/ Climbing improvement when approaching 40?

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L belayatron 16 Aug 2019

Hi,

I've been climbing for almost 20 years mainly indoor with occasional outdoor and am now approaching 40.

For a number of years I've been climbing at least twice a week indoors for about 3 hours each with a mixture of bouldering and sport and no specific training.

I love it, but have plateaued at around v3 (occasional v4) and 6b (occasional 6c) for years.

I've always fancied starting a training regime to see if I could make 7a, although opinion seems to be mixed/debated on whether I should be achieving this anyway purely through the amount of climbing I do and whether I've reached my natural limit.

I was wondering if anyone has any stories of people in my age range who've plateaued and then actually successfully significantly improved through a training regime?

Post edited at 10:07
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deacondeacon 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:have you done any structured training? One thing for sure is that your very, very unlikely to be anywhere near your natural limit.  

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L belayatron 16 Aug 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

Hi thanks for the reply!

No I haven’t but due to the amount I climb already and my age I was wondering if functional training would realistically make a significant difference/if anyone had any stories of people at similar ages with similar long histories of climbing who’ve managed to make big improvements after a plateau?

Post edited at 10:51
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deacondeacon 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I'm the same age as you. 40 in October. About 5 years ago I started training and went from E1/f6b to E5/f7a (with the odd harder route). Also it didn't take long, probably 4-6 months of structured training.

I know don't train, only climb once or twice a week and gone back to E1/f6b (if I'm lucky).

Training works, not just because it improves strength, stamina etc. It also keeps you focused, gives you goals, generally makes you take climbing more seriously. If you want to climb harder training is the way to do it  

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ti_pin_man 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I'm 50 and been climbing 8 years.  I got to font 6c and hit a plateau.  I boulder more than anything else just because i enjoy it but also when i can climb is all over the place with 3 daughters. 

I decided I wanted to get a 7a and trained for about 12 weeks and quickly got my 7a.  I maintained form for a while but then life got in the way and I 'bubbling under' that level and occasionally get something. 

So... I think it is possible yes.  I had a coach for the 12 weeks and they really were great at working out my weaknesses, focusing my training and then helping pick a suitable 7a to play to my strengths.  My only advice is, if like me, you have a job and child responsibilities then work out how you fit training in around those commitments.  There's probably many reasons you only climb 2 times a week and maybe the time commitment is the first thing to consider.  It is for me

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GridNorth 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I did.  I peaked, grade wise, when I was 55/56 at f7a and E4, lost my mojo and greatly reduced the amount of climbing I did. My grade dropped to about E1 and 6a+for several years and I was finding those quite demanding at times. I also got far more involved with alpinism. I never redpoint or train apart from climbing indoors in winter but even then I just treat a session as another day climbing.  My outdoor rock climbing was limited to two trips to Europe a year, one in Autumn, one in Spring but I did try to make them month long trips. My mojo returned but not for UK climbing.  Despite this and with the same attitude I decided at the age of 69 that I wanted to climb 7a at 70 which I did, more or less.  I found myself climbing 6c frequently but 7a was proving quite elusive so I just increased the number of 6c's I was climbing and kept having a go at the 7a's but often had to have a rest.  I tried redpointing once and didn't like it, it felt like cheating and/or failure. But that's just me, so I continued getting mileage in at 6c.  Month long trips were, for me, the key to success and eventually I made it but had to accept several failures along the way and admit to myself that I was seeking out soft touch 7a's.

Al

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jezb1 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

Your age is realistically irrelevant for the grades you’re after (and plenty of grades harder).

If you stay motivated and train, you can easily achieve the grades.

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wurzelinzummerset 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I'm over 50, I started climbing in my 40s and can get up 7a indoors on occasion, although it was a long battle to get there. The most significant things I found were as follows. First to not get injured, currently my elbows are the limiting factor in my progression, but I've had finger problems too, so don't overdo things, climb hard but know when to stop. Second lose weight if you're carrying any extra flab -- which most people are. That makes a huge difference on sustained overhanging routes. Next climb three times a week (you don't need to spend a full three hours, you can do a lot in just an hour if time is an issue), with some structure to the sessions. Then get on hard stuff. Spend time working out the moves you can't do, and be prepared to take falls, even when clipping if at a safe height. At your age from what I've seen of the people I climb with most seem to get to mid 7s (redpointing them) if they want to, although a few have a natural ability and do better, and others, like me, end up a bit lower. 

So, I reckon losing some weight will get you a + increment in grade, three times a week will get you another +, and some structure will get you another +. So, from 6c that's low 7s by Christmas!

Of course, I realise the last paragraph is very generalised, but I'm just breaking it down to let you see how manageable it could be. Naturally you need to enjoy doing all that too, there's nothing wrong in just climbing a few times a week on 6s if you enjoy that. 

Post edited at 11:34
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L belayatron 16 Aug 2019

Wow thanks deacondeacon, ti_pin_man, GridNorth, jezb1, wurzelinzummerset what an inspiring bunch of stories!

Ok I'm convinced, maybe it is possible. I'll look to try and increase my sessions to 3 time a week, lose a bit of weight and begin focusing on getting a number of harder routes done each session and pick out a 7a (in a bit) I can work on as a project. I also might see if I can hook up a coach at my local centre (I think my technique is pretty good but I've never actually had coaching).

Deacondeacon, you mentioned you went through 4-6months of structured training. You don't happen to know if this was an online programme or similar you could point me too? Don't worry at all if not.

Again, thanks all for your help, it's fired me up!

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The Jazz Butcher 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

Lots of good advice above already.

I am over 50 and have been climbing for nearly 40 years (40 years man and boy - climbing! hardest game in the world).

Anyway, I had plateaued but was still looking to improve for some routes I wanted to to. This year, after doing some specific training over winter I did a 7c+ in a day, which I've never done before and did multipitch 7c ground up, which I've never done before. They were definitely a result of the specific training.

As others have suggested, a good coach can make a lot of difference.

TJB.

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Siderunner 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

You definitely can get to 7a, probably quite quickly. Maybe try and bolt-to-bolt a couple soon to get a feel for what your up against and inform what aspects need training. With V3/4 bouldering I’d expect you to be able to do all the moves on a 7a pretty quickly (sandbags excepted!).

I thought this article was useful:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/skills/from_punter_to_crusher_how_to_climb_sport_7a-10948

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got ... so mix it up and try some new styles of training. Do stick with it though, takes a number os sessions to see measurable improvement.

Post edited at 12:51
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deacondeacon 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

> Wow thanks deacondeacon, ti_pin_man, GridNorth, jezb1, wurzelinzummerset what an inspiring bunch of stories!

> Deacondeacon, you mentioned you went through 4-6months of structured training. You don't happen to know if this was an online programme or similar you could point me too? Don't worry at all if not.

I live in Sheffield and my social circles are all, within climbing. This inevitably means that every person I know has an opinion on training and I sort of amalgamated them all lol. Tbh the main thing is becoming more focused and learning how to actually try hard (without injuring yourself). 

If you're looking for an exact plan you can't go wrong with speaking to the 'lattice' guys. They'll defo get you on the right track 

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TonyB 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I climbed my first (and only) 8a at the age of 40 after a sustained period of training.  I think at 30 my best would probably have been 6b.

As for climbing 7a, I think this is entirely feasible. If you've never trained I don't think you can have any idea where your natural limit is. 

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Rigid Raider 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

Surely your pure technical grade indoors becomes irrelevant when you venture outdoors and do the real climbing? You may be able to climb a certain grade on nice clean dry rounded holds in a warm dry shed and a perfect belay but what happens when you encounter wet rock, moss, lichen, routefinding difficulties, rope management, wind, fading daylight, hunger, fear and all those real-life variables that climbers need to deal with?  

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JLS 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

>"I was wondering if anyone has any stories of people in my age range who've plateaued and then actually successfully significantly improved through a training regime?"

I climbed my first 7a in my early forties. To be honest it was more due to a change in tactics rather than any training. Basically I just camped (not literarly) under one till I'd done it.

Some structure to your sessions would help.

If you can't expand to 3x a week then...

Session 1:  4x4 routes (Look it up but basically 16 laps of the hardest things you can do 16 laps of)

Session 2: Attempts at a 7a (Warm-up and then dog up / work a 7a project, at least a half-hour rest between trys.)

If you can add a third session then really push on the boulders.

That would give you a strength session, an endurace session and a power endurance session.

Give it six week and you'll be climbing 7a.

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strudles 16 Aug 2019

I’m 40 and climbed 7c+ this year, 3 years ago my best rp was 6c+ and I mostly climbed 6a-6b

the only difference was structured training and focus  

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L belayatron 16 Aug 2019

Just another thanks again to the others who’ve kindly responded. The UKC article is brilliant and the free lattice team app also seems pretty neat.

I’m going to do some research over the weekend based on all your advice and see if I can workout a schedule of structured training for the next few months. Will report back!

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LGraham 16 Aug 2019
In reply to Rigid Raider:

>  but what happens when you encounter wet rock, moss, lichen, routefinding difficulties, rope management, wind, fading daylight, hunger, fear and all those real-life variables that climbers need to deal with?  

I think at that point you find a more suitable first 7a...

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In reply to belayatron:

I started climbing when I was 27ish, sticking to bouldering and trad.  I took up sport climbing at 35ish, when I moved near to some decent lime crags.  I started on the 7a's and have kept ticking my way steadily through the grades since - through my late 30s to 43.  I got to 8a/+ by climbing every weekend, with no midweek climbing or training, and nothing resembling a structured approach. 

I've been fingerboarding midweek for the last few years, and have climbed a grade or so harder since, but I am not entirely convinced it would not have happened anyway.  So, don't underestimate what you might manage by just keeping turning up, trying hard whenever you can, and being willing to fall off... a lot. 

As for the effects of age - I feel aging into my 40s is no real excuse.  A recent focus on bouldering has me feeling as strong as I ever have.  Injuries seem a bit more niggly these days but I reckon I have the same peak ability... I just have to meter my efforts a bit more strategically (and be nicer to myself - less climbing to failure).  The main problem is maintaining mojo in the face of the UK weather!

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Robert Durran 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I'd love to be 40 again with my strongest years ahead of me. In fact I have not given up hope that, at 55, they still are....... which is really just a matter of managing niggles sensibly.

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SteveSBlake 16 Aug 2019
In reply to Rigid Raider:

Where is this warm shed! 

Steve

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Andy Gamisou 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I peaked at around 7a+/7b (redpoint) about 4 years ago, 52-ish.  Maintained that standard, and was trying 7c, until a couple of years ago when was struck by a few illnesses.  After an op. to address one of them, and trying to manage the others,  I'm hopeful of getting back there and completing my 7c goal - after which I can die happy ;-)

I climb (outside) a couple of times a week, do hangboard sessions twice a week, and have a couple of small bouldering panels I use now and then.  Also a bit of the usual conditioning stuff.

If I were around 40 and committed to improving (which I only did mid to late  40's) then I'd do some proper training , have a few sessions with a decent coach, and be aiming for something more like 8a rather than 7a.

Good luck with whatever you aim for!

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Bulls Crack 16 Aug 2019
In reply to strudles:

And time?

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Flinticus 16 Aug 2019
In reply to Rigid Raider:

> Surely your pure technical grade indoors becomes irrelevant when you venture outdoors and do the real climbing? You may be able to climb a certain grade on nice clean dry rounded holds in a warm dry shed ?  

Where is this indoor heaven? How often do you climb indoors?

Try dusty, greasy slopers covered in a thick layer of chalk and skin residue or micro crimps covered in a chalk and rubber compound and never cleaned once a route is up. Best bet for the higher grades is to get on them early before the dirt accumulates?

Warm and dry. Or stuffy and too hot with no fresh air?

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afx22 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I started bouldering at the age of 40 and I’m now nearly 50  I improved slowly, as you do, then fell in love with bouldering outdoors around 5 years ago.  It took me around 3 years to get my first f7a and until then, I was never sure I would ever be capable.  I think I’m up to 14 f7a’s now and they’ve almost all taken a lot of effort.

My advice would be;

Yes, you can do it.

Try as many as you can.  If one looks and feels possible, work it and work it hard.  Some will suit you more than others.

Training helps but you need to be specific.  Strong fingers won’t help much on a slab.  So when you find a suitable project, work out what you need to climb it and train that.  There was one problem that after a few days of working it, I got to point where I could do all of the moves (The Cave Problem at Cratcliffe) but the start took so much energy that I struggled from the middle section onwards.  I read about endurance training, did three weeks of that and found it easy.

Get a fingerboard and do Max Hangs.  It’s easy to get a benefit really quickly - within a few weeks - for very little time investment.  15 mins, twice week will strengthen your fingers.

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Kevster 16 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I'm only early 40s. And have slowed my climbing due to family,  but heres what I'd suggest. Hopefully it's a useful post that gives a little thoughts to a possible approach. 

Try tying on more often to challenging climbs. 

If your target is 7a........

7a a day. That just means try a 7a every time you go out. 

You can choose if it's one dogged ascent, working a route, ticking a route or on sighting a route a day. The key thing is tying on! It's all experience.

After a while you get used to what a 7a has on it. What you may be expected to do, and how to do it. You will also get used to falling off whilst trying. The head game also gets desensitised - more zone and flow. 

I'd also suggest working a harder route occasionally. Funny how once you start climbing 7a for example how much better the holds and rests on a 6b+ feel? Same is true higher up. If you can do the moves on a 7b or 7c, the 7a etc suddenly feel less desperate or sustained. 

I'd go further, and suggest that top roping indoors (and outdoors) is not beneficial unless at your absolute limit. Bolt to bolt, fine. Just get used to leading whatever comes. I found that helped my head.

I also felt that climbing lots of low grade warm ups didn't help either. Warm up yes, but don't get too comfy on routes that don't push you. It's a time and stamina consuming trap.

Finally, get some good belayers who are on board with your targets.

Good luck! I hope you'll find its more a state of mind than a physical limit.

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abr1966 17 Aug 2019
In reply to belayatron:

I think it'll depend partly on your physiology and whether you've had previous injuries etc....but its definitely possible!

I made a concerted effort at the age of 37 to shed any excess weight and trained hard both climbing and in the gym....it definitely helped with my grade and ability to hold on longer messing with gear and managing the rope. I always had a lot of finger strength but climbing overhangs or very steep routes were definitely improved between age 37-39!

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In reply to belayatron:

Hi there, I’m 59 and have been climbing for about 40 years. My grades are on the up again after putting some structure into training. Just climbing leads to a plateau which it’s difficult to get past. My particular problem was an imbalance in strength between left and right which working on a system board is fixing. The biggest gain for me has come from regular training games on a fingerboard. Transferring that to outdoors brings gains not only in strength but in confidence. You look at a little edge or open hand sloper, and know that you can pull on it all day. I climbed mid E-grades when I was a youth, with some very occasional E5s thrown in, I wish I had taken more notice of what Andy Pollitt and all the others were doing re training at the time!

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In reply to belayatron:

I'll be 40 in October. Been climbing since I was 18. I have no doubt that you'll be able to improve on V4.

I can't really offer anything new to what's already been said above but wanted to give a bit more encouragement. Get training and you'll be hitting 7a.

I still remember the first time I watched the Fontainebleau film called Bleau with Jo Montchausse talking about starting climbing at 32. I think, he did his first Font 8a at 56!

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L Gendo 23:50 Fri
In reply to belayatron:

I think it depends on where you think your limitations are, is it physical? Stamina or just figuring out how to get to the top?

I'm 36 and started indoors bouldering about 5 months ago (4 times a week for 90 minutes) and at the moment doing V4 slabs with some V5s in there, V3 on tough overhangs. Been doing rough sports since childhood and never been to the gym, just got the sport specific body type by going for it and maybe a couple of supplementary exercises.

I don't think my body is the issue yet, V5 is as high as it gets on pure slabs (my gym) and overhanging I find that the limited time (stamina wise) to figure out what do do is the limitation. In that case I think my inexperience and being overall bad at remembering body movements is the culprit as I can't visualize it until I'm on it.

I hope my personal experience helps in some way and I'd say try and focus on one discipline to start with, observe and interact with other climbers who are trying the same route/problem and also try and do shorter sessions spread across more days. 3 hours sessions sound rough and I doubt you'd be in the mood to try something out of your comfort zone when tired.

We've got a circuit board which tilts from 0 to 45 degrees with a variety of holds, got started there when my new shoes where too painful for anything else and I found it to be a great training tool! Stuff tends to vary a lot depending on incline which is good for arm strength and especially foot work.

But yeah...find your weakness and work on it, 40 may be too old for starting reaction based sports but surely not for climbing imo.

Post edited at 23:54
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krikoman 16:34 Sat
In reply to belayatron:

Why do you want to climb 7a s?

I've plateaued at around the same level as yourself, but there's plenty for me to do and get plenty of fun out of at this grade. It's also a point where I can turn up at the wall and get straight on a 6c and not cause injury.

I can understand chasing grades, if that's what floats your boat, but I've found that achieving a certain standard, say E1, made me think "well so what" I lost my mojo for about 18 months after doing my first E1.

I can't be arsed to train even to avoid injury, I'd rather be climbing, and find training boring.

I'm sure training is a good thing and doing so would increase your grades, but would you be enjoying it more?

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Fishmate 18:35 Sat
In reply to Paul Phillips - UKC and UKH:

> I still remember the first time I watched the Fontainebleau film called Bleau with Jo Montchausse talking about starting climbing at 32. I think, he did his first Font 8a at 56!

For what it's worth, Jo is now 68. I climbed with him at Isatis and Franchard Point de Vue in May. He gracefully polished off a 7B+ traverse before my eyes. I only had one full burn and would have needed a few more for the tick. I'm only 51 though ;)

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Fishmate 18:57 Sat
In reply to belayatron:

Just. Go. For. It!

Your post tells me that you suspect by climbing a harder grade you will have a greater, broader and deeper experience. Very few people who have put focused effort in would disagree with that.

I'm 51, and this year alone I've made significant gains in many areas of my climbing performance. So, put simply as others have said, discover and embrace your weaknesses and fears and batter them into submission.

Very importantly and I take this from sports science rather than being anecdotal. As Andy G alluded to but no one else, do not neglect conditioning and do not neglect the TLC/corrective side, i. e. Theraband work, foam rollers, finger/forearm stretching. This keeps you in the game, especially as you age.

Psychologically, humans are very good at setting arbitrary limits that don't reflect their potential. Try and remain open to any possibility but also be patient. Consistency is King. Always ask if you don't know or don't understand anything. Climbers love to talk training.

Let us know what you decide training wise and best of luck.

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cwarby 19:28 Sat
In reply to belayatron:

I decided at 48 I wanted to do 7a by 50. I was basically a traditional (E3) climber. I managed 7a+ and at 53 got up 7b+ (albeit 1) and now have a few 7b's under my belt. Biggest thing for me was moon boarding for power and actually learning how to redpoint. At 40, you've got ample time. Talk to people and staff at the local wall and get in with climbers who get out and climb harder. Do what they do. 

I'm  now trying to work out how to push further, but I do have a plan. You need one too.

Chris

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Misha 23:19 Sat
In reply to belayatron:

Sure, you should be able to improve your indoor grades relatively easily.  You probably need to do some structured training or at least focus your climbing sessions on particular physical aspects each time. Also get into redpointing routes if you aren’t already. 

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baron 23:36 Sat
In reply to belayatron:

If you want to improve then do it now.

Improving when you’re 40+ is possible but it definitely won’t be any easier.

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machine 01:20 Sun
In reply to belayatron:

Im 41. I climb F7A/7b and boulder around V5 and I'm know where near my limit. You just have to train, push yourself and try hard. Climbing twice a week is not enough. When you hit around 40 ish your body starts to slow down and stops producing the spunk previously enjoyed that attributes to muscle growth. Ie you now need to train hard but sensibly to avoid injury and maybe look at suppliments. There are lots of training programmes on line. Look at the Robbie Philips, Tom Randal and Ollie Tor videos. They should put you in the right direction. Employ a coach for a few sessions to get you on track. Also its worth reading the articles Steve Mclure posted regarding this very issue.

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