The monkey bars were never my friend. I can still remember the feeling of clammy fingers slipping off the cold, thin, metal bars. Not that I didn’t enjoy climbing. There was a swing set whose bars were wider, and their peeling paint provided traction for my sweaty hands that the monkey bars didn’t have. I remember swinging sideways with each hand on one of the A-frame support beams, inching up to the top. But that was it.
By the time we had the opportunity to climb the rope to the ceiling in gym class years later, I didn’t have the strength. (Props to Mom, by the way, for telling me that vacuuming would help build that arm and core strength. Best way to get your kids to do chore, hands down.)
But now I’m ready to build that strength, learn the ropes, and rock climb. My hands haven’t changed, but that’s what they make chalk for, right?
I took a lesson at a gym in January and liked it enough to buy my own shoes and harness. I’ve tried out a couple of other gyms over the past 2 months, and while I’m not exactly a natural, I’m stoked about this new sport. After running for so much of my life, it feels amazing to use my body to move in different ways.
I’ve been doing a mix of bouldering and top-roping. Bouldering is climbing without ropes on short walls with crash pads underneath. The walls are often slanted out or overhung, like you would find on a rounded boulder. It requires a lot of planning, upper body strength, and balancing and transferring weight evenly.
Top-roping involves a rope strung between the climber, a fixed point above, and a partner (called a belayer) holding the end of the rope below. These walls are also often overhung, but they generally mimic flat rock faces. I prefer top-roping (partially because it is easier, and partially because I feel safer with the ropes), but bouldering is a great way to build strength.
The holds are color coded to form routes with varying degrees of difficulty. There are a lot of easy routes that I have not yet been able to finish, but every time I go back, I can tell that I'm stronger and able to get farther along.
I've been training a little at home by doing push ups, pull ups, and using a grip strengthener for fingers and forearms. I've been reading intro to rock climbing books and watching videos on technique, and I'm always excited when I have enough free time to head back to the rock gym. The sport just keeps getting more exciting as I get better.
I miss running more than I can say, but I'm so thankful to have found other fun ways to move about.