Outdoors

Want to Get Into Climbing? Here Are Five Tips to Get Started

Climbing season is here!
Climbing season is here! Movement Climbing + Fitness RiNo
There’s no denying that the sport of rock climbing is gaining popularity: With its inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics and movies such as Free Solo hitting the big screens, more and more folks are finding their way to the gyms and the crags to join this longstanding community of adventurists and athletes.

Denver is a great place to be a climber, with its variety of indoor climbing gyms and proximity to some of the best outdoor crags in the country. If you want to get into this unique sport, here are five tips to keep in mind as you get started:

Utilize the gym’s resources
Whether or not you want to eventually climb outdoors, starting off in a gym is a great way to learn about the sport's technicalities in a safe and controlled environment. Most gyms offer a variety of introductory classes and lessons that are accessible and inclusive, with a staff that is ready to answer questions, offer advice and guide you through the basics. Get to know your new community, find a buddy through the gyms' networking events or bulletin boards, learn how to belay, try out bouldering vs. top-roping and watch and learn from other climbers to get a handle on best practices, etiquette and culture.

Prioritize safety
As much as climbing is meant to be casual and fun, the safety of yourself and others must always be at the forefront of your mind; it's a general mentality that all climbers should have. Take your time when learning about your gear, understand possible risks and common mistakes, and always double-check yourself and others. Ask questions if you’re unsure, and practice everything on the ground before getting on the wall.

Buy your shoes in person
Your climbing shoes are an extension of your body, and having the right fit makes all the difference when it comes to performance. With the right shoes, you can trust your feet to hold you on the tiniest of holds and get you through climbs you didn’t think you could do. Your normal shoe size may not be the best fit in this context, so take the time to try shoes on in person and get a pro’s help. They’re not meant to be comfortable, but they’re not meant to be torturous, either.

Think holistically
A common mistake when getting started is to rely solely on your upper-body strength to pull you up the wall. Don't muscle your way through it; instead, pay attention to your feet and consciously use your legs to support your weight. Take time to stretch and work on your flexibility, too, as this is often more important than strength. It will take time for your tendons and ligaments to adapt to climbing, so be patient with yourself. Start easy, be consistent, and don’t push yourself too hard lest you cause an injury.

It’s as psychological as it is physical
In the words of Edmund Hillary, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” Climbing is a game of fear and trust: Once you get on the wall, you will quickly learn just how much your mental state influences your physical world. Fear is a natural response that almost all climbers deal with, and it can often prevent you from getting up a route that you are more than capable of doing. Combat your fear with your breath, relax your body, focus on your next move, and trust that even if you fall, you will be safe.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.