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How to Get Started with Bouldering

How to Get Started with Bouldering

How to Get Started with Bouldering (Rock Climbing without a Harness): The Basics

Anyone who's ever been vaguely interested in rock climbing at a rock climbing gym but who knows very little about it would probably imagine that it involves secure harnesses, ropes, and safety-conscious instructors watching your every move. Usually, they'd be right — this kind of rock climbing, called top-roping, is extremely popular.

There's another choice, though, and that's bouldering. Bouldering means rock climbing without a harness or rope. To some, that'll sound scary and unsafe. To others, it'll instead seem like the ultimate feeling of freedom. If you're one of them, bouldering may be for you. So--what do you need to know to get started?


What You Can Expect When You Get Started with Bouldering

Sure, highly experienced rock climbers may venture a little farther out and take bigger risks, but as beginners, it's crucial that you stay close to the ground (which you'll soon get to know more intimately) and take more accessible routes. We've all got to start with the basics, after all, and even though that protective mat may make you feel invincible, you can expect to tumble a fair bit.

Despite the fact that bouldering is freestyle rock climbing, you'll be supported by a skilled "spotter" who will help you prevent injuries the entire time. Listen to their advice and instructions. Some of the things you'll undoubtedly be told again when you head for the rock climbing gym are:


  • Climbing requires you to use your whole body — including your brain. Be ready for a full-body workout!

  • Fear might cause you to hold your arms close to your body, with your elbows bent. That drains your batteries fast. Keeping your arms extended is a better position most of the time.

  • Your knees are, on the other hand, your bendy best friend. Use them, as they’ll allow you to go far.

  • By keeping the hips as close to the climbing wall as you can, you'll be stabilizing your center of mass and reducing your risk of falling. Your core will also get a fantastic workout.

  • Don’t let minor cuts and scrapes stop you. Your athletic tape will come to the rescue.


What Gear Do You Need for Indoor Bouldering?

Well, you won't need a harness, a rope, or carabiners! You will, however, be relying on your trusty gear. Good-quality climbing shoes with flexible soles and solid grips form the most critical part of your turnout. (The good news is that if it turns out you don't enjoy bouldering, after all, you'll still have a versatile and cool pair of shoes!)

Chalk and a chalk bag are non-optional, and the same goes for a reusable water bottle that’ll keep you hydrated and some athletic tape to help you deal with small scraps quickly. Clothing-wise, yoga gear will serve you well when you start off bouldering, as it’s flexible but not so loose that it’ll pose a tripping hazard. If you hate chafing (and who doesn’t?), you’ll also want to consider adding a Body Glide anti-chafe and anti-blister stick to your bouldering arsenal.

Bouldering teaches you to rely on yourself and trust in your instincts, but the right gear can only support your efforts.

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