It had seemed like a good idea but when I had to sign a disclaimer to say that I was aware that bouldering (another name for a type of indoor climbing) carried a risk of serious injury or death, I did wonder whether I was being irresponsible in undertaking such an apparently life-threatening activity – for pleasure. But it didn’t stop me.
Fortunately, the place was almost empty, the instructors friendly and patient, and I felt confident about my general level of fitness. We started by climbing around a room at no more than a foot off the ground. Easy. Then we went round again but this time only using yellow foot and hand holds. Easy-ish. It just required a bit more mental work. For a slow activity, it was surprisingly physical – my heart was pumping as if I were in a combat class at the gym even if it didn’t feel as strenuous.
Then it was into the next room where new techniques were explained and demonstrated. This time we weren’t going round but up. It looked easy – deceptively so – but although my sister made it to the top, I couldn’t (grrrr). I didn’t have the confidence in my strength to trust my body to launch and reach the distance required. Surely, if I hopped from one foot to the other and let go with my right hand, there would be a split second when I was only supported by my left arm? I recognise that this is a mental thing: I get a block in my mind that I can’t or shouldn’t do something and then I won’t try.
This was demonstrated in my yoga class. We adopted a position holding out our arms and the instructor told us she was going to push down on our hand, a bit like trying to carry a heavy bag of potatoes at arm’s length. We had to maintain the position, stopping our arm from moving. Mine went straight down, as I knew it would. “Not good enough”, she said. “Do it again like your life depends on it”. I felt every muscle in my body fire up and miraculously my weak and pathetic little arm didn’t move. See, it’s all in the mind.
I know that next time I go bouldering, I’ll reach the top, provided that I get into the right mental state. The next time? Yes, I’d definitely go again. Not only did I enjoy the physical challenge, I got a real buzz out of its problem-solving aspect. I can see that it’s an excellent physical workout, and provides useful, potentially life-saving strength and skills. It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself, succeed, and face the next challenge, so there would be a sense of progression and accomplishment.
I’m going to give it another go in a couple of weeks and thereafter maybe once a month but, between you and me, I want to go back today!
How can bits of coloured plastic screwed into a gray plastic wall provide so much fun?