With so many articles out there claiming that indoor climbing does amazing things for the body AND mind including reducing stress, and with so many of my running buddies now taking it up as a hobby, I decided to find out what all the fuss was about…
“It’s all about problem solving” my mate Dave explained as we rocked up to Vauxwall, London’s very own indoor climbing centre. I smiled and nodded whilst secretly doubting him; surely it’s about physical strength and having weird spiderman fingers that can cling onto walls, right?
But apparently not.
Dave had invited me along to try out indoor climbing after he himself had had a great starter session the week before. I’d recently seen so many of my running buddies take up indoor climbing and after watching a lot of their videos I had to admit, I was intrigued to find out what all the fuss was about.
I paid £19 to go at 6:30pm on a Tuesday. It seems expensive, but it was broken down into the following:
£3.50 for shoe hire (avoidable if you have your own)
£3.00 onsite registration (also avoidable if you pre-register online for free which I stupidly forgot to do)
£12.50 for adult peak entry price (off peak it’s only £8.00 and concessions are available too)
So yeah, paying nearly £20 is kinda pricey (especially when I can’t help but compare everything to running which is free) but once in we could stay as long as we wanted and we actually ended up doing about 90 minutes of climbing.
We started on very much a beginners wall, where you are simply just climb across/width ways, as appose to up a wall.
I felt kind of stupid attempting this first wall; at just two inches from the ground, it’s not exactly a death defying adrenaline junkie type of climb. But I was feeling even more silly for slating it once I started and quickly realised how difficult this bouldering stuff is. You can watch me fail at it in the vlog below; my fingers began to hurt from clinging onto the colourful boulders, mostly the green & purple ones which are the two easiest options designed for beginners, usually being larger and easier to grab. Meanwhile, my feet struggled to find perch’s comfortable enough for me step onto.
Dave was right, this isn’t just about physical strength, this is about problem solving. As I clung onto the wall in a very odd position, my mind was quickly scanning the boulders ahead of me, trying to figure out which one I could not only reach, but that I could hold onto whilst manoeuvring my whole body.
Yup, a lot harder than it looks. It had been amazing to watch the more experienced climbers first, especially the females, who made it look so easy as they they gracefully swung from boulder to boulder, quickly working out a plan and then effortlessly gliding up the wall. Meanwhile I looked like Jason Segel in the cliff scene from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
I did end up climbing up some pretty epic walls though which I was very proud of myself for, even if the first one did make me a bit woozy when I got to the top once I realised how high up I was, sans rope or safety net! Suddenly my palms began to sweat, my legs began to shake and I couldn’t remember how to get down. Panic!
Fortunately I survived after reminding myself to stop, breathe, relax and simply take my time.
The hardest ones are the walls that are on a slant. This is where we are reminded that gravity is simply not our friend. Yet these are the ones I want to return to and try again, these are the most challenging. At least with a straight wall you can kind of lean your body against it, but these slanty bad boys mean that as you problem solve your way through which boulders to grab, your also holding all your body weight as you hang off the wall, followed by having to pull your whole self up to the next boulder. Hard work. Frustrating. But lots of fun! Watch my lil video below to see me attempt one (and not get very far!)
A Summer of being unable to run did make me realise that it would be good to try other things, and my evening spent indoor climbing was certainly an interesting one. I can see why this is a popular activity in the running community – whilst working out, burning calories and toning yourself, you’re also in your head, working out problems and I certainly had a little post-climbing buzz afterwards, similar to when I finish a run.
I will definitely be returning to Vauxwall VERY soon to try and beat those slanty walls and work on my bouldering speed and technique.
How about you? Would you give indoor climbing a go?
Already a regular? Which centre do you go to?
I’d love to know in the comments below.