Indoor rock climbing may seem like a fairly tame activity, at least in comparison to its outdoor, in-the-wild counterpart. However, the heights, grips and maneuvers make it a sport not for the faint of heart. But don’t let that stop you; if you’ve ever thought about doing some indoor climbing, you should definitely give it a try – it’s an experience you and your muscles won’t soon forget. Our rock climbing for beginners guide will give you a crash course (no pun intended) on everything rock climbing.
The Benefits of Indoor Rock Climbing
Aside from the fact that you’ll, without a doubt, develop some serious upper body strength (have you ever seen female rock climbers?!), there are a few other perks of incorporating indoor rock climbing into your routine.
You may not think of rock climbing as cardio, but researchers have found evidence to support that it is indeed a solid workout for the old ticker. One study observed a heart rate of 164 +/- 13 beats per minute in women in the midst of rock climbing – that’s a pretty good clip!
In addition to the physical benefits of climbing, you’ll also experience an intense mental workout; determining the best/easiest route up the wall and executing difficult rock climbing techniques will have your noggin’ working overtime.
Weight Loss and Fat Burning Potential
Fat and weight loss are serious possibilities with indoor rock climbing. Remember how we talked about that fast beating heart? Well, where there’s a high heart rate, there are also calories getting torched.
How many calories does rock climbing burn? A 155-pound person can expect to burn around 400 calories in just 30 minutes of rock climbing – that’s more than running a 10-minute-mile pace for the same amount of time (and way more enjoyable). So, ya’, spend a few hours every week climbing and you’ll be well on your way to a smaller pant size.
Toning and Muscle Building Potential
Climbing, of any kind, requires a pretty substantial amount of strength – indoor rock climbing is no different. Muscles throughout your entire body will get put to work but you’ll probably notice it more in your upper body since we ladies tend to be a bit weaker in that area. Your forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, back and core will be working like crazy to keep you clinging to the wall as you ascend. You’ll also rely a lot on your glutes, thighs, calves and feet to keep your footholds and support your weight while you reach for the next rock.
If you’ve ever seen female rock climbers, you know exactly the effects climbing has on the body. With all of this muscle action happening during each and every climb, there’s a very good chance you’ll develop some pretty spectacular muscles – particularly in the arm, back and shoulder regions.
Classes: What to expect; should I take them?
Indoor rock climbing classes are only offered at climbing gyms so before you can find a class, you have to find a gym. Climbing gyms are not as common as the average fitness gym, but they are sprouting up in more and more areas.
While classes are not a must (unless your specific gym requires an intro class prior to climbing), we recommend taking a rock climbing for beginners class. Before you decide on whether or not you want to take a class, you need to decide which type of climbing you’re going to pursue – bouldering or on-belay.
When bouldering, you climb without ropes – yes, it can be a tad nerve racking. Generally, you only boulder on shorter climbing walls with taller walls reserved for belaying. A bouldering class will teach you different rock climbing techniques than those used with a rope. You’ll also learn how to spot and fall, because no matter how good you may be, you will fall; why not learn to fall safely?
If you’re planning on climbing on-belay, your class will be a bit different. For starters, you’ll learn how to put the harness on correctly – kind of a big deal. Learning to tie a figure 8 follow through knot and completing your safety checks will also be on the agenda. You will also learn how to belay using a belay device, catch a fall and lower back to the ground.
Belaying is further broken down into top-rope climbing and lead climbing. When you’re top-rope climbing, your rope is run through an overhead anchor. You’re attached to one end via your harness and a belayer holds the other end to keep you from falling and to help lower you to the floor.
Once you become a master top-rope climber, you can try your hand at lead climbing. Here, you’ll tie into the end of the rope and clip it into the quickdraws already attached to the wall face as you ascend. You will still have a belayer, but with lead climbing, you will fall back down to the last place you clipped in rather than simply being suspended from the ceiling.
Bottom line: take a class, thank us later.
Instructional Indoor Climbing Training Videos and Tips
In addition to taking a class or two, you can also glean a ton of useful information from that device you pack around all day. As you know, the internet is loaded with knowledge – just make sure your sources are legit. The last thing you want to do is take climbing advice from someone who’s never even touched a climbing wall. Here are some great videos we found:
Clothes and Proper Attire
Not that we’ve covered the important stuff, we can discuss what to wear indoor rock climbing. Honestly, it really isn’t that important – go with whatever clothes you’re comfortable in and that allow you to move freely like yoga or other workout gear (choose breathable materials because it can be difficult to shed layers when you’re hanging off a wall).
For your feet, you’ll want a pair of climbing shoes: shoes specifically designed for gripping those shallow footholds. Some gyms allow you to rent shoes but if you catch the climbing bug you can buy your own for as little as fifty dollars.
For your hands, you’ll need chalk. Chalk will give you better grip and absorb the moisture on your hands as you start to sweat. In order to have the chalk on-hand (pun intended) at all times, you’ll also need a chalk bag.
The rest of the gear required to climb successfully includes a harness, locking carabiner and climbing ropes. Again, there’s a good chance you can rent most of this but eventually you’ll want to invest in your own gear – especially if you want to take your climbing skills alfresco.
Results and Success Stories
We’ve discussed the basics of rock climbing for beginners, so now you’re basically a pro. Still wondering if climbing will help you reach your fitness goals? We searched for female rock climbers and found this amazing lady to share her story — we’d say climbing definitely improved her fitness!
“May 19th 2014 I stepped on the scale… it said 247lbs.
Today I have lost 100 lbs and have done things I thought I would have never done. I fit in clothes that I thought I would never fit in, I finally feel good. It all started with a video on YouTube, Chris Powell Extreme weight loss level 1, 2 & 3. I did that for 3 months and lost 26lbs. On my birthday in August, I got myself a gym membership to Goodlife Fitness and lost 74 more pounds. The key to that: resistance training every day, will power and determination! I am active and workout 6 out of 7 days a week since May 19th, 2014.
In September 2016, my friend from work took me to the Windsor Rock Gym. Here they have bouldering, which is rock climbing in its purest form. No ropes, no harnesses and no equipment. Climbers just use rock shoes and some chalk on their hands. The challenge is to climb short but tricky boulder “problems” using balance, technique, strength and problem solving abilities.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done, having to use muscles I have never touched before. Moving my body up a wall… how was I even doing this? It was terrifying yet amazing. Since September, I have gone indoor climbing 3-4 days a week (sometimes more), it’s addictive. My upper body strength has improved so much, I can now do 15 push-ups in a row or 4 chin-ups in a row, where before I would struggle with finishing 8 reps of push-ups or even 2 continuous chin-ups. I am now able to move my own body weight.
On top of upper body strength my hand grip has improved ten-fold, I had cut my tendons in my right hand in 2013 which cut my grip by 50% now my grip is no longer an issue and continues to improve every day. Indoor rock climbing has been the best thing that has happened to me, mind, body and spirit. I go to the regular gym 4 days a week and I go to Windsor Rock Gym 4 days a week as well (I try to anyways, sometimes life gets in the way). A couple years ago, I couldn’t do a push-up if my life depended on it, this year my goal is to climb outdoors. Remember anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Thanks for listening, Tanya T. from Windsor, Ontario Canada.”