Indoor rock climbing is my new “it” sport. As a daughter of an experienced climber, I’ve always wanted to try it. But it’s not something that I could start nowhere, and in fact I didn’t know how or where. The chance presented itself in Glen Coe, Scotland, at the Ice Factor National Ice Climbing Centre. It’s the home of the biggest indoor ice climbing arena in the world, and the UK’s highest overhanging rock climbing wall. Was there a better place to start this ‘challenge’?
After four hours of intensive indoor rock climbing, ice climbing, and an aerial adventure course, I decided that I quite liked climbing. I mean, I’m not in the best condition to fight gravity (you know the basic physics equation, F=mg), but I liked how my body felt afterwards, and the fact I was so concentrated on one thing. There are places in Seoul to practice rock climbing indoors – they’re not as big or as grand as Scotland’s, but I decided to take advantage of it, registered myself, and am still going strong.
While I was training to be better at climbing, I’ve realized a few valuable lessons that can be applied to life in general. When you are hanging onto a wall by a small lump of fake rock, you tend to think about stuff.
I like trying new things. By trying new things, I learn more about myself little by little. It also always reminds me of a very important life lesson: I don’t need to be, and cannot be, the best at everything.
We’re always told not to be a quitter and to be the best. The world is competitive and titles are so important. We are living in an era where only gold medals are celebrated, not silver or bronze. But I think that message has been misinterpreted over time. “Be the best” means be the best version of yourself, not objectively the best. At least that’s what I believe.
If I start a new activity today, it’s obvious and makes sense that I can’t excel at it straight away. The problem is, I’m not good at not being excellent. I have an urge to be good at everything I do. While I’m learning how to climb properly, I’m training my body and soul to do the best I can, not be the best.
It’s okay not to be an expert, but commitment is necessary to improve: at sports, study, relationships, everything. I registered for the beginner’s month-long class at Art Climbing in Seoul that includes three classes per week. It’s close to where I live, but it’s further than my normal gym.
After two weeks of training, I got my own climbing shoes (expensive!). It’s extra money I don’t really have, but I thought of it as an investment. I learned workout routines that will help grow the necessary muscles for climbing. So far I’ve only missed one class (when I was quite sick), and am learning new skills and workout routines every time.
Commitment is the only way to progress.
Whenever I do something crazy, I always remind myself of the rule of three deep breaths. It’s not always that easy. When your mind and body start panicking, there’s nothing to do except stop and take three deep breaths. Emotions rule the logical brain in challenging situations. It happens to everybody. By breathing deeply three times, the logical brain starts gaining its power back.
Breathing deeply is important to both not get hurt and save energy. During climbing, you have to climb high up the wall, and it’s difficult. Every climbing facility has safety systems, one way or another. They allow you to give up anytime you want. But even if you’re attached to a safety line, it’s important to jump or let go the right way, so that you won’t hurt yourself. If you jump in mid-panic, there’s a high chance that the artificial rocks will bruise parts of your body.
In addition, breathing deep breaths will relax you to hold on to the rocks a bit more naturally. It’s human nature to cling on tightly in scary situations like this. But if you’ve overloaded your shoulders and arms, your arms will be useless the day after. Trust me, I’ve gone through the same thing. If you try to relax, the weight of your body will shift to your legs, which have a lot stronger muscles than your arms.
So, three deep breaths.
Such a cliché, but it couldn’t be truer. What genius said this widely-applicable phrase? Without experiencing trembling limbs (you know that feeling the day after), muscles won’t grow. You have to push your limits every time. When you feel like your hands and arms can’t hoist yourself on the wall anymore, you have to take one more step. There will be calluses and blisters. There will be the day that you can’t press the ‘shift’ key. You’ll hate your body and gravity at least once. But I promise you that the day will come when you can finish the routine. No success comes easily.
When I mentioned my new challenge to people, half of them said, “It doesn’t need any skills, does it? I think it’s pretty easy.” Maybe. We try not to fall, and climb with our hands and feet. It’s not like snowboarding that needs lots of gear and protection.
However, you’ll never understand until you place your feet on the rocks and climb. The techniques, which are mostly our basic instinct, are not that easy to execute. They require us to use muscles that we don’t really think of in day-to-day life. It is damn hard. How it looks doesn’t necessarily mean how it actually is. Don’t jump to conclusions before you really understand it.
When I mentioned my new challenge to people, the other half said, “I’ve always wanted to do that!” It’s quite simple: you CAN do it too.
You CAN do anything you want in your life. You are the one who makes the final decision. At least, you are supposed to. If not, you need to make some changes.