Photo by Chris Casella

Get a Grip

Looking up at a rock climbing wall, you might not be able to see the sport’s potential at first glance. You might not know about the nearly full-body workout you could get yourself into should you decide to slip on a harness. You also might not realize the work your brain is about to do, or how relaxing the climb can be.

But for a couple gym owners in town, that’s the beauty of the sport.

People don’t realize the mental focus necessary in climbing or its de-stressing potential, said Carrie Roccos, vice president of memberships and group bookings at Vertical Adventures. “When you’re rock climbing, you’re so focused on rock climbing that you can’t see anything else,” she said.

Tony Reynaldo, owner of Kinetic Climbing and Fitness, agreed.

“The energy of climbing is so intoxicating,” he said. “It literally is addicting. And for people who like the rush of pushing themselves a little bit in a way that is physical but also mental, this is a great sport for them.”

Reynaldo said climbing gives him “this awesome adrenaline that’s hard to explain until you do it.”

He particularly enjoys that climbing requires you to think on your feet.

“So with a lot of climbers, what they like about the sport is that aspect of success/failure. You want to have more successes than failures otherwise all you do is get beat down,” Reynaldo said, “but it takes a lot of failures to have those successes, and when you do get them they’re way more rewarding.”

Along with the mental aspect of the sport, Roccos emphasized that climbing is beneficial for almost the entire body.

“It doesn’t really work your chest, but it is a lot of your body: it’s your legs, it’s your arms, it’s your cardiovascular system and your brain,” she said. “Your back gets stronger, your arms are stronger; it’s definitely a huge core workout.”

Vertical Adventures provides other workout equipment to combat the fact that climbing in and of itself doesn’t provide a chest workout, and it offers classes to help beginners get off the ground.

To become a better climber as you push yourself to progress in the sport, Roccos had some simple words of advice: “The best way to get better at climbing is to climb.”

“The energy of climbing is so intoxicating. It literally is addicting. And for people who like the rush of pushing themselves a little bit in a way that is physical but also mental, this is a great sport for them.”

Of course, gravity provides one of the biggest barriers to reaching your potential on any given climb, as well as in the learning curve of the sport.

“You always are aware of gravity. So the climbing part of it is, ‘How do you win against gravity,’” Reynaldo said. “So it’s like a chess game. And sometimes it kicks you in the ass, and you’re sitting on your butt going, ‘OK, well that didn’t work,’ and that’s part of it.”

Both gyms have either already expanded or are in the process of doing so, as climbing becomes more popular in Columbus and around the country. Through any changes, Reynaldo said he likes to keep one thing constant: a sense of community.

Roccos said as the sport expands in popularity, she sees people realize its fitness potential.

“It’s always been popular among a certain group of people who like to be outdoors and were actually rock climbers. But now people have figured it’s a good way just in general to stay in shape,” she said. “It’s not super cardio so it’s not the best weight-loss sport necessarily, but it’s motivating for weight-loss because the less of you that you have to haul up the wall, the happier you’ll be.”