Indoor climbing offers many benefits

Whether you’re a seasoned climber who’s hit a plateau at 5.11 or fairly new to the game and hoping to get strong enough to head outside, Longmont Climbing Collective offers indoor climbing that is focused on helping climbers reach their goals and get to new levels of the sport.

While the state of Colorado has literally thousands of routes and everything from alpine and ice climbing to trad, sport and bouldering, sometimes the best way to get stronger and increase your climbing skill level is to head to the gym. Plus you don’t even need to leave Longmont.

Climbing Gym Benefits

“It will get you stronger for outdoor climbing and that’s basically a proven fact, but one of the best parts of it is how efficient it is,” said Chrissy Vadovszki, a head coach at LCC. “We all live these really busy lives so you can get a good workout really quickly.”

Vadovszki says skipping the long drive to a wall can be game changing. Instead of only being able to make it outside on the weekends, the convenience of climbing gyms makes a huge difference for anyone looking to focus on specific skill sets when you may only have an hour or two after a long work day.

She says another benefit is that the controlled environment can be safer whether that’s a guaranteed floor mat below, or a little more efficient if your goal is to improve something like finger strength.

Patrick Bodnar, another coach at the Longmont climbing gym, agrees with how the controlled indoor climbing environment can be beneficial for those looking to improve the mental aspect of their climbing.

“I think climbing indoors is a great way to get in your headspace and get comfortable trying hard, you know obviously to get your sea legs,” said Bodnar. “And then obviously it’s a great way to build a little bit of strength and endurance in a controlled environment.”

Getting Stronger

Step one for any climber looking to improve is to figure out what they need to work on.

“Knowing what to work on requires a lot of self reflection or potentially even coaching,” said Vadovszki. “But if you can work on your weaknesses inside whatever it might be it’s really time efficient.”

Anyone who feels stuck can look at LCC’s climbing courses for adults. From there, you can then use the different types of climbing in the gym, whether that’s slab or finger pockets, to help build on your climbing foundation. Vadvoszki says knowing the kind of climbing you want to work on can be key, and as Bodnar mentions, unlike the outside, gyms are able to provide multiple different styles of routes.

“I think we’re super lucky climbing in the gym because you have a million different styles you might not encounter all the time outside,” said Bodnar. “But it’s really cool to check out them all in the gym.”

From there, climbers can efficiently use even small amounts of time to focus on things like building up core strength on overhangs, better footwork on slab, using a hangboard to build finger strength or running laps on a route to increase endurance.

“For example if you aren’t very good at climbing on overhangs, there’s plenty of boulders at the gym plus you can use our boards and crank them back,” said Vodvoszki. “You can really work with your weaknesses and isolate them. That’s kind of hard to do outside.”

Another proven way to get stronger with indoor climbing is to actually get off the wall and vary your exercise routine. Simple changes to your workout can help you get over the spot where you feel like you have plateaued, plus it avoids overuse of the same muscles which can lead to injuries. Changing up your routine is also mentally good for you with learning new skills and avoiding burnout.

To do this, climbers can focus on building muscle in fitness classes, whether that’s by lifting weights or expanding their cardio. You can also increase your mental game with both focus and balance by checking out a yoga class.

Translating Indoor Skills to Climbing Outside

The best part of the skills learned at the indoor climbing gym is being able to take them back outside. Whether you’re a long time climber, or you’re making your first jump to bouldering outside.

“I definitely think getting comfortable falling and learning how to fall consistently and not hurt yourself is a great practice in the gym before you head outside,” said Bodnar.

Both Bodnar and Vodvoszki say the social aspect of the gym can also help climbers find friends and mentors to climb with both inside and outside, which can help climbers learn proper techniques and new ways to look at problems by working on routes with different partners. Plus veteran climbers often have the safety skills needed to head outside.

“Don’t start alone,” said Bodnar. “Make sure you have someone with you who’s making sure you’re climbing safe and obviously climbing with friends and mentors is more fun anyway.”

New Year Goals

"There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto."
—Cormac McCarthy

It's the start of a new year, and if you haven’t written out a list of 2021 goals yet, I’ll bet it’s at least crossed your mind. Goals are great—without them who knows the degree to which we might just float through life. Without them, would we even be human?

When they first teach trainers the tricks of the trade, they teach you to help your clients set S.M.A.R.T Goals—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. Makes sense. Especially from the trainer’s perspective. Once your client sets a S.M.A.R.T. goal, the clock is ticking. If you’re a good coach, and the client does all the stuff you tell them to do, great! You hit the goal, you check it off the list. On to the next.

In my time as Head Trainer at Longmont Climbing Collective, I’ve had the honor to be a part of several stories like this. From breaking into the next climbing grade, to hitting a deadlift PR by the end of the year, to fitting into that old pair of jeans. Seeing people hit their goals is The Best part about coaching. But when you hit the goal, it begs the question: now what?

That’s the thing. More than once, I’ve seen goal-oriented people sort of…run out of goals. We set personal record after personal record, and then one day the shine wears off. At that point, it can be difficult as the coach to convince this driven person that it’s about the journey, not the destination. None of this is to say that I don’t think we should all have goals. We should. But what if instead of starting with S.M.A.R.T. goals, we started with S.T.U.P.I.D. goals:

  • Spectacular
  • Theoretically possible
  • Unbound from time
  • Personal
  • I couldn’t think of anything for “I.”
  • Dream-worthy

Spectacular. This is according to your own opinion. Climb double-digit boulders, deadlift triple bodyweight, still be training hard when you’re “elderly.” You get the idea.

Theoretically Possible. While the goal should be grand, it should still be theoretically possible for you. It might be a long shot, but it could happen. For example, “climb Denali” works, but “learn magic” doesn’t.

Unbound From Time. If you’re used to setting time-bound goals—shredded abs by summer!—it can be wholly refreshing to embrace a goal that you hope to hit “someday.”

Personal. This one is simple. This is your goal. Don’t set it according to anyone else’s opinion. What do you want out of life?

I Couldn’t Think Of Anything For I. That is all.

Dream-Worthy. What gets you going? Wouldn’t it be awesome if _________? Fill in the blank with something that you daydream about and then read the next section.

So now we have a goal that we might achieve, something that can guide us for years. Training sessions (if applicable) are now waypoints on a journey, instead of dramaturgical performances that exist for the glorification of our own achievements. We have embraced the moment, are enjoying the feeling of using our bodies in conjunction with our minds, and have let go of the need to push toward some arbitrary thing happening at an arbitrary time. Through the application of the S.T.U.P.I.D framework, our goals can serve as North stars, guiding our choices for years. Now we can get smart.

This is when you apply the S.M.A.R.T goals concept within a larger, more meaningful framework. Start working backward from your goal until you get to where you’re currently at. Like this:
Goal - deadlift 505 pounds.
Prerequisites - 455, 405, 365, 315… and so on.

Now the most important part: start where you’re at! Be honest with yourself and maybe even be a little conservative about where to start. Write it down, talk about it with your friends, make a plan. Will you need help? A coach, guide or instructor can greatly expedite this whole process (it’s what we do for a living). Are there books you can read to gather the knowledge required to progress toward the goal? Get into it!

Of course, you will not progress toward such lofty goals as these in a straight line. If that was the case, we’d all be climbing double-digit boulders and benching 3 plates. Two steps forward, one step back, juke move, three steps forward—that’s usually how it goes down in real life.

Don’t worry too much about when you will achieve the goal, just enjoy having something to work on. I think I’ve said this before, but enjoy the process—it’s all there is.

—Taylor Rimmer

Indoor to Outdoor Climbing

By: Mack Maier

Climbing gyms are tough to beat: the camaraderie, the fun way to get your fitness goals, and the never-ending challenge that no doubt makes you a better person. But what if you feel like you are ready to take all your knowledge from the gym and take it outside to the boulder field?

Sending that red V8 in the gym feels great… but will it feel that good outside, in the sun with the wind blowing at your back; especially when the holds do not conveniently resemble the colors of the rainbow? I think so. I love climbing at the gym, it allows you to climb in all weather conditions, stay super fit, have fun with friends (and meet new ones) and best of all, get in a bunch of climbing in a short time, but sometimes you just gotta get outside, ya know?!

Alright, so you are ready to go, you’ve got your climbing shoes, chalk, and maybe if you are super hardcore, some finger tape. So, what next? Bouldering differs from rope climbing in that it’s already a very ‘minimalist’ style of climbing. One that requires little more than climbing shoes and some gumption. There are however a few things to consider if you want to stay safe and make the most of your time outside:

For starters, you are going to need a crash pad. In the climbing gym, the floors are the pads, but outside you’ve got rocks and dirt and they don’t feel that nice when you land on them from nine feet off the deck. So yes, you’re definitely going to need a crash pad. These can be pricey, so it might be best to meet up with some friends that are going bouldering or try to rent a pad from your local climbing gym, which is a great way to test out the waters and make sure you like climbing outside before you lay down your hard earned cash for a pad.

After you obtain your crash pad (the more the merrier), you are going to need a guidebook. Many gyms carry guidebooks, but you can also find them online. A great free alternative, is www.mountainproject.com, you can download all the routes for a given area or even for a given state, straight to your phone to be used offline, if you are way back in the woods. Make sure to pay special attention to what climbing areas are open and to always ensure that if climbing is on private property, that you are welcome.

Once you’ve found the perfect cleaning location; you have your pad and your guidebook and now you are ready to get after it. There are a couple things to keep in mind on your first outdoor climbing day that will ensure you have a safe, fun, outing:

  • Remember, in most cases, grades in climbing gyms are slightly, to significantly easier than outdoor grades. If you feel comfortable on that V4 at the gym, it would be best to start with a V0 or V1 and work your way up. Getting yourself up high on a boulder right off the bat can really put a hamper on the day.
    • Warming up is harder outside! In a gym setting, it’s very easy to get in a significant amount of movement in a very short time. But outside this is tough to do, boulders are often spread far apart and you simply can’t get as much movement in. To avoid getting hurt either bring a training board solution or get created by hanging from a tree climbing around on any easy boulders you can find or even doing jumping jacks and push-ups as an alternative.
  • Climbing gyms are very controlled environments. For the most part when you fall you can rest assured that the only danger is falling on another person. Outside however the landing zones can often be compromised, or even downright scary. Make sure that you’re landing zone is free of branches and rocks or other dangerous items (even a friends pair of shoes or a chalkbag can lead to a nasty sprained ankle). It’s also imperative to use pads correctly. Try not to overlap pads, this can cause instability and lead to injuries.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and in particular where you are. It’s also a good idea if you were going somewhere remote to tell someone else about your intentions. In the climbing gym if you get hurt an ambulance is a simple phone call away. However, outside you could be miles from the nearest road up a steep trail, and walking out on a broken ankle is not the way you want to spend your afternoon.
  • Have good ethics. Bouldering is an ever increasing sport, and the chances of running into other climbers outside is very good. It is common courtesy to ask other climbers outdoors if you can use their pads rather than just assuming that you can. Climbers are some of the nicest, most generous people in all of sport, but it’s still good practice to be friendly and not assume you can use other’s equipment.
  • If you tick marks with chalk, erase them. Your goal should be to leave the climbing area just like you found it, or better. No one likes coming to a boulder only to find that it already has chalk marks all over it. Chalk marks are great and can be helpful, just rub them off when you are done.

Near Longmont, some great beginner level boulders can be found at Flagstaff in Boulder, at Carter Lake near Berthoud, and in Rocky Mountain National Park at both Emerald Lake and in Lower Chaos Canyon. These last two options require more of a hike, but still offer great quality stone at lower grades.

If you’ve done all of the above, you are ready for a great time. Just remember, climbing is about the experience and the personal challenge, just as in the gym, climbing outside is not about achieving the highest grade or beating your friends. It’s a pursuit of movement in its purest form, and outside it’s a connection with nature. As the old saying goes, the best climber is the one having the most fun! So get out there, be respectful and experience all that climbing has to offer… and when you get tired of the sunburn and mosquitos, come back to the air conditioned, perfectly padded gym 🙂