Climbing and Learning Difficulties

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Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby Bounce » Mon May 03, 2010 3:21 pm

I have told myself that when I have lost a stone in weight, I am going to treat myself to learning a new sport...

I always avoided sports and physical activity growing up because I have a condition called dyspraxia, which is a learning difficulty/disability that affects co-ordination, spacial awareness, motor control and balance. Like a lot of people with this condition, I also have hypermobile joints and low muscle tone (I had a scoliosis in my teens). I also have a few learning difficulties, but I don't think they are relevant.

I got to the point a couple of months ago that I am tired of using excuses not to do things and I decided to take control of my life and tackle my phobias of exercise... I am two stone overweight and losing just over a pound a week through exercise and my new lifestyle/diet.

When I reach my halfway, I'd like to start doing climbing, scrambling and caving... However, I have been told that I'd need really good grip, a lot of upper body strength and to be a lot leaner to be able to climb... I am kind of worried to try it in case I fail, as I have had a lot of difficulties and embarrassment with my dyspraxia.

So for people who climb, do you know anybody who has a challenge similar to mine? Do you think it is worth looking for another sport to get in to? How much strength do you need to start climbing?
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby The Duke » Mon May 03, 2010 3:32 pm

Hey there. Good call. Climbing is a great way to spend a day or a year or a lifetime.

And you certainly do not need to be superlight, superstrong, superagile, or superfit.

Some climbers are and some are not.

You could climb many routes up to extreme and beyond without having a crushing grip too.

Developing a sense of balance, confidence, faith in your foot placing, and an economy of movement are more important (and this will happen with time spent on the rock even if you think it won't)

'Course if you wan to start soloing e5 overhangs then that might be a different stories.

Of the top of my head other climbers on the board are Gelert, Fruitbat, Frostfire, Dublin Dave and err someone else. Mabli is also dipping a foot into a bit of scrambling and someting tells me she just might be climbing by this time next year.

On the whole climbers are very welcoming. Go to a crag and have a chat with a few.
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby Bounce » Mon May 03, 2010 3:43 pm

Maybe then, climbing would help improve some of the challenges I have with my dyspraxia :D

I should make more effort to lose weight and get climbing faster!
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby Gelert » Mon May 03, 2010 4:25 pm

I don't know why I'm bothering to say this as The Duke has summed it up nicely already, although I could make a dig about High Altitude Mountaineering, but there we go.

Bounce, you don't need to be superfit or superstrong to be a climber. Sure, there's people out there who look like they're in need of a good meal and are doing pullups on their left pinky finger as warm ups for climbing E9 routes. But then there's the rest of us. There's also guys with no hands or feet (e.g. Jamie Andrew) and paraplegics (e.g. Karen Darke) who have got up things I would run away from screaming like a nutter.

Arguably as a novice who considers themselves to be too heavy and too weak you have major, major advantages because it will force you from day one to focus on good technique and climbing efficiently, not using brute strength to solve difficult bits. People often hang off the rock as if their life depended on it and use up their reserves of strength far too quickly - and even the strongest person can get "pumped" and lose strength, if they're not climbing efficiently it will happen sooner rather than later.

So really if you're looking for an activity that can help you, you can have fun at and get off the ground on, climbing's ideal. By all means continue in your quest to get fit by other means, but don't hesitate having a chat with other climbers or finding a beginner's course or indoor wall.

Other sources of info
http://www.thebmc.co.uk/
http://www.thebmc.co.uk/Category.aspx?category=9
http://www.ukclimbing.com/
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby Gelert » Mon May 03, 2010 4:35 pm

Oh, just to add as well, regarding learning difficulties, Andy Kirkpatrick, widely known as Hull's second best climber, is profoundly dyslexic and climbing has not only been his salvation but the source of his career as an author. Inspiring guy, but I would not want to share a portaledge with him. Been quoted as saying "Alpinists only do it for food and sex...by day five, we'd run out of food."
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby Enhydra Lutris » Mon May 03, 2010 6:29 pm

Bounce wrote: When I reach my halfway, I'd like to start doing climbing, scrambling and caving... However, I have been told that I'd need really good grip, a lot of upper body strength and to be a lot leaner to be able to climb... I am kind of worried to try it in case I fail, as I have had a lot of difficulties and embarrassment with my dyspraxia.

So for people who climb, do you know anybody who has a challenge similar to mine? Do you think it is worth looking for another sport to get in to? How much strength do you need to start climbing?


I'd say that you are better off not having amazing upper body strength! That way you will have to use your superstrong leg/lower body muscles to push you up the cliff. Use your arms to keep your balance (i.e. stay on the cliff) and maybe to give your legs a bit of help for the first bit of the step.

If you aren't overly agile or have high relative strength (to your body weight) you will have to take smaller steps up the cliff and in doing so stay safer and get more practice out of each climb. You won't get yourself into a sticky situation because you got your leg up to hip height and then tried to push up the rock etc.

Grip strength will develop as you go along. Besides, for lower level climbs, you can find lots of routes that don't require anything out of the ordinary.

This is all on the topic of rock climbing. When it comes to scrambling I can't see any reasons for you not to be out there already! Pick a nice short and fairly easy one to start with, preferably one where you can escape sideways onto easy ground if you need to. You don't even need a "proper" scree slope - any heap of stable looking rocks would do. Pick a dry day and start playing around with clambering over the rocks using hands and feet. Just make sure you have good sticky soles on your boots/shoes.
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby chriss » Tue May 04, 2010 5:17 am

Hey Bounce, welcome to the world of climbing, you have nothing to fear.

As everyone else has pointed out there is no need to be 9 stone or be able to crush bricks. The beauty of climbing is that it is one of the most personal sports out there, so achievements are what ever matters to you.

I used to frequent lots of the London climbing walls (your from Brixton right?) so you have a really good choice of walls that cater for ALL ages and abilities. If it's your first time I would recommend you call your local wall and have a chat with them first, booking a lesson or two would be your best bet.

Climbing will get you fit, strong, confident and introduce you to a great bunch of social people (who like a beer after a climb). If you stick with it you will also go to some amazing peaceful and stunning places.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby mabli » Tue May 04, 2010 6:12 am

The Duke wrote: Mabli is also dipping a foot into a bit of scrambling and someting tells me she just might be climbing by this time next year.

Yay!! also I am dispraxic and have dyslexia

I have been improving my balance for years, I started very simply by putting my socks on in the morning by standing on one foot, it was really diffiult at first. I do other stuff too and Ive got pretty good balance now when I really concentrate. Also dancing helps :D

Enjoy! scrambling is loads of fun you should deffo try it I did some climbing years ago too.
Last edited by mabli on Tue May 04, 2010 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby Starling in a cage » Tue May 04, 2010 12:33 pm

Hi Bounce. I don't see why dyspraxia should stop you from climbing. My son was diagnosed at around age 7 and was written off at school because he coudn't play football, but he has just become a qualified indoor climbing instructor. He does hand exercises, but nothing else specific other than general fitness exercises.

Scrambling is great - it's something I'm getting into now and is really opening up my walking opportunities.

Have fun. :D
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby The Duke » Tue May 04, 2010 3:57 pm

Gelert wrote: although I could make a dig about High Altitude Mountaineering, but there we go.



Oh Jesus's Mary Mother of God please don't bring that up.

My time of torture in the rarified air of the Lamergier draws ever closer (again).

Wonder if I'll live through it or not?

The only special skill you need to be a High Altitude Mountaineer is to be stupid, patient, dirty, and have a partner who is also stupid, patient, and dirty.
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby Bounce » Sat Jun 26, 2010 10:49 am

Booking myself in to a bouldering lesson for after pay day!

I'm going to London Bridge...

Hope I end up with nice toned arms.
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby dublin dave » Sat Jun 26, 2010 11:30 am

Bounce wrote:Hope I end up with nice toned arms.


Good luck with the bouldering, though you will not get toned arms, instead you will end up with great muscular arms and shoulders...
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby Bounce » Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:08 pm

Well that was short lived...

I found it hard at first, then realised that a massive part of the challenge was in my head. That reach looked farther away that it was, but I found that physically, I am capable.

I think a big part of it seems to be fear, when i came down my legs were jelly, but I felt great.

Then the second time, I couldn't find the ledge beneath me and panicked... The guy said try to jump if I don't think I can find it... I did, but silly me landed awkwardly on my ankle.

I reckon it's just a bruise... but it feels stiff and the side of it has swelled. :? I limped back home, but the people were really cool with it and I know I'll be back soon.

Now I kinda know what a fall is like... It's not so bad (ok, apart from the ankle lol) and hopefully, next time will be better.

Did anybody else find the whole reaching out a bit scary? Like you think you can't... But you have to make yourself believe you can...
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby chriss » Sat Jul 03, 2010 2:09 pm

I think for most people (myself included) climbing is 90% mental as your body can do most of the things required, you just have to learn to let the body do it's thing.

It seems like a contradiction, but concentrate on relaxing & breathe! That's the best advice I can offer & ignore the shirt off shouty types at the wall, they are usually shit anyway!

Glad your enjoying climbing, keep us posted & good luck.
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Re: Climbing and Learning Difficulties

Postby chloe » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:52 pm

hey ive just recently taken up climbing too and i love it,its brilliant,its like a big rocky jig-saw puzzle ! :)
We've started going once a week and i can already feel big improvements,hand and wrist strenght was an issue for me in the first weeks,ran out of strength really fast and then it was basically not posisble to go on,but now i can scramble across and up walls for about two hours before my hands start seizing up.
I also live in london, and go to either mile end or finsbury park,i wear my vegan runners tee shirt and im amazed by how many people make conversation based around veganism!! :)
I had no idea climbing centres were such pick up joints! ;)
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