Once upon a time, I used to go snowboarding each winter with my older sister. As she was both older and my sister, I was under the impression that she was an incredible ninja-snowboarder and I longed be as good as her. And then one gloomy day, she broke her arm on the half-pipe. Although she continued snowboarding undeterred, I have never been on a mountain since.
I was having a conversation with my mom recently about how I plan to re-teach myself how to snowboard, although it will be frustrating being the only one of my friends who doesn’t know how. My boyfriend will be doing 360s over my head and my sister will finish the run twice before I manage to get off the ski lift. Growing up on the North Shore, most of my peers first donned a snowboard or skis before they could tie their shoes. I never considered going back to the mountain because it seemed as if I had missed the boat – being a pro at shoe tying by now.
At this point in the conversation my mom pointed out, straight from the horse’s mouth: it is never too late to learn something new.
I wittily retorted: "HA! It is never too late for you to start rock climbing either, Mom."
And thus my mom finally came to the Edge Climbing Gym; a feat my brother and I have been trying to achieve for several months now. She borrowed my sister’s climbing shoes, threw on her yoga gear, and gave it her all on the bouldering wall.
I asked my mom some questions a few days later about her experience rock climbing and hopefully her insight will encourage more people be a kid and try out something new.
Me: Why were you hesitant to try rock climbing in the first place?
Mom: Okay first – I really don’t like being likened to a horse! What made me hesitant was fear, which is what usually stops people from trying something new. I was afraid of looking stupid, of being too old, of not being strong enough, of falling and hurting myself. I also have a great fear of heights and thought that might stop me.
Me: What were your first impressions on the wall? Was it what you had expected?
Mom: At first I looked at these little bumps and things sticking out from the wall and the pink duct tape marking the path, and then tilted my head to look up and I had no idea how I was even supposed to start. After you demonstrated how to do it and the way up the wall, I still had no confidence that I could even move myself from one hand-hold to the second. However, with your guidance I actually made it to the top. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and a slightly less feeling of fear when I realized I then had to let go and fall back to the matt below. As soon as I landed I wanted to try the next one.
Me: What did you find the most challenging?
Mom: Pushing past my own misconceptions of what I could do and couldn’t do. Climbing takes strength, but it takes a lot of technique as well. It was frustrating to be stopped by my lack of technique and then to be stopped by muscle fatigue when climbing technique finally clicked into place. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to “see” a route to the top, but I am already working on improving the strength in my fingers and forearms!
Me: What did you enjoy the most about bouldering?
Mom: It was exhilarating to learn something new and the sense of accomplishment when I was able to use a technique to move past a point that me falling off the wall time and time again. In some sense I felt like I did when I used to dance or figure skate – to feel the power of my body and mind working together. It was also great fun to experience an activity with my kids and to join them in their world for a little while.
Me: Will you ever come back?
Mom: Absolutely! I’ve incorporated finger and forearm strengthening exercises into my fitness routine so that I can last longer before my muscles fatigue. I’m also trying to get some friends to join me so I won’t be the only newbie ‘mom’ there.
Me: Anything else to share?
Mom: Like you’ve so eloquently said when you called me a horse, I believe that it’s never too late to learn something new and you should never let fear stop that first step. My life continues to be enriched because I strive to be open to new experiences. I honour my body by eating healthy and maintaining an exercise routine that enables me to try things like rock climbing. And my children continue to teach me new and amazing lessons!