ACTIVE | Do Something Different! Try Indoor Climbing For Beginners: Guide to Getting Started

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I have to admit to being a bit of an adrenaline junky, and I tend to enjoy most activities that get my heart pumping and scare me slightly. Having recently started climbing however, I was a little surprised to find that climbing an indoor wall, gives me the same surge of adrenaline and endorphin rush, that I usually only achieve when snowboarding.

As someone with a lifelong fear of heights, enjoying my first climbing and abseiling session came as total shock. I still suffer from dizzying vertigo, but the fear of scaling a wall seems to have diminished substantially, though it’s by no means gone completely.

indoor climbing for beginners

Me climbing without an instructor for the first time

My first proper go at climbing as an adult was on an adventure holiday in the South of France with Acorn Adventures (read about it here). A couple of weeks later back at home, I booked a taster session at a local climbing centre, The North West Wall in Warrington. Again, I absolutely loved it and made the decision then to take it up as a regular hobby.

Whilst I’m active and a regular gym goer and hiker, I wouldn’t consider myself super fit, and for years, I had regarded climbing as the kind of thing that only lithe, super fit people could do. Rubbish! With my joint condition and dodgy back I’m proof that almost anyone can give it a go, and whilst upper body strength and a good strong grip helps, beginners walls are incredibly forgiving.

So if you’ve never given indoor climbing a try, or you fancy picking up a new hobby, I can thoroughly recommend indoor climbing.

Beginners Climbing – Need to know

Climbing Taster Sessions

A taster session is the initial recommended route into indoor climbing. Taster sessions usually include hire of necessary equipment and you’ll have an instructor on hand to quite literally, show you the ropes, and guide you on your way up some easy warm-up walls.

Tip: Book taster sessions and try a couple of different climbing centres and a variety of different walls before committing.

Where to Climb

I was delighted to find a number of different indoor climbing centres within a 25 mile radius / half hour drive away from me, making it accessible and a realistic option as a regular activity. To get started, just do a Google search for “Indoor Climbing Walls” to find options that are local to you.

Simond Beginners climbing gear

Give your local centre a call to see what they suggest for you. Some are bouldering only (much lower walls  climbed/traversed without ropes) and others require a minimum number of participants to run, so get in touch to find out exactly what’s on offer.

Tip: A simple Google search will show you where your nearest indoor climbing centre is or try the BMC Climbing Wall Finder.

Beginners Equipment

After doing some research and looking at what Amazon, Decathlon, Go Outdoors and Snow + Rock had on offer, I opted to buy some initial bits of gear from the great value Simond climbing range at Decathlon.

When starting any new hobby, I don’t think it makes sense to invest a fortune, as initial enthusiasm can easily wane, leaving you with expensive gear you don’t use. As with snowboarding, the first few times I tried climbing I used hire equipment. After a couple of climbing sessions however, I’ve decided that it is something I want to do regularly, and made the decision to invest in my own basic set up.

Simond Beginners climbing gear

My climbing gear  shown here was purchased at Decathlon

I tried a few different harnesses on for fit and comfort and so far I’ve spent under £40, but do still have a belay and climbing shoes left to buy, which I think will come in at a grand total of about £110.

What I got;

Still on my list to get;

Tip: There’s no need to spend a fortune, you can start of hiring equipment and if you want to take it up as a regular hobby, you can get a beginners climbing set up for around £110.

Climbing Shoes

The shoes I’ve tried on so far have all proved to be much more uncomfortable than I’d expected. I was aware that climbing shoes tend to be tighter fitting and fairly narrow, but wasn’t expecting them all to rub on the heel, so I’m yet to find a suitable pair for myself.

Make sure then, that you try various different styles on in store, rather than just buying the first thing you come across online. I’m glad I tried some on in store, as the ones I had decided to buy (based on their entry-level price) I’ve since ruled out as they didn’t provide a good enough fit.

Tip: Don’t buy climbing shoes online unless you have tried that specific model on in store for fit first.

Health Benefits of Climbing

You burn more calories (500 – 900 calories an hour) and build up more of a sweat than you might expect when climbing! Climbing uses muscle groups in both the upper and lower body, including your back, abdominal and leg muscles as well as your shoulders and arms. Regular climbing is a great way to improve your stamina and gain muscle strength and flexibility.

I find that climbing puts me in a focused state of ‘flow’ where I’m fully absorbed in what I’m doing. It has a calming effect on me, akin to meditation (despite the adrenaline!) as I focus on what I’m doing, and plan my next move.

See more benefits of indoor climbing here.

Tip: Don’t let a low level of fitness put you off, climbing is something that’s suitable for most and beginners walls are very forgiving.

Climbing at Kilnworks

Me climbing at Kilnworx in Burslem on Christmas Eve 2016 (hence daft hat!)

What to Wear for Indoor Climbing

For me, a long, loose t-shirt has been my go-to option for climbing, as the harness sits snugly around the upper thigh and can make a shorter top ride up, so with the goal of maintaining a bit of decency, I find a long t-shirt best. I pair that with my usual sports bra and Lycra running tights I wear at the gym as they are tight fitting and allow for maximum freedom of movement.

shells climbing shoes

My Scarpa Velocity V Ladies’ Climbing Shoes

Suggested clothing for climbing

You really don’t need to invest in any special clothing, and whilst I’ve seen people climbing in jeans and shirts, I’d advise wearing something similar to what you’d wear at the gym or when out for a trail run.

Tip: Wear clothes that allow unrestricted movement, the kind of thing you’d wear for a gym workout is often best.

Where to Climb

North West

Kilnworx, Burlsem – http://www.kilnworx.org

The North West Face, Warrington – http://www.northwestface.com

Peak Pursuits Indoor Climbing, Audley – http://www.peakpursuits.co.uk/peak-pursuits-centres/audley-climbing-centre

Manchester Climbing Centre – http://www.manchesterclimbingcentre.com

Nationwide

The BMC Climbing Wall Finder – https://www.thebmc.co.uk/find-a-climbing-wall?s=1

Awesome Walls, Nationwide – http://www.awesomewalls.co.uk

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Shell Robshaw-Bryan
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