This month’s Bold Moves Find Balance blog comes from Aimen Chouchane, head of content and product marketing at Catapult, who has discovered a new love for bouldering since the start of the pandemic.
You’re gripping on as tight as you can. Then a little voice tells you that this is all painful and pointless. That there’s no shame in giving up and accepting the inevitable. But a second later you have a word with yourself, discover energy reserves you didn’t know you had and press on.
What is more 2020 than a sport in which you’re constantly in danger of falling off the edge? For the uninitiated, bouldering simply refers to rock climbing without safety ropes. Which means that you’re never too high off the ground, and indoors there are padded floors for safety. Colour-coded holds dictate your route to the top – the colour tells you the difficulty level. With a route (or problem) typically taking anything from a few seconds to a couple of minutes to complete, success relies on combining power and technique, rather than the endurance needed for longer climbs (‘top roping’).
Like many of the best things in life, I fell into it kind of by accident during the summer. I stayed with my sister during the first lockdown and my brother-in-law was already a regular at what has now become our local wall. I had already been doing strength training consistently for a while, so when things opened up again and he suggested I tag along it felt like the kind of challenge I might like.
Apart from the shoes (which are meant to pinch a little), I loved everything about it from the first ascent. It’s a workout for your mind as well as your body. The key to getting to the top is more often about getting the sequence of moves right rather than trying to muscle your way up there.
Like many sports, it demands so much of you in the moment there isn’t any space for other thoughts. And given everything that’s going on right now, that makes it a healthy way to escape for 1-2 hours.
Apart from seeing friends and family, it was the thing I missed most during lockdown 2.0. I never thought I’d mourn not having callouses on my hands or waking up wondering who set my forearms on fire. I watched top climbers on YouTube and studied their technique, visualising myself replicating their precision and dynamism when I returned to the wall.
Needless to say I am glad that the government appears committed to keeping gyms and leisure facilities open as much as possible from now on. I think this is important for our collective mental health, and for me personally my climbing trips offer welcome respite from the WFH routine.
In what has been a tough year personally and professionally I have been trying to stay focused on all the reasons I have to be grateful. I can now add bouldering to that list – a curiosity that has quickly become a passion that I am excited to develop and share no matter what the future has in store.
P.S. if I’ve piqued your interest I’d be happy to share more about my experience and tips on how to get started. Find me here: linkedin.com/in/aimenchouchane or on Instagram @achouchane and Twitter @achouchane