Why I Love Climbing Walls

Rock that wall to relieve stress, strengthen your core, challenge your mind and body, and have fun.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
Apr 30 · 5 min read
Photo by Tom Wheatley on Unsplash

A Growing Sport

According to the Climbing Business Journal, in 2015 there were 381 climbing gyms in the US. A survey conducted by the Outdoor Industry Association of America shows that almost 8 million Americans climbed at least once in 2017. More notably, according to the Climbing Business Journal, the number of indoor climbers has also increased by 6%.

Indoor rock climbing is a growing sport for competitors and recreational climbers. Both novice and seasoned climbers can enjoy the experience. Indoor climbing is a great indoor exercise option for all no matter the skill level or age.

I’m Hooked

I first rock climbed in Acadia National Park. I climbed South Bubble with my husband and our guide. It was perfect for beginners and an awesome experience.

Climbing the South Bubble in Acadia NP. Photo by Jon Gilbert.

I craved more rock climbing but I live no where near an outdoor rock slab or face to climb.

Then I discovered a new indoor rock climbing gym in my town. And I am hooked.

I have added climbing to my ultrarunning cross training and to my tapering.

All my years of running have produced strong climbing legs.

I’m using my legs to explore the sport of indoor rock climbing.

The Cost of Indoor Climbing

The cost of indoor climbing and equipment is reasonable.

You’ll need a harness, climbing shoes, and a chalk bag.

You can rent them at the gym or bring your own.

If you’re starting off, a day pass is smart and you can climb all day. I go to the climbing gym on Friday nights and take advantage of the Ladies’ Night discount.

I climb as much or as little as I want for $10.50. Monthly and yearly memberships are other options.

Because I have my own harness, shoes, and chalk bag, I don’t pay the additional rental cost. I save money. My husband is my belayer and pays $11.00 which includes the harness rental.

Climbing gyms offer a variety of discounts to students, teachers, and veterans.

To find a indoor rock climbing gym near you, check out the world-wide climbing gym listing.

My harness, climbing shoes, and chalk bag.

After a few climbs over a period of a few weeks with a staff guide, my husband and I took a one-hour belayer certification class.

We learned how to knot the rope onto the harness, how to belay each other, and how to be safe.

Great Cross-training

As an ultrarunner, I have great cardio, endurance, focus, and mental strength.

The goal of running is to get to the finish line. The aim of climbing is to get to the top.

Climbing increases my core and upper body strength. I increase arm, shoulder, and neck strength.

Climbing is a great cross training and tapering activity. It’s good to use and move my muscles, legs, feet, and body in other ways.

Climbing helps improve agility, flexibility, balance, and physical strength.

Physical and Mental Strength for all Ages

Climbing is also a terrific stress reliever after a long day or a long week.

Sometimes I just want to move my body up a wall instead of moving my feet forward through the physical act of running.

Like running, climbing is about challenging and pushing myself and that requires physical and mental strength.

Climbing also requires concentration and strategizing where to move your feet, arms, hands, and finger tips next on the wall.

If you have long nails, don’t forget to clip them.

Along with mental strength, you are going to need hand and finger tip strength to grip on to the climbing holds on the wall.

Indoor climbing benefits all ages, improves physical and mental health, develops core strength, reduces stress, burns a lot of calories, and is great cross training for athletes.

Climbing is a tough but satisfying and fun way to stay physically fit and mentally strong.

Climber in Progress

I’m getting pretty good at climbing with a belayer. I have yet to conquer the automatic climbing wall all the way to the top.

Instead of climbing with the help of a belayer, I clip on the automatic belay device to my harness. The automatic belay is my belayer. It’s a lot harder than it looks.

Right before I fell. Photo credit Jon Gilbert

And I’m starting to explore the bouldering walls.

No belayer and harness needed — just sheer will, super strength, balance, and agility which I’m still developing.

Bouldering is challenging and strenuous. And it’s OK to fall when you lose grip and land on the soft bouldering floor.

I am an ordinary climber in progress.

Rock That Wall

Climbing is not a team sport — it’s just you and the wall and the belayer and the soft floor below. But the rock climbing gym is a wonderful and supportive community.

Climbers of all ages and abilities, and perfect strangers support each other. I enjoy watching others and learning from them.

Climbing gym staff and guides are a great source of knowledge. In addition to learning from their expertise, I watch indoor climbing YouTube videos to help me learn more technique.

Instagram is also a great place to follow climbers and get inspired to rock that next wall.

Rock on and start tackling walls in a climbing gym near you and test your physical and mental strength.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert (aka Miriam Gilbert) is an ultrarunner, writer, adjunct professor, and a climber in progress. I am training for my 27th ultramarathon — Across the Years 48 hour ultra. I invite you to visit my website. Thank you for sharing my story.

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

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Ultrarunner|Author|WritingMy Memoir https://www.miriamdiazgilbert.com/

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