Note: This post includes material and ideas from guest writer Amy Fincher.
Rock climbing might seem like a manly sport, but according to Rockclimbing.com, women have a certain “feminine graciousness and apparent ease” as they move across a rock face. Because of our natural agility, creativity, and determination, climbing is a perfect form of exercise for women.
- It adds strength and balance. Rock climbing requires you to be absolutely aware of your body and its movements. While it does demand a lot from your upper body, your abs and lower body get a great work out, too. In fact, climbing is mostly in the legs; you wouldn’t pull yourself up a ladder.
- It demands full concentration. You can’t zone out when you’re rock climbing the way you can when you’re riding a bike or jogging. Rock climbing requires thought and creativity, so the worries of the day just drift away.
- It invites you to share with other people. It is never safe to go rock climbing alone. At bare minimum, you need a belayer, a person holding the rope that prevents you from falling, or a spotter if you’re bouldering. Rock climbing is a great way to build companionship between friends. It’s a great couples’ sport because it builds trust and communication. And kids as young as four or five can get in on the action, too.
- It moves you out into the great outdoors. While many climbers start in indoor gyms, a love of climbing quickly draws even amateurs outside. The best rock faces often require hiking or even camping to reach and climb. If you’re not into the idea of a long hike, many states have climbs that are accessible by car.
- It forces you to face your fears. Heights are scary. But overcoming such a primordial fear can give you the courage to stare down other fears that might be keeping you from living up to your potential.
If you think you’d like to try rock climbing, there are a few things you ought to keep in mind:
- Rock climbing isn’t a solo sport. You’ll need at least one experienced partner to go climbing with you. Indoor gyms are a great way to meet people who are interested. Give up your embarrassment and ask for help! (Check out indoorclimbing.com to find a gym near you.)
- Rock climbing requires some fairly expensive equipment: shoes, helmets, harnesses, ropes, and carabineers. Join a gym or find a climbing buddy to share equipment with until you’re sure it’s something you enjoy. If you do choose to buy, never buy used safety gear because it may no longer be safe. Shoes, which can be bought used, are a good place to start investing. Next, consider a harness. A well-fitted harness is like a breath of fresh air after wearing a gym harness.
- If that sounds like too much of an investment, try getting yourself a pair of shoes and head out bouldering—moving horizontally across a rock face that isn’t more than your shoulder-height off the ground. Just remember that you’ll still need someone to spot you in case of accidents.
Ready to get started? Here’s what you can expect at a rock climbing gym:
- Depending on the gym, you will probably want to call ahead and make a reservation. You’re going to need someone to show you the ropes. Consider signing up for an introduction to climbing class. It’s not only the best way to guarantee you’ll have a great belayer, but also a great way to meet new novice climbers. Finding a climbing buddy to be your belayer makes climbing a lot more fun—and a lot less expensive.
- Be prepared to sign a standard liability waiver at the gym. Don’t worry. Indoor climbing is pretty safe, as long as you and your belayer are paying attention.
- Most gyms have shoes and harnesses to rent. Equipment rentals run $7-10. Rock climbing shoes should fit pretty snug. Think about shoes as protection from stubbing your toe and nothing more. Shoe rentals can add up quickly, so consider investing in a pair as soon as you know you’ve enjoy your first couple of climbs.
- Some gyms have auto-belay devices that do a belayer’s job for you. While this equipment makes kids’ birthday parties easier for the staff, don’t let it ruin your first climbing experience—auto-belays offer a lot of upward lift and don’t give you the real experience of pulling yourself up the wall on your own strength.
- Don’t be shy about asking questions! Most rock climbers are extremely enthusiastic about the sport and not afraid to show off their knowledge. Just don’t get intimidated if the five-foot-tall girl you ask for assistance scampers off and climbs a sheer rock face upside down. You’ll have just met my little sister and she’s happy to help.
I’m just an amateur. I strongly suggest you visit a rock climbing gym if you’re interested in rock climbing. Never do anything in a workout that hurts. And make sure you’re healthy enough to exercise.