If you haven’t experienced the exhilarating thrill of clinging to a cliff face hundreds of feet off the ground with nothing but some metal clips, a length of rope, a harness, and chalky hands to keep you from falling then you have not lived. Nothing compares to the combination of terror and triumph as you climb your way to the top and look down on the height you’ve scaled. [Cue distant cry of a lone hawk and wind rustling in the tree tops]
But seriously, dramatic intro aside, I firmly believe everybody should try rock climbing at least once in their life.
WHY: Need a list of reasons?
1. You’ll have fun while working out your entire body (read: no need to hit multiple machines!). A common misconception is that rock climbing is all about upper body strength, but with proper climbing technique you will work your arms, back, butt, core, and legs!
2. You will meet the coolest people. Seriously. From adrenaline junkies, to hippies with wanderlust, to that-quiet-guy-who-works-in-a-cubicle-all-day-but-omg-beasts-his-way-up-the-hardest-route-shirtless, you’ll get to make friends with folks from all walks of life.
3. It’s different - I don’t know about you but I hate staring at my red face in the mirror as I do just-one-more-rep of dumbbell curls or just-one-more-lap on the treadmill or just-one-more-sit-up. Add some variety to your workout. According to the Journal of Obesity, performing a variety of different types of activities helps with maintaining high levels of physical activity.
4. It’s easy to see improvement - Let’s face it, most of us don’t want to continue any exercises that don’t yield results. With rock climbing, it’s easy to track your progress as you climb increasingly challenging routes, and nothing beats the sense of accomplishment when you finally "send" (that’s climber code for making it to the top of a route without falling) a route you’ve been working on for weeks.
5. It works your brain, too. No, not like those Lumosity commercials. Routes are like puzzles, as you try to figure out the best way to make your way up to the top - where should I put my hand? Should I reach out here to my left or take a high step up here on the right? Climbing forces you to actually do some thinking (not something you usually do in a gym, huh?).
6. One of my friends calls rock-climbing harnesses “butt bras”. Exactly what it sounds like.
WHO: Anybody can rock climb! I’ve seen all ages, races, shapes and sizes. Never assume you can assess someone’s climbing ability by their appearance (remember quiet-cubicle-guy from Reason #3?).
WHERE: You don’t have to go outside to rock climb. There are indoor rock climbing gyms all over the country, and some bigger gyms also have their own rock wall areas. A quick Google search should yield some local results, and I also suggest checking with nearby universities which often have college climbing clubs. A good gym will have short clinics or lessons where you can get a basic rundown on safety and proper technique.
If you do want to climb outside (yay!), check online climbing forums like Mountain Project for information and advice on the best areas, routes, etc. and make sure to go with an experienced buddy or guide!
QUICK TIPS: Keep these in mind as you go in for your first climb!
- Wear clothes you can move in but try to avoid pants that are too baggy as they can bunch uncomfortably under your harness. You can’t go wrong with stretchy, slim-fitting pants or leggings.
- Climbing shoes are supposed to be tight. They are supposed to be worn with no socks, but if you want to keep yours on with your rental pair I don’t blame you.
- The chalk is to keep your hands from slipping when you’re halfway up the wall and your palms are extra sweaty because you’re nervous or tired.
- Climb like you’re going up a ladder. Yes, you need to use your arms, but you really need to make sure you get your feet up.
- Climbing is inherently dangerous so be sure to listen to the instructors and pay attention!
- Have fun!