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At the 2018 Women’s Climbing Fest in Bishop, California, we talked with professional climbers, guides, and industry workers to soak up some advice for beginners.

Here’s their best advice for advancing your technique, taking care of your body, and overcoming mental obstacles.

Many beginner climbers think the sport is all about upper-body strength, says Eliza Earle, an outdoor photographer and climber.

But paying attention to where you place your feet often allows you to reach higher holds more easily and puts less strain on your arms and fingers.

Instead of focusing on pulling on the next hold, she says to “always think with your feet first.” Negative self-talk can seem insignificant, but it may actually hinder your growth in climbing, says Katie Lambert, a professional climber and nutritionist.

“Climbing is an individual game, meaning it’s unique for each of us, and that’s the beauty of it.

Make it your own thing, celebrate in the differences, and support one another’s triumphs.” Flexibility is often overlooked, but it can help you reach different holds, creating more options for solving climbs, according to pro climber and coach Molly Mitchell.

Flexibility in your hips opens the door to higher or distant footholds.

She suggests this stretch: Lie on the floor in a frog position—as if you’re doing the middle splits, but bend your knees.

Stretch for one minute on and one minute off for five total minutes of stretching.

“Always use your pinkies,” professional climber Kyra Condie recommends.

“Not only do they make your grip position stronger, but they also help you avoid injuries.” “When your skin is good, climbing doesn’t hurt as much and your day lasts longer,” pro climber Abbey Smith says.