10 Tips for your First Climbing Competition

Comp Pic layer

I have taken competing quite seriously these past couple of years, and it seems like I learn something new at every single competition. Not surprisingly though, my preparedness level has increased with every comp I attend to the point where I (sort of) know what I’m doing. Your first competition can be quite scary. I remember feeling like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what to expect.

So, if you want to feel at least somewhat prepared before the big day unlike me, here are a few things I believe are important for you to know. I know there’s A LOT I didn’t cover, so I am more than happy to answer any other questions you have! Enjoy 🙂

  1. Pack snacks/drinks – Apples, bananas, nuts, granola bars, water and gatorade are my go-to snacks and drinks. Bring familiar snacks that don’t mess with your body too much and will give you the energy you need. Larger gyms typically have a canteen, but you know as well as I do that they can be over priced.
  2. Take your time warming-up – Very important!! Show up an hour before the comp starts to do a thorough warm-up. After months of climbing, training and eating well you would kick yourself if you hit a wall an hour in because you’re flash pumped or worse, injured.
  3. Understand the rules – I have found that competitions can differ in the slightest of ways, so it’s crucial to listen to the judges when they go through the rules before show time. If you’re lucky, they will send you the rules in advance so you can look them over privately.
  4. Know what you can or cannot do in isolation – Most competitions, especially fun scramble competitions (you have 3 hours to climb as much as you want and everyone climbs at the same time) do not not include an isolation component. However, if you are doing an iso-iso format comp you have to deal with isolation. Isolation is when all participating athletes are separated from the routes and spectators before the comp begins so the routes can’t be read before hand. You are NOT allowed to have your phone, ipod touch, lap top or anything with a wifi signal in this area and you cannot leave for any reason other than it’s your time to climb. Some gyms will take these items away or some will trust that you have them powered off. They want you completely cut off from the world so that spectators can’t contact you about the routes. Sounds intimidating but it’s not that bad! Side note: If you’re in a larger gym, isolation is usually located in the training area with enough equipment and space for warming up. If you are doing this competition format, you need to find out when you are climbing. If you’re climbing first, you can’t waste any time getting ready. If you’re climbing near the end, you can sit around and wait awhile before warming up.



  5. Practice your breathing/calm yourself – I like to take deep breaths in order to calm my nerves. Whatever it takes for you, do it. My nerves cause me to over grip and under perform, so I focus a lot of attention on calming them. If you don’t feel nervous at all, then  you don’t have to worry about this! Good for you!
  6. Find energy – I like to down a red bull before starting my warm-up because it gives me that extra kick. Some people find energy in other sources, like anything else with sugar, caffeine or taurine for example. Again, it’s whatever works for you. Red bull proved effective in my training so I started bringing it to comps. Don’t wait until comp day to try a new energy source either!
  7. Don’t compare yourself to other climbers – I am still a victim of this, so believe me when I say it’s hard. It’s definitely okay to admire other climbers (you’ll see lots of strong ones), but the problem begins when you start telling yourself,”woah, I can’t beat them”, or, “they’re much stronger than me!” You rock, don’t sell yourself short. Keep that confidence high.
  8. Eat a healthy breakfast – Eat a rather large, nutritious breakfast to make sure you get all the nutrients and energy you possibly can for the morning! Don’t wait until you get to the gym either, eat as early as possible before the comp so you can properly digest.
  9. Brace yourself for many bathroom breaks – Nervous pee and poops are a thing, a real thing. You’ll have to go again and again. If you are in isolation, you might even need a chaperon to take you to the bathroom (if the isolation area doesn’t come equipped with a bathroom), which as you can guess, is insanely fun.
  10. Don’t forget to eat and drink! – If you are in a regular scramble format competition, you’ll have 3 hours to climb as much as you want. Remember to stop either half way through or when needed to refuel and take several breaks to rehydrate. If you’re in an isolation format competition, you can’t really take snack breaks but you can rehydrate! You’re also climbing for less time so the snacks can wait until after.

Climb on xx

2 thoughts on “10 Tips for your First Climbing Competition

  1. Great advice! I’d add that I like to stalk the gym beforehand to scope out the walls if I haven’t been there, and to discuss beta for your route with your friendly competitors, should the format allow.
    Awesome post. Cheers! 😀

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