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There are many unique communities that exist within OSU and Rec Sports, including the avid rock climbing community that utilizes our facilities. Anthony Heatherly, a senior studying environmental science, has learned to challenge himself through rock climbing with the support of other Rec Sports climbers and staff members.
After getting the chance to try rock climbing for the first time at Dixon during his high school graduation celebration, Heatherly knew he wanted to give the sport another attempt when he began taking classes at OSU. “I remember when I ended up arriving here a year later as an actual student, [rock climbing] was one of the first things that I knew existed and I knew I wanted to take classes because I heard you could,” Heatherly said, “I took Rock I, the very first top rope rock climbing class, and I had a lot of fun, but I actually got pretty frustrated with the sport. I climbed a little bit for the next term and then I just went cold turkey on climbing for about a year.”
However, this wouldn’t be the end of rock climbing for Heatherly and he found himself missing the sport. “I decided to take another class and then another class and started climbing outside of class and that’s when I really finally started to feel myself get into it.” Today, Heatherly climbs at Rec Sports whenever his demanding schedule allows. He enjoys rock climbing a few nights a week when the climbing gym is desolate.
Along with rock climbing at night, he is also currently enrolled in the Physical Activity Course (PAC), Rock Yoga. In this 2-hour class, rock climbing and yoga act as complementary sports to further build his skills in the opposing activity. “In the second week of the term, we talked a lot about footwork and so we spent an hour really focusing on edging and using the toes on the edges of your shoes in climbing. In the hour of yoga during this class, we spent a lot of time focusing on grounding ourselves with our feet—working on balance based out of the foot and the ankle and up through the leg,” said Heatherly. Rock Climbing and Yoga will be offered again during both next fall and winter terms.
As with any sport, Heatherly is incessantly challenged by rock climbing. “Rock climbing is kind of tricky because you definitely hit this plateau where you’re just not getting any better and it’s so frustrating because you see other people breaking past it at the gym and that’s not happening for you,” he said. This is the instance in which Heatherly feels the most frustration with rock climbing and it once led him to take a break from the practice.
Overcoming this “plateau” has not been the only trial he faces in the sport. Building stamina and endurance are also a difficult aspect of rock climbing. “I can be in the pool swimming for an hour or two and I can just do everything leisurely, but when I’m rock climbing there’s a tendency to really want to be aggressive with it and challenge yourself and be climbing at the highest level you possibly can,” said Heatherly, “If it’s a day where I’m not really feeling it, I’ll be done [climbing] in half an hour and I’ll be like ‘man, I wish I had more energy’ or ‘I wish my hands didn’t give out.’ So, what’s funny about rock climbing is that there’s this like love-hate relationship where you’re always wanting to climb more even when your body is just completely done with you and rocks for the day.”
It is also his ability to conquer the challenges of rock climbing where Heatherly finds the greatest enjoyment in the sport. “I like to think of rock climbing sort of like a really mini version of a hike so it’s really satisfying when you finally summit the mountain and rock climbing is exactly like that. I’ve never been in a sport where I felt that sense of completion,” he said, “There’s always some way to push yourself to be better in any sport including rock climbing, but with rock climbing you’re working on a specific route and once you conquer that route it’s sort of like yours—you kind of get to take ownership of that, which is really neat.”
Heatherly is not alone in his endeavors in the rock climbing gym and finds support from his peers. “Everybody is there to support each other and I don’t know how many times I’ve been climbing or I see other people climbing and all of the sudden there’s people from across the gym watching them and cheering them on saying ‘hey! You got this! There’s the next foot hole.’ They want everybody else to succeed.” This unique and encouraging community is among many reasons he encourages others to give rock climbing a try. “If you spend enough time [at Rec Sports] you get to know people and it really helps deliver this total culture between the staff and the other climbers,” he said, “I think that’s something that makes rock climbing really special on this campus.”