I'm not sure if Jimmy Galindo, my rock-climbing instructor, meant to be funny when he told me that the sport involved "a steep learning curve," but that line's so good, I'm swiping it.
Indoor rock climbing: It's a lot of fun, but you might say there's a steep learning curve.
How steep? Well, Galindo's Sportrock in Alexandria has walls as high as 40 feet, similar to the other two gyms I visited, Earth Treks in Columbia (44 feet) and Results on Capitol Hill (38 feet). As for a curve, many of those walls have one -- one that bends outward toward the climber, who, several stories up, probably doesn't need an extra challenge.
And make no mistake, rock climbing is a challenge. I have the aching forearms to prove it.
But it's not the kind of workout you might think it is. Jim Stiehl, a professor in the sport and exercise science school at the University of Northern Colorado and the co-author of "Climbing Walls: A Complete Guide," says in an e-mail exchange: "Many people who have never tried indoor climbing mistakenly believe that its primary prerequisite is extraordinary upper body strength and, therefore, is the sole province of strong athletes. When climbing, however, technique is often more important than strength."