It particularly seems to prevent them using their legs well. I've even seen a few burst out crying as a release after their first outdoor climb. My wife had little improvement for many years but after giving birth to our son, her climbing has skyrocketed. Now that she's climbing so well, it has given her a huge self esteem boost, which helps her climb even better and has encouraged her to get much stronger.

That is arguably the stupidest post ever made on this website. To recap your claim: Women have emotional difficulties using their legs well in climbing, but their problem is resolved by giving birth.

You're an idiot.


(This post was edited by jt512 on Apr 30, 2013, 11:34 PM)


Syd


May 1, 2013, 1:07 AM
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jt512 wrote:

That is arguably the stupidest post ever made on this website. To recap your claim: Women have emotional difficulties using their legs well in climbing, but their problem is resolved by giving birth.

You're an idiot.

Mention of emotions and I was expecting a mindless male to reply.

Thanks Jim Titt. Good to see you are more aware.


granite_grrl


May 1, 2013, 4:50 AM
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You need to gain some perspective. When I started climbing I remember thinking I was pretty kick ass for climbing 5.7. But for the first couple of years grades were pretty meaningless for me, I'm not sure if I knew what I was getting on half the time even.

I progressed super slow too I think, but I was happy to putter along. You have the advantage of climbing with two climbers who are better than you. Instead of looking at them and comparing yourself to them be excited that you have someone who can push you to be a better climber.

And yes, at these easier grades your lack of strength isn't really going to make a difference. I feel that breaking out of 5.10 is where people will really feel barriers (either they have technique and no strength, or strength and not technique.....you can totally technique your way all the way into the 5.10 range).

So to recap:
- 5.7 is kick ass if you want it to be kick ass.
- keep hoping on those harder routes, it'll make you a better climber in the long run.
- you need to work on technique, you're still a long way away from brute strength being what's holding you back.


Kartessa


May 1, 2013, 7:02 AM
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As mentioned before, a dozen or so days of climbing isn't going to make you climb 5.12.

You need to work your technique, you need to get stronger, and you need a lot of practice to earn those higher grades.


Shanna


May 1, 2013, 7:14 AM
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Short and petite are not limits to climbing (I am 5'1) and although it has not been easy to progress through the grades, I have worked on different weaknesses to progress.

5.7 is good!! If you are climbing mostly in the gym, most gyms don't cater to shorter climbers (unless you live in an area with a lot of kids climbing). I climb much better outside on real rock that provide intermediate holds and more options.

You have only climbed a few times- like any sport you have to climb to learn how to do it. Plus your injuries are significant, so you are likely starting over.

I will disagree with the statement that you don't need upper body strength - if you desire to move into harder grades (5.11 and up), it really helps to have the upper body strength to power through the moves. But before worrying about this, work on technique and movement.

Get outside this summer and climb and have fun!! It is supposed to be fun even if you don't get to the top or you don't ever climb grade xx.


Shanna


May 1, 2013, 7:16 AM
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What?? Seriously Syd, what happened that your wife improved this much?
I would hestitate to generalize to all females, with N=1.


SE_climber


May 1, 2013, 7:24 AM
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I will agree with a few others that part of why you're not at the level you would like is that there's something holding you back mentally. But that is not just a "woman" problem. All three of the male climbing partners I've introduced to climbing over the last year have experienced that emotional/mental block (panicking when halfway up a wall, fear of falling, freezing up, frustration). So having a mental or emotional reaction to climbing isn't an exclusively female issue--it can, and does, happen to everybody.

Getting over a mental block can be tricky. Sometimes it just takes practice and more climbing, especially if the problem is a fear of falling, not trusting your feet, etc. If the problem is more frustration or a bad case of the "I can't-s," I find it useful to read the route or problem first, think about the movement, and get myself psyched for it (it's going to be fun!). Then when I start climbing, I deliberately focus all my mental energy on what I need to do to set up for the next move--thinking "I can't" or "my arms hurt" or "my foot is slipping I'm going to fall" is not allowed.

If you're feeling like the issue is more physical, the best way to get better at climbing is to climb more. Since you are new to the sport, I would recommend trying to get climbing sessions in 2-3 times a week, but always with a rest day (or two) in between to allow you to build strength while making sure you aren't overworking your ligaments and tendons (especially in your shoulders, arms, and fingers).

Your partners are right, you should be putting most of your weight on your feet, which can feel awkward and precarious at first--practice will make this feel better (and maybe better shoes if you are only climbing in well worn gym shoes). One way to practice this is to warm up by traversing. Find a stretch of wall that nobody is on and climb left to right, right to left while staying low to the ground. Then you can practice letting your hands and arms relax and deliberately putting as much weight on your feet as you can without having the pressure of being up high. You can also practice footwork--placing your feet very carefully/deliberately, keeping your toes pointed toward the wall. And you can practice balance--shifting your weight with your hips, crossing your legs to the next foot chip, counterbalancing your arms and legs, etc.

If you would like a good summary of basic climbing technique, I've found this video to be quite good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncSVUbqWGtI. Climbing really isn't about doing a bunch of pull ups (I can't do one); it's about knowing when and how to shift your weight in such a way that you decrease the amount of energy it takes to complete the climb. With practice, you'll be able to read the route and match the most effective technique to the climb. You'll know you got it right if everything feels fluid and smooth (not necessarily easy, but "correct").


potreroed


May 1, 2013, 7:34 AM
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Don't worry, be happy, keep climbing. You will improve dramatically when you get outside and start climbing more often.


petsfed


May 1, 2013, 8:03 AM
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The other thing that will hold you back on overhangs is an absence of core strength. The ability to keep your feet on the wall and therefore use them can often come down to body tension, which means keeping your trunk firm while you do so. This is an often underlooked part of good technique. If you don't already have a strong enough core, consider adding leglifts and other, similar, exercises to your workout.

Also, like any exercise regime, once a week isn't going to cut it. Aim for 2-3 times a week, and make sure that as much time as possible is spent climbing, rather than talking. Take note of how many climbs you do in a 2-3 hour period, and try to increase that number.

Finally, pick up a copy of the Self-Coached Climber, and start working the technique exercises into your gym visits. I think you'll see rapid change in your climbing once you start identifying and addressing your *actual* weak points.


jmeizis


May 1, 2013, 8:41 AM
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So you are climbing around 5 or so hours a month (just an estimate) and you're wondering why you're not progressing very quickly?

I'll put it simply. If you want to get good at something you have to do it a lot!

Climbing, like any other sport does require some physical adaptation to improve. While it does sound like you have some mental and technical barriers that are holding you back as well, why don't you try immersing yourself in the activity a bit more? During the time from one gym session to the next any physical adaptation you've made is mostly gone. Any technical skills you've acquired are probably forgotten, and your mental anxiety about performance, heights, and anything else pretty much stays at the same level.

A weightlifting workout is going to be of minimal help for your climbing. Especially compared to doing a higher volume of climbing.

To give you a comparison I have two youth classes I teach. In one class I have a girl who comes in three or four times a week, climbing for about 2 or 3 hours. In the other class I have a girl who comes in just for the hour long class and never climbs beyond that (in other words a volume similar to yours). Now there is a difference in physical size, athletic ability, etc. But the first girl (who is pretty short still) started off climbing 5.7 and was regularly climbing 5.10's in about a month. The second girl (who is quite tall) started off struggling with 5.6's and after about three months of climbing still has trouble on 5.7's. One of them is really psyched on climbing, the other is just doing it as a form of fun exercise.

I'll reiterate this again. If you want to get good at something you have to do it a lot.

Spend a month climbing three times a week. I'll be very surprised if you don't improve more quickly than you have been.


(This post was edited by jmeizis on May 1, 2013, 8:43 AM)


jorgegonzalez


May 1, 2013, 12:30 PM
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I've tried to analyze this problem of uneven development over a long time. I still climb relatively well (sometimes not) even though I am an older and quite heavy climber. Much of it depends on my technique, which I have developed over thirty + years.

When I take new climbers out I try to find a small boulder that is not too steep, but very textured, and have them climb the face without the use of their hands., i.e., relying totally on foot placement, friction, and balance. It helps them center their body over their feet and learn they gain elevation primarily through their feet. In Joshua Tree there is one directly in front of Echo Rock's "Stick to What?" that works well.

Much depends on what type of rock you are climbing on, your lack of information in your profile limits our ability to gauge that. For instance, I think it is harder to learn in Joshua Tree (California), which, while being very featured rock, tends to be varied and changes from climb to climb. The paucity of "easier" climbs makes it difficult to develop good foot technique over time and with experience. Personally I like the Alabama Hills for beginners (and for getting the head back after a long lay-off) because it has a lot of small edges and is not steep (80-85 degrees).

BTW, I have taught several females, none of whom could do a pull-up (I cant anymore either) yet through well developed foot technique they all were able to get on 5.10s within a few weeks.


lena_chita
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May 1, 2013, 1:11 PM
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sydney173 wrote:
I am just curious what other female beginner climbers experiences were like. Did others find it extremely frustrating to see their male counterparts power their way up the wall in ways you physically canít? Are my climbing partners correct in saying that I donít need upper body strength to climb? Perhaps I am being a bit too negative and expecting way too much progress for how much time I have put into this. Any and all advice would be well appreciated.

Yes, your partners are correct in saying that it doesn't take much upper body strength to climb 5.7. but it doesn't exactly help your frustration, when you see guys easily doing it and it looks like they ARE pulling themselves up.

It is pretty common in the beginning. Many men have an easier time starting climbing, and can muscle their way through easier grades. Then they often hit a plateau when they get to harder climbs where just muscling through in not enough, you need some technique. Many women start on the other end. They have no upper body strength, so they start slowly, and are forced to develop good technique to get through the moves that they can't just force. And then it turns out that it makes things easier in the long run.

You will get stronger if you keep climbing. And you will get better if you keep climbing,. Have you ever heard of the "10,000-hour rule"? what do you have right now? 30 of those 10,000 hours, more or less?

Some gyms have technique classes. Some even have women-specific classes. Look into it. Google Chicks Rock for some women specific outdoor clinics. Pricey, but worth it, for some people. Also, make friends with other women at the gym, and climb with them sometimes. it is good to broaden your group of climbing partners, because you can learn different things from different people.

There will always be routes that would feel harder for you than for your taller male partners, because of your lack of reach. This is especially true indoors. Outdoors, the variety is much greater, and you can more easily find climbs that suit your style and body type.

So all in all, hang in there, keep climbing, try to remember WHY you are doing it, and have fun.


lena_chita
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May 1, 2013, 1:22 PM
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Syd wrote:
I've noticed that women, far more so than men, often have emotional barriers to climbing. It particularly seems to prevent them using their legs well. I've even seen a few burst out crying as a release after their first outdoor climb. My wife had little improvement for many years but after giving birth to our son, her climbing has skyrocketed. Now that she's climbing so well, it has given her a huge self esteem boost, which helps her climb even better and has encouraged her to get much stronger.

Newsflash: women and men express their emotions differently (for reasons we won't go into, at the moment). Women are more likely to cry when frustrated, and men are more likely to scream, punch the rock and throw a wobbler fit.

Men have been conditioned and socialized to hide emotions such as fear, uncertainty, hesitation, while women are often more open to expressing such emotions. Also, women are more likely to look for external validation and approval, to look for someone ELSE telling them that they are doing well and they will be O.K.

SO, yes, you are picking up real differences and baggage that people bring with them into climbing.

BUT... What does it have to do with using legs I am not at all sure.


jt512


May 1, 2013, 1:35 PM
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lena_chita wrote:
Syd wrote:
I've noticed that women, far more so than men, often have emotional barriers to climbing. It particularly seems to prevent them using their legs well. I've even seen a few burst out crying as a release after their first outdoor climb. My wife had little improvement for many years but after giving birth to our son, her climbing has skyrocketed. Now that she's climbing so well, it has given her a huge self esteem boost, which helps her climb even better and has encouraged her to get much stronger.

BUT... What does it have to do with using legs I am not at all sure.

And what is the proposed mechanism underlying the effect of parity on leg use in climbing?


SE_climber


May 1, 2013, 1:50 PM
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I keep seeing Ashima Shiraishi's reaction to working on Shaken Not Stirred (a la Reel Rock 2011) juxtaposed with Adam Ondra's reaction to getting shut down on La Dura Dura (Reel Rock 7). They are really working through the same "emotional barriers"--Adam just throws more of a temper tantrum.


Syd


May 1, 2013, 2:45 PM
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Shanna wrote:
What?? Seriously Syd, what happened that your wife improved this much?
I would hestitate to generalize to all females, with N=1.

Shanna, Yes. I've climbed with many beginner females other than my wife and I'm not generalizing. As Lena says, we all express emotions differently and we all react different, with women being particularly different and emotionally sensitive than men. I remember climbing in the gym with one beginner female who had never climbed to the top in half a dozen visits to the gym. I asked her if inability to complete things was a feature in other aspects of her life. She said it was. We talked about it for 20 minutes ... she climbed again and rocketed to the top ... and proceeded to climb harder routes. I don't think my wife even knows why she suddenly started improving so much after the baby but any parents here would know that having a child has a massive emotional impact.


Shanna


May 1, 2013, 2:49 PM
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In my dozen+ years of climbing, I have not seen any women experience such huge personal breakthroughs after child birth. But if she did- kudos to her and congrats. It is always cool to improve.
Can I ask what grade she is climbing now?


sydney173


May 1, 2013, 4:28 PM
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Wow, Thanks everyone for responding! Lots of great information, except maybe the thing about childbirthÖI loving climbing, but am definitely not willing try giving birth to improve my form ; ) Joking asideÖ

After reading through everything and talking with my boyfriend (one of my climbing partners), I think the location of where I was climbing might have been part of the problem for me. Due to my current location, I was climbing at a gym that happened to have a modest rock wall. The gym workers that work in the rock wall room are not climbers. They are taught how to belay and are allowed to set routes, but they arenít trained in doing so or are really that interested in the sport. And all the workers that set routes are big beefy dudes that like doing a lot of dyno stuff. The wall is overall very limiting and probably not the best place for someone like me. This is probably why I got super frustrated watching men do multiple crazy pull-up moves and not understand why I couldnít do the same.

I did climb outside once and loved it! I didnít feel like my upper body limited me as much because I had so many more options and could really focus on using my legs and core. I plan on getting outside at least once or twice a week now that it is summer. I am also moving to a different town that happens to have a great climbing gym with lots of variety. I went today and already felt better about the situation. Iím going to sign up for a year membership. Hopefully I will meet so female climbers and learn from them.

I also didnít want my post to come off that I was impatient and expected to be climbing 5.10ís right away. I totally understand that I need to put in many more hours. I just wanted to make sure I was approaching the situation correctly given my body type. I donít really care if I donít get past 5.7 this summer. I just want to get more confident and graceful doing so.

Anyway, thanks again everyone. Any other input or advice is welcome :)


Alimali


May 2, 2013, 10:48 PM
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Re: [sydney173] Frustrated Female Newbie [In reply to]
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I think there's a few important points to make.

At the 5.7 grade, it's not about strength. It's about technique and confidence. I hope this doesn't come across as rude, but climbs at that grade are not difficult - as long as your injuries are not permanent and you are otherwise able-bodied (the level of fitness required isn't any higher than is required to walk from your car to the climbing gym), the only thing stopping you from climbing at that grade is mental and technique-related.

I started climbing at about 80 pounds, and I've seen kids less than 4 feet tall climb 5.7's. So small size isn't a problem! A lot of the best female climbers in the world are short. You just have to find different ways of doing things. Maybe you'll have to do a lot of high steps, or use small holds as intermediates. There are plenty of ways around it! You'll actually have an advantage in balancing yourself on the wall, and you will find roof-climbing a lot easier than people with long limbs. You will also find that you're able to crouch into small and cramped positions without the problems that bigger people will encounter.

Also, girls and guys climb pretty differently. Girls might not be able to do as many pull ups or make dynamic moves as large, but in my experience girls are better at other things - I find balance-y moves much easier than a lot of guys I climb with, and can bend myself into positions that most guys can't (and I'm not even particularly flexible).

Also, because, being a girl I'm smaller, I find that even though I might not have the power, I'm able to hold myself on the wall for extended periods of time, to think about what I'm going to do/where I'm going to go, without getting pumped.

So, being a girl isn't always a disadvantage either.

Lastly - I'm sorry to say, but if you want to climb better, once a week probably isn't going to do it. In order to progress faster you should probably aim for at least two times a week.

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