"When I watch top climbers they seem to have a very cat-like quality to their movements. I am quite a static and, unfortunately for my belayers, quite a slow climber. Do you have any advice to get me climbing more fluidly?"
Well, there are two parts to this question, firstly I’ll deal with climbing fluidly.
This is generally not something that happens naturally and needs to be worked on.
I remember in my early days when I was improving, watching a good climber and trying to analyse what he was doing that was different to me. And it was just what you have observed, he was moving fluidly. From that day on I made a very conscious effort to try and replicate this style until it became second nature; it became the way I climbed and made things feel easier and enjoyable.
It is quite hard to put my finger on what I changed but it was linked in with:
- No unnecessary movements. IE. Don’t shift or change the body unless it will help you do the next move.
- Know what you are going to do and how you are going to execute it and then DO IT.
- Allow your body to bend and flow with the moves and the shape of the rock/wall.
- Try to relax on the holds and not grip too tightly.
- The whole body must be involved in the movement, it doesn’t just come from the arms and pulling. This coordination of all the limbs working as one will help to engender a more fluid and ‘cat-like’ style.
So to the second part, being a slow climber.
This is linked into decision making and not being sure of how to do the moves. I used to be a slow climber but luckily for me I had enough endurance to be able to hang on. But it didn’t help when I got to a hard move. I would hang around, try to work out the move, go up and down and generally procrastinate until I fell off! This was not a good approach as I discovered, so I made myself make quicker decisions and then execute them straight away. Once you’ve worked out how you are going to attempt a move, you just have to try. You don’t always get it right but nine times out of ten you do. Obviously the harder the routes get, particularly outdoors, there can be some very devious solutions to crux moves that really aren’t obvious. But generally, especially indoors the way forward isn’t too hard to work out. So the the answer is, at some point in your climbing life, when you have put the groundwork in; you just have to get on with it!
Trying to climb more fluidly and quickly needs to be practiced on grades that are easy for you so you can start to ‘feel’ the difference and make quicker decisions. You will then be able to apply these new skills more naturally on things at your limit.
Have fun trying!