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Why bouldering could be your new favourite workout

Bouldering at Stronghold

Strength, balance, patience, agility: have you got what it takes to join London’s latest fitness trend?

London’s fitness fanatics are hitting the wall and I don’t mean the psychological wall that crops up during a marathon: I’m talking about bouldering!

What is bouldering?

Bouldering is indoor rock climbing stripped back to the bare minimum with no ropes. It’s just you, a pair of grippy climbing shoes and a bag of chalk to keep your hands from slipping. Most climbing centres in London cater for bouldering with a low section of walls or structures to free-climb with colourful resin holds and safety mats below. Similar to a ski resort, each colour hold denotes the difficulty of the climb so you can start small and work your way up to the tricky routes at your own pace.

Bouldering at Stronghold
Credit: Danny Burrows

Where can I go bouldering?

I went along to Stronghold in Tottenham Hale to give this much-hyped activity a go. Just half an hour from central London, it’s the UK’s largest and newest indoor bouldering centre. The walls are typically 20 feet (6.1 m) high but some go up to 30 feet (9.1 m) and there are climable boulders in the middle of the room to mix things up. Prices start from £7.50 making it an affordable workout compared to London’s boutique gyms!

The event, in partnership with Snow+Rock and The North Face, was all about encouraging women to get into bouldering and while getting to grips with the walls, we also tried and tested out the brands’ colourful yet functional activewear.

Bouldering briefing at Stronghold
Credit: Danny Burrows


We started with a warm-up run around the park and then had a quick briefing from the Stronghold team. Bearing in mind I’ve got two-left feet and am highly accident prone, I was a pretty nervous and way out of my comfort zone, but keen as ever to try something new and challenge myself.

Real beginners can “taste the rainbow”, we were told which means using any colour holds on the way up. I paired up with my fab blogger friend India to climb together and we both tackled the orange holds pretty confidently, reaching the top of the wall with ease.

We soon progressed to the pink routes which required a little more thought, a few body twists and clever grips to get all the way to the top.

Vanessa bouldering at Stronghold
Credit: Danny Burrows
Girl tackling the indoor climbing wall
Credit: Danny Burrows

Mind games

Graduating on to the green holds was even more challenging and we often got stuck halfway up the wall with no idea of how to get up or down! It was a real test of mental agility, with problem solving, will power and patience all coming into play.

The fascinating thing is that your mind is working so hard to solve the problem of your next move, that it has zero time to worry about anything else. Like an active form of meditation, climbing clears your mind and sends you back to a more primal instinctive way of thinking and moving.

At the top of the wall I couldn’t help imagining how easy it would be to accidentally let go and fall, but of course, I didn’t. The thought of being that close to jeopardy certainly creates a surge of adrenalin that you just wouldn’t get with traditional harness and rope climbing.

Blogger bouldering at Stronghold London
Credit: Danny Burrows

Chalked hands from bouldering

Full-body workout

The thought of falling also means that you grip on for dear life: my forearms have never worked so hard. But I should also make the point that bouldering isn’t solely about upper-body strength. The trick is to drive up with your legs and hug in close to the wall, engaging your core as you climb. This way you get a full body workout and you don’t leave looking like Popeye with swollen, sore forearms.

We rounded the evening off with some well-deserved PRESS juices and ginger shots, proud of new found bouldering skills!

Bouldering girl squad

Press juice for post-bouldering celebrations

Bouldering 101

I spoke to one of Snow+Rock’s in-house climbing specialists Florence Hale to find out why she loves bouldering so much:

What do you love most about climbing?

It’s got a good social aspect to it. There’s always someone at the wall who’ll help you through a problem or route. We also have a really good work team that go to the local wall every week. It’s a fun but challenging form of exercise and you can either do it with friends or just on your own.

In what ways do you feel climbing is a great workout, not just for your body, but also your mind?

It really works on your strength and all the little muscles you didn’t even know you had! It’s a great stress reliever,  you’re so focused on your next hold or crux, that you don’t think about anything else. It really clears your mind.
Bouldering essentials Snow+Rock

What are your favourite pieces of climbing kit available from Snow+Rock?

One of the best things about climbing, and specifically bouldering is that you don’t need much kit to get started. I’ve got the La Sportiva Womens Tarantula shoes. They’re a great all round shoe, the shape isn’t too aggressive so they’re comfortable but they’ve got plenty of performance in them for technical routes.

My other favourite product at the moment is the range of chalks from FrictionsLabs, it’s a brand that produces really pure chalk with much less of the fillers you can find in some brands. Also I’m a bit of a chalk geek so I like that it comes in a range of textures. At the moment I’m using the Unicorn Dust which is their finest texture. And because you need something for it to go in, I recommend this Arc’teryx chalk bag

Like with any workout, you’ll need some comfortable activewear that’s form fitting but not restrictive. I love this strappy motivational bra. Pair them with the Pulse Capri Tights or these pink altitude hybrid shorts, all by The North Face available at Snow+Rock. 

Indoor rock climbing / bouldering at Stronghold

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