Starting anything new can be intimidating, even downright scary. Instagram can tell us time and time again to embrace the fear in any number of catchy slogans, but it’s always easier said than done. You finally pluck up the courage, you work out where you are going, how much it costs, what to wear, what to take, turn up and… There are a load of topless bros on the mats. There are whoops, high fives and you feel like a total outsider. Everyone seems to know everyone, there are glistening muscles everywhere you turn, and you just want to run and hide.
Well if it helps, that was a lot of us when we started out too. It’s human nature to be unsure of something new, apprehensive and even anxious. But if we do anything today, we are going to hopefully convince you why everything isn’t always as intimidating as it looks…
- We all wore hire shoes. Even that really strong girl in the corner with the insane back muscles. We were all new, we all tried it for the first time, some of us were naturals, some of us had to work harder to get off the ground. And we all wore the smelly hire shoes.
- Why are that lot of strong people grouped over there? Probably because that climb is new. New climbs are put up every week, if you explore further onto the mats, the older climbs will be virtually empty, giving you plenty of space to practice.
- No one cares what you wear. If you pick the right night, you’ll see gym wear, jeans, pyjama bottoms, shorts, leggings, vests, t-shirts, shirts, jumpers, coats, beanies, school uniform… Honestly, if you are comfortable, that’s all that matters. The pros like to wear brightly coloured ‘climbing’ trousers but more because they look cool in photos than anything else.
- No one watches you. No one laughs when you fall. Everyone is far too wrapped up in their own projects to pay much attention to anyone else.
- The people who fall the most are the best climbers in the centre. Because they are pushing their limits time and time again. So there is absolutely no stigma against falling off.
- Why is that guy shouting ‘Allez’ in a very British accent? It’s just something climbers do. They have their own language, and if you stick at it, you’ll not just learn it but find yourself using it too. No matter how much you say you won’t.
- Chalk is a weird one, if it’s a sweaty, hot night it seems to be everywhere. Climbers use it to absorb the sweat on their hands so they can grip better, but then it builds up on holds, making them greasy – hence why the brushes come out to ‘clean’ the holds. No, you do not need it on your first climb, unless you have really sweaty hands.
- No one raises an eyebrow if you go exploring. You have as much right as everyone to have a look around. You might not have the know-how to climb every bit of wall but it’s worth looking, and ditto go explore the training room and weights room. While we don’t advise beginners jump on the climbing bits upstairs, you can still use the weight room and see what else is available here.
- Slowing down and resting between each climb is a great idea to prolong your session. Just remember to warm back up if you rest for longer than you planned. And again, no one bats an eyelid if you jog on the spot, do some star jumps or yoga. Whatever floats your boat.
- Not sure ‘when’ to climb? Have a look at your route, make sure it doesn’t cross over with anyone else’s, and off you go. Take it in turns with anyone around you, or if you are shy, find a quiet bit of wall and take your time there. Try a couple of moves close to the bottom if you are worried about the height, or climb the same route multiple times to gain confidence. No one will mind.
If only we had known that when we started, it would have turned a bit of an anxiety-ridden outing into one that was much more enjoyable and dare we say it – even chilled. So hopefully that will set anyone’s mind at ease that climbing gyms are welcoming, friendly environments and climbing as a sport is for absolutely everyone.