I can see it at the climbing gym at school. The onlookers from outside the climbing section staring up at the harnessed bodies that are either making their next move, or swaying from the thick, colorful rope as they rest at a tricky spot. Either these people are fascinated by the idea, or wondering why the hell anyone would want to climb a bunch of morphed plastic bolted to more plastic imitation rock- I’m hoping for the first. Or, for example, one time when I was climbing outside in Linville Gorge, and my leader was belaying me up the last pitch to the top and the resting hikers jokingly commented on our unique way of getting up the rock. It seems that many people are intrigued by the idea. But, have you ever thought about actually trying it yourself?
But, I hate working out!
I know, I know…most people dread the idea of working out and can’t bring themselves to go the gym to just to pick-up-heavy-things-then-put-them-down-again, or lace up some shoes and run for the sheer “fun” of it. But that’s the beauty (or one of the beauties) of rock climbing. Going to a climbing gym or climbing outside (since this is directed towards a first timer, I’m going to assume your first climbing experience is in a gym) feels like you’re going to do a fun activity- not work out. At least that’s the mindset I have most of the time. Sure, it definitely takes some physical effort and sweat, but there’s also a social aspect to it. If you’re top roping, you must have someone belay you- BOOM, climbing friend right there! If you’re bouldering, you usually have a few people hanging around encouraging climbers and analyzing uncompleted/tricky routes. It’s fun to chat with your pals between climbs while letting your muscles rest.
But, I don’t have the strength to climb!
Rock climbing is not just reliant on strength. It is just as much a mental game as it is physical. Whether it’s following a taped route in a gym, or analyzing indentions in rock for a potential hand-hold outside, climbing keeps you mentally present at all times. There is so much technique to climbing! I’ve seen countless women out-climb strong, grown men primarily on the basis of technique. Knowing how to position you to efficiently distribute your body weight to make the next move easier/possible is such an immense part of climbing. Sure, it does take physical strength as well, but as with anything, it comes with time and practice!
I have no one to go with!
In my short 2.5 years of climbing, I have found that the climbing community is one of the nicest, encouraging, and supportive groups of people I have ever met. Some of my best friends have come from meeting them at the school climbing gym. These are friendships that I will cherish in the long run. At a local gym, employees and seasoned climbers are usually extremely helpful with “newbies.” It’s not uncommon to have strangers encourage me while climbing a nearby route, or give me some “beta” (beta is climbing talk for help) on a route (sometimes I’m given it even when I don’t want it).
So, if you’re tired of forcing yourself to run, or going to the gym to do group cardio/abs classes, try going to the climbing gym instead! It’s totally addicting!