My Surprise Love for Rock Climbing
When I would think about rock climbing, something like this used to come to mind...
Yah. I was never going to try that. That's some 'Into Thin Air' shit for intense outdoor people, right?
Well, about a year ago I was researching local things to do for my friend's bachelorette party and I stumbled upon a rock climbing gym. I called them to find out more and was surprised that:
- I didn't need an appointment
- I didn't need an instructor to watch me the whole time
- I just pay to enter and then I can stay to hang out as long as I want
I was intrigued.
We didn't go for the bachelorette party, but I did go check it out with my wife and ...
I was hooked from the first day!
The staff was exceedingly kind. They helped us get comfortable with the equipment and gave us some initial pointers. The first couple times coming down with the belay (the safety equipment) were so nerve racking!! I could barely let go from a few feet off the ground. Eventually I got the hang of it, but I was still scared all the way at the top.
We had a great time trying something new and quickly got signed up for a membership, which to our delight includes a weekly yoga class. After a few weeks I totally understood- climbing is a sport that uses the whole body so flexibility and stretching are key! I realized that many climbing gyms are starting to offer yoga classes. It's great to be part of a community that is so in tune with the whole body and functional movement.
The climbing gym is set up with a series of vertical ascents, each section containing 3-4 routes (or problems, as climbers call them) diferentiated by colors. On that first day we were working on a 5.5.
The levels of free climbing are divided by decimal points:
After taking a few of the 'intro to climbing' classes, we were able to ascend a 5.6. We got to know the people who came to class regularly, they are all so nice! Everyone shared about their experiences climbing so far and were so supportive. I never felt bad for being new or not knowing what I was doing. Why was I ever too intimidated to try this?
Then it was onto the several months of struggling to ascend to the top of a 5.7...
Until this week WHEN I FINALLY GOT IT!
I was struggling with hand placement on the bit right over the ledge, so I approached a man who had just completed it. He gave me some tips and then coached me through. Everyone was cheering when I got to the top! (I would play the sound, but I don't want to go to youtube jail for the music in the background)
What a feeling! I've been working on this for months. The feeling of being strong and seeing my progress is so motivating, in and out of the gym.
In the months since I have tried climbing, I have torn up my hands and gotten sore arms and shoulders and I have loved every minute of it. There are so many benefits to climbing, indoors or outdoors. Indoor climbing has been a wonderful option during this Upstate New York winter, I can't wait to try it outdoors.
Some benefits of climbing:
Tests mental strength
Even on a belay, it's so easy to get nervous. For months I got scared once I reached about 10 feet off the ground. Conquering fears on the climbing wall is a great way to build confidence that spills into other areas. There is also a problem-solving element: every route is like a puzzle that challenges the mind. Getting to the top makes you feel a sense of accomplishment, and you can see the progress over time as you being to conquer more difficult problems.
“From a mental standpoint, climbing is an amazing teacher, instilling focus, balance, determination and a whole ... host of valuable life skills.” -Cedar Wright tells the Huffington Post
Combines cardio and strength into one activity
Rather not spend 4 days a week in the gym? Climbing is a great alternative. It is about much more than upper body strength. Climbing is an activity that works almost every muscle group in the body as well as being a cardio workout. A 1997 study found the energy expenditure of climbing to be similar to running at a moderate (8-11 minute per mile) pace.
This is my favorite part of climbing. I walked into the gym intimidated, and was met with a sea of warmth. People cheer each other on and are always willing to give tips. It's so fun to watch others climb, at every ability level. It's also a great place to bring friends as an alternative to happy hour.
To sum up, a quote from my favorite climber:
“You learn that how you got there was what’s important. Not what you accomplished.” -Yvon Chouinard