By Emily Pitts // I’ve only ever been to a gym twice in my life and I hated every moment. I felt like a fish in goldfish bowl and a fish out of water at the same time. I couldn’t get out fast enough. In fact the last time, I actually did a runner out of a class at a Virgin Active gym after 25 minutes, because I felt like my life was seeping away, it was so boring. I hate the gym. Hate hate hate it. I hate the idea of slogging away inside, when the weather is nice outdoors. I hate the idea of ‘working out’ with a bunch of muscle bound men who want to gawp at my sweating, heaving, struggling body, while showing off their massive pecs, as I struggle away picking up a 5kg weight.
However, when Laura Zambianchi sent me a message on the Womenclimb Facebook page asking me if I would like to come and see a new climbing gym she’s involved in I thought I should give it a go, because this website is all about providing balance and different ideas. I thought ‘I will do my best to look interested and do a write-up for the website and hopefully that will help out a fellow climber by promoting this new idea she’s developing.’
What I didn’t bank on was being genuinely into it from the start, being totally sold on the idea of training for climbing and actually really enjoying my session enough to book in again two days later.
How to go from hate to love…
What happens when someone is enthusiastic, encouraging and nice is that you want to spend time with them and this is what has happened with Laura. She’s a climber, who’s currently doing mainly outdoor sport climbing. She felt she was plateauing and she wanted to push her grade, so she hired a coach (Mark “Zippy” Pretty) and then started training; properly training, for climbing, with a training plan Zippy made for her. By doing this she gained loads of experience training using equipment specifically to improve her climbing. She’s brought these ideas to the PT Hut where they now have an area and personal training sessions dedicated to climbing fitness.
This is where my journey began, two days ago. I stepped over the threshold and Laura welcomed me to the gym by showing me around and introducing me to the two other people there (tick number one, a nice introduction) – Steve, who has massive muscles and who was super friendly (tick number two, friendly staff) and a customer who was having a personal training session and was also really smiley (tick number three, lovely customers). What was really great was that there was no one else but us there. Once the other client had finished his session it was just us. The shutters on the unit were open, the breeze flowed through and the sun shone over the organised, clean and well maintained equipment (tick number four, a good setup).
For the first session Laura talked me through the different aspects of training for climbing and how the gym equipment can specifically support a climber’s needs. She gave demonstrations (tick number five) then talked me through doing the exercises myself (tick six), starting with a warm up (tick seven) and then progressing on to strength and endurance exercises (tick eight for her knowledge and application).
Laura really focuses on doing things well – so that you get the full benefit from what you’re doing and so that you can do them yourself – she keeps it simple (tick nine – I need simple!). There are lots of opportunities to ask questions and try other exercises if you don’t fancy the ones she suggests. By far the best thing was Laura’s positivity and proactive coaching style (tick ten). She is very supportive, easy going and fun to be around. If you like the rings (I do, they’re my favourite) then she will give you something to do on the rings that fits your ability and confidence level, with progressive ways to make it more challenging in a manageable way. I liked this.
This has got me thinking about climbing training in general.
I’ve never trained for climbing, but if I were planning to run a marathon I would never ever go in cold, without training. So why am I doing it with climbing? How I would prepare for a marathon is probably by working out a plan, training regularly and building up the length and speed of runs over time. When it comes to training for climbing I think we’re all just a little bit more lax. That’s ok – there’s room for lax and just having fun, but I think that there is much more room for a disciplined approach that means we can progress further and quicker, with less risk of injury.
I really like what Laura is doing and I know she is excited to have more women coming to her sessions. Her sessions are £5 for a drop-in session or £20 for a fully coached session. To book in, text or call Laura: 07903 732754 or contact the PT hut through the website*.
I plan to go there over the next few weeks and maybe months, so if you’d like to train together or come to a group session I would love that, just get in touch on twitter, Facebook or email.
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