While the headline to this post might indicate that I’ve previously branded climbing ‘uncool’, that’s not strictly true. I have always been in awe of the monkey-limbed of the world. On the three occasions I’ve tried indoor climbing , I’ve stood spellbound as the regulars swing from a single hand (or finger. Am I exaggerating? I’m not sure), as they scale terrifying heights. Still there’s no denying that most climbing centres traditionally come with a hefty dose of scuffed paint, naff outfits and…well…nerds.
But not anymore. Clip ‘n Climb is a franchise of climbing centres that originated in New Zealand in 2005, with the first London one having opened in Chelsea this year (other locations include Exeter, Bournemouth and Belfast). Like big kids’ playgrounds, they come with differently designed walls – Tetris bricks, Packman designs, metallic pipes – each with a light-up button to hit when you reach the top. Jazzy. They also have automatic belays (you clip yourself onto one and it supports you if you fall and when you abseil down) so you can quickly clip-and-go without the need for a climbing buddy.
Now, Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea have launched Climbercise – the first hiit-based fitness class that incorporates scaling walls – which I got to try out this week.
At the class, you’re thrown into the deep end, as it starts with everyone climbing a wall against a timer, then abseiling down (with no discussion of how one might approach such a feat). I found this bit seriously scary as you have to push yourself off the wall and it takes a moment for the belay to kick in and catch your weight, in which time I’d accepted death was imminent. I felt a bit shaky after the first few tries. But I quickly got used to it (and others in the group didn’t seem phased at all. Show offs).
Once we’d got our wall legs, the class ‘proper’ started. We began by jogging round the room and when a buzzer sounded we had to run to a wall, clip on, and race to be the first to reach the top. (Needless to say, I wasn’t). Next, we partnered up and while one person climbed the other did exercises, such as sprints, squats, push-ups and lunges. This put serious pressure on you to climb fast to relieve your partner, who was silently cursing you from below.
By the end I was a shaking, sweaty, fumbling mess – but pretty proud of how far out of my comfort zone I’d pushed. The good thing about the pace of the class is that it gives you no time to overindulge your nerves about climbing a wall, you just have to damn well get on and do it. And the other plus is the social element. I buddied up with fellow blogger Jen Slater who I’d never met before. But her having to clip and unclip me pretty much every time because I was too incompetent to do it myself, was a wonderful…errr….bonding experience. She might well beg to differ 😉
If you’re scared of heights or hard work, stay firmly away. But if you’re up for challenging your brain and body in a new workout that feels more like play, this is for you.
VITALS: Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea also offer straightforward climbing, one-on-one lessons, and yoga-climb sessions (60 mins yoga, 30 mins climbing), clipnclimbchelsea.co.uk, @cncchelsea