How (and Why) to Start Indoor Climbing

We are super excited to share our new favorite activity with you. Although it seems intimidating, indoor rock climbing is a safe, and fun activity that requires minimal equipment, and no experience to start. With automatic belay systems, we realized we didn’t even need each other! Our local climbing gym had everything we needed to get started, either on loan, or for rent. After a few climbs, however, we chose to invest in a few items to make our trips to the gym easier, and more comfortable.

Equipment

1. Clothing: After some trial and error, we realized that comfortable clothing is an absolute necessity. Knee-length shorts, capris, or pants work best under a harness, and a fitted tee or tank further prevents fabric from bunching. The best climbing clothes allow us to move easily and comfortably, while keeping us cool on our climb.2. Climbing harness: Our gym provides loaner climbing harnesses, which are safe and work fine. Our own personal climbing harnesses, however, are much more comfortable, and simpler to adjust than the gym harnesses. We vote for finding a harness that you like and that comfortably fits your body size and shape.

3. Climbing shoes: Our climbing experiences barefoot, in socks, and in climbing shoes proved to us that shoes can infinitely improve a climbing experience. Climbing shoes are snug, flexible, and sticky. Like a sticky, protective second skin, they really help us grip those tiny toe holds, cracks and ledges. Our gym offers shoes for loan, and while they are clean, it still just seems gross. Buying our own shoes was definitely worth the investment. We prefer to climb in our own skin.

4. Chalk bag: While climbing, our hands can get sweaty after just a few holds. Carrying a chalk bag on our climbs gives us easy access to chalk at all times, which can be crucial to getting past that crux. Plus, we enjoyed purchasing chalk bags that fit our personal styles.

That’s it. We didn’t need much to start our indoor climbing adventures. Our first time at the gym, the employees ensured that we knew how to climb safely before they let us loose. They taught us about tying in, belaying, and general gym rules. Since then, we’ve found that employees and other climbers are very approachable and willing to share knowledge on climbing etiquette, climbing moves, or the route rating system. Ropes and belay devices are provided and inspected by the gym to ensure a safe climbing experience. Experienced climbers bring their own ropes, belay devices, carabiners, and runners to practice on designated lead climbing routes at the gym.

Benefits

We have discovered so many benefits to indoor climbing that we felt we should encourage others to give it a try, too. Here are our top 10 reasons to start indoor climbing:

1. Overcome fear
Indoor climbing helped us overcome many fears: fear of heights, a fear of falling, and generalized anxiety about new experiences. Our climbing gym offers a very helpful, safe, and welcoming environment in which to face our fears. Climbers are constantly checking their gear, and each other to ensure safety. The top-rope system that allows us to climb, and fall, really does work. Most of all, climbing is not as intimidatingly competitive as it might seem. It’s really not about “sending it” every time, but rather about working through a problem and our own individual success.

2. Build friendships
Climbing was a true test of our friendship, and could quickly make or break new relationships. Climbing partners must trust each other, depend on each other, and communicate well with each other. Thankfully, our relationship has survived this test.

3. Exercise
Yeah, climbing is an insane workout. We often find ourselves sore in places we never imagined. It is definitely effective in building strength and flexibility.

4. Build confidence
Climbing, even the “easiest” routes, helps us build our confidence. Working through a problem that on the first try seemed impossible is immensely satisfying. That success helps us have the confidence that we can work through real world problems too.

5. Meet new people
Rock climbers tend to be unique, strong, brave, and smart people. We enjoy talking to other climbers at the gym, and are often surprised to hear their background stories. Climbers seem to have a natural desire to help each other. Fellow climbers have pointed out holds, explained routes, and suggested specific climbing moves to us.

6. Take your family
The whole family can enjoy indoor climbing. We’ve seen videos of infants climbing, and know of people in their 60’s who have learned to climb for the first time. Going to a climbing gym can definitely be a fun and challenging experience for everyone in the family. It could even prove to be the best date night ever!

7. Learn to tie knots
We had to learn a few special knots for climbing, such as the figure 8 knot, and bowline knot. Much to our surprise, those knots have come in handy at other times as well.

8. Understand physics
Sir Isaac Newton stated, “what goes up must come down.” Well, aside from the obvious, we have learned a few things about motion, and momentum that just never quite made sense in our physics class back in high school.

9. Challenge your brain
Climbing offers many opportunities to challenge our brains. Planning out movements builds focus and organization, cross body movements strengthen balance and coordination, and fighting instinctual fears is neurologically rewarding.

10. Gain confidence and head outside!
After we gained some confidence in the gym, we were excited to venture outside. And we love it. While similar to climbing at the gym, it is also very different. Granite, limestone and sandstone feel very different than the man-made wall and holds at the gym. A 20-foot climb outdoors feels immeasurably higher when the horizon extends infinitely in almost every direction. But reasons to climb #1-9 hold true for outdoor climbing as well, if not even more so. However, we recommend proceeding outdoors with caution. We always go with an experienced lead climber, and climbers familiar with the area.

That’s it. We hope we have empowered you with the knowledge and motivation to help you start your indoor climbing adventure. Now send it!

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