Rock wall climbing: more than just physical ability

it was one of the most physically challenging experiences of my life.

My friend explained that there are varying degrees of “climbing trails” to follow.  The “beginner” trail was marked with pink tape under every climbing hold or boulder. Naturally, I dipped my hands in the chalk, walked up to a beginner trail and took my best stab at the obstacle. Clutching the holds with all my might, I made one small move up and towards the right and BAM!—I was stuck. There I was, six inches off the ground, my body pressed up against the wall, and I was losing strength quickly.

“Help!  I can’t do it!” I screamed to my friend.

“Just grab the hold to the right,” he said.

I jumped down.

“Awesome,” I thought.  “Only a few inches off the ground, one move up, and I feel as though I just bench-pressed 300 pounds.”

Because of pride and my inability to sit back and watch others, I tried again. And again. Each time, I was able to get a little farther but after three or four tries, my fingers started to ache, my back muscles felt tired, and the whole experience was overwhelming.

“You need to plan,” my friend said.

I glanced across the gym and watched one person studying the climbing trail.  He stared at the holds for a moment, slightly pointing to each hold, squinting one eye and it was apparent he was carefully planning in his head how he was going to make each move.

With just a dozen attempts, my entire body ached.  Muscles that I didn’t even know existed were sore.  And mind you, I’d only been there for about half an hour and I was beat. For the next three days, my arms, neck, abs, and back remained tender and sore. Yes, this was one of the hardest workouts I’d ever done and yes, it kicked my butt in less than 30 minutes but no, it has not discouraged me from trying it again.  But next time, I’ll put more thought into it.

One of my favorite aspects of fitness is the lack of brainpower involved. Before I lose you, just hear me out on this one. If you factor out the basic mental necessities to execute the action (such as common sense) it truly doesn’t take a significant amount of thought to break a sweat. Studies have even shown that humans are able to switch off the conscious mind and fall into a meditation-like state where the imagination flourishes.

Nike puts it best in their famous slogan “Just do it.” But that’s exactly how fitness works. You just do it. Because if you think about it too much, you’ll freeze up and in a matter of seconds your mental power will beat your physical power. And that’s exactly what happened to me the night I tried wall climbing.

Vertical Ventures in Tampa offers half-price climbing and shoe rentals on Tuesday nights. I was 14 years old the last time I went rock climbing, but that type of climbing included ropes and harnesses.  This type of climbing only requires special shoes and chalk (for your hands).  You rely solely on your body’s strength and believe me when I say this:

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