I don't know about you, but I'm scared of a few obvious things. Spiders, dentists, being under water and heights. I have various coping strategies: spiders - I find blind panic and crying often gets someone else to deal with them; dentists - I have diazepam; being under water - I'm working on it. But heights I've never really dealt with.
Goodbye comfort zone
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to try out rock climbing and bouldering at Westway Sports Centre by an organisation called spogo. For those of you not in the know, spogo is a great website that hooks people up with a range of sports and physical activities in their local area. It's basically one massive database of over 121,000 sports venues, clubs, leisure centres, personal trainers, events and other activities across the country.
So, being petrified of heights but a sucker for a challenge, I thought I'd give it a go.
Tess v climbing
Firstly, have you ever been to Westway? It's IMMENSE. It's a massive multi-purpose sports centre that's got just about everything you'd ever want - football pitches, cricket nets, swimming pool, gym, tennis courts, climbing walls, bouldering - it's just huge. I met up with bloggers Charlotte, Dannii, Becca and Lorna from spogo and we got kitted up (harness and weird pinchy climbing shoes) and made our way to the bouldering practice wall.
|Becca striking a pose as we practice bouldering|
After being shown how to 'climb' across the practice wall without touching the floor we were taken round to one of the beginner walls. I took a look around and saw we were surrounded by kids who were flying to the top - like little rats up drainpipes they were, squirrelling up without a care in the world. There were also a fair few adult pro climbers hanging by their finger tips as they mastered the higher inverted walls.
|Pro climbers mastering the tough inversions|
I decided to go first to get it out of the way - the less time I spent faffing the better. We got into pairs and our instructor talked us through how to support each other with the ropes - as the climber went up the partner on the ground had to tighten the rope so if they fell they'd not have far to go and be supported by the other's weight. We were also talked through the different types of handles and footholes - some were easy and some hard - so just a case of checking them out before making a move.
|Weighing up the task in hand...|
My first climb was really scary. I haven't been on a climbing wall since crying at the top of the PGL one when I was in primary school. I got about half way up and froze, couldn't make a decision about where to go and had to ask everyone to help me find a way up. It's really weird when you're up there, having to suss out what you can reach to find a route to the top. It looks really different from the ground but I swear when I was up there I was on top of a mountain and had nowhere to go.
With a bit of guidance I nearly made it to the top before having to come back down to solid ground. It doesn't even look that high when you look at the below photo, but trust me, when you're up there it's high enough! Coming down was scary too - I had to let go and lean back into my rope as Charlotte and the instructor lowered me down. You have to really trust your partner to bear your weight.
When I got to the ground I was so relieved but totally buzzing - adrenalin does funny things to me. Behold my 'oh my Christ that's scary' face:
|Thanking God for solid ground|
Once everyone had a go we moved on to a slightly harder one. I didn't get as far up this time as there just didn't seem to be enough things to hold on to. I tried to use the excuse that I'm short but I think it's more that I didn't trust myself to jump or push my body up and over to the next bit. That and I found it difficult to see where I could go.
Tess v bouldering
After the climbing walls and lunch we moved onto the bouldering area. I thought bouldering was just going from side to side along the wall, I had no idea how difficult it was with the inversions and hanging upside down etc.
There are no ropes or harnesses with bouldering, and even though it's not as high there's still risk of injury if you fall awkwardly. There are routes marked by coloured footholes and you have to start from being sat on the ground, not from standing - harder than it sounds! We tried a couple of routes - one of which was mega hard, and involved swinging upside down to get to the next part - it required great upper body strength and agility, which none of us really had.
I watched other climbers as they nimbly worked their way round like monkeys, and knew I had to come back and give it another go. I'm marrying a tree surgeon so no excuses not to practice!
Coming back for more
It was a fantastic day, I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed it even though I was really scared for the climbing. Once the marathon's over I'm definitely gonna look into doing it more often so I can get better. It's great for upper body strength as well as whole body flexibility and agility, and is also great for mental problem solving so good brain training.
Big thanks to spogo and Westway Sports Centre for inviting us along to the day.
If you want to give climbing or bouldering a go at Westway they have instructors available to show you the ropes and get you started. More information on prices, membership and other facilities available on the website.
spogo was developed by ukactive using a Sport England lottery grant, it was created as part of the digital legacy of the 2012 Olympics to inspire people to get active more often. Visit the website to sign up and get involved.
Have you tried climbing or bouldering? If you're as scared of heights as me I urge you to give it a go, it's a great rush and brilliant strength workout!
More photos on my Facebook page
More photos on my Facebook page