Making the Most of Your Climbing Gym Membership

Find out how to best use your local climbing gym's facilities to your advantage...

By Richard Lievaart

Joining a climbing gym is like joining a family – everyone’s a bit crazy in their own way, and maybe a bit grumpy without some coffee, but we all love each other and we LOVE our climbing. 

Climbing, like any new sport, involves practice to achieve your goals; and the fastest way to get where you want to be is to enjoy a varied, well-rounded training routine that keeps you motivated and (of course) having fun.

Luckily for you, you can find everything you need all under one roof! Climbing gyms offer more than just walls to practice your actual climbing – although each gym is different with its own unique personality and perks, you can expect to find traditional strength/fitness training facilities, a yoga and/or Pilates studio, a coffee shop or bar area, a gear store, and plenty of spots to hang out with your newly-made climbing friends. 

Tim and Wes enjoying a cold-one on the Friends and Allies balcony

So, how do you get the best experience out of your gym? Simple – try everything once, keep it fresh, and don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. For example, on the days that your arms are pumped to jelly  from climbing (which is good – it means you’re getting stronger), jump on a cardio machine and give your legs some work. Or, give your skin a rest and attend a yoga class to stretch yourself out, help your muscles recover, and increase your flexibility – a key element in maximising mobility on the wall. If you’re looking to focus on particular skills or muscle groups, you can spend a day doing targeted strength training and anachronistic exercises.

CityROCK Johannesburg‘s fully equipped fitness gym overlooking the high walls.

All of this together creates a routine that will further grow your strengths while also working on your weaknesses. And the best part? Most gyms will have trainers or coaches available that can help you figure out your perfect routine and demonstrate exercises. Plus, there may be group fitness classes – check out the gym’s website or chat to their staff to find out what’s hip and happening! You might also find an in-house biokineticist and/or physiotherapist at the gym who can help you recover from and prevent injuries.

Of course, the reason you join a climbing gym is for the climbing – so make sure you use this indoor crag to the best of your ability, especially if your primary goal is sending hard outdoors. And remember, the gym is the place to fail and try again – failing is a key ingredient in getting stronger. It’s also a safer environment to push yourself to your limits than the actual crag, PLUS there will be coffee and maybe some gear shopping to soothe your wounds.

If you join a gym that offers both roped climbing and bouldering, you’re in for a special treat because these two come together for a well-balanced training regimen. High-wall climbing is great for growing endurance and figuring out how to pace yourself on a route, while bouldering builds power and trains your beta-reading (and beta-executing) skills.

Bouldering and high-wall climbing at Rock Valley.

If your gym has a gear shop, you’re in for a treat! Not just because, ya know, gear…but also because gear shop staff tend to be passionate adventurers that will always be keen to help you out. Whether it’s finding the perfect tools for your next mission or giving recommendations for great destinations, they’ve got your back. So, say hello and you might even find yourself a new adventure buddy!

Mike showing Harry some of the trad gear at the CityROCK Cape Town Gear Shop.

On that note, the best part of the climbing gym is undoubtedly the people. It’s human nature to want to keep in our own little bubble, but if you take a deep breath and be a little bit brave, the next stranger could turn into a lifelong friend. So, get out there, believe in yourself (cheesy but true) and never, ever forget to have fun.

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All the vibes at a Bloc 11 cocktail party.