A fellow pole dancer that had been off pole for a couple of years told me she kept up her strength by doing yoga and indoor rock climbing. Having never done rock climbing before (aside from my brief stint on the Norwegian mountains), I couldn’t wait to test her theory and challenge myself to go all the way up. I did it at Everyone Active‘s Seymour Leisure Centre in Marylebone and here’s what I thought of it.
The Seymour Leisure Centre is a brick built grade II listed building. Its West 1 Climbing Wall is the tallest in Central London and in Zone 1, towering over four floors at 13m of height. The biggest wall features eight roped lines to climb, while the smaller one is 7m tall and has four lines. All climbing routes at the Centre are changed on a regular basis.
The good thing about rock climbing is that it’s a relationship-building sport. You have to have a partner, especially at the beginning, to help you choose the right route and to lower you down with the rope. As I went alone, the Centre’s super patient instructor, Michal, acted as my partner and took me through the whole process.
After a quick warm-up for our arms, writs and hands, he gave me a run-through of the most common climbing mistakes:
- Over-extending the arms – climb one step higher with your feet instead;
- Bending the arms and holding for dear life – better to do a side-climb with slightly extended arms or your hands will get tired;
- Not using all the climbing points on offer – it makes the whole thing harder.
He then asked me to climb the 7m wall to see how I got along. Surprisingly, I managed to climb really quickly and didn’t feel dizzy or scared of heights and I didn’t fall. After all, the ropes can handle up to three tonnes and luckily I haven’t gained that much weight yet. Coming down was also a lot of fun: you’re basically meant to hold onto the rope, straighten your legs and point them against the wall in a V shape and trust your partner to lower you down. You really feel the loss of height then, and once you get used to it, it becomes fun rather than scary.
We then went onto the 13m walls and using three different routes I managed to get all the way up – and once you get there the adrenaline is very similar to that of getting a new pole move. The similarities don’t stop there: aside from being a really arm-based, intense and strength-building type of exercise, climbing techniques are actually really similar… and climbers use liquid chalk for grip too.
A one-hour session costs £40 and it includes the use of the centre’s ropes, shoes, liquid chalk and equipment, although after a while you might want to buy your own shoes and ropes if you then want to come independently (with a partner). You can learn the basics in a 1-to-1 or in a class.
In addition to the roped climbing wall, the Seymour Leisure Centre also features a good sized Boulder Room, with roughly 60 square metres of climbing surface and even a variety of multi-angled walls. I had never tried bouldering and the absence of ropes was to be both really appealing and scary. I managed to climb part of the angled wall, but being the end of my session of non-stop climbing for an hour I was knackered. This happened.
I had an amazing time at my first rock climbing and bouldering session. I feel I’d definitely go back when I’m looking for a bit of variety in my exercise schedule. You’ll see more pictures of me in this place, that’s for sure.
Seymour Leisure Centre
London W1H 5TJ