The climbing gym is the only place where I’ve ever had a membership. I like rock climbing as exercise because it builds functional strength in ways that is hard to replicate in a traditional gym. There’s no machinery to help you get to the top, it’s only your body and your mind that will help you up (and a decent pair of shoes). Also, it’s an ever-changing workout because routes in the gym change almost monthly, so with dozens of climbs available it’s hard to get bored. In contrast, in a traditional gym, the rowing machine will always be a rowing machine and I tend to lose interest pretty quickly.
On Friday night I headed to MetroRock with my buddy Tony to do a Bouldering workout. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, here’s a decent definition of Bouldering that I found on a MountainProject.com forum: “Bouldering is climbing without a rope near the ground on boulders or at the base of a cliff. You never climb farther than you are willing to fall. Falls are usually broken by use of a padded “crash” pad. Helps build finger strength, power and footwork.” Bouldering is fun to me because it can have complicated technique and problems (read: climbs) that are short and discrete. I find them to be like a puzzle that you have to use both your mind and your body to solve.
Some of my friends are pretty serious climbers so I reached out to them for a typical Bouldering workout that I could in the gym (instead of simply climbing for fun). What I eventually chose was called a pyramid workout where you ramp up to your toughest climb and then go back down again to where you started. Boulding problems are ranked from V0 as the easiest to V16 as the totally unreal/elite bouldering. Considering I’m climbing at a V3 level I built the workout with that as my peak. Inside of 45 minutes I climbed 4 V0′s, 3 V1′s, 2 V2′s, 1 V3, 2 V2′s, 3 V1′s, and 4 V0′s.
The workout lasted about 45 minutes and I climbed 19 boulder problems total, some of them I down-climbed as well instead of simply jumping down from the top. My minimum heart rate was 65, my maximum was 155, and my average was 114. I think the average was fairly low because a large part of gym climbing is actually sitting down and talking about climbing, in reality it’s probably a larger part of climbing than climbing itself. Suffice it to say, I had a great physical workout but a pretty low-key aerobic workout. It certainly worked my forearms, shoulders, back, and core but not so much the lungs over a longer period of time.
I’ll leave you with this sweet home bouldering video. This would be a great way to stay in shape if the only way to get to my computer were to boulder across the house: