Climbing the Walls

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m a bit attention deficit.  A couple years ago, I was diagnosed with Adult ADD and Depression.  I get distracted easily, I switch topics, I talk during movies.  Actually, I talk all the time.  I can’t stop the thoughts from flowing out of my brain and into the universe where they are likely clogging up some cosmic energy highway.  And I get bored.  A lot.  Right now, I’m bored with my fitness routine.  In one way, I love routine.  It’s dependable and I know what to expect.  I know I won’t fail because I’ve done it before.  For example, I know I can run a half marathon on very little sleep and/or training and still live.  Yeah, I might be miserable the whole time and it’ll probably take me the entire four hours to finish…but I am confident I will finish.

Inevitably, there comes a point in my workout routine where I give up.  I stop going to the gym.  I hit snooze when my morning run alarm goes off.  I give in to a bunch of cravings that I haven’t indulged in months, which usually means chili fries and beer for dinner.  Staying fit for me really is a two steps forward, one step back process.  And I’ve totally made peace with that.  But in order to recharge my fitness battery, I need lots of different activities.  I’m a member of five different gyms.  FIVE.  I’m paying five different establishments when I could, theoretically, weight train in my living room and run my neighborhood for free.  Instead, I’m spending a small fortune because of my workout ADD.

One of the places I’ve joined is Hangar 18 Indoor Climbing Gym.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed on for this.  I’m afraid of heights and I have trust issues…rock climbing probably isn’t something that is going to come naturally to me.  I struggle with it every time.  And that’s why I’m hooked!

Or it could just be the shoes.

Or it could just be the shoes.

My first experience climbing the indoor rock walls tested all my limits.  First, I had to properly settle into my harness.  There is nothing more flattering than a strap of canvas cutting off the circulation to your groin.  I spent a great deal of time worrying about the way the harness made my butt look.  Someone was going to be standing down below me.  I wanted to make sure they had the best view I had to offer.  Once I was uncomfortably strapped into the device, I had to sit and listen to this dude teach me how to belay my climbing partner.  Do you even understand how hard it is for me to sit and listen when there are colorful things to touch?  I thought the training would make me feel more secure but my partner was my strong, yet tiny, friend Amy.  I was seriously doubting her ability to support my weight if I fell, even with the help of the pulley system and her amazing biceps.

Does this harness make my butt look big?

Does this harness make my butt look big?

Once our instructor turned us loose, fear immediately took over.  The idea is to keep to one path, using only the grips that are color coded for a specific climb.  The climbs are rated by difficulty.  That red one I’m on in that pic was rated as super easy…the second to the easiest climb in the building.  What makes the task so difficult is that you have to problem solve as you’re climbing.  You’re supposed to survey the layout and find the best path up with the holds you are given. It’s like a game of chess, only with more sweat. My problem is that the best path isn’t always evident to me so I waste a great deal of energy just holding on while I determine my next move.  Then my hip would start to cramp or my fingers would give out.  Then I’d think of falling and how that would probably catapult poor Amy into the air.  It was an awful sight in my head.

This was my problem. I couldn’t get out of my head long enough to focus on figuring out a strategy.  And I realized, as I was straddling this wall and holding on for dear life, that this was a metaphor for my entire life.   And you know what I did?  I gave up.  Yep.  I called down to Amy that I was ready to fall.  She tried to push me, telling me I could do it, but I felt so uncomfortable with my new epiphany that I couldn’t stand to be up on that wall for another second.

I tried a second climb but it ended pretty similarly to the first.  Halfway up and I bailed.  I was starting to piss myself off.  The more I failed at this, the more motivated to conquer my fears I became.  I didn’t make it all the way to the top that first day of climbing.  I still haven’t made it all the way to the top.  But there’s something therapeutic that comes from the stress I feel during climbs.  It’s exhilarating to know I am strong enough to literally lift myself up and over a mountain.  Even if the mountain is made of plastic.  I’m excited to see where this exercise will lead me.  And I’m excited to experience what it will be like when I finally reach the top.

Hard Core

Like a Boss

18 thoughts on “Climbing the Walls

  1. Good for you for tackling something outside your comfort zone. You will reach that top! I know you will! I really would like to try climbing as well but need to work on my upper body strength. Any advice love?

    • The guy who trained us said that women actually have an easier time with rock climbing because they have stronger legs and tend to rely on the lower muscles more than the upper body. Guys generally want to rely on their arm strength and that makes them poop out quicker. So use your strengths! I did notice the muscles in my forearms and hands were screaming by the time I was done.

  2. My wife and I joined a climbing gym when we lived in Tallahassee and we loved it so much that when we bought a house in Rochester, we built a small climbing (bouldering, really) wall in our garage. My main regret about this year is I’ve had no time to use my wall.

    Kudos to you for going outside your comfort zone, and definitely keep working on it. You’ll get there. It may seem strange to say, but your legs are almost as important to climbing as your arms. If you make your arms do too much of the work, you’ll get tired too fast.

    Victoria, just let me know if you ever want to give climbing a try. The nice thing about having a wall in the garage is that you can hop on it for 15-30 minutes and not get annoyed about wasting the gym entry fee on such a short outing.

    • That’s exactly what the guy who was helping us said. It took me a long time to realize I can actually let go with one hand for a few seconds. Or that I can use my knees against the wall as leverage when I get tired. Once I started figuring these things out, it’s like a whole new world opened up for me! Creativity is key!

  3. I have trust issues and a fear of heights myself, but that is one of the reasons I love climbing so much. It challenges me to conquer these fears and builds trust with the friends who go with me.

  4. I’ve done one rock wall, but it was nowhere near as complicated looking as that one. It was really empowering to reach the top, but I don’t know if it will ever happen again. You’re going to get there. I think the breakthrough you had was amazing and reaching the top will be nothing short of cathartic for you.

  5. Rock climbing is soooo hard! I bought a Groupon to go outdoor climbing and it was the first time I’d ever tried rock climbing in my life. I thought I was going to die before, during, and after the climb, but somehow I survived! When you finally make it to the top you’ll be so proud! I should find a gym like this, it sounds awesome!

You’ve heard my thoughts! Would love to hear yours here.