What Rock Climbing Has Done for Me

I was up late one night and decided to take a look at some new activities to do with Tiffany. Groupon had a deal for a one month membership at a rock climbing gym that wasn’t too far. I decided this would be a good roommate activity to pick up, so Tiffany, myself, and two of my roommates decided to give it a shot.

The height involved in top roping and pain/danger of falling to the ground when bouldering was concerning at first. By the time we got home from our very first climbing session, my forearms were shot - I could barely turn the key to unlock the front door! Whether we liked climbing or not, everyone agreed to make the most out of the deal. By the end of the trial, we all signed up for memberships. For most of us this was the only form of physical activity that would count as gym time. We later introduced the sport to our friends, family, and even rented out the entire gym twice. We obviously grew to love it.

A climbing route is like a puzzle. The interesting part is that the solution to how a route can be solved is unique to the climber. I could probably reach certain holds without much effort compared to a person with shorter limbs who may need to utilize more skill. As a solution, that person would need to think of a move that is “tailored” to his/her physique. In another scenario, to ascend past a hold, I might be able to muscle through it albeit with bad form. Another person with less strength will use their superior balancing skills to accomplish the same thing. Weight and finger strength also attribute to the numerous factors that account for climbing ability.

Because many climbers fequently need to ask themselves “how do I get through this part?” or “how can I solve this problem?”, it’s no surprise that many climbers face similar situations in their careers. To quote Jeff Atwood in his article, Software Projects as Rock Climbing, “… the next time someone asks you why software projects are so challenging, invite them to go rock climbing with you.” Additionally, the title of Ben Coe’s blog post says it all, How Rock Climbing Saved My Life, and Made Me a Better Software Developer.

So what did rock climbing do for me? Well, I can’t say that I’m athletic, nor have I ever held an interest in sports. My childhood consisted of frequent visits to the emergency room from severe asthma (one weeklong stay was attributed to smelling a classmate’s perfume, while another was from walking past a Yankee Candle), and the only thing I could tell my girlfriend about last week’s football game was that, “we beat the other guys”.

I approach routes more as a puzzle than a workout. As a result I’ve been able to do more than ever before in terms of physical capacity. For one, it wasn’t until two or three months into climbing that I was able to do a single pullup - I was doing a regimen of negatives for weeks straight to no avail beforehand.

I can also name my favorite professional climber (Sean McColl) and can watch a climbing competition with more knowledge of its mechanics than other sports (bringing a ball to/past some goal/area).

In addition to the health benefits and passion, rock climbing has given me an activity to build a great relationship with my friends and family from. Furthermore, climbing outdoors has given me a chance to enjoy nature in a way not too many of us attempt to anymore. It doesn’t have to be rock climbing, but I urge you to find a hobby or activity that is condusive to your health and overall well being. Now is a better time than any to find one, and rock climbing isn’t a bad first choice!