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What The Pros Would Tell Their Younger Selves

"Don’t forget to set long-term goals that are realistic. In between, you can also have incremental goals to motivate and also reward you." – Sean McColl

So you’ve fallen in love with rock climbing? That’s understandable. After all, it gets you out of the house and into shape. It’s personal yet social, simple yet complex, hard but fun. Moreover, climbing is a sport you can feasibly do for a very long time. Indeed, there are climbers out there who have been at it for 10, 20, 30+ years. If you’re just starting out – even if you’ve been climbing a while – these are people you can learn from.

With that in mind, we reached out to a bunch of pro climbers (and by ‘pro’ we variously mean ‘sponsored professional,’ ‘longtime climber/competitor’ or ‘person with depth and breadth of knowledge of the sport), and asked them: “What’s something you wish someone had told you when you started climbing?” or put differently, “What advice would you give new climbers?”

See below for the wealth of knowledge this survey produced, and stay tuned for follow-up training posts!

Be Patient

“Don’t push it too hard too quick. Gotta play the long game and avoid injury to see good lasting results” – Peter Hoang (Trad/Ice/Sport climber, climbing photographer, 11 yrs climbing)

“Don’t panic in the face of plateaus or time off due to injury or life responsibilities. There are natural and inevitable ebbs and flows in climbing so embrace the downtimes as part of this rhythm. Your strength/endurance/motivation will come back, sometimes even stronger” – Bonnie de Bruijn (Former National Bouldering Team Member, 27 yrs climbing)

“Learn to love the process. Climbing is more failure than success and if you don’t love both, you won’t last long” – Josh Muller (Pro climber, gym owner, 27 yrs climbing)

Be Balanced

“I think it’s important for all these competitive kids that are training all the time to remember that climbing is supposed to be fun first” – Kerry Briggs (Former Canadian Bouldering Champion, 15 yrs climbing)

“Every athlete needs to find balance in training and in life. Have something you enjoy outside of climbing because recovery is key. Also, balance out how you train in the sense of opposition training. Other than that, always have fun.” – Jason Holowach (Canadian Bouldering Team Member, 23 yrs climbing)

Be Prudent

“Listening to your body trumps everyone and everything, including your own wants and dreams” – Thomasina Pidgeon (Top Canadian boulderer, 20 yrs climbing)

“Don’t specifically train for the first year or two at least. NO hang-board and NO campus board. Being stronger physically when you start climbing is not a good thing in my opinion because you will use your strength and miss [out] on a lot of small nuances that make you a better climber” – Florent Balsez (Comp climber, 20 yrs climbing)

“I wish I had someone who forced me to get in the habit of warming up well before every climbing session…I was TOLD about the importance of warming up but never really applied that knowledge…now I’m developing a solid case of climber’s elbow” – Kerry Briggs (Former Canadian Bouldering Champion, 15 yrs climbing)

“Work your weaknesses…and work antagonist muscles so you don’t get hurt” – Jennifer Campbell (18 yrs climbing)

“Focus on technique and gradually developing finger strength as the tendons develop… Do mobility work [and get] coaching advice from a professional” – Fred Charron (Former comp climber, route setter, gym owner, 21 yrs climbing)

“Don’t forget to set long-term goals that are realistic. In between, you can also have incremental goals to motivate and also reward you.” – Sean McColl (Canada’s top competition climber, 5x World Cup winner, 4x World Champion, 24 yrs climbing)

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Training now with competitions in mind! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I like to look at past photos and clips of competitions to get me motivated for the upcoming season, it reminds me of where I need to be and that it’s a process. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ My process is now in full swing so we’ll see where I’m at in a few months with the Bouldering World Cup opener in Meiringen, Switzerland! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @adidasterrex @scarpana @walltopia @joerockheads @verticalartclimbing @flashedclimbing @perfect_descent #verticalart #climbing #train #canada #instagood #picoftheday #photooftheday #athlete #igers #amazing #sports #fitspo #gymlife #power #fitfam #adventure #fitness #work #workhard #workout #strength #challenge #follow #ninja #gym #fun

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Be Inspired

“Climb with more experienced climbers (not necessarily physically stronger but with more years of practice) and OBSERVE” – Florent Balsez (Comp climber, 21 yrs climbing)

“Watch lots of experienced people climbing, and try to imitate them/their movement” – Alannah Yip (Former Canadian Bouldering Champion, World Cup finalist, 16 yrs climbing)

Be Well-Rounded

“I would tell a beginner to just climb a lot and [expose] themselves to the largest variety of situations possible, i.e., different gyms, different holds, indoor/outdoor, bouldering/routes, slab/overhang, etc.” – Florent Balsez (Comp climber, 21 yrs climbing)

“I think that the thing people miss out the most about climbing is that it’s a highly diversified movement sport. You need strength…nobody can deny that, but it’s all about the moves. To learn moves efficiently, you need to try a variety of boulders (focus on all different terrains)” – Philippe Bourdon (Climbing coach, 11 yrs climbing)

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Boom 💎⛏💥 . Andrew Wilson (National head coach) . Christian Core (National coach) . Jeffrey Thomson (HP director) . I don’t know how much more inspired I could be right now. Learning and sharing with these three professionals was quite an experience. Not only they are interesting and skilled individuals, they complement each other amazingly. What a great team to support the national climbing team. A huge thank you to all of them for including me during this journey. . Also big congrats to @germain_coquin for participating to her first open world cup. Many more to come for you. 👊🏼 . . #novel #writing #stoked #coach #allezup #allezupmtl #coaching #athlete #mentor #learning #gettingbetter #sport #bouldering #climbing #boulderingworldcup #vailcolorado

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“Travel to as many places as you can and get the most exposure to the different styles of rock around the world. Try different types of climbing when you have the opportunity” – Nicole Ko (Former National Bouldering Team Member, 26 yrs climbing)

“Do a little more reading and seek out more obscure and less traveled lines. Not sticking to trade routes all the time really sets your head up for dealing with unknowns, which is better for big and fun routes later on” – Peter Hoang (Trad/Ice/Sport climber, climbing photographer, 11 yrs climbing)

Be Safe

“Climbing has serious risks and should not be taken lightly. I think one of the risks of learning in a gym, a much more controlled environment that emphasizes and encourages the social aspect of climbing, is that the seriousness and risks involved with climbing outdoors are not properly conveyed. […] Much of that risk can be mitigated through safe practices – but…you need to know what those safe practices are and prioritize them” – Shelma Jun (Founder of Hey Flash Foxy and Co-founder of Never Not Collective, 8 yrs climbing)

“Taking a climbing course from a trained professional was the best investment of my climbing career. It gave me confidence to push my limits as I knew I was doing everything in the safest possible way.” – Leslie Timms (Pro climber, climbing guide, 16 yrs climbing)

“Over the past 20 years of climbing, I’ve lost a lot of friends to the mountains. Many of their deaths were preventable with better safety systems, conditions management and by slowing things down. The goal is always to get home in one piece after the climb.” – Brandon Pullan (Editor-in-chief of GrippedI)

Be Respectful

“The growing popularity of outdoor climbing…is causing increasing environmental impact…with climbers cutting trails, leaving garbage and toilet paper behind, travelling in huge groups. This impact will be irreversible if people don’t practice Leave No Trace, and crag access will be at risk. Today there are resources available and all outdoor climbers must learn and respect the Climbers Code of Respect.” – Leslie Timms (Pro climber, climbing guide, 16 yrs climbing)

“When outside, savour and respect the sense of freedom that climbing outside can provide. Once an area is destroyed due to our impact, the only memory will be how magical it once was, not how hard one climbed” – Thomasina Pidgeon (Top Canadian boulderer, 20 yrs climbing)

Be Kind to Yourself

“I would tell my beginner self to think of my inner dialogue as how I would talk to a good friend: gentle, and encouraging. Also, to trust in my abilities” – Sabrina Chapman (MEC climbing ambassador, 14 yrs climbing)

Believe in Yourself

“What I would’ve liked to know 10 years ago is that it was possible to become the Quebec bouldering champion one day in my life! Maybe I would’ve started to train and climb more seriously earlier on and start competing sooner to get more competition experience and motivation” [translated from French] – Pier-Michaël Lemay (Quebec Bouldering Champion, 11 yrs climbing)

“You have to believe wholeheartedly that you’re capable of greatness in order to achieve it.” – Leslie Timms (Pro climber, climbing guide, 16 yrs climbing)

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Your mind can be your greatest ally and enemy. Positive thinking brings positive results and negative thinking can result in self sabotage. After years of health struggles, I’m finally ready to push it on the rocks again and the #redrivergorge is a perfect spot to gain fitness for our trip to Europe. But as fitness returns, I discovered negative thought patterns holding me back. Relearning that you have to believe wholeheartedly that you’re capable of greatness in order to achieve it. You have to let go of fear, doubt, ego and battle negative thoughts with a positive mantra, along with 100% focus and effort. Try this in all that you do and I guarantee you will see positive results 😀💜✨ @arcteryx @sterlingrope @lasportivana #freedomtofocus #believeinyourself #mindovermatter #mindfullness #positivethinking #celebratewild #redrivergorgeclimbing #sportclimbing #motivationmonday #climbingmotivation #climbingismypassion #dontcallitacomeback

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Be You

“You don’t have to fit into the existing culture of climbing to be a ‘climber.’ Figure out how climbing represents/interacts/fits for you and roll with it. Change the culture of climbing by experiencing it in a way that represents you.” – Shelma Jun (Founder of Hey Flash Foxy and Co-founder of Never Not Collective, 8 yrs climbing)