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Once an activity labeled as an "extreme sport", rock climbing

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Author: Charles Carter

Indoor Rock Climbing for Fitness: It's Not Extreme Anymore


Once an activity labeled as an "extreme sport", rock
climbing has in the last few years become a very popular
workout activity as the use of indoor climbing walls in
fitness facilities, community centers and health clubs has
increased and made the sport much more user friendly. Not
only can it be fun and exciting, rock climbing is one of
the most effective strength training workouts a person can
ever have, providing fitness and strength benefits that are
difficult to match with any other single activity. If you
want to work out every muscle in your body in the shortest
amount of time possible and get quick results in strength,
body shape, toning and muscular endurance, there is no
better thing to do. It burns a tremendous amount of
calories as well, assisting with weight or fat loss. And
did I mention that it is fun? Participants sometimes have
such a blast that they even forget to feel tired! Around
twenty years ago, the very first climbing gyms started
appearing around the United States. One of the first was
The Vertical Club in Seattle, Washington, and that is where
I first took a lesson and learned to climb. My experience
walking in there in 1993 was TOTALLY different than a new
climber would have walking into the average climbing
facility now. Back then, climbing gyms were primarily the
domain of serious rock climbers who needed a way to stay in
shape during the bad weather months or in between trips to
outdoor climbing locations. Climbing as a general fitness
activity hadn't arrived yet.

When I entered the facility that day, I was first greeted
by a man on crutches who told me he had just broken his
ankle in an outdoor climbing fall. He seemed pretty
intense. There were several men climbing near the front
without shirts on, their bodies seemingly made of nothing
but muscle and sinew. One of them was attempting a
climbing move just a few feet off the ground right in front
of his buddies, who stood no more than arms reach from him,
shouting him encouragement and prepared to break his fall
if he came off the wall. He was exerting himself fully
while trying the move, and I was struck by his effort,
while all he had to do was literally put his foot down and
he would have been standing directly on the ground.

I felt somewhat intimidated by the atmosphere. The place
was definitely filled with people who climbed seriously,
and at that time I was definitely someone who did not. I
was glad I was there to take an actual lesson because I
would have absolutely no idea how to start for myself. My
teacher was the owner of the club, and he was very friendly
and helpful. It was almost like having my own personal
trainer. By the end of the 2 hour lesson I knew my way
around the gym and the equipment and knew how to belay
another climber and tie myself into the rope for safety.
And I had climbed from the bottom of the walls to the top
several times successfully. I was officially a climber,
albeit a very enthusiastic beginner.

In the present day, a first trip to a climbing facility for
a beginner will be a completely different experience.
There are many more climbing gyms around, and like I
mentioned above, many fitness centers and health clubs have
climbing walls now. These climbing gyms and fitness center
walls are used much more now by the average fitness
enthusiast who is looking for a fun way to workout or have
some recreation, and beginner classes abound. The look and
feel of the facilities is usually very family friendly.
Birthday parties and social events for kids, corporate
outing and team building for adults as well as family
recreation outings make up a huge percentage of the
business for climbing walls nowadays. A first time visitor
will be greeted by an enthusiastic staff wearing matching
t-shirts and typically watch a safety video that gives an
overview of the procedures of the facility. Then in a
small group or individually, they are led out to attempt a
few climbs before they are cleared to use the place on
their own. The extensive orientation I received at The
Vertical Club is mostly a thing of the past. The equipment
and safety set up is much easier for the average person to
learn, which gets them climbing and having fun sooner.
This has greatly increased the number of people who
participate in climbing and has led to the serious climbers
that I saw on my first trip to The Vertical Club frequently
being the minority in the gym at any given time.

Getting your exercise while climbing indoors usually
involves you making your way from the floor toward the
ceiling of the facility using plastic holds for your hands
and feet that have the same look and feel as real rock.
These are attached to a wall that is textured to resemble a
real cliff face. As you make your way to the top, a cable
attached to an automatic belay device or a rope attached to
your partner and tied to your safety harness that you wear
keeps you safe from a fall. Most indoor facilities have
walls for roped climbing that go up to about 30 feet in
height, though some in the United States go from 60 to 90
feet. Most facilities also have a version of climbing
called bouldering where the climber is not roped but never
climbs more than 10-15 feet off the ground, protecting
against a fall with large gymnastics pads moved around on
the floor underneath. Snug fitting climbing shoes with
specially made rubber soles are worn for incredible grip
against the footholds.

Indoor rock climbing requires exactly the same fitness and
muscle strength and enduranace demands as doing it
outdoors. And the benefits are awesome! Unlike traditional
weight training which involves lifting weight in a
controlled movement in a gym or home setting, rock climbing
is "strength training with a twist": you as the climber are
now the weight going up or down and rather than an
arbitrary number of repetitions to be performed to complete
a set, the goal of climbing is to get to the top of the
wall. It doesn't matter how it is accomplished, either.
Climbing doesn't have to look pretty to be effective. The
result is a change of focus away from the effort of
repetitions to the effort of working toward the immediately
achievable goal of reaching the top. This can result in a
very empowering feeling of accomplishment for the climber,
because each trip up the wall holds a challenge that can be
overcome and a goal that is achieved. This is what has
been known to be addicting and can lead you to want to do
more. And when you want to do more, you will keep doing
it. And that is the biggest secret for long term success
in fitness: keep doing it! It is amazing what consistency
can accomplish.

About the Author:

About The Author: Charles Carter, BS in Exercise Science is
President of LIVE, llc of http://www.liveleantoday.com -
visit the website for more information on weight loss, core
fitness programs, optimal diets, and online personal
trainer and dietician services. For more information on
services go to
http://www.liveleantoday.com/page.cfm?name=FitnessPlans .

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