Are you tired of running on the treadmill and lifting weights? So are we! Fortunately fun alternatives that are every bit as challenging and effective as hitting the gym are out there. If you're on the hunt for something new and exciting, why not give bouldering a try?
Like the wall climbing you've likely either tried when you were younger or seen in the movies, bouldering involves climbing a surface. But unlike typical wall climbing, bouldering doesn't require a harness or belay, because the goal isn't just to get to the top. Instead, the walls are fitted with holds that form different routes you can take while never climbing to a dangerous height above the ground. Mats cover the floor so you can land safely and comfortably should you lose your grip. So being a little nervous of heights is no reason to not try it out.
You can begin mastering your bouldering abilities in training centres all over the country. Once you feel comfortable with your new-found skills, there's no end to where bouldering can take you. The owner of Toronto-based Boulderz Climbing Centre, Andrew McBurney, has been climbing for 13 years and loves the many beautiful places and great adventures climbing has exposed him to. A training centre might be where you start, but from there, there's no telling where your new skills can take you.
Lifting weights can get pretty tedious, but you certainly won't be bored as you climb your way through a bouldering centre. It's an incredible strength-training experience for your arms, core and even your legs. Muscles you haven't worked in years will suddenly be engaged in whole new ways. McBurney likens the experience to "wall yoga" because of the way you'll be challenging your mobility and agility.
If you're willing to be brave and try something new, bouldering is for you. You can go completely at your own pace and take on tougher challenges when you're ready. It really is an activity for anyone. Kids as young as 4 can test it out, explains McBurney. So whether you want to try it out on your own, with a friend or as a family, find a facility near you, ask all the questions you need to feel comfortable and prepared, and then get climbing to see what you think.
Feeling a little intimidated by the notion of scaling walls? Don't worry, you don't have to go any higher or farther than you're comfortable with. To get the hang of it, McBurney recommends starting off with "traversing." That's where you work on moving yourself sideways along the wall rather than up and down. You can literally be a step off the floor and still get in a great workout. The learning curve for most beginners is surprisingly quick, and you're likely to be impressed by how quickly you hone your skills and improve your comfort level. Climbing centres such as Boulderz have a way of marking the common routes according to degrees of difficulty, so you can spot the areas you'll be comfortable starting out with and slowly build from there.
As with any workout routine, setting goals so you can celebrate your progress and stay motivated is important. When it comes to bouldering, McBurney advises keeping your goals small and simple at first so you don't get overwhelmed. With each visit you can work on building on the skills you developed at your last visit. You won't be able to handle the most challenging routes right from the beginning, but that's OK. There's plenty of bouldering to be done no matter your skill level, so stick with it, and celebrate your achievements no matter what rate they happen at.
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