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Why You Should Start Rock Climbing

5 MIN READ • 14th August 2022
Health and Wellbeing by Health and Wellbeing

Can't stand the thought of another hour spent inside the gym? Try scaling the walls instead!

Hands up – how many times have you walked past the climbing wall in your gym without so much as a double glance? Yeah, us too. As children we’d have pushed and kicked our way past every kid at school for a chance to get on the wall before the end of break, but in recent years we’ve come to see the art of climbing as an activity for the boys. Perhaps because of the outdoor adventure aspect? Or maybe it’s the less than feminine attire of yesteryear that should shoulder the blunt of the blame? Either way, we’re pleased to report that this line of thinking is finally taking a turn in favour of the girls: rock climbing, both indoors and out, is now more popular, accessible, fun, and female-friendly than ever before. Recent evaluations show that 38 percent of women currently make up the International Federation of Sport Climbing and that doesn’t even include recreational climbers. So what can you expect when you extend your reach? For starters a clearer mind, sharper focus and a toned silhouette! Here’s everything you need to know to get started…

New heights

Climbing is one of those workouts that does wonders for your entire frame (and there you were fretting about hulk-like upper body gains!). Just like dancers and gymnasts, climbers aim for a high strength-to-body weight ratio, but they don’t have to do much extra-curricular in order to reach their desired fitness level (oh no!). On its own, rock climbing promotes the perfect balance of muscle and fat by seamlessly blending cardio and strength training into one session: constant movement keeps your heart rate pumping while pulling, twisting and pushing motions engage more muscles than you ever knew you had! We’re talking the large, calorie-crushing muscles, like your glutes and triceps as well as those tiny stabilisers. Oh, and did we mention it’s one of the most effective ways to strengthen your core? Professional rock climber Sasha Digiulian explains it best: “Your core and your hips are essentially what drive your power and provide balance,” she says. “Your core connects your upper- and lower-body movements, improving your ability to engage while on the wall, so every time you climb, your core gets stronger.”
Just one hour of grappling can burn upwards of 400 calories (where do we sign up?!) and it’s a great workout for the mind as well. As you embark upon a new route, it’s up to you to figure out the safest and most accessible path to the top. Of course, what seemed like a good idea on the floor can often change when you’re on the wall, meaning that you’ll be constantly re-evaluating your position and making careful decisions about where to step next. This will fine-tune your problem solving skills as well as improve your focus and your ability to perform under pressure.
As cold, dark days start to outnumber the sun, it might make more sense to start your training inside. But if you’ve got an penchant for outdoor pursuits, all is not lost! You can either go hardcore and train through the wet and cold or you can focus on building your skills indoors so you’re ready to take to the cliffs come spring.

From the ground up

There are three types of climbing to get acquainted with. Here’s the lowdown on each one

1 easy does it: Bouldering

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that doesn’t require the use of ropes or harnesses. It usually takes place on a wall no higher than 6m to prevent injury in case of falls. It can be done without any equipment, but most people use climbing footwear, chalk and mats for added safety. It’s a perfect starting point for beginners, especially those who are slightly nervous about taking to the ropes straight away.

2 taking the plunge: Top-roping

This is the most common style of climbing at indoor practice walls and although slightly more complex than bouldering, it’s still a great starting point for newbies. Climbers attach themselves to the end of a rope which passes through an anchor at the top of the wall and then down to a spotting partner on the floor. As the climber ascends, their partner pulls in the slack rope in such a way that if the climber were to let go, they would be held in place on the wall.

3 top of the world: Lead climbing

Most people work their way up to lead climbing through years of practice. The method involves the use of a rope which you clip into the wall as you ascend. Climbing this way can feel nerve-racking as your safety is dependent on your clipping points. If you were to place your rope into an unstable piece of rock, for example, your safety net may not hold if you were to lose your footing. While indoor lead climbs are generally safe (shout out to pre-established, secure clipping points), outdoor practice can present a number of dangers and risks and should not be undertaken without the assistance of a professional who is acquainted with your chosen terrain.

A glossary of ascent

Even with all the basic knowledge down, we get that it can still be daunting to walk into a session where everyone knows what they’re doing, especially as climbers tend to reel off words that don’t make sense to anyone but them. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of terms to help get you in the groove.

Anchor:

the point where a climber’s rope is securely attached to the rock or wall

Barn door:

when a climber loses grip on one side and swings sideways as though on a hinge

Carabiner:

an oval or d-shaped connector made from lightweight aluminium or alloy

Crater:

hopefully you won’t be using this one too often – it’s used to describe a fall where a climber hits the ground with significant force

Gripped:

when a climber is frozen with fear

Pig:

also known as a haul bag – it’s a large, robust bag used to carry food, water and equipment on a long climb

Rack:

the full set of gear needed for a route

Rappel:

using a rope to descend from a climb

Whipper:

another fall, usually a very long one!

Get involved

Feeling intrigued? It doesn’t take much to give it a go!
Just head down to a local wall to see if it’s for you

South East

Boulder, Brighton
Offers: Bouldering
boulderbrighton.com

East Anglia

Highball Climbing Centre, Norwich
Offers: Bouldering, top-roping and lead climbing
highballclimbingnorwich.com

London

Castle Climbing Centre, StokeNewington
Offers: Bouldering, top-roping and lead climbing
castle-climbing.co.uk

North West

Awesome Walls Climbing Centre, Liverpool
Offers: Bouldering, top-roping and lead climbing
awesomewalls.co.uk/a>

North East

Dolphin Centre Climbing Wall, Durham
Offers: Lead climbing
darlington.gov.uk/a>

Midlands

Redpoint Climbing Centre, Birmingham
Offers: Bouldering, toproping and lead climbing
redpointclimbingcentre.co.uk/a>

South West

Gillingham Climbing Wall, Gillingham
Offers: Top-roping and lead climbing
go-climbing.com/a>

Wales

Dynamic Rock, Swansea
Offers: Bouldering, top-roping and lead climbing
dynamicrock.co.uk/a>

Scotland

Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, Edinburgh
Offers: Bouldering, top-roping and lead climbing
eica-ratho.com/a>

The Republic of Ireland

Gravity Climbing Centre, Dublin
Offers: Bouldering
gravityclimbing.ie/a>
For a full list of climbing walls near you, check out the BMC Climbing Wall Directory at
thebmc.co.uk/a>

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