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New Year, New Challenges

Posted by Vanessa Pugliese on

Sticking to things is difficult, I know. I was the poster child for doing anything involving low to no commitment. When I was introduced to climbing last December (I can’t believe it’s been an entire year already!) I was skeptical and really only looking forward to trying out the new coffee shop near the bouldering gym. BUT, I decided to put on my workout gear and give this climbing thing a go.

Reflecting on how far I’ve come along, I still can’t believe how easily frustrated I grew when bouldering for the first time. Rather than being kind to myself for embracing something new, I immediately began to compare my skill level to everyone around me (and trust me, climbing with a sudden onset of performance anxiety is NO fun).

Rope climbing and bouldering are both excellent core activities that keeps you both mentally and physically challenged. I personally love bouldering because it involves ropeless climbs up large boulders or walls (if you’re indoor), allowing me the freedom to travel in any direction. The sport is pretty light on equipment, as you only really need a chalk bag and climbing shoes. If you’re climbing outdoors, you’ll really need a landing mat so you don’t hurt yourself when you land!

Indoor bouldering gyms will set routes, which contain either/or a colour and scale system to follow (my gym at Brooklyn Boulders uses a typical Hueco V-scale) based on levels of difficulty. The different levels contain various “hold” styles, where some are easier to hang onto while others involve much more technique. And boy, did I need to work on that technique.

To my surprise, I quickly fell in love with the sport. Leaving my community in West Virginia and moving to the busy city of New York, I gained a cultural experience, but unfortunately also a good supply of anxiety to keep my mind going even when my body was trying to rest. After climbing, I realized my mind had quieted itself while I remained focus for the entire two hours. If you watch videos of great climbers, you notice their slow, agile movements.

Climbing became a diagnosis of how I was doing mentally. While adjusting to the city life, I felt antsy and continually on my guard. When first climbing, I was sloppy and just trying to make my way to the top of the wall as quickly as possible. I’m pretty sure I held my breath most of the time.

As I check in on my body and mind after a year of bouldering, I see how I’ve grown in both areas. I take deeper, longer breaths, I plan ahead of time (in and out of the gym), I’m more mindful of what I’m eating. And more importantly, I take time to appreciate each step without pressuring myself to reach the top.

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