The Rising Trend of Indoor Rock Climbing

Everyone is always looking for the latest and greatest activity to keep them active and motivated. One sport that’s been around for decades but has only in the past several years made its way into the mainstream is indoor rock climbing. In fact, the rise of the sport has become so apparent that the IOC voted to include it in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

A Challenging Sport for Everyone

There are two main types of climbing that people pursue. The first is top rope climbing, which is when you are attached to a harness and a rope and climb up very tall walls. This is the type of climbing most people are familiar with and have maybe even done at summer camp or a birthday party.

The other, less familiar type of climbing, is bouldering. Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that takes place on shorter walls (usually 20 feet or less). Because of the height, it doesn’t require harnesses or ropes. You can boulder outside on natural rock or inside at a specialty climbing gym and even some non-specialty gyms.

Why should you try it?

Up until a few years ago, there were only a few specialty climbing gyms in New York City. Now, there are fourteen gyms across the city and more planned in the coming years. It’s not just New York, though, that’s getting in on the trend. A survey done in 2015 showed that they were 381 climbing gyms across the US, a number that has only grown since then.

Rock climbing in any form can be intimidating to anyone who has never tried it before. However, there are so many benefits that come from climbing that I believe everyone should give it a go at least once. 


One of the main benefits of climbing is the community you become a part of. Every time you step into a bouldering gym, you’re stepping into an inclusive, supportive community of people that want you to succeed.

Since there is a lot of downtime between routes, it’s easy to strike up a conversation with the climbers around you. Unlike going to the gym where everyone is listening to their headphones and focused on their next set of reps, climbers like to chat and engage with others. Every route on the wall presents a new problem and climbers rely on others to encourage them and help them figure out harder moves.

Increased Strength

Another great benefit is the physical gains you’ll make. Before I started climbing, I could do one pull-up, if I was lucky. Now, I can do multiple pull-ups in a row and even have some abs again. Studies have shown that bouldering is a great strength training exercise because you use so many muscle groups while climbing. The first couple times you climb, it will be very difficult, but if you stick with it, you’ll feel and look stronger. Climbers aren’t big and bulky people, but they are some of the strongest folks I know.

You won’t get bored

Climbing is also great because every route presents a new challenge, so it never feels repetitive. Most bouldering gyms offer routes for all levels of climbers. Whether you’ve never even climbed a ladder before or you’re basically Tarzan, you’re sure to find routes that challenge and push you. Routes are categorized by the “V” rating system that is standardized across the US, so even if you climb at a new gym, you’ll know that a V0 is an easy climb across the board and a V16 is reserved for the true monkey-human hybrids.

It also requires a lot of concentration and thought, which makes it unique and fun. Climbing is as much mental as it is physical because you’re constantly having to problem solve to move up the wall. Once you’ve mastered one route, there are many more to try. You can move up in rating difficulty and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

And even if you happen to master all the routes in the gym, don’t worry, most gyms switch up the routes every month, or every couple of months, just to keep the challenge alive.

The Downsides

While there are many great benefits to climbing, there are some downsides. Because it is a sport that uses the whole body, if you have any injury at all, it’s inadvisable to climb. Just like most sports, there are risks of injury, but if you know your limits, maintain good techniques and know the safety around it, you can minimize the risks.

Another downside is that while bouldering doesn’t require a lot of equipment, it’s not the cheapest sport. Specialized shoes start at around $70 and only increase from there. And memberships to the gyms usually run around $100/month or more. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it! Often you can find groupons or deals for the climbing gyms in your area and most have shoes to rent for $5/$6. Even if its a treat for you and your friends, after one session you’re sure to be hooked.

Last Word on Bouldering

Bouldering can definitely be hard at times, and when you are a beginner it may feel like a losing battle. However, if you stick with it, bouldering can provide you with an amazing, active community that seeks to build people up. It’s also such a great sport for the winter since many gyms are indoors. So if you need a new, fun activity to build strength, meet some new friends, or just have some fun on a cold weekend, try bouldering.

Here’s a map of all the climbing gyms in the U.S. to get you started. 

For more on how to stay fit and have fun doing it, check out LWOS Life: Health & Fitness.

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