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Climbing to a Better You 

People need to climb mountains. Seriously. It's some sort of primal human urge to want to get to the very top of something, no matter how high up it is. Real mountains, though, are best left to professionals, those individuals with ridiculously huge forearms who always seem to kick ass on that Ninja Warrior show. But amateurs can garner similar fitness benefits by conquering smaller, safer mountains at an indoor climbing gym.

Indoor climbing gyms provide a safe alternative to both actual mountains and stagnant fitness routines. Although it's easy to think upper body strength is paramount, experienced climbers value technique and form over strength. Climbing is often likened to a chess match where climbers must plan their ascent ahead of time, carefully selecting a path and patiently executing it. Studies show that this mental preparation can improve cognitive thinking and combat depression. You can choose to free climb with no equipment to ascend smaller walls, or use harnesses to strategically climb 100-ft. walls. No climb is ever the same, so climbers aren't repeating the same workout every time.

And make no mistake: it's a workout for your entire body. A 2011 health review showed that regular climbers activate their arm, leg, back and core muscles, in addition to improving endurance and handgrip strength. Your arms and legs will feel sore for days after a solid two to three-hour session. The difficulty levels, which range from 0 to 11 or higher, also offer a distinct way to track improvement. You can move at your own pace and comfort level.

Here in town, Bend Rock Gym offers a large facility perfect for climbers of all experience levels. Classes are available for beginners, while competitions are held for pros. Anyone looking to try a rock climbing workout will find an encouraging community there.

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