Whether you are someone who lives climbing, breathes climbing, and cannot go a minute without thinking about climbing, or you are someone who just occasionally climbs for a hobby/workout, we all face bad climbing days. Days when things just feel so much harder than they ever did and we cannot understand why. It is frustrating because no matter how much or how little we care about climbing, no one wants to get worse at things they have progressed in. No one wants to feel helpless or weak.
Last night I went to the gym, and it was a bad climbing night for me. Mostly because of a cold, so I, personally, just didn’t push it and decided to rest more instead. However, there was a friend I knew there who was also having a bad night and she decided to make it 5.7 night. Her and her friend just got on all the easy climbs and had a fun time with it. They are about 5.9 climbers normally to give some perspective. Later that night I went on twitter and saw Joe Kinder and friends talking about having a 5.13 climbing day. I started to notice a trend. Your climbing time is likely to go a whole lot smoother if you pick what day your in and make it a fun one. If you are feeling strong and able to project, then it is a great day and keep at it. If you are feeling weak or not up to your normal climbing level, just give yourself a break. Have fun climbing all those easy routes.
Here is why that advice is beneficial. If you are not able to climb like normal, it doesn’t mean you’re terrible at climbing. It means your body is trying to tell you something is off. Maybe you are too tired, too stress, getting sick, etc. Your body needs to just chill for whatever reason. The more you try to climb hard, the more frustrated and miserable you will get about it. So make the decision to have fun and just go a grade or two lower. You are still getting climbing practice, getting your workout, and working on getting strong. As opposed to not making gains from giving up or not really climbing because you can’t do anything.
Also sometimes for me I find that I really didn’t warm up well. The more I do easy climbs and get my body moving, I slowly do start to feel a little better and able to push a little further. Meet your body where it is at and try to give it what it needs. Make sure to have fun either way.
It is also important to think about why your body might be having a hard time. Last night, I knew pretty fast it was being sick and stressed. My body mostly just wanted rest. I only went with the intention of doing easy climbs, but even that was a struggle. So I listened to my body and backed off. There are other times that I’ve had bad days where the solution was much simpler. Sometimes it was not having enough food that day to fuel the energy climbing takes. Having a small lunch break of proper nutrition gave me what I needed to come back strong and start climbing like I wanted. Sometimes in the cold of winter, I find the colder temperatures stiffen up my muscles and joints just enough to make climbing a little more of a struggle. Doing a jog or something fast gets my body feeling warmed up and able to perform better. Sometimes there are little things we can do to make our bodies jump back to it. Sometimes, we need to just heed the warning and call it a day. Come back tomorrow and things will be fine again.
Then there are those times where we can’t possibly figure out why today is a bad day. Just take some deep breathes, keep yourself calm, and have fun. Try climbing rainbow routes, traversing, or playing games like add on. This will keep you from thinking about how bad you might be doing because there are no grades to measure. It will give you something fun to do so you still enjoy the time you put aside to climb. Again it will also give you climbing practice. If you are outside, you could take a hike and explore climbs you haven’t been able to take a look at yet. Come up with a plan for which ones you will tackle in the future. Or climb easy ones that you’ve never tried before. There are some really fun routes that are below whatever your climbing level is. I’ve seen V9 climbers really love V4. Make sure not to worry about it. Maybe even just enjoy nature for a day and forget all about the climbing side.
If you are having a bad climbing day, unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you can turn it around that day. You can, however, get better in the future and you probably will be better next time. Just let it go and keep a positive attitude.
If your bad day is stretching over time, maybe try some training. It will be something different that helps you get stronger. Sometimes we really need a break, but we have a hard time taking one because we don’t want to get weaker. Doing some training might spark your passion again by being somewhat different and that breath of fresh air you needed. It will also keep you stronger. Training activities also typically cause fast gains, which will help boost your confidence in your strength faster. Sometimes we really do need little confidence boosts. It will all be okay and you’ll be back to good days in no time.