A couple of years ago I’d been going to the gym regularly with no real purpose. Partly to keep fit. Partly to fill lunchtimes. Partly to see fit girls in spandex.
I enjoyed Circuit Training. I enjoyed Pull Ups. I enjoyed the challenge. But I didn’t have an end goal in mind. I just hoped I’d grow a rock hard set of abs with absolutely (pun intended) minimal effort. I think they are there, hidden beneath the chocolate layer.
Climbing wasn’t something I knew about, even though the Peak District is on our doorstep. I’d seen people out on the rock wearing hard hats, dangling from ropes and wearing orange jump suits, but it looked too fiddly to me, too much equipment. Also, I’m a soft Southerner who doesn’t like getting his hands cold, and orange doesn’t bring out the blue of my eyes.
So I carried on crushing it at the gym, learning meaningless skills such as the burpee, the bent-over row, and the ball bridge. Sounds like a crazy night out in Brighton, right?
Then an email in my spam box caught my eye. It was one of those Groupon offers for 40% off indoor climbing. Indoors you say? 40% off, you say? No ropes you say (it did say that). Sign me up.
Bouldering at The Climbing Works entered my life, to stay. It’s a world of crash mats and overhangs and peculiar shaped walls. Of frustration and exhaustion and ultimate exhilaration. Of new friends and encouraging coaches and men with their tops off.
And it’s so accessible. It’s so easy. You just turn up, put your shoes on, and start climbing. I went knowing nobody, but people chat to you, people offer advice, people become lifelong buddies. You all share the same passion … climbing, and those little chocolate Freddo’s they sell at the counter.
Do you need to be strong? No. I mean, sure, it helps. But it’s not a requirement. There are people here with thighs larger than my waist, who climb with a grace and technique that I can only dream of. Tall, short, young, old, all are welcome. Except Katie Hopkins fans, cos no-one likes them.
So I still go to the gym at lunchtimes, but now I go with a goal in mind. To strengthen my fingers. To push beyond the burn. To pinch that tiny hold and not let go.
Shauna Coxsey, current No2 boulderer in the world, has a mantra: “I train to get better at climbing, not to get strong”. And you know what, she climbs right along side us at the Works.
Just like Shauna, I want to get better, I want to get tougher, I want to climb harder.
But ultimately, I want to be able to climb with my top off, just like the awesome climbers I aspire to be …