The best way to get started is to go to your nearest indoor climbing wall. These days I don’t imagine there’s anyone in the UK who lives so far from a wall that they can’t get to one, and most indoor centres usually offer introductory days so you can learn the basics of climbing.
When some people start climbing they cling to that cliché that you shouldn’t look down, but it’s quite important to glance down to decide where to put your feet. It’s also essential to communicate with your belayer to let them know if the rope is too tight or too loose, or if you’re about to fall.
Climbing is a brilliant strength workout. Over longer climbs you can work on your stamina, while shorter climbs are all about power. You need to concentrate on manoeuvres while you climb, which will help you build problem-solving skills. It’s also incredibly therapeutic, even relaxing, because you don’t have time to think about anything except your next move.
The element of risk makes for a rewarding experience and I find it a lot more fun than lifting weights. It’s social, especially in the big cities. There's a lot of downtime when you’re the belayer, so – like the gym – it’s a great place to meet people. And it might even inspire you to take on the thrill and adventure of outdoor climbing.
Technique is all: It’s not just about strength but how well you move. Tension in your arms will fatigue you quickly – use your legs and let your arms dead hang until your next move.
Bodyweight rules: No one cares about what you can bench or squat on a rock wall. You should spend more time on bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups to aid your climbing strength.
Limber up: Devote time to stretching before and after your climb. There’s nothing worse than cramping up mid-movement and coming off the wall to swing around like a fool.
Plan your route: Pick your route difficulty (indicated by grip colour) and assess the best way up. Just going for it can leave you in an awkward position with no choice but to fall.