When I first started climbing, I thought I’d be pretty good at it. Having spent years of my life training as a gymnast, I was disappointed. I thought it would be easy, having latent upper body strength that could be coerced back into action.
It wasn’t. I sucked. I could barely climb a V0 without hanging on for dear life and desperately jumping for holds, feet flailing around like a mad person. I stuck with it anyway, and as so many others do, found a weird gratification in ascending a wall only using certain colored holds.
After about a month, I worked my way up to comfortably climbing V1s, and slowly started dipping my toes onto V2s, but never really made it any further despite my daily climbs (perks of working at Brooklyn Boulders).
One Thursday evening as I climbed fruitlessly on my V2 plateau, I had Sarah Laine – climbing assistant, personal trainer and Instructor – give me a climbing assessment (we offer these to anyone who wants ’em!).
“You need to work on your footwork,” she told me. “You should take Foundations,”.
I enrolled a couple of weeks later, and begrudgingly did the jumping jacks as instructed in the beginning of class. It had been a while since I’d done any cardio. What I learned was more useful than any beta I had ever received while climbing casually. Beta – for other new climbers – is when a climber tells you advanced knowledge about a route. What I learned is that climbing is way more of a nuanced sport than I previously thought – involving physics, route planning, footwork, technique, and tons of specific training tactics.
More importantly – I learned to overcome by personal barriers. Prior to the class, I thought my arms too short (see proof of negative ape index here), my legs too short and that I would just never be able to reach certain holds. The skills and concepts I learned in Foundations showed me just how wrong I was.
Two weeks and four hours later – I flashed my first V4, and have only been getting better since. Though at the end of the day, climbing really isn’t about the grade. It’s about the community, learning from others, and learning about your own perceived limits, and how to surpass them.