thoughts from a second-time climber

Seattle Bouldering Project

Post middle-school, my sportiness quotient plummeted from a solid 6.0 to approximately 0.5 (out of 10). In college, I made use of the free gym exactly once (not counting the time I used one of the gym lockers to stash my ‘interview outfit’ in between classes and on-campus recruiting). I tried several times to pick up running, which was especially convenient when I lived half a block from the Golden Gate Park, but it never stuck — I had migraines, my hands were freezing, my feet were sweaty, etc. So I resigned myself to a lifestyle of immobility. Two-minute walk from my home to the shuttle stop + two-minute walk from the shuttle stop to my desk = four minutes of walking a day. I exaggerate, but that is generally accurate. Yay software engineering! And as everyone knows, the more you don’t do something, the harder it is to start doing it again.

I am still not sporty or outdoorsy, but I do feel much more optimistic about exercise in general, i.e. more excited and curious than insecure and dread-full. The turning point for me was doing yoga and barre (thanks Google for the free classes). Anyway, my point is that in the past year or so, my attitude towards physical activity has changed dramatically, and I want to prioritize living a non-sedentary lifestyle as long I am able to.

This past summer Karl & I participated in a book study on Ephesians with a bunch of 10.0 sportiness folks, and on our last day of the study, they brought us outdoor climbing at Indian Rock, Berkeley. I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it! Adrenaline rush + shaking forearms + nature. Who knew? Unfortunately, climbing proved to be an expensive hobby, especially in the Bay Area. Most gyms have a $125/month membership fee, which is cash that I’d rather save. Oh well.

But since we’re in Seattle for a week, I decided to look up bouldering gyms. I found the Seattle Bouldering Project, a gorgeous indoor space near Little Saigon. I was fully prepared to pay all of $16 for a day pass + free shoe rentals, but they let me qualify for the student price (I told the guy I’m taking a class online, which is true. “Good enough for me,” he said. By the way, this also was apparently good enough for Spotify Premium), so I got a full day of bouldering for 12 bucks.

I went by myself, and overall it was very enjoyable and a good workout. There was a great variety of routes and difficulties, two floors of climbing walls, and a ton of fitness equipment, including an intense-looking tread-wall (a climbing wall that MOVES). This was a Wednesday morning, and the area was relatively empty, although there was some kind of elementary school camp activity going on in the kids’ area (not that I minded). They had a cute cafe (my weakness) with wifi so I called my mom while my forearms recovered. Re: climbing, it was striking how much of a difference it made when I looked up vs when I looked down. Also, repeating the mantra “keep stepping up” in my head was extremely helpful because I kept wanting to use my arms instead of my legs. The biggest obstacle to my climbing was probably not knowing at what height I could safely fall from, and also not really knowing how to fall. I erred on the side of caution, because I am risk-averse, and also because I recently caught up with a dear friend who broke her leg while falling. If I had the confidence to fall better, I think I would have been able to challenge myself more. Not that it wasn’t already challenging, but you know, growth mindset.

All in all, I wish climbing were more affordable in the east bay, because I love the intellectual component (you have to think very hard!). In the mean time, I highly recommend SBP and enthusiastically welcome any tips for climbing noobs.

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