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“Would I do it again?”

“Yes, in a heartbeat.”

I think I’ve got this all figured out.

I spent over a week looking forward to yesterday’s workout. I think it’s because it isn’t really a workout. It’s exercise, and I knew I’d be sore after it, but it’s social, it doesn’t hurt as you’re doing it, and it doesn’t involve being out in the cold or seeing your reflection in a mirror. So what is this magical unicorn of an exercise?

Climbing.

Well actually bouldering. You have to have a license for climbing, but bouldering (climbing on low walls, without a rope) is still pretty great. It’s a 60-minute session and I did it with a few people from work and my roommate.

We went to an indoor climbing center called Klattercentret (‘The climbing center’). I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I’d done a similar thing before and it was a fun experience.

And this leads me on to what I think the trick is – at least for me – when it comes to working out.

Variation.

It needs to feel fun and exciting. It needs to feel like something new, like more of an experience than a workout. My boyfriend suggested spinning together, and I said yes immediately. Even if we never did it after that, it would be fun to try it.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people that works out regularly, and I still feel the same way, but if I get the chance to try something different, not just going to the gym and lifting a few weights or doing some stretches; but something that is new and more of an adventure, I’ll do it.

I’m willing to try almost anything once – rowing, stand-up paddle boarding, niche gyms, barre – mixing it up is the way to keep it interesting. (I think)

But now back to the bouldering.

You rent shoes and pay for entry. They say clothes should be comfortable, which I feel is a little vague – a dress could be comfortable but maybe you don’t want to climb a wall in one? I chose my workout pants and a long sleeve tee.

A few people from work had been before, so we skipped an instructor-led session, and with a few quick tips from the not-so-amateurs, we started climbing.

It seemed simple enough. The easiest routes had the grips that were marked green. So we started with those. Here’s a video of me making it to the top (cue fireworks and applause).

(click for video)

After the green route, things got a little more difficult. There was a lot of falling.

(click for video)

Blue comes next, then red, and then black. And eventually I made it up a harder wall.

(click for video)

People had varied ability. We spoke to one guy who called himself an amateur (never mind that it was his third time) and was with a friend who made climbing look like ballet (every move was flawless), there was a group with incredible back muscles (climbing will do that to you), and there were also lots of people like me who had no idea what they were doing and just tried. No gymtimidation this time. I was not at all self-conscious. Not even a little bit.

So did it work? Can a non-gym, non-competitive, mirrorless workout still be defined as a workout?

Time for a talk with Frida.

It turns out bouldering is a full body workout. Muscle-wise, it will work you. I am extremely sore. Apparently I have muscles in my chest. My arms are worked, my back is tired, and my shoulders are feeling the burn. I worked hard. But the best thing about it was that even if I’m sore today, and it did feel tough at the time, it didn’t feel tough in the same way a pilates stretch might.

Would I do it again?

Yes, in a heartbeat.

– Femi

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2 comments

  1. By Andreas on Wed Feb 24 2016

    Just want to give a small heads-up for people thinking about bouldering.

    Glad you liked it, it was the same for me — stressed out software developer/penetration tester, never got the hang of going to the gym (canceled my last membership after I was missing out for a year or so). The only semi-regular workout was running for 8-10 km once a week, but then I had to stop due to an injury.

    Then I’ve started to boulder, found a couple of nice climbers (as I”m rather introverted this means something).

    Fast forward to now, three years later: gained a bit of muscle (~3kg) but am very lean. Still going bouldering approx. 2 times/week. Lots of fun. Only workout that has hooked me for a couple of years. For me bouldering is gamified workout: there’s always a small victory after you’ve finished a route (project) but there’s always a more difficult project ahead. It’s highly addictive.

    • By femi on Fri Feb 26 2016

      Thanks for sharing! It’s a great unconventional sport!