Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Indoor Rock Climbing Helps My Career

Anyone who knows me well knows I hate taking risks, unless they are very very calculated. I also am not very daring when it comes to sports and hobbies. Oddly, I've always wanted to try indoor rock climbing and finally did last December. It was such a thrill and quite cerebral too.

I didn't really know what to expect and figured I'd either totally love it or totally hate it. I don't have a great fear of heights so I wasn't too concerned about that. I'm pretty petite so I was more concerned about the strength I may not have for it. I think more than anything was any embarrassment I might have in not doing well since it was a group of six and I knew one person only slightly. For those of you that have never done indoor rock climbing, the surprising element to me was how strategic and emotionally, psychologically, and physically challenging it was.

When I first tried it in December, I chose not to go first because I wanted to see other people go to get a better idea of what to expect. When it was my turn and I started to climb, I was surprised at how much I needed to plan my next move. I do this in my job every day and it's one of the elements I love including the problem-solving aspects. Except with rock climbing, my face is only a few inches from the wall and I can't get an objective of where all the rocks are because my vision is so limited. So as I'm hanging on the wall for dear life, I realize for me to use my legs to push me upward I need a rock to stabilize each of my hands. So I know where I want to place my first leg, but I either can't stretch my arm far enough to reach the next rock or I can't see anything because I'm too close to the wall. Sometimes I'll alter where I think my foot should go and I try to reach for a different rock as a Plan B to find it's too small to grasp, or too oddly-shaped to hold onto, or it leads me to a path that has less rocks further along the wall that it's not good to take. And as I scale the wall, I have to make sure I have a rock for each of my four limbs and I have constantly assess my next move and test out rocks as I go.

Quick thinking, short-term, and long-term outlooks, and pacing are essential. However, the longer I take to think through a decision and pick a rock, the more tired I get. And if I don't choose the right rock, I risk swinging wildly from my rope as the entire indoor gym looks on. LOL And so I have pace myself - mentally, emotionally, and physically so I can get in a good climb. There are so many things to think of and keep track of which makes it so fun and challenging. More than anything, rock climbing is a feat of inner power because for first-timers like me, you get to a point where you want to give up.

I just went climbing again this past weekend for the second time. And I had all the same reactions I did the first time. Am I still strong enough to do it? Will I be just as scared? Yes and yes. For me, I've realized I get scared at the same times. It happens when I become too tired and physically exhaust myself from hanging on some rocks and I can't reach my next rock because I'm much shorter than the average person at 5ft tall. It also happens on my first climb of the day when I realize I've scaled more than half the wall and if I freak out mentally at how high I am and for 5 secs I envision I could fall, even though I'm in a harness and safety straps with the best instructor and spotter behind me. I think that's more biological where I fear heights and death. But I remind myself if it was too risky, I wouldn't have willingly chosen to be 2 stories off the ground. So I take a deep breath, calm myself, and my fear goes away.

Inevitably, I'll just get stuck where I can't see any options and I have to yell to my team mates below to help me. They'll point out rocks near my knees or my torso that are hidden from view that I can try. They will yell out strategies on where to place my hands or to grip a rock a certain way or sometimes even with both hands. They will even yell words of encouragement or praise after a difficult maneuver. Except as they're yelling you have to process their verbal commands into action and translating all their yelling in your mind to see visually what they want you to do is added work and stress.

And last, the fear still comes when I've reached the top of the wall and I have to rappel down. Rappelling down is hard because your first instinct is to climb down the wall but you realize it doesn't work. So having to relax your body and only hold onto the rope and jump out and away from the wall all the way down when you can't see behind you and below you as you descend is scary.

By my second climb this past weekend, I was fine. I actually did 5 climbs and some of them were really tricky. I'm glad I didn't get bent out of shape or get caught up in any emotions. I treated each climb as its own beast and had an open attitude full of anticipation each time.

Rock climbing provides a good challenge and stress that I'm not getting at a lot of my temp gigs. It tests me and my stamina to put myself in difficult situations where I don't know the clear cut answer and I have to trust I'll get out of it. I have to push myself to get through the climb and reach the top. And once I come down I have to go back and do it again a couple more times on different paths. It teaches me teamwork and trusting my spotter. And that even when I'm sitting and watching others climb, I should observe their technique, which paths they took, and how we all encourage them to do their best and provide suggestions. Rock climbing makes me a stronger person and gives me a sense of empowerment and accomplishment at the day's end even if I had to get help from friends. I tried, gave it my best, and made it through another exhausting day with my joy of rock climbing still enact. I look forward to my next excursion whenever it may be.

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