Bouldercise offers ‘an interesting and quirky alternative to the usual gym workout’ says the press release. Yeah, yeah don’t they all? Hang on though, apparently it tests mental and physical agility. Ok, I’m intrigued – mental agility? Following a circuit doesn’t usually mean thinking too much.
Firstly, if you’ve never been to the Westway Sports Centre, it’s amazing. The modest frontage hides several tennis courts and once you’re led through to it, an eye-poppingly huge climbing area. Check the colour of the ground you’re walking on. If it’s green, you’re fine, but if it’s red it means there’s likely to be someone dangling off a rope somewhere above your head and when they come down, some of them come down pretty fast. The climbing walls are 15 metres high and the two bouldering walls have 350 ‘problems’ – we’ll come to those in a minute. The 20-minute warm up started with alternate repetitions of traversing (climbing sideways) on a wall, multi-directional lunges and some ‘spiderman running’ (bringing your knees up to your chest and then outside your arms in a press up position).
Then it’s onto the boulder wall for 40 minutes. Sticking to holds of the same colour, the idea is to work your way to the top of the four metre wall and back down again, with the insurance of a very thick crash mat underneath you. The route up and down is the ‘problem’: this is where your mind starts to work. It’s almost as intriguing watching how other people find routes as it is to do them. Unused to supporting my weight, my arms went after about four tries so I spent a lot of time watching. To finish off, there is some strength work. Some hanging practice in a hidden room, some downward dogs and ‘mutant’ press ups – basically putting your arms and legs in different places and then lowering up and down. After that it’s pull ups on the bar and a variety of crunches for the core.
The class would be challenging whatever your level of fitness. I’m relatively gym fit and I swim regularly, but climbing is such a different type of exercise. Watching other climbers shows that once you’ve built up the strength, there’s definitely a knack to it. The best of them make it look graceful, sort of swaying over the wall. The most noticeable thing over the next few days was the ache in the underside of my forearms and a noticeable soreness to my hands from all the gripping. All of your limbs get stretched – my hamstrings were complaining too. If you’ve plateaued in your own training or if you’re bored of your regular exercise choice, Bouldercise will prove invigorating.