The author of this article Irmgard Braun is a female german climber and thriller author. She climbed in age 69 the route „Open box“ (7c+/IX+) in der Gorges du Tarn.
I, Irmgard Braun, think it’s great to have climbing even at an advanced age (71). Going up walls gives me pleasure and trains my body without forcing myself to do a boring fitness programme. And I meet old friends and get to know new people while doing it. I enjoy that. But I have even more fun when I learn and achieve goals while climbing.
For seniors who feel the same way, I have put together a few tips on how to go about it.
I used a text about „old folk“ by Steve Mc Clure as inspiration and modified and commented on some of his rules. My personal experiences have also been taken into account.
Disclaimer: It may well be that this does not suit every older climber – every body is different, and we old people should listen to it especially well.
By the way, Mc Clure already calls everyone over 45 „old folk“. He was 48 years old when he did the most difficult route in England at the time, „Rainman“, 9b, in 2017.
Even if you weren’t or aren’t a top climber like Mc Clure, you can still benefit from the following tips if you’re an oider Krauderer. And without mutating into a training monster or torturing yourself.
1). Do not injure yourself
2). Train your strengths
3). Stay or become flexible
4). Climb regularly even with high intensity
5). Only be afraid of falling where it makes sense to do so
6). Have fun!
Before you set out to train (in whatever form), you should set a concrete goal. „Getting better“ or „not slacking off“ is too vague. A concrete plan would be, for example, to climb a certain route or to achieve a certain grade on sight. This is much more motivating and success can be checked.
1) Don’t hurt yourself
– Training on the campus board, bouldering with jumping off and in the modern style (dynamic between volumes, shoulder-heavy)- this can be dangerous, especially for older people. Bouldering in the toprope is a good alternative.
– If something hurts or even pinches a bit, it’s better to stop and wait and see what develops – at least until the next day.
– Warm up really well. It can take a crazy amount of time, especially in the cold. I need about 5 warm-up routes in the hall, gradually increasing in difficulty.
– Shoulder stability training. I only do a little (two exercises twice a week), but more is certainly beneficial, especially for people with long limbs.
– Stop climbing before you are totally flat. Because most injuries happen when you are tired.
– Be considerate of limitations, such as osteoarthritis in the knee (Egyptians are dangerous there) or elbow pain when blocking. Most of the time, you can replace risky moves with other movement variations.
2). Train your strengths
When coaching, it is usually recommended to train your weaknesses first and foremost. But I think that’s more for younger climbers who want to become powerful all-rounders in every kind of climbing on the rock and in the hall. Now 71, I climb essentially on the pleasure principle, and that includes not torturing myself through shoulder cracks and avoiding obnoxious slopers in the hall. In the kind of climbing I enjoy most on the rock (well-structured limestone), what counts most is holding small holds. Those who prefer sandstone or granite will naturally be more concerned with cracks (hand strength, clamping techniques). And pure indoor climbers have other priorities again, such as dynamos or clever trickery of slopers. The key is to concentrate on what you enjoy and where you want to achieve your goals. That’s where the chances of success are best.
3). Stay or become flexible
Yoga is certainly good for general flexibility and body tension. For people who enjoy it, it’s a great complement to climbing. It’s not for me, I find it time-consuming and hard to keep up. That’s why I train my flexibility specifically for climbing. For example, high and precise stepping, where active mobility is important, i.e. the strength to lift the legs up. In addition, a good hip opening is useful to bring the body closer to the wall. It is also useful to have a good hip opening to keep the body closer to the wall and a certain spreading ability of the legs for blending.
4). Climb regularly with high intensity
If you want to climb borderline difficult routes (for yourself) when you’re older, crux moves often call for gritty bolting. Young people do this without hesitation, seniors are more cautious. But if you’re so afraid of hurting yourself that you only climb routes you can do anyway, you’ll degrade.
If you’re not a top athlete, then it’s probably a good idea to try difficult single moves 1-2 times a week (intensity 80 to 90 percent of maximum strength). Rope climbing projects are ideal for this. You can also try out new moves and learn new techniques. If jumping off is not a problem, you can of course also go bouldering.
Climbing endurance routes should never be done before, but always after a hard strength workout.
To maintain endurance, one session per week is sufficient for normal users.
5). Only be afraid of falling where it makes sense to do so.
Being afraid robs you of fun. And also strength, because you hold on far too tightly under stress. On top of that, climbing technique often goes down the drain. That’s why getting rid of the fear of lead climbing can definitely mean one more grade. But sometimes it makes sense to be afraid (see tip no. 1). It is therefore important to assess the situation rationally, to avoid routes or places that could cause injury (clipstick!) and to fly in harmless situations. Anyone who has a problem with this can take an appropriate course or seek advice from a coach.
6). Have fun!
Many older climbers like me don’t enjoy the typical training (e.g. on the fingerboard, pull-up bar). As a result, they don’t keep it up long enough or intensively enough, and it doesn’t pay off. If you are like that, you can also work towards your goals by climbing alone – if you do it in a planned way. But that is not everyone’s cup of tea. Then you have to accept that the goal is not so important and that the fun of climbing is the main thing.
That’s also good. Because especially in old age, you realise more and more how little time you have left and how important it is to enjoy it.
If you want to know more about Irmgard, her „earlier“ climbing and her climbing thrillers, you can find more at www.irmgard-braun.de and also on our website.