Be Bold & Boulder!


Guest post by: Christine Syrad

Spikes, heels and…climbing shoes. The latter are an unlikely combination of the former two in that they propel you forward (and upwards) as spikes do, and hold your foot in what is arguably an unnatural position, the way heels do. They may not make you feel like a million dollars quite the same way heels do, but when you grab that last hold, you realize you can’t quantify the euphoria that waves over you.

I got hooked on the natural highs of bouldering back at Uni. The ease with which you can get involved helped me take the plunge – shoes, chalk and freshly clipped fingernails are all you need. No ropes, no fancy bits of gear. OK, a bit of pocket money to enter the gyms but remember it’s money well spent, unlike all those impulse buys at Topshop and the hangovers invested in on weekends.

Falling in love with bouldering was like déjà vu, all the qualities that appealed to me had previously wooed me into running:

1. It’s a solo sport if you want it to be, but can be social if you take/welcome company (boulderers are super friendly and will get a conversation started by giving you tips).

2. You compete predominantly against yourself – meaning you can be flexible in terms of commitment and timing – there are no team members to let down.

3. It’s a great cardiovascular workout, as well as being a total body sculptor. It’s not only about arms and fingers – your legs, core, back and chest are all revved up too.

My love for each sport is almost equal. Almost. One edge that bouldering has over running is the game-like mentality. It’s not all about brute force, you see. For some problems (that is what the ‘routes’ are called in bouldering), you have to twist and turn your body and get your positioning just right, which is why technical boulderers easily rival muscular ones. You feel like you’re solving a puzzle because your quest is to find the beta that suits your strength level and body shape (‘beta’ is what the ways to solve the problems are called). As well as forcing you to awaken dormant muscles all over your body, it’s a mentally engaging sport.

Have I sold it to you yet? Good. I’ll move onto why I wanted to write about it. It’s great to see running treated at the gateway fitness drug – any medium that encourages people to take up a sport and shows them how to enjoy it is to be commended in my books. I just can’t help but feel running is hogging all of the mainstream media’s attention. I suppose yoga gets to steal a sliver of the spotlight on occasion. I thought it was time to introduce a fresh option and to seduce people into giving it a go by showcasing the arms you can attain by doing so.  Don’t worry, my arms are not that intense-looking off the rock – I like to affectionately refer to them as Michelle (right) and Obama (left).

A couple of places you can try it out in London: Castle Climbing and Mile End Climbing Wall.

10 Responses to “Be Bold & Boulder!”
  1. I tried bouldering a couple of weeks ago and loved it (and blogged about it :).

    • Christine says:

      Yay! That’s music to my ears :)

      It’s true, the hand and finger pain will disappear – so will the sensation of having no bloodflow reaching your toes (even if, like me, you wear shoes two sizes too small…on purpose).

      It’s like when you start running, all you notice is the stitch you can’t shake off and the burning sensation in the lungs. Before you know it you don’t even remember what that ever felt like. Until you have a prolonged period of laziness and try to jump right back in, that is – had that happen plenty of times 😀

  2. QoB says:

    Yay bouldering! I love it, even though it takes a backseat to my primary training (weightlifting – though some of my callouses do double duty:) ). There’s nothing like the brain itch from a problem yet to be solved and then the sense of achievement when you get there.

  3. Jess says:

    Sold. This sound amazing. I need to build strength and am looking for new ways to do so. This might be my saviour!

  4. Chloe says:

    This was exactly what I needed to see, been toying with climbing as an extra to my cycling and core training, but this sounds perfect and close by for me! Amazing timing.

  5. Christina_i says:

    I really want to try bouldering! Even though you need less equipment than top-rope climbing, you still need climbing shoes, and they are an investment. Especially if you’re just trying it out for the first time. Do climbing centres offer shoe hire typically?

    • Christine says:

      You should definitely give it a try!
      Yes, all the places I’ve frequented in the last 8 years have had rental shoes on offer. I would recommend renting at the beginning anyway because you want to get used to the slightly cramped feeling before buying your own, or else you will likely either buy a pair that’s too big or you will find the brand new pair too painful and this might put you off. Try easing yourself in with a pair that’s comfortable (either worn in already or a little bigger than your usual show size) and work up to a pair of your own in the optimal size. I’m a 39 in normal shoes but my climbing shoes were a 37. The transition wasn’t one that happened overnight!

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