Sport Climber Indoor

Goal Setting & Self Assessment for Beginning Climbers
(5.10s on Lead or V3 for bouldering)


“I’m better than I used to be. Better than I was yesterday. But hopefully not as good as I’ll be tomorrow.” -Marianne Williamson 


These are the primary areas we look at as coaches: 

  • Mental Focus
  • Technique
  • Injury Prevention & Rehab
  • Strength
  • Conditioning & Recovery Time
  • Lifestyle
  • Motivation & Inspiration 

In this blog post, I’ll  cover these topics and more. During each phase of your climbing, the priority changes. And, your goals will change as well. 

For beginners, I recommend you work on mental aspects of climbing. Focus on the skills in the skill section of my blog. Focus on improving your body awareness, especially breathe work.  Focus on keeping minimal upper extremity use.  Focus on core tension during movement. Focus on lower extremity pushing. Focus on calm and controlled movement, even if you feel a fall coming. Learn to fall like you did as a toddler.

After a few months, these tasks no longer need focus. They will become good habits and a solid foundation for technique! WORTH IT!

To write goals, you must first recognize where you are TODAY as a climber. You will need to take an honest look at your climbing. We start with a self-assessment. Have a coach like myself watch you climb. Do not just have a climber that climbs tougher grades than you do check you out.  Coaches assess areas of strength as well as areas in need of improvement. Climbers can be wickedly hard on ourselves. Ignore those thoughts, they are almost always wrong.  Consider everything on the list above as you write your goals. Include time commitments outside of climbing.

Self-Assessment for Beginner Climbers


 “What are your skills? It’s hard to (assess) from INSIDE the bottle.”  Jon Acuff, author of “Do Over”

Recommended goals for your first years of climbing:

  • Find a mentor. Find a climber who loves the outdoors, who doesn’t take herself too seriously, and has years of experience in bouldering, trad, and sport.  Always have mentors, even when you begin to mentor others.  There isn’t ever just one way to do something safely.  Respect those grumpy “old timers” who seem annoyed by you.  You DO annoy them.  Find out why.  They have a ton to teach you.
  • Don’t get caught up in grades of climbing. Everyone says it, but we all are guilty of letting it happen anyway.  I have attached the grade scales for the purposes of education.  It is good to familiarize yourself with the rating systems, so you don’t get in over your head, especially outside.
  • Make short, and long-term goals. You will want to set goals for three months, six months, and for 1 year (at least).  Your goals should be challenging, but ATTAINable.  They should be measurable, quantifiable, not subjective.  Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Do yourself a favor; write at least one goal just for fun! You can thank me later.  By the end of this section, you will write out three goals for each of those time periods.  Your goals may include an increase in grade, of course, but they must also include specific skill mastery.  It isn’t about getting to the top right now.  It’s about HOW you get there.  Take a moment to watch other climbers. Pay attention to different body types. Note short vs. tall, muscled vs. lean, loud vs. quiet, fast vs. slow, static vs. dynamic, relaxed vs. anxious, experienced vs. “Newb”, and graceful vs. let’s call it “much less graceful.”
  • Be patient with yourself. Your finger tendons take 6-9 months of consistent, injury free, climbing to develop.  These stringy structures do not bulk up!  While you will have SOME hypertrophy in forearm and upper extremity, these buggers just need time.  Do not begin hang boarding yet.
  • Your goals should include time management for climbing, of course, but also for injury prevention, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, balance, and strength.


    As mentioned above, during each phase of your climbing, the priority changes. And, your goals will change as well. We recommend checking out these great resources for climb assessment guides so you can track your progress. 

    Looking to keep yourself accountable as you work on progressing in your climbing? Contact us at ATHENA where we specialize in injury prevention through massage therapy, strength training, climbing assessments, and sports nutrition. You can also follow Athena_PDX on Instagram!

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