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Guys, guys guy! I have something for you to try out!
Do a quick experiment for me? Go and grab a cheese grater from the kitchen and give the palms of your hands a good ol' rub for an hour. Then, after an hour take those hands and some table salt and give it all a good rub. Properly press your hands together. Imagine washing them and how you run your fingers together as they interlock... get all those little granules right in there!
Finally I ask you to stand up and stretch yourself out and give yourself a shake down, just so that you feel nice and limber. So you are lovely and relaxed...But be sure to follow this up with being hit on the joints by a man with a large bat...
Keep this up for two years and get back to me... Any volunteers?
I thought not. But trust me when I say that the aches, cuts and ruined palms which you aquire after every session on the climbing wall are well worth it because being on a climbing wall is properly good fun.
More than that, it is one of those activities which won't take an axe to your bank balance. Which is good!
As an added bonus, climbing in any and all of its forms also ticks every box you can think of when it comes to what you could ever want from a sport, whether it be something new to try and have some light-hearted fun with, or whether you are looking for a new fix to get your heart racing, the world of climbing is large enough to cater for everyone, yourself included.
For a start it is crazy good for you! Trust me you will notice a difference in your strength, endurance and focus after a handful of sessions. Its a wonder sport for getting into shape fast.
Now - just so you know—after your first session, you are going to be sore. Really really sore. Lets be real, during a session your muscles are going to burn while you throw yourself from ten minutes of rest (and trying to keep a normal heartbeat) to three minutes of hell as your back, shoulders, arms, abs and legs scream "Oh god no!" with each move as your fingers scramble to find holds.
However your focus and problem solving will keep you from falling onto the spongy floor below because climbing in all its forms (bouldering being my favourite) is as much to do with your mind as it is with your body and that is why I love it.
Climbing; being on the wall and thinking about which limb goes where and when and how is a sport which is equally about thinking as it is about doing. Using that noggin of yours to figure out the problem on the go or when sat on the mats staring up at the large wall of multi coloured holds— some the size of basket balls, others the size of buttons—the first time you mutter to yourself "How the hell can anything hang off that?!" you have fallen under the spell of the climbing wall. It's got you now. You will start with the large holds with hefty rims and edges which you can comfortably grasp with an open hand and slowly work your way onto holds just a fraction smaller or a fraction smoother. Each attempt to "stick" onto a hold which ends abruptly with a sharp inhale of breath as you land feet first back on the mat only fuels a tiny voice deep inside which begins to shout above the aches and ouches of your tired fingers and arms.
That little voice pipes up as you position yourself on the start holds for the ninth (Or nineteenth) time and whispers "again"...
It is addictive. The repetitive nature of thinking, doing and learning all the while getting faster and stronger. You can focus on just the wall and how you will master each move in sequence. One session will become two and then three and four, each attempt, each millimeter gained, is more rewarding than the least. Bumps and scrapes and rapid pulses fueling the next climb until that happy rhythm of warming up, climbing and cooling down becomes and epic ebb and flow, like breathing... but with chalk.
There are a couple of types of climbing to have a dabble with in the early days as well. You can climb traditionally with a harness and ropes and a (fingers crossed) trust worthy mate who is willing to hold the line that connects you to planet earth like an enormous trust exercise.
Or you can go for bouldering (my favourite). Bouldering scraps the ropes and the harnesses and swaps it out for a large soft mat. It also swaps out the height aspect in favour of more bonkers moves. So while you will be hurting from strange angles and arcing wall and going 'oh my god knees should not bend like this!' You will also never be too far from the ground...
This is where climbing started for me and now almost two years later I can say for the first time that it is a sport I have actually persisted with and oh boy do I love it. It is the most rewarding sport you can take up. So over the coming weeks I will delve into some little nuggets of climbing. Stories from around the world, the bits of kit you do and very much don't need to get started. We might even say hello to all the little extras which help keep your hands (and other regions) from looking like the surface of the moon. As well as some personal experiences chucked in for good measure.
So until then (I know this has been more of an appertiser than a large mixed grill) go and Google away and find a climbing centre near you. You will be amazed at how frequent they are. Chances are there will be at least a few little local places within about half an hour of you. Go along and look at a large flat wall covered in multi-coloured holds and whisper "holy sh*t" to yourself as you put your hands at eye level and look up at the finish, but i guarantee you will feel that little buzz when you slap your hand on the finish.
See you next time when I will talk about what to not to buy and try to convince you that spending hours on Youtube watching people hanging above some spiky boulders by their fingernails is a healthy lifestyle choice.