The freedom of rock climbing
This weekend, as well as a bit of ‘jamama time’, I took my seven-year-old son to do one of the few activities we both enjoy equally: indoor climbing. This is a relatively new pursuit for both of us, and one that definitely makes my list of mindful activities to continue with.
Nobody could be more surprised than me that one of the places I now actively choose to spend some leisure time is a multi-coloured fake rock face. I definitely don’t consider myself either sporty or particularly fit (though I am trying to address those things!), with the exception of an established passion for yoga (much more of that to come).
But there’s something about the act of trying to climb from floor to (close to) ceiling with just your own strength, willpower and ingenuity that has got me totally hooked. As well as being a full-body workout, as evidenced by my post-climb potato cravings and sore wrists and abs, it engages the mind enough to truly allow you to switch off. When you’re trying not to lose your grip on the wall, there’s no headspace for worrying about that work issue or awkward conversation you might otherwise be obsessing over; you’re truly living in the moment. And the sense of achievement when you get to the summit of a wall is a real mental boost.
In common with yoga, the kind of session I have on the wall is different every time, and really makes me reflect mindfully later on. About my attitude to the climbs, how I felt about the successes and failures, and what areas of my fitness, agility and flexibility were ok or need more work. Every wall is different, and sometimes the challenge is that you need to be able to get your knee to your armpit to get past a certain point (also requiring insane abdominal strength!), sometimes it’s that you have to either be able to cling on with your fingertips or move fast enough that you can get past an area with no decent hand-holds; still others it's the mental challenge of planning your route.
Another appeal of climbing for me is that it gives me precious one-to-one time with my oldest child, which is always in short supply; on the rare occasions that we can escape together and do this it’s always a treat for us both. I think there’s also a sort of raw cave-mama appeal to trying to improve my climbing; we live in a world where we (usually) no longer need to run, fight or otherwise physically defend our children from predators or danger, but somewhere in there is a part of me that thinks I ought to be able to. Were that ever to be the case, however, it would more likely be him protecting me as I’m usually left for dust while he expertly shimmies up a wall I haven’t yet mastered, calling down ‘just watch me Mummy ok? Then you can see how to do it!’
Thanks, son, I only wish it was as simple as that. But I’ll keep trying.