Restarting bouldering after the lockdown

Last week was my first week climbing again after 4.5 months of a break. It has been the longest I haven’t climbed since I started climbing. I was not sure what to expect and was trying my best to have as little expectation as possible and get there with an open mind. I thought I’ll share with you my experience so far, thoughts and feelings crossing my mind and hope it helps you if you are in a similar situation.

I started last week Sunday with a friend of mine. It was a beautiful weather, sunny and quite warm (happy my first day after such a break was not a hand freezing session). In the town I live, we have a free open air bouldering area where routes are divided into four categories:

  • Red (for kids)
  • Blue (for beginners)
  • Green (a bit more advanced)
  • Black (advanced)
  • Yellow (hard)

Getting back at bouldering

Before starting I was curious/worried about two things – how much strength have I left and how will my mind feel about height and falling again.

I started with blue routes obviously. As there were quite some people bouldering we were looking for routes which are free and found this a bit overhang blue boulder. Why not, let’s try this out. My friend started first and she managed quite good. Then it was my turn. I made sure I am warmed up (I always try to do that before bouldering or climbing but this time I put some extra effort in it). After few steps on the boulder I was thinking: “Man, this is hard! Every step feels like pulling myself up, my arms were pulling and my legs were just following.” I reached the top but my arms were so tired and pumped. I didn’t expect that it’s gonna be so hard to restart. So I took a short break to rest and then carried on with the next route.

I tried few blue ones (some felt easier than that first one – maybe overhang as my first route after 4 months of not climbing was not such a great route to start with) and also few green ones. For my surprise I could finish couple of green ones, which I was not even planning to do in the first place. I thought blue routes for the first session will be good enough challenge. At the end, the session didn’t last very long, I think I climbed maybe 30 to 40 min that afternoon. After that session I felt every muscle of my both arms, shoulders, ribs and back. Yap, was a good workout :-D.

I decided 2 days later to do another session, despites the pain in my muscles. Surprisingly this session lasted much longer, I think about 1,5hours. I did do several green routes (blue as a warm up) and got inspired to attempt 2 black ones. It’s great to see your friends doing harder routes – it often works as a motivation to try as well. For one of the black ones I managed to work out the moves and although I couldn’t do it in one go, I knew that with few more tries I can finish it. I must admit that last year when I restarted climbing again after the first lockdown, I also started with bouldering first (as gyms were closed) and then trying black routes was not something I did on my second session after the lockdown. So this time it felt like I am pushing myself more for harder grades and was letting myself to be inspired by my friends who tried them as well.

Now after the third session I can report back that I managed to work on much more green routes (finish the ones which felt hard in previous two sessions) and managed to finish one of the black ones I started just few days before. And started few more black ones (even though these are harder and will take me more than 2 sessions to send them). I do feel some muscle pain today, but much lighter than after the first session.

So my muscles are adapting quite good and I feel I am building my strength back little by little with every session. Also bouldering frequently, like 3 times this week, has helped me and I will try to keep that frequency as much as possible to gain back on my level.

Besides strength, the mindset and trusting myself is something what I will have to built up again. Trusting my feet, hands and technique – that I can manage will need some work. I felt that I was backing off from some boulders as I was afraid to fall off from harder holds. So I jumped off when I felt that next move would be too challenging instead of trying it out.

To summarize

I am very happy I started bouldering again and I am also looking forward to do some top rope climbing. The first session was hard and was short but with frequent sessions this week I have surprised myself that I can pick up some harder routes which last year I would only attempt after longer bouldering experience.

I feel that I am backing off when I am not sure about my moves and that will take some time and practice to get used to pushing and falling in bouldering.

Seeing what my friends were climbing inspired me to try as well, without any expectation, just try and see. And with some work and guidance I managed to finish routes of harder grades I would not expect to finish in my first week after restarting.

I hope this inspires you when you will restart your climbing journey. Go with open mind, take it easy for your first sessions and know that you will step by step build your level up again.

If you have been climbing for a while, I’d like to hear from you how you experienced getting back to climbing after the lockdown. Please share your experience in the comments below.

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