I’ve never been a very physically active person. For years, to excuse my lack of activity, I’ve joked with people that I’m a thinker, not a doer. But now that I work for a fitness company, even remotely, the importance of being physical is hitting home more than ever. Unfortunately, most sports and exercise regimens fit in one of two categories for me: beyond my level of eye-hand coordination, or boring.
Over the years, I have tried different sports; the ones I enjoyed (skiing, tennis, dance, gymnastics and some team sports) fell into the first category, and those that didn’t could never hold my interest for any length of time or consistency. I had despaired of finding an activity that I was able to do and actually wanted to do. Well, this winter I found something that fills both of those requirements: rock climbing. Or, more specifically, rock wall climbing.
I first became intrigued with climbing after reading about via ferrata in our September 2010 issue, a cool way for beginning climbers to reach heights they wouldn’t have thought possible. This January, having just graduated from school, I was looking for something to fill up my newfound free time, and decided to head to one of the Life Time Fitness rock walls.
I was hooked from the first climb. A couple of weeks later, I convinced my best friend to take a belay class with me so that we could climb together. A few weeks after that, once I realized that my friend didn’t have the same level of interest I did, I found a regular climbing partner through a climbing discussion board on the club member Web site.
It’s been three months now, and Ryan and I have settled into a really comfortable schedule: two evenings a week at a gym close to home, and one weekend afternoon at a gym farther away but with twice the number of routes. As much as I’ve enjoyed the physical improvements that come with any form of regular exercise — my upper-body strength is the best it’s been in years — this weekend I realized that it’s the mental exertion that keeps me coming back for more.
I’ve always been a puzzle person. As a kid, word searches were my favorite, and as I got older, I progressed to crossword puzzles. For a while in high school I was completely obsessed with jigsaw puzzles — the more pieces the better (though I doubt that I have the patience for them these days). And even my reading and television/movie-viewing choices are mysteries, the ones where they subtly give you all the clues so you can figure out who the criminal is yourself. But really, climbing is just my latest puzzle.
The first time I climb a route is always the most exhausting because I’m navigating all the different options on how to get to the top. There are different ways I can get there, but there is usually going to be one way that is going to be quicker or easier that I’m trying to find. Should I put my left foot or my right on this foothold? Do I need to be leaning to the left, the right or flush to the wall to be able to grab that next handhold? I usually find that most new routes takes me at least three tries, and can take as many as 10, to get to the top. And the longer it takes, the cooler I think I am when I make it.
So, what I’ve discovered this year is that, given the right medium, I am actually a thinker and a doer. Who knew?
— Jocelyn Stone, Associate Editor