Age has often been said to be just a number. It really doesn’t matter what your driver’s license says. It’s how you feel. Some people stay active way into their senior years and that’s amazing. That’s how it should be.
So, if you’re over the hill, or even a bit older than that, you might be wondering… am I too old to start bouldering?
No! You are never too old to try something you want to try. In fact, it could be very beneficial to you if you just take a few precautions, which is what a climber of any age should do.
As long as you are in good health, are able to traverse upwards on stairs or even a ladder, and your weight is more or less on point, you can give climbing a try. There’s no need to be very strong either. Bouldering is something that can help you build your strength and endurance over time.
Keep reading, and you’ll find out why your age shouldn’t stop you from trying out bouldering, or anything really.
Always be motivated to learn something new
Your chronological age seldom has to do with the age you feel. In other words, if you’re in good health and mobile, there’s no reason why you can’t try something new that appeals to you. As always, you should put your health first. After that, you should always be in tune with trying out something new.
Bouldering doesn’t mean you’ve gone off the deep-end into the land of thrill-seekers. It’s a chance to build endurance, sharpen your mind, and see how much you can accomplish. Of course, you’ll want to learn from a professional that can help show you the ropes, so to speak.
In bouldering, there aren’t any ropes. It’s considered the best starting point for climbers of any age. And while you might wonder how you’ll weather bouldering a rock in the wild, you should instead turn your focus more locally, to your climbing gym. This is the place where all new climbers should get started to learn techniques in a safe and controlled space.
Start at an indoor climbing gym
Just as the older generation has come in droves to exercise at the regular gym, they should orchestrate a takeover at the indoor climbing gym. Take a friend with you and give it a try.
Indoor climbing gyms offer classes that will show you how to go bouldering and climbing. You won’t need to worry about the equipment since you can rent what you need. The staff there will show you everything you need to do. In the process, you’ll meet others of different ages, some younger and some older, all with the common thread of wanting to climb.
Your age doesn’t matter. It’s your ability. Even younger folks have to learn to climb and build that endurance. Build it together and use your strength to move your body. It’s best to keep your feet in check and center your weight over them. But don’t get caught up in going for those hard routes just yet. Right now, the goal for any new climber, no matter their age, is to learn how to make their way in vertical terrains.
Hire an experienced trainer to learn the ropes
Once you get comfortable with all the aspects of bouldering and climbing at the indoor gym, you’ll want to try it outdoors. There’s no greater thrill. And as you’ll learn when you start climbing in the gym, it’s not as dangerous as it looks.
You’ll want to hire a guide to help you outdoors. Someone with experience working with all ages is ideal because they’ll better be able to show you the ropes. You’ll need to decide though, are you doing this just for occasional kicks, or are you going to make climbing a part of your life? You can most certainly go for the thrill of it to check it off your bucket list. But you can just as easily find someone who will teach you all the necessary skills that come with climbing. That involves rappelling, belaying, and how to be safe on the rocks. It takes time to cultivate these skills. You can’t learn them in one lesson. If you’re committed to learning though, this could be the start of a beautiful new experience for you.
Take it easy and try not to get injured
It’s important to know that no matter how young or old you are and no matter how strong you are, you should go slow and easy when learning to climb. While younger climbers have more strength and flexibility, that doesn’t mean that the older you are, the less adept you’ll be. Just like when you go to the gym for exercise, you must practice exercises to maintain your flexibility.
As anyone over 30 knows, one randomly jerky move can result in a stiff neck or sore muscle. Stretching before climbing or any exercise helps prevent the pulls and strains on muscles. The older you get though, the more important it becomes, though the younger you are, it’s important to make this a habit now for future mobility.
You should also do light jogging after this stretching period and then start with easier routes to liven up those arms. Even with these precautions, it’s very normal to have sore muscles when you first start climbing, no matter your age. It engages muscles that you don’t use for everyday living. Give muscles time to recover through massage and rest properly. They will eventually become accustomed to the movements and become stronger.
How often can you go bouldering and how should you pace yourself?
The more you go bouldering, the more your technique will improve. But with age, you have to pace yourself. That goes for any sport. Recovery time is essential to prevent injury.
If you’re starting the sport of bouldering later on in life, you’ll just need to remember to allow for that recovery time. Younger climbers can handle daily climbs without troubles, but the older you are, you should listen to your trainer. They’ll likely encourage you to space out your climbing activities with 2 or 3 days between to rest those muscle groups.
While you’re bouldering, you should also space out the time by taking a 10-minute break in the middle of each 20 to 30-minute problem. Try spending that time spotting someone else, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
If endurance is what you’re after, you should do 2 to 4 problems back to back without a rest. But these problems should all be within your capabilities—no need to rush either. Take a slower pace and avoid strenuous parts. Then rest up for double the time it took to do those sets. You can repeat this as much as 5 times per session. When done this way, you should only go bouldering once or twice per week, tops.
In the beginning, it’s harder because you’re not as relaxed. You’ll have to train yourself to keep from tensing up. When you tense, you make your muscles more tired. Don’t keep readjusting your grip, either. And let those legs be your support, so you don’t overwork your arms.
On those days off, make use of your time to stretch thoroughly. By increasing your flexibility, your climbing skill will improve, and you’ll be less likely to sustain an injury.
Experts also agree that no matter your age, you should take 2 weeks off from both strength training and bouldering once or twice per year. This helps your body get the full rest it needs and maintains your physical health.
Now that the basics are covered let’s delve into what you should be doing for bouldering by your age group. These details will help you maximize your new love for bouldering with less likelihood of injury, so keep reading!
Bouldering workout plan by age bracket
For all age groups, particularly those of you on the higher end of the spectrum, the key is to do a little bit on the regular. Avoid intensive spurts. Each day, you want to increase the amount of rest you get during your climbing sessions as well as between them.
You should take care to keep an eye on your overall intensity each week and slowly increase it. A light week should be followed by a moderate week. After that, the next week should be hard. After the hard week, start at the beginning, so your training is in a wave-like progression.
Additionally, training should be sectioned into phases of either strength or endurance. Endurance should be prioritized though, to help prevent any strain-related injuries from repetition. Don’t forget to rest too. The older you are, the more time you should allot to resting though taking too much off can squash your progress.
Bouldering when you’re 45 to 50 years old
Here’s your plan for bouldering when you’re 45 to 50 years old!
- Keep your sessions short. They should be 2 hours maximum and within them, you should have 45 minutes of warm-up and 15 minutes of cool down. Do this 2 to 3 times a week.
- Look to your technique. Your best angle is 25 to 35 degrees overhanging. Switch off with steep and verticals. Work on touching on all the problems in your first hour and then try things that are a little harder to do. The key is to stay controlled while challenging yourself.
- Every 10 minutes out of 30, take time to rest completely. During moves, rest one minute after completion when pulling harder problems.
- Make sure you do interval training 1 to 2 grades below your level and take time to rest that doubles your work time. You want to repeat 6 to 8 times. Keep watch over this by timing it.
- Build your stamina with up and down moves on easier routes or on long stints of easy vertical bouldering walls. Repeat it 4 to 5 times, again focusing on rest.
- Keep up at the gym with cardio work. You’ll want to focus on your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Do 5 sets of pushups twice weekly and move up from there. Cardio can be done in running or cycling several times a week though keep each session at 20 to 35 minutes with a light intensity that progresses to moderate.
- Keep to only 3 to 4 sessions each week on hard weeks. For moderate weeks, make it 3.
- For strength, go 2 to 3 bouldering sessions each week and put one day on routes.
- For endurance, take 2 to 3 sessions of endurance each week and make one day about bouldering.
– Your Ultimate Macrocycle Outline
- Do a half and half split from strength training to endurance. A slight bias toward endurance may be best.
- Don’t overdo it. Your phases shouldn’t last more than 4 to 5 weeks.
- Keep up with a sequence that involves 1 light week followed by 1 moderate week followed by 2 hard weeks.
Bouldering when you’re 50 to 60 years old
Here’s your ultimate plan for those of you in the 50-60 age bracket!
- You can do exactly what’s recommended for those in the 45 to 50-year-old bracket, though your sessions should be shorter. Keep them to no more than 90 minutes, which should include an hour of warmup 2 times weekly.
- Spend a little less time doing harder problems. Ideally, 30 to 40 minutes is preferred.
- Don’t do dynamic moves. Instead, rest every 10 minutes after each 20-minute climbing session. Rest between completed moves on those harder challenges too, with 90 seconds.
- Bar exercises should have a reduced intensity, or you shouldn’t do them at all.
With endurance, you can do as those in the 45 to 50 age bracket do. Again, don’t forget to be gradual and get enough rest!
Your weekly routine will look much the same as those slightly younger than you. However, you will want to limit it to 3 sessions each week, even when you’re in a wave of harder training weeks.
– Your Ultimate Macrocycle Outline
- Your biggest priority needs to be on endurance. You should work on it 6 to 7 weeks.
- Your strength phases will be shorter at 2 to 4 weeks. You may even want to cut them out completely.
- As for sequence, start with one light week followed by 2 moderate weeks and then one hard week.
Bouldering when you’re over 60 years old
Here’s what to know about bouldering over the age of 60!
It’s best to try something else like mileage-based sessions with easier problems. The key is comfort. Verticals with occasional overhangs are best for enjoying the sport safely.
You can do the same endurance training as those in the 45 to 50 age bracket. However, you’ll need to reduce the grade of those interval routes. Take it 3 grades lower than your onsight level and don’t forget to rest. After resting, take 9 or 10 repeats. Stamina will stay the same and you should only slightly lower the gym sessions for cardio work, perhaps going a little easier on the intensity.
You’ll want 2 hard sessions per week or to go for 3 moderate sessions in those hard weeks. Endurance work is what you will focus on, not strength. Take 2 to 3 routes of endurance and very light bouldering each week.
– Your Ultimate Macrocycle Outline
Do not incorporate hard weeks. Instead, sequence with one light week followed by 2 moderate weeks.
Why every middle-aged or older person should think about bouldering
Don’t let the number of years you’ve rotated around the sun stop you from bouldering. Instead, here’s why you shouldn’t settle for growing old.
Your survival depends on it. Whereas it seems comfortable to sit down and rest, doing so all the time allows those muscles to deteriorate. There are people out there in their 70s that are fit as a fiddle and at the gym, putting younger people to shame. You can change your life by slowly getting into these exercises and challenging yourself.
Don’t settle for that. Get into climbing now. Train your body, so it adapts to these different moves. Each day, you go further. Then you’ll look back and see how much energy you have. This strength and mobility is the blessing you need to enjoy your senior years and have the kind of energy to chase grandkids. Maybe you’ll even teach them how to climb.
With regular climbing and training, you can challenge your numerical age and defy it. Think about wine or scotch. It only gets better with age. Change your mind about aging, and you will change your life!