When a trail runner discovers the wonderful world of the bouldering gym
I’ve worked in an office full of climbers now for almost four years …
Photo by Luka Tambaca
I’ve worked in an office full of climbers now for almost four years, and, yet, I’ve somehow resisted climbing until this year when I finally caved and went to Rock and Ice magazine’s weekly indoor bouldering sesh, Tuesday Night Bouldering (TNB), and “pulled on some plastic.” I was quickly hooked.
I’ve been running for over a decade, and am a relative expert when it comes to the simple left-foot, right-foot sport. But climbing? Hell, I can’t understand the lingo. But being a beginner in a brand new sport is cool, especially when surrounded by experts that move up a wall like spiders.
Luckily, I’ve also bagged a few outdoor climbing days, and there’s something about “sending” a route that is akin to the feeling of crossing the finish line of a tough trail race. … Plus, with winter creeping into autumn, climbing might just be the perfect non-impact, off-day cross training (unless you crater) for trail runners. And, here’s why:
Climbing works your core.
While to a neophyte, climbing looks like pulling yourself up the wall with your arms, in fact, it requires moving from your core. “Your body is constantly tense to move your limbs up the wall to control body swing,” says Gentrye Houghton, climbing instructor and owner of Amarillo Rock Climbing House in Amarillo, Texas. This is especially important for runners who don’t practice a regular, well-rounded core routine.
Climbing develops mental focus.
Unlike running, when your mind is free to think of a million things or nothing at all, in climbing, your mind must be present, clear and focused on only the task at hand, or else, says Chris Parker, a climber in Carbondale, Colorado, “You’ll find yourself on the end of the rope or lying on the pad thinking, ‘What just happened?’”
When it comes to a boulder problem, for example, Parker continues, “You have to imagine yourself executing the moves of the climb and 100-percent of your focus must be on that execution.” The ability to zone in with a singular focus can be helpful to runners. When a race becomes difficult, for example, you need to employ mental power to block out the pain that’s telling you to slow down and back off the pace. Using mental focus, you can learn to effectively push mental and physical limits to become a stronger runner.