Bouldering – Urban Sport of the Week
Every week we send a member of the Urban Sports Club team to try out a new sport so you can explore what we have to offer and know what to expect. This week we tried out bouldering, the trendy new sport that everyone’s talking about…
What is bouldering?
Bouldering is like rock-climbing but without a rope. The walls are usually no more than five metres high and there are many different routes or ‘problems’ which vary in difficulty. You can boulder indoors or outdoors but the sport as most of us know it is practiced indoors. Boulderklub Kreuzberg was founded in 2015 by Robert Ramirez and Erik Stöpel, two friends who have been a long-standing part of the Berlin bouldering community. The location is unbeatable – right in the heart of Kreuzberg by the Landwehr Canal.
What can you expect?
It’s easy to miss Boulderklub Kreuzberg as it’s tucked away from the road between a coffee shop and a physiotherapist. As I entered, the spacious warehouse opened up into a cafe area, where people were chatting and drinking coffee as house tunes played over the speakers.
A friendly staff member checked us in (I brought a bouldering buddy along with me) and gave us a bag of chalk and shoes which felt about 3 sizes too small. We were reassured this is so that our toes could grip easier. I remember thinking I’ve never had to use my toes to grip before.
As we made our way to the changing room I spotted the climbing walls, each with different-coloured holds or grips. I glimpsed wiry climbers scaling the walls at insane angles. Last week I failed at climbing a ladder in a bar in Berlin so, to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for my bouldering abilities.
How was the workout?
We warmed up with some light shoulder stretches and hip opening exercises. Boulderklub Kreuzberg offer a beginners course but after some research I decided to dive straight in – it looked relatively simple and there were lots of online resources full of tips for beginners.
The various routes on the walls were marked with different coloured tags that told us the level. They go from green (easy) to red (hard). The level of difficulty also varies according to whether the wall itself is at an incline. Some of the ‘easy’ routes were on overhangs almost parallel to the ground which made it, ya know, not very easy.
We started on a green route at a slight incline. On the way up you can only use the green holds, but on the way down you can use any hold you like. The route itself was easy, but when I reached the top I remembered I’m not a big fan of heights. I tried not to look down as I clambered inelegantly back to safety.
I really enjoyed the social aspect of bouldering. As my friend and I tried more challenging routes we were constantly communicating to help each other out. Other boulderers (perhaps sensing we were new) helped us by giving advice and tips on technique. Everyone was very open and friendly and I could send the community of the sport.
Soon we felt confident enough to tackle some of the overhang routes. This was when the real workout kicked in. I had to use my entire body, fingers, toes, arms, legs, core to keep my balance as I climbed. On top of this I needed to use my logic to find the best route. After about an hour I felt like I’d given my brain a workout as well as my body and felt a real sense of achievement.
How did I feel after?
I felt mentally exhilarated and totally de-stressed — I hadn’t spent any time thinking about every-day worries as my brain had been busy climbing walls. I also felt physically exhausted. I’d had to use my entire body to keep my balance and pull myself up. The following days my arms bore the brunt of the workout and I was proud to find tiny blisters on the palms of my hands – just like a real climber.
Health benefits of bouldering
It truly is a full-body workout, from your fingers to your toes, and you use core strength to push your body into positions it would never usually be in.
Bouldering gets your heart-rate up, accelerating cardiovascular fitness and boosting your metabolism It’s a fantastic stress-reliever and highly meditative. You’re so distracted while bouldering, you stop worrying about every-day stuff It’s problem-solving, like exercise for your brain.
There’s a wonderful community and social aspect to bouldering – people are keen to help you and share tips and techniques. There’s no limit to what you can achieve – new routes are added constantly and you can even move on to bouldering outdoors, an excellent summer activity to do with friends.
Don’t forget to bring…
Water and a can-do attitude; most boulder clubs will have shoes and chalk available to hire. Lots of people boulder in jeans and t-shirts, so you don’t need to worry too much about appropriate workout gear.
USC has many bouldering partners across Germany and France. To discover one in your area take a look at our Bouldering and rock-climbing partners.