A Rock Climbing Fable for the Ages

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I headed to the rock climbing gym as per usual. We donned our gear, chalked up our hands, and hit the wall. There were a dozen or so new routes in the back corner of the gym, and after a warm up, we headed over to check them out.

If you aren’t familiar with climbing gyms, here’s a little primer on how it works. The easiest routes are rated 5.5. If you’re an adult, these get old quick. The holds are easy and close together. Ratings go up to about 5.14 or so (it gets more complicated than that but it’s all you need to know for now). At my gym, when a new route is set a scorecard is put out and climbers can rate it however they think fit. Eventually, someone takes all the ratings and narrows it down to one rating.

600_434194106A year or so into climbing, I can climb a 5.9 pretty reliably. Once in awhile I meet one that vexes me. I have climbed the occasional 5.10. But this weekend I found myself faced with something interesting. Instead of a bunch of scorecards on the new routes, they were simply marked with colored tape. There were absolutely no ratings to be seen.

We stood before the wall, assessing the new routes. You usually have some idea of whether or not something is within your wheelhouse. But I found myself looking at one route on a sharp corner with lots of tiny little holds thinking, “I can do that.” My boyfriend guessed it might be a 5.11. I decided to throw myself at it anyway.  Continue reading

Kickboxing: The Only Workout I Can Stand

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Flickr Creative Commons, Phicen Kickboxing, Edward Liu

It’s been a while since I kickboxed, but it was, by far, my favorite form of exercise. It’s the only thing that ever got me looking forward to class, and kept me coming back 3 or 4 times per week. Now, I’m thinking about getting back to it again, but all kickboxing classes are not created equal.

There are a few things I really love about kickboxing:

  • I don’t need to do anything else. My favorite class incorporated 15 minutes of ab work at the end of class, after I’d punched and kicked an inanimate bag into submission. Then we would stretch. There was no need for any other kind of work out.
  • I’ve never liked exercising for the sake of exercising. I don’t like to run just to run, or lift weights just to lift weights. But with kickboxing I felt like I was learning to defend myself, which made it feel like more than exercise.
  • I like to hit stuff. Let’s be honest, we all spend a lot of time being more civilized than we might like. I don’t yell at other drivers, or cuss out strangers in parking lots. But hitting stuff is fun!

Continue reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About Hiking

I started reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail earlier this week, and it’s got me thinking about what it really means to be a “hiker.” It seems to me that lately everyone thinks they’re one, including me — but most of us are not.

Earlier this spring I hit the internet and started researching hiking shoes after I slipped on a few rocks in the woods, and anytime I purchase an accessory for an activity it means I’m truly invested. So I started looking into more local trails. There are tons of options, but as you might imagine, wilderness in Connecticut is not always easy to come by and I have a new rule: if you see a stroller or a child under the age of 8 on a trail, it’s not hiking, it’s just a walk.  Continue reading