I'm not very fit. I have middle-aged joints that were never very strong to begin with that now ache inexplicably too often. I'm not keen on fitness. I'm scared of heights.
So why did I agree to going to a climbing wall with some friends this week? Because they asked. Many years ago I went to a community centre in Glasgow to attend a writing group I had heard about. For some reason it wasn't running that day, but the lady who informed me said there was also an ethnic dance group meeting up at the same time if I was interested in joining, no experience necessary, it was just for a laugh. I'm sure my face contorted in fear as I said no and left.
I then spent the rest of my evening kicking myself. What was I scared of? That I would look the fool or that I might have to talk to people? Probably. I wasn't long after having my second child and my self-confidence was lower than low. In the preceding years of nappies and breast-feeding I had forgotten how to do things for myself without the kids.
I knew that person was in there somewhere. The woman who just packed up her life and moved to Norway, then Scotland, then Greece. Not with fear and trepidation, not without panic and tears, but I did it. I would have survived a dance class. If I didn't enjoy it, fine, there was no expectation of my return, but I had to be brave enough to take the risk.
So after that day I set myself the goal to say yes to offers that challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. Shortly afterwards I ended up in Finland. Offers for big adventure like that don't come often, so I content myself with smaller daily challenges.
And this week was climbing walls that towered too high over me at the Kilpeily Areena. Even just looking up made me queasy. Sitting in the waiting area for the others to arrive I could feel my blood pressure race.
We put on our horribly uncomfortable climbing harnesses and tight climbing shoes that were included in our €16 entrance price and were soon ready. We were given a quick explanation of how the automatic belaying cables worked and we were left to it, Finnish self-reliance here we come. To be honest, opening the clips were the most complicated part of the whole procedure, technically. The hall was quite busy as there seemed to be a school visit, so it was a bit difficult to concentrate when you were nervous, but it mostly cleared out shortly afterwards.
This is not me. This was one of the easier walls.
Physically it wasn't that difficult, like climbing up a ladder. On the simpler climbs you don't need necessarily to be able to pull your own body weight up by your fingers. Though it was quite scary trying to figure out my footing as I had to keep looking down.
For me, the hardest part was coming back down, letting go of the wall and allowing the cable to take my weight to lower me down. It shook me so much, I spent most of my time just getting comfortable doing that, rather than worrying how high I was able to climb. Even in my highest climb I don't think I got much over 3 meters, but I was really proud that by the end I had managed that and could come down without panicking. There's no pressure to go any further than you dare. My friends managed to climb all the way to the top, several times.
I'm not sure I liked it and would be willing to go again, but I'm glad I gave it a go even though I was really nervous.
While I was at the Kilpeily Areena I checked out the upstairs children's area which has a bouldering section and smaller walls, with and without cables. Bouldering is literally big fake boulders with climbing grips all over them so you can practice climbing at weird angles. My friend's daughters come climbing with their nursery (yes, 3 and 4 year olds do this) and love it, so I can see a visit in the future for my kids. Maybe with their dad.