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Indoor climbing is great exercise for just about everyone

Attaining top provides a wonderful thrill for workout's first-timers

Sometimes being active can be truly thrilling, surpassing the "that-was-a-good-workout" feeling and reaching a level of pure excitement.

That's how it felt when I was learning to swim and finally swam a lap across the "scary" deep end of the pool. And that's how it felt when I made it to the top of a 5.11c wall at Vertical World, an indoor climbing gym.

If you haven't tried indoor climbing, you've just got to check it out. My women's running group recently went as a cross-training, expose-yourself-to-something-new workout and we had a blast.

This was my third visit, and while climbing can be a little scary, I've found that it's only as challenging as you choose to make it, and so enjoyable that you don't even think of it as a workout. It is a great anaerobic workout where you'll use your forearms, back, shoulders, legs and those all important core muscles.

Yet, because the climbing walls vary in level of difficulty and because you climb suspended by ropes, which prevent falling — even if you lose your hold on the wall — it's a great activity for any fitness level.

"Many of our most avid climbers originally came in knitting, reading or just warming the benches while waiting for their children to finish a class," explains Vertical World manager Joe Holmes. But classes like, "A Woman's Place Is On Top, Intro to Indoor Climbing, or Climbing Technique," have landed them on walls of their own and into experiences they thought were beyond their reach.

If you've dismissed indoor climbing as beyond your ability, it's probably a good idea to remind yourself that everyone begins somewhere. And when an activity such as this makes that beginning accessible to all levels of fitness, it makes room for more of us to join in on the fun.

You may be thinking that you don't have the muscles and brawn needed for indoor climbing, but think again. As a beginner, a bit of balance, a willingness to learn and the courage to begin are all the muscle you need.

As climbers advance and perfect their technique they find that the more challenging climbs require they also work on core strength, flexibility, endurance and strength, but beginners needn't fret these details.

The nice thing too is that climbing gyms are popping up everywhere and it's easy to find one close to you. Indoor climbing gyms located everywhere from Hawaii to Helsinki can be found by visiting www.indoorclimbing.com. Just think, your very own to-the-top thrill can be as easy as a mouse click and a few good reach and pulls away.


Wellness specialist Eugenie Jones writes for The Sun in Bremerton, Wash., and may be reached by e-mail at eugeniek@comcast.net.