As climbing gets big at the international sports arena (its success in the 2012 World Championships, the Climbing and Paraclimbing World Championships, and its impending inclusion in the program of the Toyko 2020 Olympics), emphasis is being laid on making it a part of regular exercising.
For those who are keen on taking it up, we spoke to the ex-national coach of France and general manager of the FFME (Fédération française de la montagne et de l’escalade, the governing body for French climbing), Pierre Henri Paillasson, to find out more about how to get started with climbing.
Who can try climbing? Are there any age restrictions, or do people have to have a certain level of fitness?
There are no restrictions, and I think that is one of the important points about the sport — anyone can try it. From three years old children can start and really there is no age limit — you can find climbing programs for both babies and seniors.
What are the health benefits of climbing?
Thanks to artificial walls it’s now easier to climb on a more regular basis, so you can use it as your daily workout. It helps to improve strength and uses all your muscles, your back, arms, core. If you like outdoor climbing, getting outside in nature also has its own health benefits.
Is climbing safe?
Security is very important in climbing, and if you don’t follow the correct security measures yes it can be a dangerous sport. However there are many rules to ensure safety and we are very strict about them.
How can people avoid injury when climbing?
Like all other sports you need to do a good warm up. At a high level you need to take care with your fingers, as you put a lot of weight there. But when you are climbing at lower levels and just for leisure, a good warm up is enough to avoid injury.
How can people interested in climbing get started and learn the basics of the sport? Do people need a professional instructor to learn?
You can actually climb alone very quickly, but as safety is important yes, you need a professional to get you started and explain the safety rules to you.
The best way to start is to find a club where there will be professionals on hand to teach you, but many gyms now also have climbing walls where you can pay one of the professionals in the gym.
Do people need to buy any special gear or equipment to get started with climbing?
You don’t need a lot of equipment for climbing. For small bouldering walls, which are 4 meters high, you don’t even need rope. For clothing there are specific shoes but you can start with just regular sports shoes and clothes, for example shorts and a t-shirt.
For bigger walls however, from 10 to 15 meters high, you do need rock shoes and a harness, but clubs will often have these available for you to rent, which is good if you are just starting out.
Once people have learned the basics of climbing how can they progress and make their climb more challenging?
Climbing is immediately a challenge, as you have the challenge of reaching the top of the wall, but there are also different routes you can follow, each with a different grade, that will make your climb more difficult.
Beginners start climbing at grade 3, and you can progress through the routes up to grade 9. After this if you want to push yourself further many clubs and gyms hold competitions for both low and high levels which you can take part in.
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