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Tips for Returning to Gym Climbing After Being Away

Learning how to return to gym climbing can prevent injury and maintain psych for the upcoming season and Spring

After nearly four weeks away from the wall, many of Ontario’s gym climbers will want to regain their strength. Whether you have spent the last month hangboarding or couching, returning to climbing inside comes with risks. This is how you can return safely to indoor climbing.

Pace Your Sessions

After any amount of time away from the gym, climbers get antsy. Returning to the gym is fun, but overdoing it in your first few days can end your season early. If you have not put in the hours outdoors, consider starting slow. Alternate your sessions with rest days. Working harder may not make you stronger, especially if the structures supporting your joints have become weaker in your time away from sport.

Bicep tendinopathy can come from a single day’s overuse. If your performance begins to go downhill, reduce the intensity, or try to complete supplemental training. A person does not need to push it to the limit on their first day back.

Take Care of your Knees

If you have spent the last four weeks sitting, it is possible that your legs have become weaker. Although the strength of our legs may not feel important for climbing, strong muscles keep our ligaments safe. There are many ways to injure your legs when you come back to climbing. A few of the more significant ways come from falling off the top of a bouldering wall and through heel hooking.

When you are climbing all of the time, it is easy to forget that your legs have been conditioned to the impact that comes from falling or dropping off the top of a bouldering wall. That 10–15-foot drop comes with consequences if you are not ready. Try to down climb as much as possible to avoid spraining your ankles.

When climbing, recognise that heel hooks put a lot of stress on your knees and hamstrings. Even if they feel fine at first, high-pressure moves such has heel-toe cams, and mantling over a heel can put lateral stress on the knee and its ligaments. While a strong leg may resist these pressures by relying on the strength of the muscles, a weak leg will force the climber to use the delicate structures to make the Top.

Again, pace yourself. Allow yourself the time and space to return to strength before jumping into high-volume sessions.

So You Want To Train

There is a misconception that volume work is safer than high-powered projecting after time away from climbing. While it is true that a person should spend time warming up for their limit, taking longer rests between fewer, higher quality attempts may better serve the returning climber. If your goal is to return to fitness quickly, volume is essential, but perhaps allow yourself a gradual return to a full session.

If you know your body well, then perhaps you can return to volume in your first session. Ensure that you do not push beyond the reasonable in your efforts toward progression. It might be better to spend a long time warming up, a small amount of time at your limit, and a small amount of time strengthening those parts of your body that have become weaker in the last four weeks. Your shoulders and elbows are delicate structures that can use remediation through push ups, rings, or other antagonist exercises.

Have Fun

While it can be easy to become obsessed with progression, it may be worth allowing the training mentality to go by the wayside. Instead, join a friend for their session and just climb around until your block is over. Unstructured climbing is a great way to return to the sport. Climbing with a friend ensures that you are not on the wall for the entire two-hour time block.