Indoor rock climbing seems like a simple enough sport—put on a harness, get roped in and climb your way to the top of a wall. But it is so much more than just a workout. While it does challenge you physically, it also gives your brain a workout.
“Climbing is a way to get your mind off life,” says Dave Brandt, founder and general manager at Prairie Walls Climbing Gym in Rochester. “It is very much a mental activity; there’s a lot of problem solving.”
Paige Harper has been climbing in Rochester for the last year, and she agrees with Dave, saying climbing helps train you on “body and spatial awareness” without you even realizing it. She feels she has gained confidence through rock climbing, by trying things she isn’t sure she can accomplish. Sometimes you look at a route from the ground and aren’t sure you’ll make it even halfway up, let alone to the top. But only by trying can you determine how far you can go.
“It’s empowering,” Paige says. “It’s not a normal workout, you have to conquer fear to do it. There’s a bigger sense of accomplishment in doing something I’m not sure I’m able to do.”
Even if you have never been climbing before, there is no reason to be intimidated. “With the auto belay systems…you can just come right in and give it a go,” says Dave. “That’s a great way to start—just give it a try.”
Jeremy Schaar, owner of Roca Climbing & Fitness in Rochester, has similar sentiments. “You can go as high or low as you want…you don’t have to go to the top. A lot of people get too intimidated for what the activity really is.”
“Climbing has evolved to be more of a hangout, more of a social thing,” he explains. Oftentimes people will spend three or four hours in the gym, but only be climbing for 30 to 45 minutes. “The rest of the time they’re just hanging out with people,” he says.
Indoor rock climbing has quickly become a sport of its own and has branched off from being off-season training for outdoor climbing. In fact, the two sports are vastly different, especially in regards to safety. Anyone can go to an indoor facility and learn to climb quite quickly, whereas it takes a wide skillset before anyone should attempt to climb outside.
Rock walls indoors are engineered structures, explains Dave. Every aspect has been specifically designed and built and is routinely inspected. “Outdoors is the wild west,” he says. That being said, indoor climbing is a great gateway towards outdoor climbing for new climbers and also provides expanded opportunity during the winter months, when outdoor climbing may not be possible.
Whether you’re looking for a new workout style or a way to escape the world for a while, rock climbing is worth considering.