You might have heard in the news recently that indoor rock climbing will be one of five new sports that will be added to the Olympics at the 2020 games in Tokyo.
Bouldering will be a key part of the event, and is the easiest kind of climbing to get into if you’re new to the sport, with indoor bouldering centres now popping up all over the country.
But what is bouldering exactly?
Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that is done without ropes and harnesses, with crash mats protecting you if you fall. It used to be something done on boulders at the base of cliffs and mountains by rock climbers warming up or training their strength, but has since evolved into a
fully-fledged sport in its own right.
Indoors, the climbs at a bouldering centre are generally only a few moves long, but are set as fiendish puzzles by teams of route-setters using adjustable climbing holds bolted to artificial walls of different angles. These climbs are designed to make you use a combination of balance, technique, strength, and your brain to get from the ground to the top.
The result is a sport which gives your grey matter as much of a workout as your muscles. You don’t need to be really strong to give it a go - brute strength will only get you so far before technique and cunning start to play a big role in how well you do. This makes a bouldering session totally absorbing and a great de-stresser.
It’s also fantastic exercise as you use your legs, arms and particularly your core to stabilise your body and make moves between holds – be they strong and powerful, or subtle and accurate. And because you’re concentrating so hard on figuring out the climb and making the right moves, you often don’t notice how hard a workout you’ve had until you wake up the next morning!
You often get several people working on a tricky climb together, chatting about how they think it
should be done, trying it, failing – and repeating. This means that the chances are you'll end up
talking to a few people you've never met before during any given session, and swapping some tips or tricks. It's really social, and makes for a great friendly vibe.
If you're new to the sport, you'll find that you make big improvements in your climbing ability after only a few sessions, as you use and tone those rarely-used muscles. Breaking into the harder grades takes a bit longer – but by that stage you'll be hooked.
If you live in Bristol you can try bouldering for free at Boulder Brighton. Outside of brighton there are hundreds of bouldering centres so just search on Move GB.