/ Too old for hard bouldering? Inspiration needed!
As we are about to start a new year, I have been contemplating short term and long term climbing goals. I am really enjoying bouldering at the moment and happy at my current level of V6/V7. However, I would like to at least sustain this level for a few years as well as focus on some long term goals in the higher grades, but I have hit a plateau and psyche is quite low (particularly due to fear of getting injured again). I am 37 (started climbing when I was 30) so would love to hear from those who have got better and stronger in their late thirties and beyond!
I can't provide my own example because I made my climbing progression more challenging by having children. But 37 really isn't old! If you've hit a plateau (especially at our comparatively modest bouldering level!) it isn't age related.
Raise your sights
I was given a helpful perspective on age when I read Bill Pouched say " 30 years ago, when I was climbing in the Alps in my early 60s..." I was 21 when I read that and could barely get my head round the idea of being 60, let alone " 60 thirty years ago".
Having just turned 60 I've found I'm fitter and climbing better than I was at 37...
I can't comment on bouldering it's not something I've ever really enjoyed apart from pottering about with friends between routes. It can also be more intense than climbing but I can categorically state that 37 is not too old to improve. In absolute terms I climbed my hardest climbs in my mid 50's mostly at E3/4 and 6c+ with the odd E5 and 7a thrown in on a good day. I should add that I never train in a formal sense and I attempt to on sight what ever it is I want to climb. Redpointing bores me. I'm nearly 72 now but I was climbing 6c+ regularly and "appropriate" 7a's at 70 on sight and getting most of them first time.
I started climbing when I was in my late teens, and apart from break of about 10 years or so when my ex and I were raising young children, have climbed for most of my life only stopping about a year ago due to to health issues and recurring joint problems. I think I was at my peak fitness and experience in my late 50s and into my 60s when I was comfortably leading VS, HVS and some E1. It was also during this period that I was going at least once a year, sometimes twice to Font where doing the Circuits really did wonders for my ability and confidence, particularly getting the confidence to make hard and sometimes scary and committing moves over some very nasty and intimidating landings like roots, cracks and jumbles of sharp boulders. In those days we didn't climb with crash mats, and the consequences of a fall would have been nasty.
So at 37 you've got decades of fun and opportunity ahead of you! Go for it and enjoy!
I'd suggest reading; 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes by Dave MacLeod. It got me out of a bad cycle of getting injured, losing psych, getting it back and jumping into over training, getting injured again, and repeat. This went on for a few years in which time I totally plateaued (also around V6/V7). At the start of this year I had to take 3 months off because of my elbows, I'm now stronger than ever (recently did my hardest boulder and route within a week of each other) and I've never been more psyched. Another thing that really helped my psych was expanding the style of climbing I was doing, I love to boulder but re-finding sport and trad climbing has really helped open my world to the huge amount of climbing available, and it doesn't always have to be hard to enjoy it.
Sorry for the ramble, I hope some of this helps.
What injuries have you been suffering with?
I'm 49 and still improving. V5/V6 possible now whilst not being realised when I was younger. There are very few good boulders around older that 45 but I think that is mainly to do with the increasing demands of family and career in that time of life. MY philosophy is to build climbing into my life in such a way as it can continue whilst the rest of life's demands get their fair share of me.
I concur with those that recommend changing you approach and targets, mixing in other disciplines but beware of injury. I tried to build in calisthenics last year and have as a result been troubled with shoulder pain from rotator cuff abrasion. What I'm saying is don't assume that you'll be strong and skilled in the other disciplines immediately.
However, if you can keep Bouldering at the center of your life there is no reason afaiks that you can't still climb harder as you get older.
Thanks so much all!
Injuries wise, it's mainly my shoulders. I have also torn muscles in my calf from a bad bouldering fall last year, so I think I now have a more static style due to the fear of falling and doing the same injury again!
Do you have a good physio? I had bad imbalances in my shoulders, went to a very good physio and they haven't bothered me for years, but I do put in a good amount of effort in keeping them in shape.
Where are you based?
Another vote for reading 9 out of 10 climbers.
37 is definitely not even approaching being to old to drastically improve in what is largely a skill based sport.
I switched from mainly sport and trad to bouldering when our daughter was born 15 months ago. My bouldering has got a lot better since then. A bit of focus on projects, th willingness to put in some (but not loads) of training, and ideally living near lots of projects. I'm 37 by the way.
You've got loads of time to keep improving. Surround yourself with good company, ideally better climbers than yourself, find projects that are fun, inspiring and not "tweaky", nearby to home helps too. Mix in plenty of days on rope too, also at new areas.
I'm happy to see you've been told you are wrong. I don't understand why you would think 37 is old at all, let alone too old. I started climbing at 43 and outdoor bouldering just before my 50th and I'm only 51. I climb the grades you mention in Font and I'll do better this season. Having constantly worked on raising my floor rather than pushing the ceiling, I've avoided injury and felt pretty good tonight doing various tests on my condition. The one arm hangs were of good quality and the front levers were spot on.
At 37, with or without family, job etc, you either want to or you don't. Here's hoping you do as you clearly have a great base to move off from!
Old farts must keep crushing but you can improve a lot before you get that old ;)
Amen to that, led my first Westway 6c last week the day after my 70th. You need ambition at any age!
> Thanks so much all!
> Injuries wise, it's mainly my shoulders. I have also torn muscles in my calf from a bad bouldering fall last year, so I think I now have a more static style due to the fear of falling and doing the same injury again!
It's possible that you might need to experiment with more dynamic climbing, ie. focus on power rather than strength.
Do you climb on a woody regularly? If not, the increased intensity might give your body a useful stimulus. Plus, you can throw dynamically for holds without ever being too high off the ground.
Do you have outdoor goals? If so, it can be helpful to think about what you want to climb, and tailor your training towards that aim.
There are plenty of 37ers and older climbing well, and still improving. I find it's important to ease into new training routines gradually, and build up over several weeks. (But I probably would have benefited from that approach in my twenties as well.)
Well, you've got several advantages over me so I'd certainly expect you to be well capable of bouldering harder!
You started at 30, I started climbing / bouldering at 40 so that 10 years of accumulating technique as well as sport-specific physique.
My top regular bouldering grades are 6c, with 6c+ a possibility depending on how I feel on the day & the problem in question. A few 7as have been achieved in the last year (that is / was my goal for before hitting 50 this July). My technique has improved a lot over that time, as has my overall strength but I find explosive power hard to come by and injuries linger for years and come back after a period where they seemed absent / dormant (I am talking about you, left shoulder! ). Such lingering injuries do lend to psychological impediments in trying high end bouldering. I also tend to steer away from mono-pockets and thin cracks due to a couple of finger injuries that re-ignite easily.
> Amen to that, led my first Westway 6c last week the day after my 70th.
It's things like that that give me psyche! Congrats...
We should have an old farts boasting page on UKC to keep us going. The numbers of those seeking to progress are reduced with age but hearing of others of similar age or older hitting their goals is a positive thing. Knowing others are trying hard without the luxury of a 20 year old body means we have a platform for dialogue and understanding the experience of the elder athlete or enthusiast which is greatly lacking.
Totally agree on the ambition front. You have to want it and know why..
> It's things like that that give me psyche! Congrats...
> We should have an old farts boasting page on UKC to keep us going.
It sounds mainly like you just need to stop thinking about you age.since when was 37 being an old fart? Ryan Giggs, Roger Federer, Tommy Caldwell all spring to mind as people performing at an elite level beyond that age. And you aren't trying to be elite, just good. Just focus on what you need to do to improve, not how old you are. And find some projects.
What have Giggs and Federer ever done on grit though?
> It sounds mainly like you just need to stop thinking about you age.since when was 37 being an old fart?
Hi Ged, are you 100% certain you are responding to the right person?
Re-read the thread. I initially responded to the OP. I categorically stated that 37 is not old. I myself am 51. I clearly expressed that I don't think that is old either.
My second post responded to Jim Nevill, congratulating him on his first 6c. He is 70 years old and clearly doesn't see that as an obstacle either. Soooo, that leaves just you either very confused or simply mistaken in who you wished to respond to. Which one is it?
Hopefully I'm mistaken here, but it sounds mainly like you (to use your own words) just need to stop reading half a thread and start using the information available correctly.
EDIT: quote from my first post. ""I'm happy to see you've been told you are wrong. I don't understand why you would think 37 is old at all, let alone too old"".
Just came back from climbing in a local gym in Japan (new years holidays). Chatted a bit with an older guy who was pulling down on some 70 degree roof problems and doing well on the 45 degree board because he happened to like to chat in English.
Guy happened to be 68 years old, started bouldering after retirement from the company life. Definitely impressed and inspired!
Sorry you're right, got mixed up thinking it was the op
Haha thanks - an old farts page on UKC, it's a nice thought, but... we shouldn't create a silo for oldies any more than any other group. One of the finest things about climbing is it's so democratic: it doesn't matter what age, sex, religion, background, body-shape, ethnicity, etc. etc. you are, you can take part, be good and have fun and adventures. And have ambitions!
Thanks again to all who have responded - you have motivated and inspired me! And please do not think I was implying that 37 was old. I was asking specifically about bouldering as I only tend to hear about climbers around this age and up climbing hard sport and trad (unless I'm reading the wrong stuff and boulder too much with people in their twenties!).
Happy new year and wishing you every success in your climbing for 2020.
Don't worry I'm 45 and carrying over a stone too much. Climbing doesn't seem to be as age specific as other sports.
I'm 2 weeks into climbing now and doing ok. I hope i Should be doing v7/8 by the end of the year.
Keep at it and you will get better
> Haha thanks - an old farts page on UKC, it's a nice thought, but... we shouldn't create a silo for oldies any more than any other group.
I disagree with that. The effects of training on a 50+ year old body are significantly different to that of someone in their teens, 20's or 30's on a number of levels, fortunately recovery being the main one and not so much performance but repetition of performance and subsequent gains.
There is little specific literature for the older climber to benefit from. So rather than thinking of it as a silo, I see it as creating a knowledge base that the older climber can use and in time, the younger climber can benefit from also.
It is a British thing to rest on your laurels after a certain purple patch and never to return (Moon being an exception). If you look Europe, it has many 50+ climbers operating quietly in the 8th grade in bouldering and sport. Maybe they like the actual climbing more whilst the Brits enjoy the social element more. Each to their own I guess?
I'm 41 and really got into bouldering last year, after 20 years of being mostly a trad climbing punter with the occasional sport route on holiday. It coincided with moving to Sheffield a few years ago, so I'm in the privileged position of having all the bouldering I could dream of within 10-20 mins drive. With a young family, being able to dash out in my lunch break to climb a few boulders made a lot more sense than trying to get several hours of trad at a weekend. As a result I've been getting into it. I don't climb indoors these days, and I don't do any 'training', but am able to get out on the grit at least a couple of times a week, weather permitting.
Years ago I climbed an easy 'morpho' 7A (Trackside) but that was my limit. Since doing more of it, I can now expect regularly to climb 7A in a session and last year climbed a few solid 7Bs. I'm currently very close to my first 7B+ despite the Christmas fat and not having got out much since November due to foul weather in the Peak. I expect this year to climb a good few more 7Bs, maybe a 7B+ or two and perhaps even a 7C. For that I will probably have to start doing some training - finger boarding, core and general conditioning etc.
So, it is possible to progress at bouldering even at my age. However, the downside - all kinds of aches and pains. To be honest, in over 20 years I've pretty much never been free of some sort of injury. I don't think I'm really cut out for climbing.... That's one reason I don't train - just going climbing feels hard enough on my body. On the other hand, I try to get physio from time to time, have various ArmAid, Powerfingers, Therabar etc gimmicks all over my office and try to use them.
Anyway, at 37 you could be coming into your prime years, with the right approach. Best of luck to you!
I wish I was as young as you. When I try Trackside, it feels like my left hip is going to explode
> I wish I was as young as you. When I try Trackside, it feels like my left hip is going to explode
Ha! And I wish I was only 25..... but actually I'm a lot better/stronger/smarter now than I was then (which is hopefully the sort of inspiration the OP was after ) I just hurt more...
Yes, that heel-hook is pretty intense. There are much better 7As at Curbar though.
I got into climbing later than you and I'm still improving, when I put the effort in. I'm nearly 50, currently climbing V5/V6. I started supplementary training at my local (non-climbing) gym as well as training indoors more, about two years ago and took a fairly big (for me) leap forward. Mostly in psyche and what I'm prepared to try and how hard I'm prepared to try on a project, but also knocked off a few projects that had seemed like no-goes. Never too old.
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