This week I was invited to Seymour Leisure Centre in Marylebone to take part in their Rock Climbing class and I must admit I was a little apprehensive about taking on this challenge.
I have tried Rock Climbing twice in my life. The first time was when I went on a school trip to Osmington Bay at the age of 11. The instructors in that class were kind enough to let us try climbing up the wall and abseiling down in succession as we all watched each other. Being fat and massively scared of heights, I managed to climb half way up the 10 metre wall in about 15 minutes, refused to abseil down and then just sort of bounced and flopped against the wall as the teacher lowered me to the ground.
I thought my Rock Climbing days were over but then at university as I was going through a ‘who am I?’ phase, I decided to take up the sport again. At this time in my life, I was also a member of the Liverpool Snowriders (I can’t snowboard) and the Rowing Club (I can’t swim). In hindsight I can see how my stint as a Rock Climber was always going to end, but I am a tryer, so I went to class. This time the wall was 10 metres high but on top of a balcony with a 7 metre drop. I was even more unfit at university and still hugely scared of heights. On this occasion, I didn’t have enough upper body strength to raise myself of the ground, so the fella controlling my rope decided to heave me up. In more of a display of strength from him, rather than anything at all from me, I was raised half way and lowered down again. Like a sack of spuds, with a harness wedgey.
I genuinely thought I would never Rock Climb again, but having visited the guys at Seymour Leisure Centre, I think I may take it up as a hobby.
The wall at Seymour Climbing is 12 metres high. It is the tallest wall in Zone 1 and quite daunting when you view it (for a novice like me at least). However, as soon as I met the Senior Climbing Instructor Mike, I was put at ease. The session started with a fun warm up, followed by detailed safety instructions. I think my fear of heights and of repeating past climbing horrors was showing on my face because Mike was unbelievably encouraging. That said, thinking about the people I met at Seymour Climbing, encouragement seems to be second nature amongst participants in this sport.
I was taught how to secure my harness, tie the rope and the correct climbing technique. Then it was time to climb.
I was at the bottom of the wall. I was prepared. I was ready. This was my moment to change my fate, to become the climber I always thought I could be.
Up I climb. One step after another. One step, two steps, three steps and then ‘Mike, that’s it, I want to come down’. Slowly I abseiled/was lowered to the ground. The wall had beaten me again. However, it hadn’t beaten Mike. He looked me in the eye and challenged me to reach the top, to believe in myself and to beat my fear.
His enthusiasm was contagious….so I tried again.
One step, two step, three step…..four steps, five……I was climbing higher and higher. I wasn’t a sack of spuds anymore, I was a climber and I was about to reach the top. Drained by what I can only imagine was altitude sickness, I touched the top of the wall. I did it. I had achieved what 15 years worth of experience had told me I couldn’t and that is thanks to Mike and the atmosphere that the team have going on at Seymour Climbing.
I would encourage anyone reading this to give Rock Climbing at Seymour Leisure Centre a try. There is a fabulous community of climbers there who support each other and want to see each other do well. I got to see this first hand when I was climbing and I was also lucky enough to see a fellow climber beat the hardest route to reach the top with the encouragement of those watching. It truly is a great place, with a great team and is a genuinely engaging and fun activity to try, regardless of age, ability or previous experience.
If you want to get involved, why not book in for their RockStart Instructed Sessions, (Monday & Tuesday, 18.45-20.00, £16.00. Sunday, 10.00-11.30, £22.00)
Once you are safety qualified you can then attend the Adult RockClub, (Wednesday, 19.00-21.00, £8.50), I am told this where the real challenge and fun begins.
Rock Climbing isn’t just a fitness class. Rock Climbing is a community, a place to make friends, to push your limits and without doubt get fit. To find out more visit Seymour Climbing on Facebook.
Thanks to everyone at Seymour Leisure Centre, I am sure I will see you again soon.