So, last year I tried out a few obstacle races (Spartan, Viper, Mad Warrior – all of which have pending blogposts by me). I did great – if I do say so myself – on the strength-related obstacles. There were even some obstacles that I could complete that some others couldn’t. Of course, there were many that I couldn’t complete because I was not that fit or strong. But the one obstacle that I couldn’t even attempt, which frustrated me until now, was rope climbing. And it wasn’t about strength; rope climbing was about technique.
I really wanted to learn how to climb rope, but I didn’t know where to go to learn. I heard that I could join crossfit courses, but even then rope climbing was one small component that may not be done on a weekly basis. While crossfit is good, it was not something I could commit to many times a week because of my schedule.
I did watch a few YouTube videos, but having no rope to practice on, there was no way I could try.
So when this workshop suddenly popped up on my Facebook News Feed, I signed up immediately without a second thought. RM40 was a small investment compared to what I would be learning!
It took me a little while to find District 13 because I was unfamiliar with the area, so I was a few minutes late for the workshop. Sorry, guys.
I walked in to find everyone doing warm-ups, so I jumped in.
After everyone had their joints loosened and muscles warmed, the coaches jumped straight into the technique.
Coach Kong started by explaining what we should do to build our upper body strength – by hanging from the ropes just using our arms. It’s surprising how the regular person won’t be able to hang for very long using his/her arms – including me. We can’t even support our own body weight, sigh!
He then went on to demonstrate the right way to climb the rope, by using the J-hook, gripping the rope with our feet. He told us how to position our feet, with our leading foot on top of the other, and to press hard to push ourselves up the rope. He also explained that we needed to use our leg strength to stand up rather than to use our arm strength to pull ourselves up. It’s a concept very similar to wall climbing, which I already had an idea of; I’m able to climb using leg strength, but somehow I couldn’t apply the same technique to rope. Not yet, anyway. Ropes are soft and mobile, unlike a hard wall.
One of the ladies in our group had put on gloves, and Kong immediately addressed the issue, advising us not to wear gloves because of the danger of our hands slipping out of the gloves, even if the gloves are not slipping off the rope. The lady said she was concerned about rope burns, to which Kong explained that rope burns are more likely on our legs because of the higher surface area contact there rather than on our hands.
We were then encouraged to try applying those techniques straight away. I watched a few of the other workshop participants climb first – and they looked like experts, the way they shimmied up so quickly. They didn’t even hesitate!
So when I approached the rope, I made it clear that I didn’t know what to do.
Coach William was patient while he explained how I needed to get my foot in the right position. I tested the rope on my feet on the ground first before I attempted to climb the rope.
I was actually very surprised to find that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be! I managed to get to the top of rope on my first try! Yes yes it’s a short height but that’s not the point, at least I still got up there.
Almost everyone got up on their first try actually. Only one guy struggled at first, but the coaches were very patient, and his friends helped him until he managed to get up there at the end of the workshop!
We spent the remaining hour of the workshop practising the rope climb. I got tired very quickly as I was using more arm strength than leg strength – more practice needed!
And also, because I wore shorts instead of long pants – I suffered rope burns on my legs, so after a while I couldn’t continue much because the rope burns were hurting too much.
I had been using my right foot as my lead foot. So just for kicks, I wanted to try using my other foot as the lead foot, as I’m actually left-footed even though I’m right-handed. The coaches encouraged me to give it a try, so I gave it a shot, and I found that I had more control when I used my left foot as the lead foot instead.
Here’s the video of me attempting the rope climb at the end of the session. Yeah I know… the technique still needs a lot of work – I was using too much arm strength and not enough leg strength. More practice needed! (Though I don’t know how and when, since I have no access to a rope.)
Thanks MovePlay for organising this rope climbing workshop! Coaches Kong and William were really excellent coaches, as their instructions were very clear and made it easy for us to learn and apply.
And if you’re thinking of learning how to rope climb, here’s a tip for you: WEAR LONG PANTS THAT COVER YOUR SHINS. Or at least something to protect your shins from rope burns. Because yes, you can get serious rope burns on your legs, not your hands!