So you’re thinking about getting involved in one of the UK’s fastest growing sports but find yourself asking “what exactly do I need to get into bouldering?”.
In this short guide, we give our top ten tips for getting started with this incredible pursuit, covering everything from how to choose your first shoes, all the way to where to find the best climbing walls.
Understanding shoe sizing
When it comes to climbing and bouldering, your shoes are the most important investment you will ever make. Whilst it makes sense to hire shoes for your first couple of tries, very soon after, getting your own pair is vital...after all, who really likes the idea of slipping their bare feet into a sweat pair of hired shoes!
However, choosing the right size climbing shoe is the most difficult aspect of buying climbing shoes online - a pair of shoes that fit well will improve performance more than any other bit of equipment you own, and so getting the right size is important.
Because climbing shoes are designed to be snug, it's easy to think a shoe is too small when you first try them on, especially when buying your first pair. Even a super tight shoe should 'break in' after a few weeks of use, but nonetheless it is important not to buy shoes too small. As every model and manufacturer fits slightly differently, we've put together a simple guide to all of our climbing shoes which will help you get the right fit first time. Just add or subtract the recommended number of sizes from your street shoe size for your desired fit. Check out our sizing guide here.
Here at Dyno, we stock a comprehensive range of climbing shoes, specifically picked for climbing beginners and improvers. If you’re still unsure which size or brand to get, purchase several shoes and use our free returns to return the shoes you don’t want. Easy!
Use your legs
“It’s all in the legs” is something you’ll hear from many typical climbers and it’s true! Legs are much stronger than your arms and are a powerful asset when starting out climbing, especially before you’ve been able to build up your upper body strength.
When traversing holds and moving vertically, think about using your feet and pushing up with your legs, not attempting to pull with your arms. Relying too much on your arm strength will only exhaust you sooner and play havoc on your fingertips!
Get the right accessories
Speaking of finger tips, getting the right accessories can make or break your climbing experience!
After a few sessions of climbing it’s inevitable that your fingers will eventually blister and result in the excellently named ‘flappers’ (bits of skin that peel off your fingertips after considerable climbing activity). To make sure you still get to enjoy climbing, invest in some good quality climbing tape to protect your fingers. Check out our collection of climbings tapes.
Chalk is essential for a good climbing experience in order to maintain optimal finger grip even when sweaty! However, it can soon get very tedious to constantly borrow chalk from your climbing partner so getting a decent quantity of climbing chalk and a chalk bag is also a worthy early investment. The best chalks are drying agent-free, which keeps your skin in great condition without compromising on performance. Check out our chalk bags and chalks.
And finally, climbing shoes have a tendency to start smelling after a while of use - unsurprising given you wear them barefoot and get very sweaty! For the sake of yourself and anyone you live with, invest in some odour sticks to keep your shoes smelling fresh.
Ask others for advice
The amazing thing about the climbing and bouldering community is that we’re an incredibly friendly group of people, more interested in self-improvement than competing. If you need advice on a particular route or it’s your first time and have no idea what to do, just ask someone! It’s a great way to learn from someone more experienced and gives you the opportunity to make some friends in your new pursuit.
Choosing where to climb
If you’re new to bouldering, it’s a great idea to start with indoor climbing centres where there are mats and experts everywhere - it’s important to make your experience as safe as possible when starting out.
The British Mountaineering Council provides a handy tool to help you find out where your local climbing centre is: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/climbing-wall-finder#walls
Vary your climbing partners
When getting started with climbing, it’s very natural to find yourself exclusively partnering with people of a similar level to you. This is great to build your confidence together, however it always makes for a fun climbing experience to mix your partner up.
Try finding partners who have more experience than you, you can learn a lot from just watching someone else tackle the same problem. In fact, just observing an experienced climber tackle completely different problems can give you great insight for those more challenging holds and manoeuvres.
We know the importance of finding a good climbing partner and appreciate it can sometimes be hard to find someone if you’re starting on your own. That’s why we’ll soon be launching our Dyno Community to help you find a local climbing partner. Make sure to sign up to our emails to hear about when this launches.
To quote a well known sport attire company, just do it!
The only way to improve with climbing is simply to try everything, climbing isn’t an exact science so don't be afraid to get creative. Climb on different angles, different heights, different gradients, you’ll soon figure out what moves suit your strength and flexibility.
In fact the most important tip is to make a special effort to try things you’re not or don’t think, you’ll be good at. It’s easy to plateau with climbing so keep challenging yourself.
Pretend the holds are made of fragile glass
Although a seemingly bizarre tip, this advice from bouldering coach and former GB Bouldering World Cup competitor Louis Parkinson, is one the most valuable lessons for beginner climbers. Louis explains that heeding this advice “forces you to slow down, consider your movements, and place your hands and feet delicately,”. Ultimately, with practice, Louis claims this mind-set “leads to a graceful and precise climbing style.”
Don't start serious training too early.
At the climbing centres, you’ll often see other climbers using a lot of the training ads like campus boards and fingerboards. Whilst these are important aspects of climbing to build up strength in the right areas, it takes a few sessions to build up your fitness base to use these items without injury.
Take a good few sessions to build core strength and then consider investing in some at-home training aids. These can be in the form of bands, or putty, or hand trainers or more robust wall-fixed training boards.
When you feel ready, take a look at our training collection here.
Don't be afraid to fail.
“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” - Thomas A. Edison.
Wise words from Mr Edison and something that is definitely applicable to climbing. It can be a tough sport and it may often feel like you’re not progressing but the most effective way to improve is to fail, learn, adapt and overcome.
And have fun! If you’re prepared to fail, you’ll try more things and have more fun whilst you’re at it!