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Putting it simply, there is no easy way to get better at climbing. In the past year, I broke my left foot. It was non-weight bearing for 4 months and after all of this, I had another 2 weeks of hobbling around in a boot to look forward to. The entire time I was injured I was – in a way – forced to train. Otherwise, I could only climb very carefully on one foot.

Out of fear for losing my sanity, I decided to start fully utilizing the training room. This led to a snowball effect where I completely changed the way I approached climbing. Once I was able to take my boot off, my left leg was as skinny as a toothpick but my climbing was stronger than it had ever been – even before the injury.

Ironically, I actually feel grateful that I tripped over a skateboard and broke my foot (lame – I know). I’ve found a new perspective and love for both climbing and training. Through these experiences, four changes both improved my climbing and inspired me to begin the Power Hour for Women class.

1. I climbed less.

When I started climbing, I wanted to eat, sleep, and breathe the sport 24/7. However, I found out that simply living at the climbing gym doesn’t actually help you achieve harder grades. Therefore, I lessened my time on the wall to a maximum of 3 days per week and shortened the duration of each session. Most importantly, I started exercising.

To get myself back into a typical workout routine, I started finding and utilizing workout resources online. I try to keep my workouts different and interesting so I don’t lose motivation. The best thing I did was download a workout timer app. Having to count repetitions can be daunting, so exercising for 30 seconds at a time seems more manageable with a timer. I set goals that were easily obtainable in the beginning to help build myself up. If you don’t want to exercise, it will be pretty impossible to reach another level of climbing.

2. I changed my diet.

Over the past year, I have lost about 10 lbs. I didn’t do anything crazy to achieve these results. I simply reduced the amount of booze I was throwing back, worked on portion control, and minimized the amount of sweets I ate.

Protein smoothies have been a staple in my post workout regimen, and I have really noticed a difference in how I feel after drinking them. Here’s a recipe for one of my delicious smoothies:

Strawberry Waffle Smoothie

1 scoop Vegan Waffle Halo Top
1 cup Frozen Strawberries
1 scoop Vega (Vegan Protein Powder)
1 cup Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk

3. I tried to use everything in the training room.

The range of equipment in the training room keeps me motivated and has significantly improved my climbing. One piece of equipment I absolutely love is the campus board. One year ago, if you would have asked me if I used that piece of equipment, I would of said, “Who do I look like Alex Puccio!?” It’s a process that definitely takes patience, but it is completely worth the effort.

My introduction to a campus board workout looked like this:

10 second dead-hang hold on the Iron Palm crimp shelf
5 jump-squats
5 sit-ups
5 jumping jacks
Repeat 3x

The addition of the campus board to my workout strengthened my fingers, shoulders, back, and core. If there is one piece of equipment in the training room every climber should utilize, it’s the campus board. Adding in short repetitions of other exercises can help break up the dead-hangs and make the workout a little more interesting.

4. I stopped caring as much.

I don’t want to be misleading. As a lot of my friends can attest, I am a competitive person. However, after having 7 months of combined time off from injuries, I started to really appreciate simply being able to climb.

I had to be patient while my body healed. I started to figure out that climbing is fun – even if I’m not crushing my projects every day. Once I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to send everything “I was supposed to”, my sessions were more fun and I was more motivated.

I also used to spend a lot of my time at the gym feeling self-conscious. I used to think I shouldn’t try harder problems because, “I wasn’t strong enough.” I pushed past my feelings of inadequacy allowing myself to feel confident on whatever problem or route I tried at the gym, regardless of whether I sent or not.

Ultimately, exercising, changing my diet, training, and chilling out really helped me get past all of this. I’m not an professional climber and I have a lot to learn, but I’m excited to share my insight with other climbers.

If you would like to learn more and workout with other women in our community, join me for the Power Hour for Women class. This six-week program blends circuit training, partner workouts, and climbing drills. Classes take place in the facility’s designated training area, and the workouts are scalable and suitable for all fitness levels.

Dani Critzas

Author Dani Critzas

Dani Critzas is an instructor and setter at Climb So iLL. She has taught belay and climbing technique classes over the last 8 years. She currently teaches the Power Hour for Women class at Climb So iLL. Along with climbing, Dani enjoys trail running and hiking with her dogs.

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