Photo by Jo Tabacek

Working out can feel like playtime when bouldering

Let me begin by saying that I am not “swole.” I am not even “swuh.” I have been working out consistently for one month at the Circuit Bouldering Gym, and just took a week-long break when my membership ran out. All of this is to say, I am absolutely not an expert. That said, this workout routine works for me (someone who hates working out), so maybe it could work for you.

My workout routine consists entirely of bouldering. Bouldering is a form of rock climbing, done without the safety harness. The walls are much lower than in rope climbing, but falling is falling. I try to go every other day for at least an hour, and when my poor noodle arms simply cannot complete any more climbs, I move to weight lifting and bodyweight exercises. I eat protein before or after I go to the gym. I stretch before and a little after. When I weightlift and do bodyweight exercises, I focus on parts of the body that are not as emphasized while bouldering, like legs and abs. 

Bouldering can be difficult for newcomers because there is a paywall (no pun intended). Climbing shoes and the membership to a climbing gym are both expensive. I bought my shoes used from Next Adventure for $25, and they have lasted for six months of use. At the Circuit, by far the most popular climbing gym for Lewis & Clark students, a month-long membership at the student rate is $75, up from a previous $67 during the fall of 2018. And yes, it does make me want to cry a little bit each time I pay it, and yes, I am going to wait until their spring sale before I sign up for their 11-month membership, which is priced at a more reasonable $55 per month. (The nice desk worker told me that a membership sale is coming in March or April.) 

That said, bouldering is worth the price for me. 

I am not a good “worker outer.” It is difficult for me to push myself to run, lift or do anything consistently for more than a few weeks. I played sports growing up but never did exceptionally well because I was not competitive enough. “The most important thing is that we have fun, guys.”

Out of all the workouts I have tried, bouldering is the most fun. It brings me back to my days on the monkey bars during recess when the purpose of exercise was having fun. Climbing may not be as fun as monkey bars, but stepping into the climbing gym feels like stepping into a playground for adults. There is a sense of triumph when finishing a climb. And if I do not finish a climb, it is still an accomplishment because I tried and used my muscles in the process. Moreover, there is tangible proof that I am becoming stronger and more skilled when I am able to complete a climb at a higher level. I can listen to podcasts or music during my workout, which makes the time feel like it goes by faster. 

I am also trying to hike more, when the weather permits it, as my “cardio.” It may not be  the most effective form of cardio, but it is something I will do because I enjoy it. 

And that brings me to my biggest tip for working out: if working out is difficult for you, find something you enjoy doing. Bouldering and hiking are enjoyable for me. Maybe for you it is biking or kickboxing or playing Just Dance alone in your room. If it makes you want to move, it is good enough.

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