Bouldering is rock climbing in its purest form. It is performed on smaller rock formations without the use of safety equipment commonly associated with the sport such as ropes and harnesses. This makes it a cost-effective and accessible activity with a wide range of difficulty.
While it may seem potentially dangerous at first, the positives far outweigh the risks. If you’re looking for new ways to challenge yourself in the New Year, physically and mentally, look no further than your friendly neighborhood climbing gym.
Here are five reasons to get started now!
1. Building Strength
A well-informed fitness professional will tell you that your body needs to face new challenges to facilitate growth. The human body is massively intelligent and adaptable. Following the same routine month after month will allow our anatomy to acclimatize to this pattern, often leading to a plateau in results. Therefore, it’s good practice to shake things up. There is a direct correlation between muscle confusion and muscle growth, and there’s no better way to challenge your entire body than bouldering!
Bouldering forces you into planes of motion that are often bypassed by traditional exercise such as weightlifting and running. Muscles long ignored will be activated while you put your body through a complete strength-building and cardiovascular workout! As you climb, you incorporate an extensive array of synergist and stabilizer muscle groups, including:
All this with the added boost of grip strength training makes climbing an incredibly well-rounded physical endeavor—not to mention the most intense forearm pump you’ve ever experienced!
2. Increased Flexibility
Upon entering the world of climbing, you’ll inevitably find a handhold just out of reach, or a foothold that is absolutely crucial to completing the route; if only you could swing that leg up just an inch higher! You’ll soon discover that more weight on the feet means less weight on the fingers; less weight on the fingers means it is easier to climb. The more you improve your range of motion, particularly in the lower body, the more your climbing will improve. Over time this increased range of motion will yield more flexibility, promoting improved posture and circulation. This makes yoga the perfect foil to climbing. The two overlap in many aspects, and when combined provide a wonderfully complementary and beneficial routine for all to enjoy.
3. Active Problem Solving
At its most basic level, climbing is a puzzle—a puzzle that you attempt to solve while dangling in mid air, supported by nothing but pure body strength and determination. While you traverse the rock wall in search of that next hold, your mental resolve strengthens as your body tires. This develops hand-eye and foot-eye coordination as perfect placement becomes paramount to a successful climb. The calculation of routes is key to conserving energy as you work out the most efficient path to completion. If you join a climbing gym, the challenges are nearly limitless! Courses are routinely altered and redesigned by the staff, providing new sequences and variations for you to ascend.
4. Conquering Fear
Fear of heights and fear of falling are naturally occurring in humankind. However, like any obstacle, you can overcome them. Bouldering is a fantastic opportunity to gain more self-confidence and push yourself past the edge of your physical and mental boundaries. Standard rock walls at most bouldering gyms rise to 15 feet, and with no safety gear (with the exception of a cushioned floor beneath you), it is not unfounded to feel out of your comfort zone. Bouldering provides a platform to go past these innate discomforts and discover what we are truly capable of. We learn that we can lift ourselves up from the brink of failure and rise to conquer the challenge at hand.
5. A Lesson in Humility
Perhaps most importantly, bouldering teaches us a lesson in humility. The climbing gym can be a daunting place, especially on your initial visit. You see human beings who appear to have an uncanny connection to their evolutionary ancestors, defying gravity and swinging from rock to rock with complete control. Small children nonchalantly navigate an absurdly difficult route with relative ease. Your egoic identification as a fit and strong individual may be challenged at this point. This is when you must swallow your pride and keep on climbing. Learn to fall. Laugh at yourself. Embrace your current level in the sport and know that if you keep working you will progress. Humility is something that can be applied to nearly all facets of everyday life. It will make you a more compassionate and humble person, something the world will always need.
A new year brings with it new challenges, and there is no better challenge to dig in to than bouldering! Don’t make it a resolution to achieve; make it a hobby to enjoy. Your body and mind will thank you. For an unbeatable introduction to climbing, check out Elevation Bouldering Gym in Eugene, The Circuit Bouldering Gym in Portland, or Vertical World in Seattle and Redmond (America’s first climbing gym!). Each of these facilities boasts first-class staff and provide lessons to start your climb on the right foot.