Thrive: High-Altitude Workout

Take your exercise routine to another level with Indoor Rock Climbing.

photo by john altdorfer

I realize I am subject to injury from this activity and that no form of preplanning can remove all the dangers to which I am exposing myself…”

The waiver I sign before my private lesson at The Climbing Wall isn’t what gives me pause. It’s when my instructor, Mike, tells me not to focus on my hands.

“Lean into the wall and use your legs and core,” he explains, ascending a 15-foot-tall slab with the agility of a gecko. “Just run your hands over the wall, but don’t grab onto anything. You have to trust your feet.”

The trust issues between my uncoordinated feet and I are becoming glaringly obvious. I thought this was all about the upper body.    

“That’s the biggest misconception,” he says, hopping down to the very buoyant, padded floor. “It’s really about the lower body. You want to be very precise about where you put your body weight.”

With trepidation, I follow a path marked with white tape indicating an easy route, pressing my body against the wall as my mind screams, Grab onto something, stupid!   
“Trust your feet,” Mike repeats encouragingly as I come to a screeching halt halfway up.  

“I don’t want to,” I reply, hugging the wall.

Mike assures me this is normal. That trusting your lower extremities comes with practice. It’s why, he adds, that rock climbing is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one.
That becomes blatantly evident when I’m harnessed in the Top Roping area, where walls soar about three stories high. “Don’t worry,” he says, tightening the rope. “It’s totally secure.”

I ask if he’s having a good day. He laughs. But I want to know. This is, after all, the guy who now holds my life in his hands via a rope.

Three-quarters of the way up, I make the mistake of looking down. “I want to stop,” I call out.

“OK, but you’re so close!” he encourages. “I know you can do this.”

There’s no way I’m wimping out, so I soldier on, but I’ve broken up with my feet. As a result, my forearms are in spasm from pulling my body weight as I cling for dear life, determined to reach the summit.

When I do, I slap the ceiling and do the most terrifying thing of all: release my death grip on the holds and sit back into the harness.

“Now comes the fun part,” Mike says with a smile as I descend back to earth.

Verdict: It’s a mental and physical puzzle that proves you can do far more than you credit yourself to accomplish.

The Climbing Wall
7501 Penn Ave., Point Breeze; 412/247-7334,
Price: $12/all-day pass
Equipment rentals: $2/harness; $2/chalk bag; $4/shoes. Helmets are free.
Memberships and pass plans also available. Ages 6 and up welcome

Eat This Month

Kombucha Beverages
Touted as a way to increase your intake of probiotics naturally, Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from brewed tea and sugar that also is thought to improve brain health and ease depression.

“Research supports the idea that a healthy gut leads to a happy brain and positive thoughts,” says nutrition consultant and Nutrition CheckUp CEO Heather Mangieri.

Easily found at the supermarket, Kombucha has no recommended daily serving — it’s simply another way to incorporate fermented foods into the diet, Mangieri adds.


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