1. Build trust.
If you're new to climbing, it can be unnerving to be 50 feet off the ground with only a rope securing you to your belay partner. Climbing in a gym is a great way to build trust in the rope system and your belay partner. Practice falling so you know what it feels like. Practice commands with your belay partner to ensure when you get outside, you understand each other. Without trust in the system, it's very difficult to become a better climber.
Beginner tip: Be sure to review and use these climbing commands when communicating with your partner.
2. Refine your technique.
While it's possible to muscle your way up a route with sloppy technique, it is certainly not the most efficient and you'll quickly tire out. In the gym, work on mastering proper technique like keeping your arms straight or stemming on a chimney route. This may mean stepping down to a lower grade route until you're able to send the route cleanly; while this may bruise your ego initially, your body will thank you later.
Beginner tip: If your climbing gym offers an intro class, consider taking it. You'll learn the correct way to move on the wall.
3. Increase strength.
Climbing is a full-body workout that requires the use of different set of muscles from 'traditional' sports and workouts. Think: fingers, forearms and shoulders. Because gym routes are often shorter than outdoor routes, you'll be able to complete a number of routes in a single gym session, building important strength so you won't fatigue when you get outside.
Beginner tip: Master your technique first. You want to build muscle memory with the correct movements; it's hard to break bad habits later on!
4. Watch better climbers.
It's really hard to watch better climbers when you're climbing outside, even at a popular crag. In the gym, however, there are no shortage of great climbers to watch in one, confined space. Check out climbers on the higher grade routes and note their movements, their route finding technique. Visualizing good technique while you climb can help remind you to swivel your hips as you reach for that just-out-of-reach hold or grip a crimp hold more securely.
Beginner tip: If possible, ask a better climber to watch you climb. Feedback from a better climber can help you pinpoint areas of improvement that might not be obvious to you.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
Above all else, the gym offers an abundance of practice. Practicing good technique, often, will set you up to send routes in a few months when you take your rope outside. Be sure to hit the gym multiple times a week; a casual gym schedule will not help build the muscle memory or technique to make big improvements in your climbing during these winter months. If you're serious about wanting to be a better climber, commit to practicing regularly.
Beginner tip: Enlist some friends to join the climbing gym with you. Not only does it keep you accountable to show up, it's also more fun!
With trust in the system, strength and finesse, the sky (...er, summit) is the limit with your increased climbing skills. Get out there this summer and send some rad routes!