Bored of the same old gym routine? It’s time to give climbing a go!
A new Olympic sport, climbing is taking the world by storm. After years as a fringe activity, pursued by van dwellers with a death wish, climbing has truly become part of the mainstream in the last few years.
And thanks to blockbusters such as Free Solo and The Dawn Wall, there are now more people taking up the sport in the UK than football.
So, how do you get started? Is it even a sport really? And most importantly, is climbing safe? We answer all your questions right here!
Absolutely! By almost all definitions, climbing is a sport, requiring intense physical training and mental prowess to reach the top. Now, at last, the sport will be included in 2020 Olympic at Tokyo and in 2024 in Paris, so the best and brightest in the world of climbing will finally have a chance to stand on the podium and win a coveted Olympic medal.
Climbing is a fantastic workout, one like no other. When climbing, whether indoors or out, you’re going to be using your whole body to negotiate tricky routes. It is a common misconception that climbing is all about your upper body strength – but that’s just not true! Climbers use their powerful leg muscles to push themselves up the wall, propel themselves through dynamic moves and to hook and bear their weight on tricky overhangs.
It’s the kind of workout you just can’t replicate in the gym, and new climbers will almost always go away with muscles aching that they didn’t even know they had.
Ask not how many calories climbing burns, but rather, how good it’ll make you feel? Climbing is a quick way to tone up, build muscle and burn fat. For those keen on calorie counting though, research suggests you could burn between 8-10 calories per minute, and that’s below maximum capacity – that’s about the same as a ten-minute mile if you were running.
Thanks to indoor gyms, climbing can be as easy or difficult as you want it to be. Typically, routesetters at indoor gyms will set a wide range of problems at different difficulties – from the very easy, beginner’s routes, to those that would challenge the best climbers in the country.
Climbing, as with any physical activity, carries with it a risk of injury. The level of risk depends on where you are climbing, the type of climbing you are doing, and your level of safety training.
Most people start out by bouldering indoors. This is an accessible type of climbing on low height walls that doesn’t involve any safety gear other than big crash mats. This is typically the safest form of climbing where the main risk is of falling in an uncontrolled manner onto the mats. Most people will be able to take a short induction courses at their local climbing centre and be able to boulder safely without any trouble.
Once you introduce ropes, or head outdoors, the risk of danger goes up. You should always consult a professional instructor before carrying out any of these types of activities and ensure your level of knowledge and experience is suitable for the type of climbing you are doing.
There are many costs associated with climbing, but it’s cheap to get started by hiring your gear. We’ve listed the approximate costs associated with climbing, starting with the essentials:
– Climbing wall entry – £7-£15 (depending on time of day, wall size and location)
– Shoe hire – £3
– Harness hire – £3
– Chalk and chalk bag – £10 – £20
– Climbing shoes (your own) – £50 – £130
– Harness (your own) – £40 – £100
– Belay device and carabiner (your own) – £20- £40
– Helmet – £40 – £100
– Rope (for lead climbing only) – £50 – £200 (depending on length, diameter, rating, brand)
– Set of Quickdraws (usually only required for outdoors lead or traditional climbing) – £60 – £200 (depending on brand, quality, type, weight etc.)
– Trad climbing gear (nuts, hexes, cams – only required outdoors) – £10 – £100+ per piece (depending on type required, a set will usually be need for a route)
– Bouldering mat (for outdoor bouldering) – £100 – £300
You can climb as regularly as you like, however you should always be mindful to allow time for your body and skin to recover, so make sure that, at the very least, you take one rest day each week.
If you want to see real progress, climbing more often will help you do so. Many people see good improvements climbing just one or twice per week
Skin feeling a little sore after a climb? It’s a common problem, but not one that any climbers aim to fix by wearing gloves. The skin on your hands is your most important tool when climbing, and it just can’t be replicated with gloves.
Instead, climbers take their skincare super seriously, and there are a range of specialist products out there to help you skin repair itself quickly. Personally, I make sure I moisture my hands after every climbing session and try and reduce the amount of chalk I use, since it dries out your hands.
Quite simply, yes, if you ever want to climb anything more than the most basic routes. In fact, most walls won’t let you use anything other than climbing shoes on their walls.
Climbing shoes are the product of years of innovation and research, culminating in the very specific style of shoes we wear today. The rubber sole allows for better grip, the shape helps you move weight to the right place and stand on your toe on tiny footholds.
It’s worth mentioning that there are a contingent of climbers who go barefoot – and some pushing very routes. However, this isn’t a common occurrence, and is usually not the best solution for new climbers.
Yes – climbing shoes are designed to fit your foot very snugly, so that you are able to execute precise moves without fear of the shoe slipping and moving around.
Many climbers will buy shoes many sizes down from their street shoe size, and endure the pain whilst they break them in. For beginners, it’s usually advisable to find a shoe which gives a good snug fit, but that isn’t so uncomfortable that it is unbearable.
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to what to wear for climbers, with plenty of brands specifically targeted at climbers. However, if it’s your first time, pretty much any gym clothes will do.
You’ll see some climbers at the wall wearing jeans – before you don a pair for your next visit, bear in mind that they are probably stretch jeans, which mean they contain lycra for the extra movability.
Well, that’s that – for now. If you have any more questions about climbing, just comment on this post, and we’ll add them into the article as soon as we can!