The exercise—which is centered around “problems” (or color-coded paths) for climbers to “solve”—engages your mind and enhances your muscles. Climbing isn’t a class; it works as an hour-long session featuring a series of five-minute climbs. So embrace the adrenaline that comes with the exercise as you read these basics for battling “the wall”—which isn’t as intimidating as the one to the north of the seven kingdoms, we promise:
How to prepare
Water is essential for strengthening and stretching, so drink to boost the extension in your arms/legs when reaching from piece to piece. Be sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate—but not your skin. (Moisturizer, like lotion, can contribute to slipping.)
Climbing is about muscles, and beginners are known to favor their arms and not their legs. Break from the curls and pull-ups/push-ups and rest your upper-body. Consider this to be as good as “arm day,” if not better.
What to wear
The thing about climbing is, well, you’re climbing. Wear clothes that cover without the chance of flashing, from above and from below. Shirts should be tucked and paired with spandex, a bottom that won’t bunch (or ride up/down) from the harness. Be sure that your hands and feet are free from extra fabric, which could be a nuisance.
Remember to remove your jewelry, especially rings/toe rings, which can hurt your hands and feet, and pieces like earrings that can catch and break or tear in the event of a fall.
What to bring
Climbers can rent equipment, which includes chalk for your hands, a harness for belaying and shoes. That said, climbers are known to invest in their own pair of shoes, because wearing socks can cause blisters—and because not wearing socks with rented shoes can be, um, icky. Remember to pack a bag with water and snacks like GORP. Climbers are known to refuel/rehydrate as well as socialize between climbs.
When you arrive
Climbing can be about the sense of community as people “do-si-do” as they ascend and descend. Basically, the wall is shared, as are ideas about how to climb. Arrive 15 minutes before class and introduce yourself to the instructor and a couple of climbers.
These moments are a chance to prepare for the challenge of climbing, which involves a ton of focus. Compartmentalize your thoughts. Free your mind, and your hands will follow.
Locate the chalk, which is designed to assist with grip. It’s important that your hands are secure (read: not slipping) as you scale from piece to piece.
What to expect
Sessions can include “belaying” (where you climb about 40 feet with the assistance of a harness plus a partner) and/or “bouldering” (where you climb about 20 feet, without a rope). Beginners start with a “problem” known as a V0—which is the start of a system that builds and increases to a V16.
Climbs are about five minutes and, while climbing isn’t cardio, one can expect to be winded. But one of the best things about climbing? The range of people who participate, with different bodies approaching “problems” with different solutions. (For example, shorter climbers won’t ascend via the same routes as taller climbers.) That said, climbing is a community of encouraging individuals. Everyone is welcomed to the wall, whatever their build.
What to do next
Start with a round of applause for yourself, whether you accomplished a V0 or a V5. And it’s OK if you’re exhausted, mentally or physically. That’s normal and, also, the point.
Intrigued? Prepare to climb about once or twice per week. Within a couple of sessions, the muscles in your arms, back and shoulders will start to develop. And expect to see a couple of blisters and calluses—they’re badges of honor. Also, classes like HIIT and yoga can assist in the effort to strengthen your muscles for climbing. Why not?
Summit Climbing Gym
Clip ‘n’ Climb
The Grotto Climbing Gym
Sportrock Climbing Center (Alexandria)