Learning to Climb

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At Outside the Hustle we are all about getting away from our daily grind. Work weighs you down, and a life of clocking your 40 hours and then vegging out on the sofa is not appealing to anyone. Recently our crew decided to embrace our inner bad ass and venture to the world of indoor rock climbing. I have some friends that climb all of the time and it always looked like something I would enjoy. We have an incredible indoor climbing gym in my neck of the woods, so we had no reason to keep making excuses. We ventured to Threshold Indoor Climbing Gym and decided to see if Chris Sharma was our spirit animal. I was a little intimidated at first glance, the gym was huge and I didn't even know where to start. The staff at Threshold did a phenomenal job getting us comfortable with the auto-belay system so we were quickly climbing on our own. After a couple of visits utilizing the auto-belay system we were hooked.

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We met a staff member who ironically ended up being the owner of the facility. John Tarkington answered some questions we had an he showed us a couple of routes we could take if we went through the top rope class. For lack of a better phrase John looked like a pro climbing up the wall so it was a no brainer for us to go through the class. After the course I tried a similar route and was quickly humbled on how I wasn't anywhere near John's level of climbing. The top rope routes were still more of a rush compared to the auto-belay system, and it also made us look like we legitimately knew what we were doing. If you haven't done something to make you feel like a bad ass lately, rock climbing will definitely do that for you.

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After spending some time in the gym we were interested in getting a behind the scenes look so we met with John to ask him a couple of questions. Ironically he started about 12 years ago with the same mindset we all had; we are fairly strong and we can do plenty of pull-ups so we will just use our strength to get up the wall. This worked well for about 10-15 feet. We are now regular visitors of the gym and while we haven't been able to rock the route John conquered we are getting more comfortable with climbing and it's still a challenge for us. We typically rotate from climbing to bouldering and eventually we BS over a couple of games of ping pong. Check out the rest of our interview with John below. We haven't ventured to the outdoor climbing scene yet, but we have the best resource with my friend April once we go that route. Our next post will highlight her thoughts on the climbing community, recommendations on how to go from indoor climbing to outdoors and how she ventured outside of her daily grind to start living the life she wanted.

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If you are around the OKC area we highly recommend checking Threshold out, whether you are new to the sport or you've conquered 5.15 you'll enjoy spending time there (If you run into John tell him you are one of his neighbors and you want to talk to him about his dogs). If you aren't in our neck of the woods you should still check out local climbing gyms in your area. We are biased towards John and his crew, but you might find something comparable. Lastly, if you are around OKC and you are headed to the gym hit us up and we might join you! 

Tell us how you got involved with climbing:

I started climbing with my wife Sierra, and she was better than me so it was mainly out of frustration that I got into the sport. I got a membership and started to realize it was a lot of fun, a great workout, and I ended up going every day. I started to get more fit and I was making better life decisions. I wasn't going out as much and doing the things that most other 21 or 22 year old guys do. Then I got introduced to the climbing community, everyone is so encouraging, welcoming and passionate, and you get to see them at their best. It's not like any other sport, every one around you watching you climb is bought in and encouraging you up the wall. A lot of that gets you excited and gets you a lot more engaged with the people around you, it's so supportive and all about the community. The competitive part is mostly against yourself. At any point you can look around the gym and you'll see someone climbing at their limit, they might be a beginner but they are going all out. Anybody you hear that is grunting or trying really hard you are going to be really psyched for. 

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Have you tried to create a specific atmosphere? And if so how have you done that?

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We have. Around the country there are only a handful of ground up facilities. The sport is growing and there isn't a "Walmart" of indoor climbing, each gym has it's own certifications and rules. This is a ground up 20,000 foot facility and it's one of the cleanest in the country. I always wanted to do something like this and when I was in business school I first started to envision this. I wrote a business plan for it a while ago. In business school they focused mainly on the ROI and bottom dollar, this gym is more of a labor of love. You aren't going to turn into the next Warren Buffet but I wanted to create a place where people can come hang out, get a workout in and meet new people.

What would you say to someone like me that has never done this before and might think this isn't for them? 

Well, there are people from all walks of life, they've played all kinds of sports. What I can tell you is I've never been involved in a sport that is all encompassing as this. I've played all kinds of sports and this requires fitness, it's physically demanding, there is technique to it, and you have a little bit of the adrenaline rush to it as well. 

There are so many things the body can do if trained in the right way. It's one thing to be strong, but a completely different thing to be strong AND flexible. 

Definitely. You can get a little bit of everything here, you can work your strength, flexibility, mobility and some adrenaline since you're climbing so high. And we have yoga classes which works in well with climbing. Plus you have the community aspect of it where, after you've climbed for a while and you're spent, you can sit on the floor and build relationships with anyone around you that's trying to accomplish something as well. 

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What's the biggest misconception there is about climbing?

Hands down it's that you have to be ultra fit to do this. You don't. People that think they are super strong sometimes can't get off the ground. It's fun to see everyone from all walks of life try to do something new. You are going to have success, you are going to fail at certain things, but it's all about improving. I've been climbing for 12 years and there is still plenty of stuff out here I'm still working to master. I'm always trying to get better. 

Anything else you want to add?

A gym will only be as successful as it is inviting to the people that make it what it is. Hands down it's the community of people and the friendships developed here. We want people to come, get a workout in, get more fit, and encourage others. It's not a normal gym where you don't talk to anyone the whole time. You're gonna talk to someone here, there's no way around it. Everyone should get psyched and come over and try it out!