Whether you're a beginner or a hard core expert, anyone can reap the health and mental benefits of rock climbing. This is especially true for high school and middle school students. Rock climbing prevents a fun physical activity that is easy to get involved with and pushes them outside of their comfort zone to make friends and learn new skills.
You may surprised by all the aspects of teenage development that rock climbing can augment when it is added to a structured school program.
1. Climbing Improves Flexibility
If you've ever seen someone stemming up a climb (that's when your legs are fairly wide spread to support yourself) you have an appreciation for how important flexibility is in learning to rock climb. As climbs become more difficult sometimes the only way to make a few of the more tricky moves is to work on your flexibility. Stretch before and after normal exercise and give beginner yoga a try if you're looking to up your flexibility (and therefore your climbing).
Even if you don't work on becoming more flexible directly, climb tends to gradually loosen you up. Challenging moves can push you to your limit before you realize though so make sure to stretch before you climb to avoid injuries.
2. A Positive, Healthy Community
Rock climbing is mostly seen as an individual sport but unless you hit only the self belays at the gym, you need other people involved. Because you need other folks to get through climbs it forces you to make friendships even if you're a normally introverted person. The love and sometimes the inherent danger of climbing causes you to naturally form close relationships with your climbing partners and that is essential to any happy lifestyle.
On top of the health benefits of the sport itself, climbing a lot gets you involved in a group of like minded people. And climbing friends are good for your health! Climbers tend to have healthier lifestyle habits and are all around friendly and supportive people. You might find yourself getting involved in other outdoor activities that get you in shape through your climbing buddies. Often there's overlap between climbers and other outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, water sports, etc.
3. Rock Climbing Gets Teenagers Outside
Climbing outside adds on even more health benefits. Some climbing areas have long approaches and even the mild ones get your blood pumping on the trail. Spending time outside exposes high school students to the local trail system and gives them an appreciation for the outdoors they will take with them throughout their adult years.
Though there is a lot to learn about climbing inside first, a climbing program wouldn't be complete without getting the beginner climbers outside. Or if the school doesn't have the resources for a climbing trip, teenagers can seek out climbing guides in their area to help guide them on their first few trips. Most climbers are happy to share their expertise and show newcomers the way.
Climbing with gear can require more expense and expertise than minors are ready for. In that case bouldering is a great option for many young adults. With just a crash pad or two and some safety knowledge they can explore together and find some challenging boulder problems.
4. Rock Climbing Builds Physical Endurance
Climbing requires lifting your body weight over and over again. So long climbs build up endurance. You use smaller muscle groups in your hands and arms than most people and end up really developing strength there. In order to conquer them you learn how to rest when you can and your muscles have to be able to recover quickly so you can keep moving.
If you are looking to improve your endurance through climbing, spend as much time on the wall as possible. See how long you can go without touching the ground. It doesn't have to be on routes that are at the peak of your performance but you should be climbing just under that so you can focus on pushing yourself for longer. Try to maintain good form as you get more and more tired so next time you're on a grueling climb good form will come naturally.
5. And Mental Endurance!
Nothing requires mental control like climbing way above your last piece of pro and maintaining your cool. Rock climbing is a notoriously mentally tough sport. It requires tons of focus and determination to make it up each climb. There is obviously a very important physical aspect of climbing but the mental aspect is often even more important.
To improve mental endurance and determination young climbers can try focusing on a project that is a grade above your normal climbing difficulty. Or pick a project that requires a different climbing style than what they are used to. Either of these approaches will force them to think of their climbing style differently and try new approaches to get to the top.
Share Your Thoughts on Climbing Programs in High Schools
What do you think about using climbing as a means to get students more active? What physical activity do you do to improve your climbing?
© 2016 Katy Medium