Sometimes, it is hard to tell if something is becoming a new trend, or if you are, merely, noticing it more the deeper you are submerged in the hobby or interest. When I first started climbing, it was all about hanging out with friends, being social, doing something fun, and feeling great about it. Climbing was a thrill because there was always something new to climb and accomplishing each new climb felt incredible. My more experienced climber friends liked to share stories about trips or amazing climbing days. While climbing was always involved, the part that got told was how much fun they had with friends. All the stories were mainly about crazy stuff friends do together, and most were very humorous.
In fact, many weren’t really about the climbing. I have a group of friends that if you ask about one of their fondest memories, it was having a campfire after climbing, making s’mores, drinking, and sharing very deep and meaningful conversation that bonded them together. To another person, it might sound uneventful, for them it was a memory so fantastic they are scared of trying to replicate it. My other friends will share stories of goofing off, getting in trouble, making harmless mistakes, etc. The day either started as climbing or there was climbing as a backdrop, but all the stories are about the bounding, companionship, and fun instead.
For a long time, climbing was presented to me as a laid back community that just liked to be outside. People were always trying to push their limits and self compete, but it had seemed like a very personal thing. It wasn’t something necessarily talked about, and it wasn’t necessarily the highlight of the day. People would cheer and feel on top of the world when they broke through to a new grade or made it up a hard route. That wasn’t the memory though. It felt great to do well, but it seemed like just an extra bonus to the all around greatness that climbing gives us.
I went into climbing with the idea that it was just as much about exploration and adventure as it was doing well. Climbing trips seemed the highlight of the sport. I wanted to see as many places as possible, with my best climbing friends.
I don’t necessarily think this has changed. However, I notice more and more (or maybe its a new trend) that training is really emerging as the thing to do. In the past, there was nothing about training. If you were a pro, you probably had people helping you out. There just wasn’t much out there. There still really isn’t. We hear things, try them, and work hard, but we don’t have proof anything we do is working. Rock climbing isn’t totally scientific yet, like some other sports.
So there seems to be this split forming of people who think “Hey, we climb to climb, why train? That’s stupid,” and people who think “I MUST TRAIN HARDER.” I see constant messages on social media from people claiming actual rock climbing is their rest day, because they’ve been training all week and deserve it. I see people who have been climbing for less than a year desperately signing up for workshops, seeking articles about training, and trying to be friends with high level climbers. I’ve been asked by people who are just starting out if they can train with me. I’m not saying any of this is bad or wrong, just that it is interesting.
It almost seems like there are becoming more people who train for climbing than actually climb. In some cases this makes sense. If you are really gunning for a spot as a pro because climbing is your life, by all means, try harder. With how incredible all these climbing kids are, an adult will probably have to work twice as hard to keep up in professional terms. If you are a professional, of course, training to stay on top of your game makes sense as well.
The thing that interests me is all the weekend warriors or people who climb as a hobby, that insist on training to get better. I’m certainly not making fun of anyone, because I’ve done and do plenty of training, even though I have no thoughts I’ll be a professional. Climbing is fun and honestly, I think training can be fun too. It feels good to get better.
I do wonder, however, with training becoming more popular, are there people jumping to training too fast? There is something to be said for climbing a lot to get better. Training helps, but if you haven’t tried every climbing move, climbing position, and technique, should you really be jumping ahead? A lot of people plateau because they only climb what they are comfortable at. If you are good at slabby technical routes for instance. You might keep climbing those, and avoid overhangs. When I hit my first plateau, this was the problem. I wasn’t good at slopers and I wasn’t good at overhanging routes, so I avoided them. I got as good as I could get with crimps and vertical wall, but I wasn’t getting better. I also didn’t have as much to climb because I was limiting myself. I decided to work on my weaknesses. It is absolutely shattering to any ego you may have, not that you really should in climbing, to drop so many grades. Practicing my weaknesses, pushed me up grades though. I got better and I had more to do. I had new accomplishments to make and I was excited about how these new moves and holds were once I figured them out.
What happens to the person who just trains and gets better and better at the same thing? Sure you might go from 5.10 to 5.12, but if you are only climbing what you are good at, it might not get any more exciting for you. You will still be limited. There is a lot we can do before we train.
If you climb for social reasons and reasons of entertainment, that is awesome. If you climb to get better and better, that is also awesome. I just think it is valuable to think about what you really want out of climbing. Sometimes we get sucked into the trends without thinking. People might hear everyone is training and think they must as well. I know people who love to train because the accomplishments are what bring them joy and happiness. I also know people who get burnt out and loss interest in climbing if it is all serious. It is okay to be serious or laid back about climbing, to be social or hard working, to be self competitive or just adventurous. The important thing is that you are what you want to be, and you are getting what you want out of climbing.
Find what you want from the sport and go for it.