It was always the same, I’d lift a piece of furniture, pick up one of many adorable nieces to play “Airplane,” or spend an extra three hours sitting in front of my computer in order to make a deadline and then… Pain. Tingling, pulsating, stabbing aggravating pain would overcome my lower back. A car accident displaced a few discs about ten years ago, and after years of physical therapy and three surgeries it was still affecting my ability to be active, social, and, most importantly, the best aunt in the world.
I started rock climbing in college without any purpose in mind. I enjoy the adrenaline and challenge that comes with climbing on the side of cliffs and walls, being outdoors and connecting with cool people. Little did I know I was building up the strength and flexibility I needed to support my lower back and keep it from acting out on a monthly basis.
I noticed the difference within a month, and not just while climbing. I could feel increased stability and improved posture in my core as I walked to class, or went on a run. I could pick up both of my nieces at a time without a thought. I felt strong, empowered and I really liked it. I never enjoyed the mundane practice of lifting weights on my own at the gym and yoga didn’t quite provide enough of what I needed, but in this activity I found something that both excited and challenged me.
Rock climbing isn’t just about getting from Point A to Point B. It’s about control, strategy, and trusting your body. The focus is less about getting to the end and more on how you are using your body in the most efficient way to get there, fighting gravity and bad habits that naturally tell you to do otherwise. It becomes a mantra: bend your knee to the right, press your toe into the corner of the hold, relax your arms, release your weight onto your legs; it’s all about using your body properly, the way it was meant to function.
I was meant to have a back that can support my body. Since I don’t, it’s all about supplementing everything else that works properly so I can do what I love. There is no other sport that more clearly outlines the end-goal and the feeling you get when accomplishing a clean route.
I frequent the Portland Rock Gym located in NE Portland off of Burnside and for a good power/technical workout go bouldering at The Circuit in SW off of Macadam or the one in NE off of Sandy. If you are looking to try something new while strengthening your body and mind, take a risk and start your climb!