Imagine doing a pull-up. Ok, now imagine that pull-up taking place on the side of a steep mountain, where your arm muscles begin to shake and fingertips burn as you try and hoist your body upward toward the summit. A bit dramatic? Perhaps. But this is what it felt like to me to climb up the side of a wall at the Boston Rock Gym in Woburn. Um, the “beginner” wall to be exact. And did I mention that I was strapped into a safety harness the entire time? Minor details.
If you’re like me and have never scaled anything bigger than a jungle gym, the facility, which is the second oldest indoor rock climbing gym in the country, can be a bit intimidating at first glance. There are a multitude of walls, all different shapes and sizes.
The various “routes” to climb up are color-coded in order of difficulty.
I would attempt my first climb on the “greens,” which are otherwise known as the “beginner” holds. But first, a safety tutorial was provided, where I learned about the bevy of equipment that would prevent me from crashing to the ground. Next, I was given a pair of shoes that were purposely snug. So snug, in fact, that it reminded me of a recent shoe shopping excursion where I mistakenly tried to fit my size nine foot into a seven. But I was assured by the instructor that tight shoes are a necessity when climbing in order to fit your foot into the crevices of the rock (or wall).
My hands were slightly trembling as I climbed up the first few holdings. But I quickly realized that it’s as much a physical exercise as it is mental. That part of your mind, where you think about all of the horrible things that could happen, has to be switched off and a level of trust needs to be immediately established between you and whoever is controlling your harness. Once I figured that out, I was good to go. It became fun and challenging to figure out where to strategically place my hands and feet as I inched my way up the wall. And the joy I felt when I finally summited was coupled with a slight sigh of relief.
There is very little cardio involved in climbing, but it’s definitely a strength workout. Instead of lifting free weights at the gym, you’re hoisting your body weight from one holding to the next. Even more so on the special “boulder” walls, where you climb without the support of a harness. Shoulders, legs, and your core are all being worked simultaneously. It’s no wonder so many climbers appear very lean. And you’re so focused on the climb, that it’s hard to remember you’re simultaneously getting a good workout.
With a variety of programs for adults and kids, as well as outdoor excursions, there’s something for everyone at the Boston Rock Gym. All in all, it’s a fun activity, it will keep you fit, and it is also a cool place to beat the summer heat.
Boston Rock Gym, Woburn, www.bostonrockgym.com, 1 month membership $85, day pass $16, see web site for hours.
Regular workouts keep me in decent shape. But I’m always looking for ways to get faster, stronger, and more flexible. There are a myriad of options out there, which can be overwhelming for beginners and seasoned athletes alike. I’ll play the role of guinea pig and review some of the new and unusual exercise classes being offered around the region, with the hope you’ll find one that appeals to you and gets you moving. If you would like to suggest a workout for me to try, tweet me @apoztv.