It was a humbling moment, indeed. At the time, I felt like I was higher than a mountain. I was running five miles every morning, laboring through a hard day of strenuous work every day, then hitting the gym every night. I could rip out pushups in three-digit sets, grind through a set of 60 dips without cracking a single sweat gland.
Meanwhile, my strength remained in tact. I was benching, curling, pressing, pulling, and squatting more than ever before. The higher my gains had soared, the lower my body fat percentage would drop. Yes, I was in the best shape of my life. I bounced off my 15-minute warm-up session on the stepper and was ready to take over this new gym by storm. I had never worked out at this particular facility before but it didn't matter.
At the time, I felt invincible. On my way over to the Smith machine, I noticed a small gathering in the far corner of the gym. All eyes were focused on the wall where something new, something intriguing had to be whirling up this fuss. I strutted over to check this out for myself just as a middle-aged man came crashing to the floor, his face purple with exhaustion, his breath caught deep in his gut. He looked like a soldier returning from battle, as he was instantly consoled by his awaiting love.
I peered up at the enemy. Hovering above was the most bizarre piece of fitness equipment I'd ever seen. It was big, it was strange, it was awkward, it was ugly. It was awesome.
One look at it and I knew exactly what it was. It was a rock-climbing machine. It rested on the floor and nearly extended to the height of the ceiling, a large conveyor belt that rotated on a metal frame. Along the belt was a series of synthetic rocks and grooves, designed to simulate an actual cliff. Along the side was a lever that regulated the speed in which the belt would rotate.
It was aptly named "The Rock." Nobody else made a move to tackle this endeavor. Nobody dared.
Nobody except me. The movie "Cliffhanger", the Sylvester Stallone flick that brought the action genre to new heights, was buzzing across everyone's lips at the time and no doubt had inspired the gym to purchase such a workout device. I was feeling a little bit like "Rocky" myself so I emerged from the crowd like the heavyweight champ and bolstered myself atop this machine. What happened next, I'd rather not divulge.
Let's just say that three minutes later, the ego, the self esteem, the soaring confidence, it all came crashing down off the wall with me. I sat on the gym in a heap of defeat, my arms and legs completely shot, my heart racing like a Nissan. "The Rock" had knocked me out.
The morale of the story (besides keeping your ego in check) is that rock climbing is one of the most physically challenging exercises you could possible take on. After all, there has to be a reason why professional rock climbers are so lean and healthy. Rock climbing is an exercise that not only strengthens your legs and upper torso, but it may also be the best method for improving range of motion. As imposing as my three-minute bout with "The Rock" may sound, the apparatus is actually the ideal way to begin this activity. The resistance of the machine can be set at a very low level for beginners to accustom themselves to the form and motion needed in rock climbing. You can eventually work your way up to a faster pace, which provides for a sensational workout.
I remember feeling a resounding pump throughout my entire body after just a few fast-paced minutes on the machine. Your battles don't necessarily end after you've conquered the "Rock." Hundreds of rock climbing gyms have been cropping up across the country and offer the most challenging of programs.
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