I have a terrible fear of falling, plummeting to my doom and splatting against the ground at such a force that I explode. Roller coasters where my feet dangle off the edge give me heart palpitations and leave my heart sitting at the base of my stomach. Treetop trekking has me shaking as I jump from obstacle to obstacle and stepping ladders have me shuddering with the anticipation of falling. So naturally, I have become a passionate rock climber in the past year and a half. Pre-pandemic, I frequented The Hub climbing at least 5 days a week. An achy back, sore forearms, and a core on fire are all but a few symptoms of being a climber. Now there are different types of climbing; harness climbing and bouldering are the kinds I am familiar with. Harness climbing is simple, of course, you can slip and fall but there’s that harness, that rope keeping you safe. Bouldering, however, is a completely different story. I get halfway up a wall and my fear of falling kicks in; I can’t tell if it’s my adrenaline or the nervousness causing my hands to shake. Bouldering has no ropes, its 12 – 15 feet high walls with varying degrees of difficulty. Despite all the fear and the nervousness, the sense of accomplishment when reaching the top of a wall is beyond no other feeling. Ask anyone who boulders, they say not having the rope when they climb gives them a sense of accountability, an artificial situation of life or death, with mission impossible Tom Cruise vibes.
However, I have not always been interested in going rock climbing, but my boyfriend has been begging me for the past 2 years to go with him and I finally gave in last fall. And I must admit, I wish I agreed to go sooner. Rock climbing allows for progression to be seen, it allows for strength to be built up and confidence to surge. I had no idea my body was capable of completing half of the climbing routes I have attempted, and I must admit I am quite proud each time I reach the top of a climb. I have had my fair share of falls; my hand or foot slips and I make hard contact with the padded floor of the climbing gym. I simply shake out any tension make sure I didn’t break anything (I am prone to injury, 3 concussions, broken toes, fingers, and ankles, it’s no longer a surprise when I injure myself) and approach the same wall again, determined not to fall – I probably fall again – but this process keeps repeating until I get to the top.
I am by no means a good rock climber, but that’s the positive part of going to places like The Hub rock climbing gym, there are rock walls that are meant for all versions of climbers. From beginners to well experienced and advanced climbers. This allows for people of all ages, and all fitness levels to make rock climbing a new habit. A new fitness habit at that! The comradery between everyone at the climbing gym, where people watch you attempt a wall in apprehension and cheer you on when you are nearing the end of your route, and the way they share in your groans of frustration when you – just – miss the final rock and fall. No matter what your experience level is, the atmosphere of the rock-climbing gym wants everyone to succeed, and to reach their climbing goals. Something wonderful about rock climbing/bouldering as fitness training is that it’s not a boring activity, it’s something new every time, not the same bench presses, push-ups and jogs on the treadmill the traditional gym provides.
Ultimately, rock-climbing has become a new hobby of mine and something that I enjoy spending my time doing. I love being able to experience the atmosphere and talk and cheer on fellow climbers. While I am not an advanced climber, I enjoy the challenge of the climb and the progression it allows me to see. Rock climbing can seem terrifying from an outsider’s perspective, all these super large men and women with arm muscles bigger than any you have ever seen before, and walls that stretch high into the sky. But once you go in and experience the friendliness of those climbers, and the beginner routes, and the friendly staff, you too can find peace in the gym, and new confidence in your ability. I started my climbing journey with a fear of heights, and I can honestly say that has not changed, I have just learned how to fall and get back up again, and again, and again and honestly I am becoming braver one fall at a time.