What To Expect On Your First Climbing Class

Apex Climbing Blog

Excited, Nervous, Not Sure What To Expect? Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Your First Climbing Class…

If you’ve booked, or are thinking of booking your very first climbing class the chances are you’re filled with a mixture of emotions about the whole thing. On the one hand, you’re probably super excited, whether that’s to improve your skill or take those first steps into the world of climbing and bouldering. On the other, you could be filled with nerves and trepidation, after all, what if there are other people watching, what if you’re not any good? Don’t worry, no one will be testing you on your first climbing lesson, what’s more, no matter where you’re learning, whether that’s outdoors or in a dedicated climbing centre no one wants to see you fail! The climbing community are a pretty friendly bunch, who all want each other to succeed and that’s definitely true for us guys at Apex!

That said, not knowing what you’ll be stepping into can cause nerves prior to your first climbing class, which is why we’ve written this blog, to let you know exactly what to expect and what you should and shouldn’t do. Don’t stress though, we guarantee you’ll love your climbing lessons and the time will fly; you’ll be improving before you know it! Before we jump into what to expect on your first climbing class, let’s take a look at some of the basics…

What Are The Different Types Of Climbing Classes?

Not all climbing classes are created equal; with different classes designed for different abilities, from complete beginners who may be looking for an introduction to bouldering or climbing, right through to international competitors who need bespoke training to improve minute aspects of their technique. Either way, you can be sure that there’s definitely a class level for you, you just need to do a little bit of research.

To keep things simple, climbing classes are usually broken up into; introductory, intermediate and advanced classes, as well as indoor and outdoor options. If you have already climbed, it’s worth checking your level indoors (against your local climbing wall’s routes) to determine your current level. Are you struggling to break through the easier routes? Maybe your comfortably completing mid-level climbs? These benchmarks will help you decide which type of class is right for you.

Our top tip: speak to climbing coaches before you book! We’re always happy to advise you on the right class to suit your goals and abilities.

Should I Have Group Or Individual Climbing Classes?

Usually, the choice between individual climbing and group classes depends upon personal preference, or specific goals. If you feel more comfortable having 1-1 classes then go for it!

Group classes are usually better value for money, with small enough groups to still make tuition worth while, as well as offering a sense of camaraderie and a chance to meet new friends. However, some people prefer individual coaching as it can be less daunting and offers a greater attention to detail. 1-1 is also often preferred at higher levels, where climbers need to refine one particular skill or technique in depth.

If you’re nervous about taking group classes, don’t be! Don’t forget everyone will be in the same boat as you, with a similar level of skill and climbing ability (even if that’s none), with a coach on hand to make sure everyone gets something out of the class. That said, we understand that sometimes smaller numbers can put your mind at ease, which is where 1-1 classes come in.

If you’re not sure, it can be best to start with individual classes, building your confidence and moving to a group class when you feel ready.

Do I Need To Bring Anything With Me To My Climbing Class?

In most cases you shouldn’t need to bring anything to your first climbing class. If you do, it will usually be listed in the course material, or your instructor will advise you before hand.

Most of the time, climbers like to use their own shoes (rental options are your alternative) so it makes sense to take those with you if you already have them, as well as chalk, climbing tape and anything else you may already have. Remember, these are nice to have, but not essential!

It may seem obvious, but make sure you’re dressed in comfortable, flexible clothing such as gym clothes, which you don’t mind getting damaged for your first class.

What Should I Expect On My First Climbing Class?

Safety First

Before any class your instructor will run through any safety issues they may have. Whilst it may seem boring (as you’re probably eager to get stuck in), safety procedures are vital and designed for your benefit. These can include a walk-around of the gym or climbing area, relevant waivers or medical forms and sometimes watching an introductory video.

If your first class is indoors the chances are there will also be additional safety procedures to follow which are set by individual climbing centres, such as waivers and insurance documents. Don’t worry too much though, your instructor will have plenty of experience with these and will always be on hand to help you with anything if you’re unsure.

We can’t stress this enough; if you have any questions during the safety element or induction part of our course ask your instructor! They are always happy to help and have your safety as their main priority.

Warm Up

A good warm up is essential, no matter what level you’re at. Before you get stuck into the main part of your first climbing class your instructor will lead you though a course specific warm-up, designed to get blood flowing, reduce the risk of injury and improve your flexibility. Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive to spend time warming up, rather than climbing, trust us, it’s worth it! By taking a proper warm up your body is more engaged, meaning easier and better climbing in the long run.

Whilst warm ups can vary, most include some level of basic cardio, such as an exercise bike, rowing machine or treadmill, as well as dynamic stretching. Don’t worry, your instructor will tailor your warm up to your ability, so you’ll never feel too out of breath, the idea is to be ready to climb, not ready to collapse.

Initial Assessment

After your warm up, you’ll probably head over to the wall, or route your planning to climb, with your instructor asking you questions about your current ability and previous experience. This isn’t a test, it’s more to determine your climbing level so that your class can be adapted to suit.

Our tip here is to be honest, no matter how good or bad you think you are. Remember, your climbing coach will have seen it all before, so they’ll not be shocked and, if you tell the truth about your ability, you’re more likely to get a fulfilling, progressive program out of it.

Understanding Your Goals

After a short conversation (because your instructor will know you’re itching to get on the wall and climb) your instructor will determine your goals, both in the short, mid and long term. Even though it may not seem like it, especially if you’re on a set course, understanding your goals is a vital part of any climbing class, as it can change the whole direction of the day, depending upon what you want to achieve.

It’s quite common to not have any goals in mind on your first lesson and that’s ok, your instructor will work with you to help identify the key areas for improvement that will help you become a better climber and enjoy your climbing as much as possible.

Getting On The Wall

Ok, enough talk, it’s time to get on the wall! No matter whether you’re indoors or outside, getting on the wall can be daunting at first, but, as always, your coach will lead you through the whole process. Whilst it can be nerve wracking, it’s important to have some confidence and at lease believe you can get two feet off the ground. Remember, everyone is different and everyone starts somewhere, so don’t be disheartened if you find it difficult at first.

You’ll come to understand over time that, no matter what level you are climbing at, there’s always someone better and everyone faces challenges, the key is to improve on your own abilities and be the best climber you can be.

Once you’re on the wall your instructor will take you through a number of introductory moves, and could even ask you to climb a route without guidance, so they can better understand how you work and look for ways to improve. At first, you may be a little worried about falling off (especially if you’re bouldering, which doesn’t involve ropes), but it’s important to remember that your instructor will have taken the class several times, with experience in dealing with all levels, so they’ll know your limits and will always work to keep you safe.

If you’re climbing indoors, there will be countless safety equipment and matting to protect you and, when climbing outdoors you’ll have several fail-safes and mats on hand.

The climbing part of your first class always flies by so you’ll be more than surprised when it’s over. Keep in mind that your instructor may have other classes, so, whilst they might not always be able to stick around, sometimes they’ll be more than happy to climb that little bit longer. What’s more, there’s nothing stopping you from staying behind and working on a few extra things (in fact, at Apex it’s quite common for our pupils to stay and climb all night!)

Planning For The Future

After your first climb, your instructor will have a better idea of your current level, strengths, weaknesses and long term goals, so they’ll be able to formulate a plan to help you improve. Whilst they may not offer feedback straight away, rest assured they’ll have things in their mind that they know will make you a better climber and enjoy climbing as much as possible.

If you’re climbing in a group your coach may formulate a more widespread plan, based on the key points they pick up on during the class, either way, you’ll improve, getting more out of each session as you progress.

Cool Down

A cool down is just as important as a warm up, which can help reduce injury and improve long term mobility. The cool down part of your class (or any climbing session for that matter) can be a great time to work on stretching, improving flexibility.

As always, your climbing coach will have a tailored cool-down routine prepared for you, based around your abilities, but, if you do want to work on something specific, such as improving hamstring or shoulder mobility, just ask.

Questions

Before you finish your class, which you will have thoroughly enjoyed (we guarantee it!) you’ll have an opportunity to reflect on the things you’ve done, the things you’ve learned, likes (and dislikes) and to ask any questions you may have. Again, whilst it can be daunting, this is your time to speak up! Your instructor will only have your best interests and improvement at heart, so if there’s something you’d like more detail on, or to cover next time, it’s deficiently worth letting them know.

We’d just like to say that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. If you have a question, no matter how small, just ask. Your instructor may be able to explain there and then, or tailor future classes to help you understand a particular topic a little better.

If your class is in a group setting your instructor may reach out to you individually afterwards, giving everyone a chance to speak up, or you may be able to message them later in the week if you need to.

Conclusion

We hope, by giving you an insight into what happens on your first climbing class, that you’re a little less nervous about the whole thing and filled with excitement! Climbing, in all it’s forms, whether that’s outdoors trad climbing, bouldering, or indoors with friends, is a great passion to have, helping improve your health, flexibility and mental health, as well as being very rewarding, especially when you complete a route or project; so taking your first class really is a step in the right direction.

Before you know it, you’ll have the climbing bug, improving all the time and hopefully, looking back on your first class, seeing how far you’ve come and understanding how coaching has helped. Remember, a ‘first climbing class’ doesn’t always mean ‘new to climbing’, it could be your first 1-1, or expert group class, no matter what level you’re at, there’s always room to improve.

If you’ve booked your first climbing class, we know you’ll thoroughly enjoy it and, like thousands of others, fall in love with climbing just like we have. See you on walls!

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