(Published November 2009)
I went rock climbing at Atlanta Rocks!, and figured today would be a great day to write about it.
Many of you guys are also readers of the Art of Manliness; what’s more epic that scaling a cliff side using nothing but your own two hands? It’s an elite test of strength, a GREAT way to build your back, biceps, and forearms, and it works your core like crazy.
Moral of the story: seasoned climbers are absolutely ripped.
Secondly, and this is something I never realized until I actually tried climbing: it’s like puzzle solving! You need to plan your route ahead of time, think of every possible scenario, and then stick to plan A or move onto plan B when necessary.
Oh, and you have to make these decisions while hanging by your fingertips. Doesn’t get much more Nerd Fitness than that!
My Climbing Experience
This past Friday, I went to Atlanta Rocks!, an indoor climbing gym here in Atlanta, with my friends Jordan and Chris.
These two idiots (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) have been climbing for a few months and invited me to join them for an afternoon of awesomeness. I had only been climbing once before on a company outing, but I hoped my general overall level of fitness and constant desire to not suck would get me through the adventure without looking like a complete ass:
All in all, it was a great experience. I initially spent my first 30 minutes trying to climb completely with my entire upper body and attack each route with brute force. Climb FAIL. After Jordan and Chris taught me to climb using my legs and my brain, I kept my body close to the wall, moving my lower body before reaching with my arms. This allowed me to conserve energy, actually plan out my routes, and get my ass up the wall far more successfully.
For me, the most appealing aspect of climbing was the rating system. Each route has a particular rating based on how difficult it is. Atlanta Rocks! has approximately 50 top-rope stations, averaging three climbing routes per rope with difficulty levels ranging from beginner (5.4) through advanced (5.13). I spent most of my afternoon on 5.7 routes (and one 5.8 I think) and I left the gym both exhausted and excited. The next day my arms, back, and forearms were extremely sore. Some of those two-finger holds were brutal, but I was JUST close enough to know that I could pull them off with enough practice. Damn you, ambition.
Although it’s a pipe dream, I’m still holding onto hope that one day I could make it onto Ninja Warrior (the greatest TV show you’re not watching), a competition that requires incredible hand, arm, and back strength and endurance. I can’t think of a better way to work these muscles than to constantly climb higher and more difficult routes.
Why YOU Should Give It a Shot
Successfully completing a climb is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world, especially after failing numerous times. Jordan and Chris told me about routes that they failed on for weeks before finally making it all the way up. How great do you think they felt when they hit the top and could move onto the next challenge?
What if you’re a big guy/girl? Give it a shot! These climbing gyms are designed for people of all sizes and levels of fitness. Don’t underestimate yourself: even if you can’t do a single pull up, this is a great way to build up your back and arm strength until you CAN do one. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when the finish line is just a few feet above you.
How to Get Started
Want to give it a shot? For starters, search for an indoor climbing gym in your area, and give them a call to get more info. You’ll have to go through a belay-instruction class if you’re interested in learning how to tie proper knots and belay (be the guy at the other end of the rope, pulling and supporting the climber). If you’re completely new to climbing, I’d recommend grabbing a buddy and taking a training class together. That way, you have somebody to belay for you and vice versa.
Overall, I found the prices to be very reasonable. My afternoon for a few hours of climbing cost me $15 for the gym time, $4 for a pair of shoes, and $3 for a harness. Much cheaper than a night of drinking at a bar, and you wake up feeling WAY better the next day. Plus, you’ll probably meet cuter girls at the climbing gym who already share your interests – just my opinion.
Incredible Climbing Video
Okay, so after watching my stupid video of climbing indoors, here’s a video of Chris Sharma – this guy will rock your face off:
What Else Should Steve Do?
During the winter months, it’s difficult to stay motivated due to the terrible weather, so I want to try some different ways to get my heart racing. I’ve gone rock climbing, I’ve tried Crossfit, tomorrow I’m running a 5k (in my Vibram Five Fingers!).
What else do you want me to try out? I don’t care what it is, just try to find stuff that’s cheaper than 20 bucks. Oh, and it can’t kill me either. I’ll pick each activity, film my experiences while I’m there, and then write about it.