The new Olympic sport includes three disciplines: bouldering, which is practiced on lower walls without ropes; speed climbing, where the fastest person at the top wins; and lead climbing, where the goal is to climb as high as possible in a limited time.
While rock climbing attracts thrill seekers, others enjoy it as a great workout that also calms and sharpens the mind.
Here are eight reasons why you might want to try rock climbing.
Important note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain.
Increases cardiorespiratory fitness
Develops muscle strength
“You build a lot of upper body strength when you’re climbing, especially in your hands and fingers,” DiCristino said. “But a lot of people don’t realize that if you’re using the right technique, your lower body is also in high demand, with all the squats and jumps.”
Improves flexibility and balance
Rock climbing requires you to be able to stretch your arms and legs high and wide, as well as contort your body into unusual positions. And, of course, you have to balance yourself on tiny supports. The higher you climb, the better your flexibility, balance and coordination.
“Climbing helps you become aware of your body and improves the way you move your body,” said Nick Wilkes, owner and head instructor of Devils Lake Climbing Guides, a guide service in Madison, Wisconsin.
Improves memory and problem solving
A big part of rock climbing skill is determining and memorizing your climbing route ahead of time. You also need to be able to troubleshoot on the fly, changing your route or sequences if you encounter unexpected obstacles. “Climbing is very cognitive in nature,” DiCristino said.
Strengthens communication skills
Communication skills are essential to your safety. Roped climbers have a companion on the ground called a belayer, who manipulates the rope through a device to manage tension or slack, catch any falls, and lower the climber. Throughout a climb, the duo must constantly communicate about concerns such as the desired string tension, when the climber wants to rest, and when it’s time to come back down.
“For me to be a better climber, I need to communicate clearly with the person belaying me so they know how I’m feeling, when I need a break or want to change the climb in any way. whatever,” Lindsay said. Wenndt, certified health coach, fitness trainer and owner of Atlanta-based Break Free Fitness.
“The same goes if I’m the one holding the rope,” she said. “It’s my job to cheer when my partner feels she can’t make a certain move, to show her a more efficient way to complete a route, and to be her biggest cheerleader when she crushes a new obstacle or a new goal.”
Belaying – whether you are a belayer or a climber – involves a lot of trust as it is essential to safety. “I have to trust my partner implicitly,” Wenndt said, knowing they have it if she goes down. “I also have to trust myself that I’m going to achieve at least one thing on this road that I don’t think I can do.”
You can build trust more easily through rock climbing, compared to a lower-risk sport, Wilkes said. “Insuring someone, or being insured, has a life or death element to it,” he said. “It leads to a deeper experience for people.”
Create a community
“When you go to a climbing gym, they often have sign up signs where people are looking for a partner to climb with,” he said. “It’s a great way to meet people.”
The climbing is also very thoughtful, Wilkes said. “It’s a big mirror that shows you how you deal with fear, disappointment and success, and how you deal with the rest of your life as well.”