Core Strength

Apparently, there are two times in the year when people make an extra effort to get fit. One is in the New Year, when everyone vows to stick to their resolutions and turn over a new leaf, and the other is right now, in the run up to Christmas. With that in mind, I thought I’d spend some time over the next few weeks sharing with you some of my ‘new activities’ that I’ve tried in the past. I’ve already shared with you my experiences of indoor climbing, step class and joining the gym. In my bid to try at least one new activity every year, though, there are lots more to tell you about. I’m going to start with an exercise class that, for me, wasn’t a good experience and one that I’m certainly not in a rush to try again, Core Strength workout. Posting it first gets it out of the way, and as I have mentioned it a few times in previous posts I thought you might be a bit curious.

As I mentioned in my post Facing My Fears, I am a gold member of my local climbing centre, Boulders. Not only do I get unlimited climbing with my membership, I also get to go to the fitness classes they offer, including core strength. I’d seen the core strength class whilst I’d been climbing a few times, and although it looked tough I thought I’d give it a try. To be honest, I’m not really sure why it was classed as a core workout. We started with a warm-up that was basically jogging up and down a car park. The instructor then said we’d be moving onto cardio exercises. Surely cardio exercises would be more suited to a, well, a cardio workout. He then wrote the list of exercises on the white board, which may as well have been an alien language to me. I had no idea what a ‘V-Raise’ was, and when he mentioned the ‘bicycle crunches’ I looked around for the bikes. I raised my hand when we were asked if we needed an explanation, at which point the instructor let out a sigh and made a half-arsed attempt to demonstrate. Without any technique or safety guidance, I might add. I could understand if the instructor was one of those motivating, shouty marine types, but for all he did they could have just given us the white board and a stop watch and left us to it. The main body of the class involved 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off of four different floor exercises with a jumpy-up exercise in between (sorry, I really can’t remember what it was called). Basically, we did 30 minutes of circuits but without all the running round in circles. If you’re into proving how macho you are, then give core strength a go. If, like me, you just want to keep fit without (literally almost) breaking your back, then I wouldn’t bother. At least I can say I gave it a go.

Since I first posted this on my old blog, I’ve noticed that the instructor that took my class isn’t working there anymore. My experiences of the other classes at the climbing wall have been nothing but positive, so maybe he just wasn’t the right teacher for that enviroment.

Facing my Fears

I’m gutted. Due to my ridiculous treadmill injury, I’ve had to miss out on three climbing sessions this week. I thought it’d be fun to look back at how I felt when I first started indoor climbing about 2½ years ago. Here’s what I blogged about climbing when it was one of my new activities:

‘There I stood, numb with fear. I was suddenly very aware of the daunting task ahead of me. A strange man came up and clipped an odd looking metal contraption to the front of the harness that I was wearing. I was wearing a harness! What was I thinking?
It had seemed such a good idea when I’d booked. But now, as I stood at the bottom of the obstacle-ridden, incredibly high wall in front of me, it dawned on me that maybe indoor rock climbing wasn’t for me.
This wasn’t my first experience of climbing. My brother had taken me climbing outdoors a couple of times when I was a child. Unfortunately, the outings hadn’t gone well. The problem is, I don’t like being pushed to do things until I’m ready to do them, and my brother doesn’t have much patience with me. The combination of the two resulted in lots of shouting (him), a helmet thrown on the floor (me) and no suggestion of the two of us going climbing together ever again.
So what made me want to try climbing again? A few years ago, Boulders Climbing Centre opened in Cardiff. As I’ve said in previous blogs, I always try to tackle my phobias head-on, and one of my phobias is heights. The local press had been running lots of articles about the new climbing centre, and it occurred to me that if there was ever going to be any way for me to learn to climb properly, this would be it. When a local radio station advertised an introductory offer of a climbing taster session for £1, I spontaneously picked up the phone and booked.
When I found myself stood at the bottom of the climbing wall, all roped-up and ready to go, I wish that I hadn’t been so spontaneous. I think I made it about half way up the wall on my first climb and then, paralysed with fear, I asked to be belayed back down. The hardest part wasn’t the climbing itself, although once you move on to harder routes you definitely need to learn some proper technique. Like with most sports, the difficult thing is getting over the mental blocks. You have to argue with that little voice in your head that’s telling you that what you are doing isn’t natural for a human. In climbing, it’s overcoming your instinct and letting go of the wall once you reach the top. Your mind is telling you that if you let go you’ll fall, even though the instructor had logically explained to you that the equipment makes that impossible. I’m a keen skier, and one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received to improve my skiing is to trust my equipment. This is something that I bear in mind when I’m taking part in any sport, and it’s what I was quietly whispering to myself when I had to let go of that wall. Needless to say, I did let go and I didn’t fall.
I’m now a Gold member at Boulders and I go climbing there a couple of times a week. Not only is it a fun way to exercise, but I’ve made new friends (after all, you can’t climb on your own) and it’s filled a gap in my life where skiing used to be. There’s not much skiing in South Wales, but there sure are a lot of places to climb. What I wasn’t expecting was the mental stimulation that I get from climbing. Tackling new, more difficult routes requires real thought and problem solving. The Boulders team make it impossible for you to come up with an excuse not to climb. They offer courses for every age and level, coaching, social climbing for those who don’t have a climbing partner, a play area to keep the younger members of the family entertained and the Boulders Café to refuel in.’