To Boulderingly Go…

That title is so bad I can’t even finish it – sorry.

Last night, I went bouldering. For those who don’t know, this is basically climbing but with no harness and no wall higher than about 15 – 20 feet. I’ve never done it before and I was a bit scared to be going by myself.

I told myself to be brave and suck it up. I’d already booked by induction last week, on a whim, so all I had to do was turn up…

So for the induction session it was me and three guys, with another guy as the instructor. I collected my shoes, signed my waiver acknowledging my possible demise in various ways (including an untimely death), and started the nervous chats with my fellow inductees.

I had the inevitable uneasiness of being the only girl and worrying if I’d be rubbish compared to the guys. This soon went away when we started our warm up by playing tag. OH MY GOODNESS. This was one of my highlights! I think there might be some time travel magic when it comes to playing childhood games. What I mean is, by reenacting things you did as a child, you forget about everything else around you (and what a tool you might look) and just feel the joy of running around. It was great.

Tangent

I have a new-ish guilty pleasure. When there’s nobody in the house, I go into the kitchen and dance for however long I want, or however long it takes for me to feel happy. I think this is a similar joy-based-thing. Forget about what you look like and just enjoy…

The other day I recorded my “dancing” (it usually just turns into jumping – I don’t know if this is because of my choice of tune-age or because I just can’t dance) as an activity. In 18 minutes I burned 120 calories and had an average heart rate of 125, with some pretty healthy peaks and troughs. For comparison, a T25 session (28 minutes including cool down) can range from 155 calories (for something like ab intervals) to 250 calories (speed 2.0). So that’s another reason for dancing to make me feel happy!

For anyone who’s interested, I use a Garmin vivosmart HR:

I’ve had it for about two years and it’s pretty great as an all-rounder. It tracks heart rate using LEDs and black magic. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% accurate, but I use it as a benchmark. What I mean is, the data is all relative. I’m comparing against myself and my history. If there’s a software update it can often mean a shift in readings, so I just keep that in mind. Also, the elevation tracking is RUBBISH (counting flights of stairs climbed), but I don’t care about that so it’s not a deal breaker. I use it for steps, resting/active heart rate, calories (again, all relative to me, using my weight and age), intensity minutes and notifications. I hardly ever miss a call now – unless I want to… My response time to messages is noticeably longer if I have my watch set to do not disturb – and embarrassingly short if I don’t!

Everything from the Garmin device syncs back to an app on your phone, which you can obsess about as much or as little as you like! Here’s a snapshot from mine:

Back to the point…

So we completed the warm up (cardio and some dynamic stretching) and then had a quick introduction to the different walls until we got onto the climbing – yey!

Now, I am afraid of heights, but strangely, none of the walls looked intimidating (for that reason anyway). There was a mixture between overhangs, up and overs, traversing and slopes – I don’t know if I have the terminology bang on there, I’m new at this!

We started on a really low wall, just going from left to right. First time felt pretty easy, just grab the hand holds available and put your feet where they feel they should go. Okay. Second time, along the same wall, he told us to be more deliberate, consider each handhold and toe placement, and push ourselves.

I cannot believe how much more challenging and enjoyable this was. The same wall, just done slightly differently. I found this really interesting in itself. Now, I like efficiency. Sorry, that’s an understatement. I LOVE efficiency. In thought, communication, process, whatever – it’s something I value and if you can interact with me like that, you go straight to my soft and squidgy core. So, to have something in front of me that uses up the same amount of space, but offers such a range of intensity and options was step two in me starting to fall in love with this (step one was tag – I’m very competitive).

Step three was the slide. Yep, there was a slide. On the up and over wall, you er, climb up it and then go over it (I bet you’re really glad I explained that)…and there’s a frickin’ slide to get back down. It’s a short fast one. Um, efficiency AND fun?! I don’t know if my brain or my heart exploded first.

Next, we went up a slope wall, looking at specific coloured grips to choose our route. Then we practiced falling off – not so exciting, but necessary I guess.

The whole time there are people climbing impossible-looking routes around us, smiling, working together and just having fun. The atmosphere was great. There was a real buzz and it felt like people were together – I mean, there was no judgement. You know when you try something new and you can feel the silent criticism? I think that’s when you start to feel self conscious and it ultimately takes away from the enjoyment. I’m quite susceptible to this (you can probably tell that?), so the atmosphere was another big plus for me. Do I think I could go back by myself and do some solo climbing? Yes, actually. But if I’m not brave enough to do that, I have some options…

The last thing we did was to try out the slack line. I don’t know if you’ve seen those crazy people on the beach or in the park, walking across a not-so-tightrope and wondering how the hell they are doing that? Well. It is both more difficult and easier than it looks. What I mean is, standing on it is easier than I thought. You just focus and use your core and try to use your arms to balance instead of moving your whole body. Pretty cool.

But walking on it? Jeez. The shift in balance was really tricky. I managed three steps (pretty chuffed with that!) before deciding not to risk a broken ankle and my body just sort of fell to one side. It was addictive. We all just wanted to keep having another go, only trying to beat our last effort – there was no competition against each other, which I think is another really positive thing.

I think I smiled the whole of the drive home. When I got home, I must have talked at my dad (he was babysitting my daughter) for about ten minutes without breathing. I was so excited.

The whole idea for bouldering started after talking to a friend of mine (he has been climbing for years and I’ve always thought my fear of heights was a deal breaker to do it myself). That, combined with signing up to the Tough Mudder and facing my monkey bar conundrum, I figured it made sense. It was a logical and tactical decision to try this. If I found I could do it, I rationalised that it would help my upper body strength and my ability to grip with my fingers/hands. Fair enough.

I was not expecting to get so much pure joy out of it. I can’t tell if that is a happy or sad sentence. In some ways, it’s great that I let the joy happen so easily and didn’t let my adult voice talk down to my child voice – all hope is not lost! In other ways, I’m a bit sad that I wasn’t more wrapped up in the excitement before getting there – why was it such a surprise that I would actually like it?!

This morning I woke up really happy! I was less happy realising I’d promised myself it was Lower Focus day (urgh, I hate those days). But you know what, I even managed to enjoy that. So, more joy for me. Tonight, when I have the house to myself, I’ll be dancing…!

 

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