Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Climbing: Totally and ridiculously fun!

So last week the boyfriend and I finally took the plunge.... We joined a climbing gym (were you expecting something else?). We joined the Boulder Rock Club, witch is a totally sweet climbing gym in Boulder with free massage and yoga classes (yes free!) and unlimited climbing during the length of your membership.

Climbing indoors has become a popular way to keep in excellent climbing shape during the off-season of the cold winter months . Some people climb indoors year-round to practice technique and stay in the best shape possible. The stronger and more skilled the climber, the safer the sport. Now I am not in any particular climbing shape as I am just getting into the sport, but man is it an intense workout! I have never experienced anything that is quite so full body and complete. A climbing gym allows you to tackle this dangerous sport in a relatively safe controlled environment.

Traditional climbing requires a multitude of expensive protective gear, ropes, anchors and devices. To climb in the gym, all you need is a harness and belay device. It helps to have climbing shoes, but they are not necessary. A harness and belay device can be rented at the gym if you don't have your own. Every climber in the gym is required to pass a belay test before they can climb. Belaying is the act of holding on to the other end of the rope that keeps the climber secure. The rope is run through a belay device, or ATC, and the belayer if able to use the device to create friction and control the speed of the rope running through it. With this technique the belayer can catch the climber if he falls. It is very important that your belayer knows what they are doing and is trustworthy and attentive, as they are the only thing keeping you from falling to injury or possibly death (hence the test!).

A climbing gym is set with routes, which are hand and foot holds you use to climb the walls. These routes are marked with colored tape and the difficulty is posted. These routes include everything from easy vertical routes to cracks, overhangs and extremely difficult sport routes.

Another option that does not need much protective gear or ropes is bouldering. Bouldering is like climbing, but the routes undertaken by boulderers generally keep you closer to the ground and are often incredibly difficult. A boulder "problem" as they are called, can take many attempts to solve. Often boulderes will use crash-pads in case of a fall. This is a thick mat placed under the climber that they can fall on to prevent injury. For even more control in a fall, there may be a spotter that can guide the climber's fall. Bouldering can be undertaken anywhere. There are often bouldering areas in a climbing gym. It is normally undertaken on any big rock or rough surface. I have seen people boulder on the sides of stonework buildings!

So far we have climbed at the gym a number of times, and it is crazy fun! I have this amazing ability to completely trust technology, and I am naturally comfortable with heights, so I think I am on my way to becoming a good climber!

I bought a new harness yesterday (pictured above), and I am so stoked about it! It's a Black Diamond Iris women's harness. It's contoured to fit, and very lightweight and comfortable with auto-locking buckles. It was a little more expensive, but so comfortable I couldn't say no. This harness will be supporting me in a life or death situation, so I think it justifies spending a little more money. I also got a new belay device, so I will no longer have to swap back and forth with the boyfriend. I can't wait to get back to the gym!

Climbing works out every muscle in you body, but the big ones are the forearms, shoulders, upper back, and grip strength. The day after my first big climb I could barely cut things with a serrated knife! In climbing when your forearms are totally worked, it's called being pumped, and man were my arms pumped! I also felt some nice muscle soreness in my shoulders and arms. As the weak links in you climbing get stronger (usually forearms and fingers) you start to feel the burn in other areas, like your core. Have you seen climbers? They are almost always totally ripped (men and women) with those perfect, lean, yoga-bodies. I'm totally hooked!

This is a good example of how getting fit is so much easier if you have an activity that you enjoy and are passionate about. Going to the gym and spending two hours on the elliptical in tortuous boredom will not help you get as amped about fitness as spending a couple of hours mountain biking or playing sports with your friends. Find something you enjoy, start small, and keep with it! It's amazing how much it will improve you mood, health, and general well being. I find that getting started is the hardest part. Once you are going, momentum can see you through. And if your fitness activity is something you look forward to, that's the best! I can't wait to

Till next time, I'll see you on the wall!

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