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Rocking that Climb

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The first time I reached the top of a rock-climbing wall was at Galyan’s, a sporting goods store located in my nearby mall. Growing up, every time my brother and I walked by the wall, we would beg my mom to let us climb.

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I remember the day she finally caved; looking down after pushing what I called the “victory button” that indicated the completion of my climb. The spectators looked so much smaller than I imagined they would.

My climbing “career” took a long hiatus after those younger years and it wasn’t until college that I made a point of participating in the activity again.

Though I have improved since my young climbing days, I thought it would be more appropriate to hear the benefits of climbing from more experienced source a.k.a. my outdoor enthusiast friend Abby Bradford.

From the “expert” 

Abby works at the rock wall at Kent State’s recreation center. When I asked her to tell me about the hobby, she stressed that people underestimate the physical exertion climbing brings on.

“People don’t understand how good of a workout it is. You can be a buff guy and come there and struggle with climbing, because it’s such a different kind of endurance and strength,” Abby shared, “It’s more than just arms. It’s a lot with your legs. You can go there and climb just a couple times up the wall and your arms are shaking.”

Abby claims that the activity isn’t just physically challenging, but also is a mental work out. The combination of mind and body means that reaching the top of a difficult climb can be surprisingly rewarding.

“Once you accomplish a wall you feel so great about yourself. You want to just jump up with your arms over your head, but you can’t because they’re so tired.”

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Abby’s interest has pushed her outside the boundaries of the Recwalls. Spring break 2013 Abby and some of our close friends took a trip out west (Colorado and Utah) to make their way up natural rocks.

“Climbing outdoors is so different than indoor climbing. There’s much more danger,” Abby said. “But it’s such a community out there. All these climbers, all together. Everybody was willing to help anybody. It was just a very cool experience. I think the community aspect of it is what I like best.”

But, like most skills, you have to start with the basics. Yeah, it’s definitely awesome to picture yourself climbing in some beautiful natural setting, but you should probably gain some confidence before you tackle anything too intense.

Abby clued me in that rock climbing is not something you can just casually come and go with if you want to improve. You have to practice frequently to work up the needed muscles.

For the future expert (you!)

That said, it time get started! Here’s a few pointers going into rock climbing that will help you ease into the hobby:

Climber Lingo

Want to make it seem like you know what you’re talking about when you hit up your local climbing venue? Study these terms so you don’t seem like a total amateur.

Climbing Lingo

Trust me: use these exact phrases and you’ll be a big hit.

Tying the Knot

However, maybe you should consider perfecting at least one skill before you throw out the terminology, so you’re not all talk. What I have in mind: perfecting you’re knots. Here’s a little tutorial from to show you how to secure some knots before you climb the wall:

Vertical Limit

Whatever you do, do not watch the movie Vertical Limit. It will completely discourage you from taking on this hobby and we only want positive thoughts. On the other hand, Reel Rock 8 would be amazingly appropriate. It tells the story of a group of different professional climbers and it will really bring your view on the hobby to different heights! Seriously blew my mind. 

Check in with me next week to keep discovering how you can be a triple threat!

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2 Comments

  1. Erika Naeger says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article about rock climbing because I could kind of relate! I took Intro to Rock Climbing my freshman year to try something totally different and I learned a lot. Half the class we would learn about different climbing techniques and then we would try them out on the wall. I definitely agree that it takes a different kind of strength to climb the wall than most people realize. The hardest part for me was climbing out of the little cave in the one section of the wall. I can remember having to bend and twist your body in different directions and rely on your arms a lot. It definitely left my arms shaking and dead tired by the end! Also, you need to be incredibly flexible all the way down to your finger tips. Sometimes you could be grabbing onto a small little rock and every little bit of flexibility definitely counts! Rock climbing is a really cool exercise and a lot more people should get to know more about it!

  2. John Pernell says:

    Great post! I really enjoyed how you tied the elements of physical activity with mental activity. I completely agree with you in terms of those two things going hand in hand with each other when rock/wall climbing. When I think back to my first experiences with “the wall” I do remember being overly focused and my forearms being on FIRE! I think that example alone is a great proving of your point that the two different types of workouts indeed work well with each other. Aside from that and the fear of potentially dying is what kept me thinking on my feet literally as well.

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