After six months away, I was finally able to get back to one of my favorite hobbies this week – rock climbing! And here’s why I think you should join me…
I’ve been spending some time “hanging around” of late, trying to find a healthier meaning to the phrase “on the rocks,” though I still enjoy a brandy when I’m back on terra firma.
Now, before you dismiss this one as not for you – perhaps you don’t have the upper body strength or you don’t have a head for heights – believe me, it’s still within reach and you might just surprise yourself. I’m no Beth Rodden, that’s for sure (for those who don’t know, she’s a totally awesome kick-ass climber from the States!), but I’ve still found my place on the wall. It’s really more about technique than strength and the benefits are bountiful.
I first took to the wall about two years ago. After years of donning my trainers and pounding the pavements, I wanted to spice up my exercise regime and build some muscle and definition. I had no designs to “bulk up” as such, I just wanted to sculpt and define my wiry frame.
After some research and deliberation, I stumbled across bouldering at my local gym and decided to give it a try.
Bouldering is perfect for first-timers or those nervous about heights. It cuts out the need for ropes as you don’t climb so high and there’s a lovely, squishy crash mat in case you fall.
The structures are designed to replicate natural climbing environments such as caves, overhangs and arches but in a more controlled, safer setting, and you’re tasked with climbing short but tricky routes using balancing techniques, strength and brainpower.
After just one session, I was hooked. It’s fair to say I’m not a natural at this sport and I fall off… a lot, but it offers something different. The concentration needed to plan and execute your route (all while trying not to fall off) gives you a break from your thoughts and everyday stresses. Not only this, after just a few sessions I really noticed my physique changing.
Naturally, as you might expect, my arm muscles began to change, but perhaps an even bigger change was to my core! I never realized how much inner strength was needed to haul yourself up a climbing wall, particularly when tackling overhangs. I thought it was all arms but core is key if you’re going to master the art of any kind of climbing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a six-pack, but I’ve certainly noticed much more abdominal definition, and I rather like it.
However, as I mentioned before, it’s not all about strength – technique, balance and courage all play their part. It really is an all round sport open to all.
I haven’t ventured outdoors to try any climbing as yet, but I plan to next summer. Being away from the controlled and “safe” environment of the bouldering wall feels daunting, but the promise of spectacular views and fresh air is certainly appealing.
Enjoy bountiful benefits
Whether indoors or outdoors, on a wall with ropes or without, there are a plethora of physical and metal benefits to be gained from climbing…
1) Cracking calorie burn – Just a one-hour climbing session can burn more than 700 calories as you use your whole body to master it
2) Improved flexibility – Tricky maneuvers, lunges and stretching to reach holds on the wall will help hone your suppleness and flexibility
3) Super strength – The physical effort required to move your body weight around a climbing wall builds strength not only in your arms but also your core, legs, hands and feet
4) Cardio boost – You might not feel it like you would an aerobics class or session on the treadmill, but climbing requires some serious physical exertion. It’s sure to make you work up a sweat and get your heart pumping
5) Bolstered brainpower – Searching out different routes on the wall feels like a puzzle and tests your brain as well as your body
6) Good feels – The feel-good endorphins released after a vigorous climbing session will leave you on top of the world (quite literally!)
All in all, climbing is a fun, sociable activity and the amazing sense of achievement, not to mention the toned bod, will no doubt have you roped into going back for more – pun very much intended!