Rock climbing is more than reaching new heights and witnessing beautiful views, says Dallas-area physical therapist Snezhana Rudakova. It is also an entire body workout with foundational benefits for both the body and mind.
“It truly is all-encompassing,” said Rudakova, physical therapist at Allen Sports & SpineCare (a Vista Rehab Partners clinic) in Allen. “There is a physical aspect that any time you are on the wall, you are building strength. And strength can be divided into power, endurance, control and even balance. You learn about your body.”
More than 4.5 million people in America participate in sport climbing, indoor climbing or bouldering, making climbing the seventieth most popular activity in 2015, according to the Physical Activity Council.
A climber for 10 years, Rudakova taps into her firsthand experience, as well as her professional experience as a physical therapist, to describe how the sport of climbing inherently provides participants with thorough, full-body (and mind) workouts.
A full-body experience. The beautiful thing about rock climbing, says Rudakova, is that every part of the body works in tandem. The sport engages the shoulders, arms, fingers, legs, and the entire core. It gets the heart pumping for an efficient cardio workout while also challenging one’s balance and flexibility.
“When you think about it from an orthopedic perspective, there is a lot of balancing and strength training and movements,” Rudakova said. “Orthopedics plays a big role if you are really thinking of getting into rock climbing consistently and you want to build a strong foundation.”
Finesse and explosiveness. Climbing is akin to a dance, Rudakova says, as one must progress in static, slow, or even explosively movements, depending on what the route requires. Certain pushing or resistance rotation exercises can help strengthen parts of the body that take on a lot of responsibility during a climb.
Growth of mind. Learning and developing mental strength is an integral part of climbing – and general fitness – as climbers often face the challenges of fear and personal doubts. It can be a positive experience because it raises self-confidence, Rudakova says.
“Every day, you have this ability to challenge what your personal fear is, and grow mentally,” she said.
Creating community. A special and welcoming camaraderie exists in the world of climbing that begins the first time participants walk through the gym door or visit a new climbing location. Rudakova says climbers are laid back, often help one another by offering beta (information about a climbing route), and join together for events and climbs.
“There is a camaraderie in the climbing world because on a day-to-day basis, you are not competing against your peers. You are competing against yourself,” Rudakova says. “There is no pressure that I need to be better than this person. It is a great community.”
For those considering their first trek up a climbing wall, just as when starting any other physical activity, it may be a good idea for those with any health or fitness concerns to first consider getting a functional movement screening through their physical therapist. Through such a check-up, a physical therapist can identify and address such issues related to strength, balance, flexibility, etc., ensuring a novice’s first climbing experience is both safe and fulfilling.