Monkey Business

Now that the Berlin half is done and dusted I am looking forward to getting a bit more variety into my fitness routine. I love running, don’t get me wrong, but I also love lots of others things and it can be frustrating if you’re too tired from training to try other cool stuff!

The first new activity I’m testing my hand at is indoor climbing. First thing’s first…

OUT with that image of you at school camp dangling like a worm on the end of a fishing line next to a mammoth climbing wall hating life.

IN with amazing upper body strength, adrenaline and so much fun it should be illegal.

I went down to the Arch in Bermondsey for an adult induction class on Wednesday night. The things that immediately struck me were;

There were no ropes

The shoes were ridiculously small 

I was a little bit afraid 

Having squidged my feet into the ridiculously small shoes we were taken to the ‘yoga space’ for a warm up with our climbing guru Felix. He explained all about the way the centre works. The climbing ‘handles’ on the wall are colour graded for difficulty and you climb up a wall whilst working your way through a colour coded problem – climbing is highly strategic and that’s what makes it so fun. Also, apparently the shoes are deliberately ridiculously small in order to turn (read: “crush”) your toes into a wedge, which enables them to take much more weight than they can when they’re being their normal free happy go lucky selves.

Time to climb! Black is the easiest colour and so after a series of warm up stretches we made our way to a vertical wall (as opposed to a sloping one or an overhang) to test it out.

Our group took it in turns to try out the first few problems and I’m happy to report I reached the top on all of them! When you reach the top of a problem you place both hands on the top hand hold to prove you’ve reached the top and you’re still in control. I felt very proud when I got to the top each time only to be faced with the problem of getting down, which is actually much harder than getting up.

Me at the Arch!

After the lesson we were left to climb as we wished and so the lovely Dayve, our new climbing friend Australian Matt and I set about tackling some more challenges. We stuck to black and tiger stripe (the next level up and my personal favourite!) hand holds and had SO MUCH FUN.

Climbing challenges your whole body but your upper body in particular and I found that, compared with my two male climbing buddies, my upper body strength definitely held me back. Your forearms take a lot of pressure and I have forearms DOMS today (a first time for everything!) as well as sore finger tips. Towards the end of the session my arms started failing me and I took a couple of falls from near enough the top – not advised, but I’m absolutely fine!

The great thing about climbing is that the fitness is functional. Being able to support and hold your own body weight is underestimated in the fitness world but it’s so important. I’d much rather have a strong, healthy body that can climb, push and pull itself over a body that can do (essentially pointless) bicep curls to develop muscles that are purely for show. It’s much healthier to focus on what your body can do rather than what it looks like and climbing does just that.

The Arch was great too. They have two locations, the old Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey (where I went) and also on Bermondsey Street in London Bridge. The staff were really friendly and clearly very enthusiastic about climbing, and were more than happy to answer all the questions I had. The Biscuit Factory site has a huge selection of climbing walls for all abilities, alongside an area dedicated to training the tendons you need for climbing (think pull ups on your finger tips and muscle ups on a vertical ladder – this shit is serious) and a yoga area. There was near enough a 50/50 split of men and women there too which I thought was cool – lots of strong women in one place makes for a really inspiring environment.

I was so impressed by climbing that I’ve decided to get a months unlimited pass – I can’t wait to get strong! I thought it was an amazing workout with the added bonus of being ridiculously fun too. And if you’re in any doubt of how challenging it is, check out this sweaty nerd…

Climbed until he quite literally dropped!

You can find out all about Arch climbing here, and follow them on twitter here!