With the addition of climbing in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, climbing gyms and vertical fitness studios such as Fitwall are sure to continue increasing in popularity!
With this in mind, I went to visit the VITAL climbing gym in Oceanside, CA, on a Friday evening. The gym was buzzing with youth and 20-30 year-olds scaling artificial boulders which were fitted with brightly colored hand and footholds. There were also long curtains for climbing and acrobatics called “silks.” These are climbed swiftly by teenagers and their parents alike.
Since all climbers risk falling, and in bouldering it is inevitable, all climbing areas had thick, padded flooring for safety.
Off to one corner was a workout area with dumbbells,Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX) equipment and gymnastic rings. The upstairs area has cardio equipment and a big room for yoga and handstand classes. Cross training is the name of the game here, as climbing requires not only strength but flexibility.
Near the entrance is a large area for social gathering, with a couch, stools and a kombucha bar. The atmosphere was great: clearly climbing is a social and physical activity. You can climb, take a break, observe other climbers and carry on a conversation most of the time.
I took an aerial silks class, where I was completely outdone by youth who fearlessly climbed up and down and did all kinds of tricks and turns. I was impressed and watched more than I participated.
Next I took the upstairs handstand class, where men and women learn preparatory stretches for wrists and hips in order to finish in handstand. Both classes were enjoyable - I received clear instruction and adequate help was offered.
At the end of the evening, I didn't feel in a hurry to leave. I left wanting to hang out, watch and simply enjoying the feel and culture of the place a bit more.