Recently, I tried something new.
A new way to sweat. A new way to grow. A new way to build muscle.
A new way to frustrate the living heck out of myself.
My friend Spenser took my husband and me climbing at Climb Tulsa, Tulsa’s only indoor rock climbing gym. I didn’t really know what to expect beforehand and figured how hard could it be? It’s just climbing some pegs, right?
Well essentially, yes, it is. But it also isn’t. Like, at all. Climbing requires INTENSE muscle and mental strength. (Mental strength is maybe the most important of the two, but more on that below.) One very beginner-level climb in and my whole body felt like overcooked spaghetti noodles. Towards the end of that first night, I attempted a more difficult climb (but still very beginner level for those experienced) and ended up flying off and cursing in front of strangers. Oops.
But sitting down over some beers and tacos (which was absolutely a #rightyes at that point) after three hours of climbing and feeling the satisfying exhaustion that only comes from an intense workout, I knew I was hooked. It felt so good to feel muscles aching again that I had completely forgotten about, but also to have found a fitness outlet that I knew was right for me. A few days later my husband and I joined the rock gym and have since been 6 or 7 times (he’s been more than I have because he is an incredibly intense human being with an energy and blind confidence level that the rest of us can only dream of).
During these rock climbing sessions, I’ve realized three things about myself:
- I HATE HATE HATE feeling outside of my comfort zone. And I know this is also the reason my muscles have atrophied into jello. When I feel uncomfortable I generally deal with it by putting on sweat pants and hiding from the world, which also generally includes Netflix binging and bad-for-me food (hello, Trader Joe’s frozen orange chicken).
- When I’m feeling vulnerable, I seriously become a huge jerk. My poor, sweet husband. He gets the brunt of it (side note: rock climbing with a rope takes two people— the climber and the belayer, which is the person on the ground holding the rope to make sure said climber doesn’t fall to the ground and die). So as partners we encourage and communicate with one another (which, by the way, the marriage implications here are endless, LOLZ), but really I find that I basically just verbally lash out at him because I HATE feeling bad at something. It makes me feel less-than and stupid, like there is something intrinsically wrong with me. When I’m feeling uncomfortable I feel like I literally sprout barbed wire to keep people at a distance, and directing hurtful words towards Tyler is a sick form of self-preservation when my sense of security is feeling threatened. I also say very negative things about myself when I’m feeling bad at something. In some weird way I think that if I attack myself first then other people will know I know that I suck, and so it’s like I’m saving myself from them telling me I suck because I’ve beat them to the punch. WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY INSANE AND TOXIC THINKING OMG.
- I have a near-impossible time believing I can accomplish hard things. And with rock-climbing, it’s really mostly mental. Of course it requires strength and muscle building (like, A LOT of it), but you truly have to trust your body to hold you up, do more than you might think it can, and blindly leap and reach for a hold that is just slightly out of reach. My mental resolve when it comes to believing in myself has for whatever reason nearly totally dissolved. If I can’t do something the first time I get so angry with myself and collapse under the mental pressure. Guess what happens when you try and climb with near zero belief in yourself, coupled with the added pressure of telling yourself if you fall you are inadequate compared to everyone else around you? You fall 100% of the time, followed by an assault of damaging, negative self-talk that will paralyze you towards any type of future success.
What does all of this mean? This: I’m most definitely in the right place.
Oh, the lessons to be learned through rock climbing. There are so many metaphors I don’t even know where to start. Leaping before you believe you can. Taking it one small step at a time, one small hold at a time. Celebrating small successes. Letting success build slowly and being ok with slow progress, rather than beating yourself up for not being able to do something perfect right away. Yep, rock climbing is rife with life lessons, and it’s at this point where previously, with other hard things in my life, I would step away and say no thanks before heading straight for the “Are you still watching?” binge button (which, by the way, what a judgy little button that is).
But this year I’m turning 30. That kind of mental un-resolve just won’t fly anymore. I’ve believed and acted immaturely for far too long. Lashing out at someone after you’ve failed is wrong. Directing anger towards people around you when you are feeling vulnerable is very hurtful to others and it is not ok. Taking yourself out of the ring because you are feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable ultimately only robs you of the euphoric revelation that you can complete something hard. And putting pressure on yourself to perform an activity you’ve never done perfectly the first go round is completely insane and unfounded thinking. (“Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle”, I think is how that little tidbit of wiseness goes.)
So, all of that to say, I will stick with rock climbing so I can do something with my husband to build communication through positive and uplifting words. I will stick with rock climbing so I can learn to speak kindness towards myself, and to know that my entire worth and value do not lie in whether or not I can do the hardest climb that day, or even the easiest should I fail that too. And I will stick with rock climbing so one day I can reach the top and realize I’ve done so many hard things that I’ve completely lost count at that point.
Oh, what a day that will be, huh?
Check Out Climb Tulsa’s Website for more info on how you can get to climbing yourself. My husband and I pay $69/month for a two-person pass. Individual passes are $44, and families with three or more start at $84 (additional gear rental is $19/month per person). If you are interested, join soon!! Climb Tulsa will soon be moving from east Tulsa to a brand new midtown facility at 31st and Yale that will also include Yoga classes and weights. Membership rates will increase after the move, but prices WILL NOT change for those who are already members.
Start climbing. Learn some serious life lessons if you are anything like me. And watch those muscles and veins start to pop out to see the sun again.