You’re out and about and exercising. The bike rides have become passe, and that aerobics class at your local gym is so last week. You need something new to sink your teeth into, a challenge worthy of your growing prowess. Something that gives you a total workout- making sure you use your body, your mind and even your spirit. Here’s the kicker though- you don’t want to break the bank, and buying lots of new equipment is not on your list of favorite things.
Boy, do I have a idea for you. Try bouldering. Seriously- get permission from your medical professional, and try this exercise. Originally designed to train rock climbers and mountaineers on the intricacies of climbing, bouldering quickly developed into its own unique sport- and one that has been challenging people around the world since the early 1900s.
Simply put, bouldering is the art and challenge of climbing over and around boulders. It is done without the aid of ropes, and most of the time all a person has to rely on is their wits, a bit of chalk on their hands, good shoes, and an innate knowledge of their body. The boulders in question can be anywhere from a few feet big to almost 20 feet in diameter, and each one provides both a physical and mental challenge or “problem” for the climber to solve. Physically speaking this sport will make sure you use nearly all your muscle groups, give you aerobic exercise, and keep you mentally challenged. Plus, it’s a great way to focus on the here and now, and push all your worries away, at least for a few hours.
If you’re interested in trying bouldering for the first time, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Remember to start small- especially when you’re first starting out. One option is to utilize a number of indoor bouldering sites that have started to become popular around the country. Let the people there know that you’re a beginner, and they’ll be able to direct you to problems that are more suited to your skill level. If you choose to go for outside bouldering, look for areas with rocks and boulders that are no bigger that 3 times your height. The bigger problems can be tackled once your skill level improves.
Go with a buddy. Not only will another person help make it more fun, but they can aid and encourage you when you get stuck on a particular problem. And make no mistake, you will get stuck. Everyone does. Plus, they can act as a spotter to guide you when you fall.
GO SLOW AND CLIMB! I cannot stress this enough. Bouldering isn’t about jumping around from rock to rock, or swinging from ledge to ledge. The cardinal rule of having three points of contact is essential here. Bouldering is about climbing. It’s about learning to use your arms, legs, core and mind in sync with each other. Unlike other forms of exercise, you are using your own body weight as resistance. There will be times when you will be so exhausted that your muscles will literately shake. Other times, everything will go right, and you’ll feel invincible.
Each “problem” or bouldering event is unique-even if you’ve faced the boulder before. Discovering how your body, your mind and your spirit conquers the problem on any given day is a huge part of the challenge.
Learn how to fall safely. Even experts in bouldering fall. It’s the nature of the beast. If you’re a beginner, have an instructor show you how to fall so that you will reduce the chance of injuring yourself, and keep to easier problems until your experience level increases.
Considering all that it has to offer, bouldering is a great, challenging exercise that can aid just about anyone.
Laura Seeber is a geologist, environmental professional, writer, and outdoor and nature enthusiast. Born just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Laura has spent the majority of her life hiking through the forest, descending into caves, climbing over boulders and up cliffs, navigating river rapids, and writing and blogging about her adventures. She currently resides in Illinois and travels country in search of the next great outdoor activity or adventure.