Since the start of the new year, I’ve been shrugging off my couch potato ways and getting more active. I started by going to the gym a few times a week. Then, I upped it to five times a week. After a while, I was feeling like I wanted to break out of the gym routine and try something new. After I’d seen a friend get her fitness on by climbing, I decided to give bouldering a try.
What: Intro to Bouldering class.
Where: The Minneapolis Bouldering Project, 1433 West River Road N., Mpls.; min neapolisboulderingproject.com; 612-308-2800.
Motto: As Mark Funke, marketing manager for the project, said, “If you can climb a ladder, you should be able to do bouldering.”
C’mon in: The space is very welcoming, with bright colors, high ceilings and an open floor plan, where the people (who also were very welcoming) hung out and chatted in between climbs.
A trial run: I signed up for the 90-minute intro class, which is limited to seven people, so you get personal attention and feel more comfortable exploring the sport. To start the class, we introduced ourselves, and instructor Hillary Waters, who has been bouldering for about 10 years, showed us around the facility, which includes a gym, yoga studio and working spaces. Then our class gathered in a bouldering enclave near the back of the massive gym.
Bouldering back story: According to Waters, bouldering began when climbers wanted a new challenge. Unlike climbing, bouldering doesn’t rely on ropes or harnesses. And it’s not just about just getting to the top, it’s about figuring out how to move your body through an increasingly difficult (and often changing) series of holds.
First things first: Before we started to climb, Waters demonstrated how to fall — landing feet first to absorb the shock, then falling back. Already, I was nervous. And even though the gym was equipped with thick, soft pads designed to protect from injuries, I was worried about hurting myself or, worse, looking stupid.
Still, Waters encouraged me to climb several feet up the wall, which I did. And then I panicked. Waters stuck with me, shouting up encouragements, until I was ready to let go. I fell, hitting the landing mat just like we’d practiced — and my fear of bouldering was gone. I was ready for the next adventure.
Pick a puzzle: For the rest of class, Waters walked us through a few different routes, which are a series of color-coded holds based on difficulty (yellow being the easiest, white being the hardest). Each of us had an opportunity to try a couple of courses (which they refer to as “problems”), including one on which we didn’t use our hands. (I successfully completed it, much to my delight.) Waters taught us that there isn’t one right way to make it through a course, which is part of the joy of the sport.
The class was very physical — reaching, pulling, balancing — but I quickly realized that bouldering is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. I had to think about each move and how it would help me to solve the “problem.”
My take: In just one intro class, I found myself pleasantly surprised at what my body and my mind could do when I put them to the test. I couldn’t help but wonder how I could challenge myself further through bouldering. It was a question I want to answer. And soon.