Climbing is often thought of as an extreme sport. Tracy Hickey, owner and manager of the Inner Strength Rock Gym, claims that is just a stereotype.
The Inner Strength Rock Gym, 3713 S. Mason St., is trying to change the perspective that climbing is only for fearless, extreme individuals by offering climbing classes and making the sport accessible to as many people as possible.
There are many positive aspects that attract individuals to climbing. Hickey said one of the reasons climbing is so popular is the fact the sport is a mental game, not just a physical one.
"Each route is like a puzzle," Hickey said. "A lot of times when you are doing the route, you don't realize how physical it is because you are focusing so much on what you need to do."
The mental challenges faced when climbing are something that a lot of other sports don't offer.
Although climbing is more of a mind game than many people think, participants still need to be in top physical condition. Hickey said there is a misconception that climbing takes a ton of upper body strength, when in actuality climbing is a workout for every part of the body.
"As far as physical activity, people who climb a lot have awesome bodies because you are lifting your body weight," Hickey said. "It's not just upper body; it's a full body workout. Your abs, you legs your butt – everything."
With indoor rock climbing, people at two different skill levels can climb together and both be pushing themselves. Inner Strength offers climbs that are easy, like going up a ladder, to routes that are very challenging all in the same facility.
"People with different skill levels can participate together and both get a work out in at their level. It's not like if you go running with a marathon runner and you are a recreational runner," Hickey said.
For students climbing can be a time to relax and take their mind off whatever is going on.
Nicole Skrivanie, junior liberal arts major, said there is no better way to spend an afternoon than climbing.
"It's a great break from classes. If I'm stressed out I just come out here and climb," Skrivanie said. "When I'm out here I'm just thinking about where I'm putting my hand and my feet. I'm not thinking about that test I have tomorrow. It is nice, I just love it."
Developing your climbing skills at a gym is a great way to learn and improve in a safe environment. However, even veteran indoor climbers, can still struggle when trying to take the sport outside. Hickey said there are a lot of techniques and practices people need to know in order to climb outside that are not necessary to know when climbing in a gym.
"We compare climbing to skiing. Indoor and outdoor climbing are different elements of the same sport," Hickey said. "Just like water skiing and snow skiing are different elements of the same sport."
The Inner Strength gym offers climbing classes for beginners who want some direction. The class covers the basics of rock climbing including knots, belaying and movement techniques. For beginners who want to try climbing without the class, the gym offers a short instruction on belaying and knot tying. Hickey pointed out that individuals don't need to know anything about climbing when they come through the door. The gym has the resources to get anyone climbing, including rental gear.
For students the gym offers a semester-long membership for $100. The membership is good on restricted hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. This cost includes the use of the gym's harnesses and belaying equipment.
"That is a great deal for someone who is just getting started, and afternoons are slower so it is good if you want to come in where there are not a lot of people," Hickey said.
Another good opportunity to try climbing is every Friday when the gym offers half price admission.
Hickey said everyone should at least try climbing; people never know if they will like it.
"It's not for everybody, but mountain biking is not for everybody and snow skiing is not for everybody," Hickey said. "It's a good thing to try out, some people love it."