Indoor rock climbing has become the new fun fitness trend in the past few years. It has become a go-to cool activity to bring your friends and enjoy a group fitness activity together.
The term “rock climbing” might bring to mind fit, sweat-covered bodies clinging to high and jagged mountain sides. You might think it’s a dangerous situation that only the bravest individuals would put themselves in. While there is an element of danger involved in outdoor rock climbing, the experience is made safer and more accessible to people of all ages thanks to the rise of indoor climbing gyms.
From 2013 to 2018, indoor climbing walls in the U.S. have experienced an annual growth of 7.2 percent, according to IBISWorld. Across the country, more and more people are discovering the thrill and physical benefits of climbing indoors. It’s an exercise routine that offers a unique full-body challenge, and it’s a fun activity to enjoy with a group of your closest friends. Best of all, climbing gyms like Rock’n & Jam’n accommodate climbers of all skill levels and ages.
What to Know Before Climbing
Although helpful staff members might be available to guide you, you don’t necessarily want to walk into a climbing gym with no clue of what you’re getting yourself into. Knowing the following tidbits beforehand can make the experience less intimidating.
- Several Climbing Options
Most climbing gyms offer a variety of experiences. You’ll likely find a bouldering area, which involves climbing short distances without the use of a rope. Bouldering might be a more suitable option for anyone who has an intense fear of heights. There will also be a top-roping area, which involves using rope and an anchor system to reach heights that exceed those in the bouldering area. Whether you choose bouldering or top-rope, you’ll likely be able to take an instructional course.
- What to Wear
Even though you’ll be exercising in a controlled climate, it’s important to wear the right clothing. Don’t wear anything that might restrict your movements. Clothes such as a T-shirt, yoga pants, or shorts usually provide enough flexibility to comfortably scale the wall. Most gyms provide climbing footwear that has a high degree of traction and flexibility. You can also rent ropes, harnesses, and helmets if you want.
- Physical Preparation
Indoor rock climbing is great exercise, but new climbers who are already in fairly healthy shape will have an easier time boosting themselves upward. If you want to improve your general fitness before climbing, look for indoor climbing gyms that also offer circuit training, which involves cardio, core training, and other forms of exercise.
- No Rush
Unlike many other physical activities, climbing isn’t necessarily a test of speed. However, it involves more strategy than activities such as jogging. Part of the challenge is finding a suitable route to follow upward.
How Does It Differ From Outdoor Climbing?
Remember that image of a muscular climber scaling a mountain side? Here’s how an experience at an indoor gym differs from that experience:
- Indoors you’ll be working out in a controlled environment, so you won’t have to worry about wind or uncomfortable temperatures.
- Outdoors you’ll need extra gear for safety when climbing to avoid injury. This includes items like sunscreen and a solid helmet.
- Indoors you can benefit from marked pathways for easy climbing.
- Indoors it’s easier to stay safe while climbing with a group, and you don’t have to worry about leaving an environmental mess behind.
- Outdoors you’ll be climbing and landing on rough terrain. Expect a higher degree of discomfort for your hands and feet.
Overall, an indoor climbing session is safer for you as well as the environment. But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. Indoor climbing can still be incredibly challenging depending on the level of difficulty you want.
A Challenge for the Body
You’ll be burning anywhere between 500 to 900 calories an hour when you really push yourself at the indoor climbing gym. That’s great news for anyone looking to burn calories, but it also means you’ll need to load up on energy-boosting foods before and after your climb. Climbing Magazine recommends you eat whole grains, beans, fruit, yogurt, and nuts to get a good dose of carbs as well as protein.
Throughout the session, you’ll be engaging most of your muscle groups.
Core and back muscles are engaged as you twist yourself to reach different hand and footholds. These muscles act as stabilizers. Leg muscles provide the force you need to move upward along the wall. Arm muscles help you hoist your body weight to some degree while climbing, and the gripping muscles in your hands will likely be sore as you maintain a tight hold on the ledges.
Because you’ll be strengthening so many muscles during your climb, there are various exercises that can supplement your climbing routine and help you improve. For example, body-weight exercises such as pull ups, planks, and calf raises are useful for individuals hoping to climb a little higher during each session.
Classes for All
If you’re mostly interested in enjoying a new experience with climbing, don’t let all the fitness talk intimidate you. First and foremost, your goal should be to enjoy yourself. If you’re a novice, or if you’re bringing along first-time climbers, a range of classes can help get you started with ease.
- Child-friendly courses offer simple instructions and easy courses for young climbers.
- Introductory courses are great for anyone who simply wants to learn the basics.
- Intermediate courses help climbers refine skills, such as balancing and carefully planning their path along the wall.
- Expert courses help prepare climbers for the task of lead climbing and lead belaying.
If you’d rather work one on one with an expert instructor, look for private lessons that’ll boost your confidence in climbing. These types of lessons are also useful if you’d like to focus on one specific aspect of climbing that you consider a weakness.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can also schedule group sessions. This is useful for events such as birthday parties or simply times when a group of friends all want to try out a new activity at the same time. You’ll want to inform the climbing gym ahead of time to ensure there’s space and an instructor (or several) who’s able to teach a group of eight or more climbers.