It’s that time of year when climbers start to pack up their bouldering pads, re-rack their cams, and stow away their quickdraws. Winter is almost here, and climbers used to spending their days pushing grades at the crag will soon need to find a way to keep up with their fitness through the colder months. Some climbers can easily transition into ice climbing (if that’s what you’re into) but for others, now is the time to hunker down and run some laps on good old plastic.

That’s right. You’ve heard a lot about transitioning from gym climbing to outdoor climbing, but what about making the switch from being a crag crusher to a gym hound? Here are some tips to make the most out of the off-season.

Bouldering in the gym

Changing Your Mindset

If you walk into your local gym for a session and expect it to be just like a day at the crag, you’ll probably leave disappointed. A climbing gym is just like a regular gym: it’s a place to train.

Outdoor climbing includes projecting, which is a fine balance of pushing hard but also resting enough to keep performing at a high level. When you’re indoor training, you can thrash yourself around a little more. That doesn’t mean training so hard that you injure yourself, but doing your best to tire yourself out can have its benefits once the weather starts to warm up.

Create a Training Routine

Now is the time to dig deep and be honest with yourself about what you need to improve on. Have you always sucked at heel hooks? Feel like you’re pulling a bit too hard on your left arm? Make a list of what you want to get better at by the end of the training season and find some workouts that will help you meet those goals.

Now is also a good time to experiment with hang boarding to improve finger strength (beware of training here) and general strength training to build full-body strength that isn’t just in your fingers.

Feel free to experiment, too! If you feel like you get winded on approaches, maybe try fitting in a run a few times a week to build your endurance.

Lead climbing in the gym
Do More

If the thought of even stepping foot in a climbing gym makes you snooze, think about how you can get more involved. Many rock gyms are always looking for route setters or part-time staff. Setting routes could be a new way to flex your creative muscles in addition to your muscle muscles.

If you’re a die-hard sport climber, try bouldering at the gym (and vice versa). Climbing in a discipline that isn’t your go-to will keep you interested in the gym where routes can’t change as often as you climb them. It will also work muscles that aren’t used as much in your favorite style of climbing.

Enjoy the Down Time

Many rock gyms are known for more than just their climbing. They do their best to foster the sense of community that climbers look for at the crag. Some gyms have bars or cafes set up in them, or places where you can work from a laptop or just hang out. Lots of gyms also take the time to schedule events to get people excited about keeping up with their training.

Some gyms also have added perks like trainers or nutritionists on hand to help people with their training. Those perks alone may convince you to try a membership for the season!

crag to gym climbing

Transitioning from Crag to Gym

Regardless of how the gym makes you feel, it’s a great way to prepare yourself for the next crag season. You might be surprised at what you accomplish when the warm weather rolls back around.