When you think about a wall, you might think about a dividing line, or a roadblock—something standing in your way of whatever’s on the other side. But The North Face is trying to change that perception—one new wall at a time. With their Walls Are Meant for Climbing campaign and promotion of Global Climbing Day (August 18 this year), The North Face aims to bring people together from all over the world to climb walls, rather than build them.
“We have been climbing them for 50 years, and they have become an important topic in culture,” Tom Herbst, global vice president of marketing at The North Face, says about the brand’s commitment to climbing. “We see walls as opportunities not obstacles—a place for us to connect and build trust, to learn and to grow. And we want to encourage and inspire that thinking.”
The Rise of Indoor Rock Climbing
Last year, 20,000 people celebrated Global Climbing Day, in which you can find more than 150 gyms and outdoor spaces offering complimentary climbing sessions. This year, the hope is to set 100,000 people climbing their way to the top. (Related: How to Scare Yourself Into Being Stronger, Healthier, and Happier)
While that might seem like a huge jump, it’s actually not that far-fetched considering how much rock climbing (especially indoors) has taken off over the last few years. The Cliffs, a climbing gym in New York City, currently has just three locations in the area, but they plan to double that during the next year or two (with one popping up in Philly). Momentum Climbing, based in Salt Lake City, has six locations with one recently opening in Seattle—its first in the city. What’s more, 43 new gyms opened just in 2017, which was nearly double that of 2016. Overall, indoor rock climbing gyms saw a 10 percent growth, spanning 23 states, according to the Climbing Business Journal.
Still haven’t ascended a vertical wall, standing only on small wedges and rocks, while gripping similarly small objects overhead? It is physically challenging, sure, but it’s also a chance to seriously improve your confidence and perseverance, too. So, it’s about time to strap in and climb on. To convince you exactly why you need to get on the wall, we recruited trainers, climbers, and guides to lay down your route to the top.
Why You Need to Try Rock Climbing
1. You’ll get a full-body workout.
When you think of rock climbing as a workout, you might think of grip and back strength as you pull yourself up. While that’s part of it, it’s not the whole process. “Efficient movement requires an enormous amount of core strength to maintain tension with the wall,” says Emily Varisco, head coach and certified personal trainer at The Cliffs in Long Island City, NY. “With every move made, the core must stabilize the body in an effort to maintain at least three points of contact.”
But your lower-body is just as important while climbing, especially as your arms get fatiqued. “Your legs provide your base of support and when used effectively, take a lot of weight off of the arms by standing rather than pulling from the arms,” Utilizing your legs will allow you to climb longer.
2. You’ll improve your strength, endurance, stability, and power.
That’s a whole lot of training techniques in one workout. You need the strength to move, the endurance to keep going up the wall—no matter how tough it gets—plus the ability to keep yourself steady against the wall and explode up quickly to catch a grip, says Varisco. “A climber will naturally build balance, coordination, breath control, dynamic stability, eye-hand/eye-foot coordination, and they will do so in a disguised form of exercise, which is probably the greatest thing about it,” she says. (Related: The Dynamic Tabata Workout That Improves Your Balance)
3. You’ll build mental strength, too.
Katie Lambert, a free climber with Eddie Bauer, remembers why she fell in love with climbing at summer camp. Along with the physicality of the sport, she could also see her mental game get tougher. “The mental fortitude and belief in oneself seemed like a mind game you could play with varying outcomes,” she says. “Either you try, and you believe [in yourself] and success follows, or you don’t—the results are very tangible.” (Katie is just one of the badass athletes that will make you want to take up rock climbing.)
4. You’ll actually learn more about yourself as a person.
Do you give up when you fall down once or do you keep trying? Do you curse your way to the top or give yourself some words of encouragement? Getting to know all of this is one reason pro climber, Emily Harrington loves the sport. “The process teaches you so much about yourself—your strengths and weakness, insecurities, limitations, and more. It has enabled me to grow a lot as a human throughout my 21 years as a climber,” she says.
5. You’ll improve your mind-body connection.
“Climbing for me provides a really unique mental and physical challenge, whereby you must be able to train your body to be in the best shape possible, but also remember to train your mind,” says Harrington. “The two must work together seamlessly in order to perform well. For me, managing that balance is the most fascinating part of climbing.”
6. You’ll find a quality squad.
Ask any climber one of their favorite aspects of the sport and they’ll say the community. (You basically put your life in someone else’s hands, after all.) “It’s an amazing community to be a part of,” says Caroline George, an alpine climbing guide for Eddie Bauer. “There is a strong sense of belonging and identity. The partners you climb with make or break the climb. So, finding good partners, not necessarily strong, but that you can be yourself with and have a good time with and who are encouraging and positive is what makes the experience unique.”
Lambert (George’s climbing buddy on many expeditions—including one captured in Norway) agrees. “Finding a solid partner that you trust and you can undertake any endeavor with is like gold,” she says. “You depend on your partner for support, for sharing in the work, for safety, and sharing in the overall experience.”
7. You’ll ~finally~ learn how to truly be in the moment.
If you’re not focused, you could easily slip, so it’s a nice exercise in mindfulness. That’s why well-known climber Margo Hayes enjoys scaling the wall so much. “Climbing gives me the time and space to just be,” she says. “Nothing matters in the moment apart from each delicate movement.”
8. You’ll never get bored because there are always more options.
George says the start of each climbing season is the chance for a new beginning—and that’s something everyone should experience. “With climbing, you learn something new every day,” she says. “You need to adapt to each new style, crimp, crack, overhang,” along with rock types like limestone and granite, if you’re outdoors, she says.
9. You’ll bust a big hole through your comfort zone.
There’s always one higher step to take, one steeper climb to attempt. In other words, you can always get to the next level with climbing, and that’s what makes it so physically and mentally beneficial. Climbing is a sport “full of self-empowerment, gratification, and enjoyment with just a little bit of humility thrown in there from time to time,” says Varisco. No matter how tough it is—and how cheesy it sounds—making it to the top of a climb will make you feel like you can do anything, as long as you try. (And just in case you’re still unsure, read up on the many health benefits of trying new things.)