As I now sit in a climbing gym and work as a route setter, trainer and team member, many people who visit us for the first time ask me “why should we take up climbing as a sport or hobby?”. Their fundamental question is why climb and not do another fitness regime like CrossFit, body-building, yoga, football, boxing, etc. They feel that climbing is not for everyone and that it demands a high level of fitness in comparison to running or swimming or lifting weights. Well here is my answer.
Human beings are not meant to sit. They are born to run, swim and climb. Our physiology is made in a way that we need movement to survive. Our mind is always moving to make our lives better and our body needs movement to remain healthy and mobile. You can pursue running, swimming and weightlifting or body weight exercising but the core aspect of any movement you do is that it should be done in a functional manner. By functional I mean done in the correct way and what our body is supposed to do or functioned to do.
For example, if you have bad posture while lifting anything heavy, your spine will take a pounding. While deadlifting, the spine should be in a straight line along with your legs and core so that weight gets evenly distributed. It is not an activity that is isolated to one muscle group but rather a compound movement involving many groups of muscles. The same can be said for swimming, running or any movement you do and I will leave this applying of logic to the reader for their own personal movements.
Now coming back to the first question of “Why climbing?”. Climbing is an activity which is in our genes. When we were kids we climbed in our backyard, jungle gym, home brick wall, trees or even rocks, taking the challenge among friends of “who can climb to the roof” and making our parents scared to death in the process of doing so. We all have done these things just for fun, frolic, a sense of adventure or curiosity or maybe even just for the heck of it. I asked,
“How will the view be from that tall water tank Bhai?”
My older brother replies,
“Let's climb to the top of it and check it.”
When we reached the top of it, we never had seen such a view. The sense of achievement filled our minds with the exhilaration that we have conquered the tallest looking water tank with no protection, we did not even know that climbing was a sport and had to be done in a particular manner when you climb big things. We just climbed that 55-foot water tank made of bricks and cement. That is why I say that we all have climbing genes when we are born.
Now onto what is climbing?
Climbing is an activity of moving up, down or laterally. It can be an addiction to some or it can be a hobby to some but one thing is for sure that it is a lifestyle. You live under the stars under the naked blue sky and become the part of nature living on bare essentials and just climb rocks or even big mountains. You can do it for many reasons and everyone has their own personal reason for it.
I think it reflects the way we live. Do we live with taking and accepting risks or challenges? Do we live with the feeling to conquer the things we pursue? The fear of failure motivates us to get better each day. For some, it is about doing things no one can which is an ego thing. Beyond all this, let me tell you what climbing will give you for sure. It is a healthy body and mind. Letting go and moving forward. Living in the moment. Climbing is like meditating. It will give you nothing tangible but don’t you think all the other things it gives are wonderful enough?
Now is it better than any other sport or activity or hobby?
I have played a lot of sports in my life. I have been living sports since I can remember. I have played cricket, football, hockey, table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton, volleyball, athletics and more. It is not my pride or ego when I tell you that I was good in each one of them because I love the habit of training alone and just trying to get better at it every time I do it again. My life has been shaped by it, but nothing gave me what climbing gave me. Which was to conquer my worst self and the sense of freedom and actually belonging to something.
As all climbers will say when we climb, we are in the moment and only the next move matters. One tries to conquer all thoughts fear of falling or expectations or failure. Its all about the next move and reaching the top. You go into a meditative mode when nothing exists just one more step on a mountain or the next hold on the rock or plastic.
But I will not say climbing is the only thing that gives you all this and is better than all other things. It’s a personal journey and realization. But in the end, I would just say follow your instincts and go climb, live in the original play station. Climb anything trees, rocks, mountains, hills, inside climbing gyms or even monuments. And believe me when I say, climbing is for everyone.