16th Nov 2012


Just came back from two weeks of climbing outdoors (first Font, then some trad routes in Tatra mountains) and in the first weeks indoors everything seemed so much easier. My balance was better than ever before and I hopped one grade up on all the boulders. And then the whole feel of the 'new climbing me' disappeared. Ppl keep telling me it's normal and it goes up and down all the time and I do know that, but to me it seems there just is some instinct that allows you to position your body in an optimal way without even thinking about the technical side of things too much. How do I get that 'instinct' back without going outdoors?

I hope this all does not sound too vague... Thank you!


I have to confess I am slightly confused with your question but will try to answer with something useful.

Your friends are right, everybody has ups and downs and some people more than others. If I’m not injured my climbing is fairly consistent and reliable but I have friends who will climb like demons one day and then next day struggle on their warm ups. It seems to be inexplicable and maybe down to your personality or biorhythms.

Anyway, I don’t know how long you’ve been a climber but certainly in your first few years of climbing, having ‘magic’ days then followed by ‘disaster days’ is common; as you are still learning and you will be experiencing new rock types, new angles and styles that will challenge your knowledge of how to climb something.

You start to learn what you are good at and what style of climbing your body prefers. So it maybe that when you were having your ‘good’ days you just happened to be climbing on your preferred style without realising it.

I feel that although climbing indoors requires a different approach and style of climbing to do it well, it certainly can cross over to outdoor climbing. As we all know indoors can be more powerful, shorter and punchier; requiring quicker pace and momentum without too much difficulty in route reading as the holds tend to be very obvious. There are many similarities between this and outdoor steeper bouldering. If you are climbing trad, a more methodical, measured approach is required and the angle and rock usually demands more route-reading and hunting out holds.

So, there are many differences but with all these styles, you need to have your body in the right place to be able to get to the next hold. Whether you are doing a controlled jump to a hold on a boulder or you are tentatively reaching up for what looks like a small edge on a trad route; both these moves require having your feet in the right place in order to get to the holds.

So when climbing indoors, an awareness of balance and where your feet are is very important and this transfers nicely to outdoors. If your feet are consistently in the wrong place on an indoor wall, you will be making the moves a lot harder and finding things difficult. You get away with this outdoors as there are more footholds to choose from and the body can almost ‘accidentally’ get into a better position.

If you try to work on the subtle things indoors, like how you place your feet on holds, which part of the holds you use and where you clip from, this will make a difference. If you don’t always try to clip off a straight arm with your body weight truly on that arm (obviously this isn’t always possible but should be most of the time), then things get pumpy. So finding that balance point for clipping is very important and this will help to teach you how to get in better positions for certain moves.

Lastly, having just reread your question, another thing to remember is that when you are away on a climbing trip, you are undoubtedly climbing a lot more than when you climb down the wall after work or whatever it is. So you get in the ‘zone’ of climbing and your body starts to just ‘know’ what to do. This is the beauty of being away on a trip and I would have to admit you can’t replicate this consistency by climbing at home, especially if you have a 9-5pm job. So there needs to be a certain amount of acceptance that when you get back from a trip you will feel awesome, fit and like you are climbing well but this will tail off a bit when you can’t keep the consistency up. But it should inspire you to get your next trip booked and give you something to keep training/climbing for.

In conclusion, there is a lot you can work on indoors that will help your climbing. But it is important to remember that when you change medium, I.E. indoors to outdoors or trad to sport, you need to mentally recognize the change and alter your climbing style appropriately and consistency is the key.