Bouldering 101: Mindfulness on Day 1

Teaching beginners how to climb is one of my favourite ways of contributing to the community at my home gym, Up The Bloc.

Throughout my 15 years of climbing, I have seen beginner after beginner enter climbing gyms to try bouldering for their first time. The pattern is the same at every gym — sign a waiver, fit for shoes, safety orientation, a quick review of the grading system and off they went on their own. Within an hour or two, they’d leave feeling completely exhausted, slightly confused and even discouraged. And, surrounded by experienced climbers who seem to move effortlessly up the wall, it must have felt like a punch to the face. I knew the solution was simple and I when I found out Up The Bloc was becoming a reality, I immediately communicated my interest in teaching beginner bouldering lessons. Owners Luigi Montilla, Jean-Marc De La Plante and Rob Somogyi loved the idea. I wrote a lesson plan and I’ve been teaching the class ever since. We are the first gym in Ontario to offer this type of class. In my Bouldering 101 lessons, I guide new climbers beyond the front desk to provide personalized instruction in deliberately small groups for a full 2 hours. The goal is to inspire them to love climbing as much as we do.

Guiding a new climber through their first day is one of the most valuable moments I get to be involved in as an instructor. Not only is it extremely rewarding for me, their experience in my class can also make or break their perception of the sport and determine whether or not they come back. When it comes to bouldering, inspiring the transition from curious spectator to committed climber requires instruction that goes beyond beta to help new climbers learn to listen to their body. This is what motivates my entire approach to teaching.

When you join my 101 class, we talk about feelings. A lot. Not just the mushy kind but also the physical feelings related to movement. This emphasis on feeling is so important because climbing movement is so varied and not every beginner comes from a background in dance or gymnastics. For many, their first day climbing is a slightly anxious but exciting first leap back into fitness. In my class, beginners have a chance to reconnect with movement and learn how to listen to their own body.

Try This: Body Scan for Mindfulness

Even just a simple warm-up exercise like a body scan helps a new climber learn mindfulness. You can try this yourself by getting on the wall in a comfortable position and taking a moment to mentally check in with each point of contact. Then, slowly work your way in through each limb and toward your torso, noticing external and internal sensations before finally moving your attention up through your neck and face. Practicing mindfulness helps climbers move more deliberately and improves technique on the wall.

Teaching mindfulness on the first day is one of the ways I try to help beginners have the best possible experience at Up The Bloc.

If you know someone that might be interested in climbing, share this post. I’d love to have them join me for a Bouldering 101 lesson at Up The Bloc. And, if you’re looking for more info on getting started. Check out my guest post about Getting Started over on Up The Bloc’s website.