Ask anyone who has tried indoor rock climbing what it is like and they will tell you that it is just as challenging as it is extremely fun. An extreme sport to some and a leisure weekend activity to others, indoor rock climbing can make you break a proper sweat, get your muscles to work, and focus your mind on achieving goals (or, shall we say, higher heights!)
Rock climbing may look easier, but plenty will agree that it is a lot harder than it looks. One needs to engage their mind-body connection as they move up the wall. More than that, the sport is also designed to foster trust among people, as trust and communication is the foundation of every climber’s success – this is true for both beginners and experts!
What is indoor rock climbing? What are its benefits? How can you prepare for a wall climbing activity? Learn all the answers to those questions in this article.
If you’re interested in learning how to climb, or you’re looking to amp up your climbing strength and skills, joining a climbing gym is a great way to go. Indoor Rock Climbing is an amazing way to get a workout while pushing your limits.
New to indoor climbing? Depending on what your ambitions are, there can be a lot to learn, but starting isn’t as formidable as you may think. Firstly, indoor climbing is not all about hanging off your fingertips and taking big falls. Indoor climbing is one of the safest forms of climbing that can be done, and basically, anyone of any age or gender can do it. In climbing, gender really doesn’t matter. If you’re bigger or smaller than someone, you’re tackling the same thing. It’s your determination, focus and dedication that makes you stronger.
The first step is finding a climbing gym near you. Most gyms will have harnesses and shoes for hire, so you don’t need to own these to experience indoor climbing. If you are under 18 years of age, specific rules may apply, so it is best to check with the gym first. Many climbing gyms offer courses and competitions for young climbers, but you might need parental permission or supervision.
There are three types of indoor climbing – bouldering, top roping and leading.
Bouldering: Bouldering walls are usually short and low to the floor, with large “fall” mats below them. No equipment is required, though accessories such as climbing shoes and chalk are handy, especially for frequent bouldering. A harness and ropes are not required for bouldering.
Top Roping: Top roping means that you’ll be climbing up a wall which is too high to fall off safely without a rope. The rope is connected into the harness you wear, directed through an anchor above you and redirected back down to a belayer and belay system. All of the equipment, when used correctly, is many times stronger than it needs to be. Top roping is usually considered less physically demanding than other types of climbing due to the belayer’s ability to prevent the climber from taking large falls. As such, it’s probably the most popular type of indoor roped climbing.
Leading: Leading means climbing with a rope anchored to your harness and connected to a belayer. In lead climbing, the rope is not re-directed through an anchor above you – you have to clip the rope through quickdraws in the wall as you climb. Leading is an advanced technique, and many climbers require a few months to around a year of top roping before they start leading.
Wear clothing that offers comfort and can stretch or allow unrestricted movement as you climb. However, don’t wear anything too baggy as it could catch on climbing holds or get tangled in equipment. Fitness-specific clothing works well, as do T-shirts and loose pants or boardshort types. Light, breathable, flexible fabrics are recommended.
Climbing shoes are an optional accessory, and do assist your climb, but many light athletic or sandshoes (in particular, Volley OC’s), are okay for casual climbers. Chalk is also an optional accessory for casual climbers, and a real friend for regular climbers. Most Climbing Gyms have harnesses, climbing shoes and chalk bags for hire.
Long hair should be tied back to prevent it becoming entangled in the ropes or equipment, and all jewelry (especially rings) should be removed to prevent it causing injury or becoming damaged.
Getting Started: If you decide to top rope, you’ll need to learn a few basic skills before you’re allowed to climb without supervision. Not all Climbing Gyms have lead climbing, and equipment and requirements will vary, so check with the Gym before going.
If you’ll be belaying, you’ll need to learn and demonstrate belaying skills. These include how to belay a climber up and how to lower them. Courses and sometimes free basic instruction are available. Again, before visiting the climbing gym, call ahead to find out what is offered and how much any courses cost.
There are many reasons why people climb at gyms, but the end goal for most is to improve technique, endurance and to get fitter and stronger. Be patient, be honest about your ability, and don’t push yourself too hard. Many climbers get injured by trying things too difficult for their level of experience and ability.
It is a total mind-body workout. To lift yourself up, you engage your core. To support your upper body weight, you must pull strength from your legs, hamstrings, quads, and glutes. To keep a strong grip on the handholds, you must have strong hands and arms. To climb properly, one needs to have a strong sense of body awareness – you need to learn to have proper form, distribute your weight appropriately, and draw strength from the right places so that you balance out the efforts put in by each of your muscle groups.
This is why people who have tried rock climbing instantly become hooked. In other workouts, instructors need to constantly remind you to establish proper form. in a rock-climbing session, you feel the immediate reward of proper form: ascension. Plus, you are going against gravity, which makes things much more challenging! Rock climbing also helps you improve your problem-solving skills. And when it comes to activating and training a diverse range of muscles, few exercises rival climbing.
It fosters a strong connection between you and your partner for the day, since there must be clear communication between you and your belayer to ensure your safety and success. An example would be the moment before you climb: your belayer would have to first assure you that they’re all set on their end, meaning that the locks and ropes are in place. You have to listen to this before you climb, and they too must pay attention to you as you climb because they have to listen to your request to be lowered. (There’s a set script for this, which you’ll learn on the day!) Other than that, it makes for great bonding time between family, friends, or colleagues! The connection also happens during and in-between climbs as you cheer on each other to go as high up as possible. Achievement is best experienced when shared with others!
One of the best things about climbing is that unlike other sports or activities, you don’t have to learn a movement pattern before you can take part. The movement is intuitive – you look at a wall with a bunch of handholds, and your body just knows what you need to do to get to the top. If you’ve ever climbed anything before, you’ll have the basic motion down pat.
What most people need to be reminded of, though, is to use their legs. Many people think climbing is all in the arms, but it’s more to do with your feet. Rather than looking at your hands and planning your next move based on them, focus more on your feet and think about where to place them and how to walk yourself up the wall. That way, you’re using your leg muscles instead of trying to pull yourself up the wall. What’s also important is how you place your feet on the holds – the ball of your foot is the toughest and strongest part of your foot (not your toes), and by using the ball, or sometimes the outside edge of your foot, you can get closer to the wall for easier upward movement, and get a better foothold on the climbing hold. That’s going to make climbing a lot easier.
Balance is also important to keep in mind. Keep your hips over your feet as much as possible when moving upward. Basically, keeping your center of gravity in the middle of your body and close to the wall will help you stay in control of your movements and reduce or at least prolong fatigue. Keeping your arms as straight as possible when you don’t need to actively use them will also reduce forearm fatigue. First and even second-time climbers will usually wind up sore, with some body parts hurting like never used before. The reality is that unless you play another sport which requires a lot of grip and forearm strength, your body is not used to using these muscles so powerfully. Your fingers, hands, and forearms are going to tire quickly, which is totally normal, but you will notice improvement week after week, with an eventual increase in form, endurance, and strength.
Once you learn how to climb safely, it’s a sport you can do totally on your own terms. You don’t need to rely on gym staff and can go with a friend or go solo and sign up to be paired with a partner at the gym (many climbing gyms have a belay-partner sign-up sheet), and get straight in the harness and up on the wall. Before too long, you’ll stop worrying about every little thing and start feeling as at home in the climbing gym as an old pro. Most of all, prepare your mind: you’ll be in for a real challenge, so approach it with a can-do attitude and you’ll reap all the benefits!
What’s Next? For many, indoor climbing will lead to outdoor climbing. If that’s the case then seek a group of experienced outdoor climbers or a professional instructor, because many things are different from in a gym.
If you’re looking to go on a wall climbing activity, join us here at Tannum Fitness. Explore our website to learn more about our indoor rock climbing centre, or check it out for yourself; we’re located at 34 Creek Rd, Tannum Sands QLD 4680. For enquiries, call us at 07 4973 7082 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.