Working out is boring.
Running, lifting objects, or going to yoga classes are all fine ways to get a sweat on and burn the odd hundred calories, but no matter how much you like the endorphin rush, these activities can get monotonous and stale. While the point of a workout is not necessarily to enjoy yourself, anyone who has abandoned a spin class after completing the first run of complementary classes will agree that there’s less keeping you going back to a workout if it’s a slog. This sort of explains the appeal of CrossFit: strict activity regimens and a cultish attitude turn plain ol’ push-ups into a game.
If you’re a workout doofus like me who can’t stick with a monastic daily routine of forcing yourself to do something that bores the life out of you, rock climbing, and more specifically, bouldering, is the solution to all that ails you.
At first, bouldering will destroy you. The seemingly comfortable neon “rocks” will shred your silken hands and strain your forearms to the point that you will be unable to use a pencil the next day. Good. This is the point.
You might consider the kaleidoscopic wall and make the mistake of thinking it’s all easy and conquerable, but as soon as you hop on, you’ll quickly be disabused of that notion. The difficulty rating system of bouldering problems ranges from V0 to V12, and a physically stronger climber with no experience won’t simply be able to step up and bomb through even a V2. Bouldering is a sport that requires precision to solve any problem. Most first-timers will try to muscle through everything with their arms before realizing that scaling a wall, a brutally simple proposition, takes balance, footwork, and a strategic use of every hand and foot hold available to you. Strength is just one factor.
This is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of bouldering. I am a wiry doofus more built for cycling or running than climbing, but with a few months of falling a lot and occasionally crushing it, I can comfortably handle V4s. My butter-soft millennial pod hands quickly turned into callused millennial pod hands, and I’m now a slightly less wiry idiot. Bouldering works most of your body, and you can’t overcome a range of problems without using your legs, core, and arms. Some problems benefit those with pterodactyl wingspans, some require pure muscle, and some test your balance. There’s something for everyone.
I don’t know if I would have continued through the adjustment period (it takes about three weeks to get your hands and forearms completely comfortable with a few hours of climbing four times a week or so) had bouldering not been so mentally engaging. Any worthwhile problem takes a bit of careful study and planning. Once you move past V0s and V1s, even the simplest looking courses will require you to move past a segment without an easy foothold, or ask you to switch your feet a few times. This is the best part! No longer getting your ass kicked, you have to plan and scheme to overcome progressively harder problems. It becomes a puzzle to be solved in two parts, first with your brain then with your body.
In three short years, bouldering will be an Olympic sport, and casual fans will get to see world-class climbers like teenage genius Ashima Shiraishi crush navigate impossible courses. As a spectator sport, it’s engaging and tense, especially when two climbers compete on identical problems side by side. But you don’t have to wait three years to get into it. Go find the nearest gym with a rock wall and begin your journey toward becoming your brainiest, brawniest, and best self.