As one of only four NIBAS level 4 accredited centres in the South-East, The Climbing Experience, Maidstone, believes they are part of a fitness equality revolution – and a very welcome one.
They have seen an increase in female climbers since they opened their doors in 2018. Climbing is a sport where equality has the chance to thrive as shown by The Climbing Experience’s own statistics – 6 of their 12 mainstream instructors are female.
The profile of people playing sports in the UK is shifting, David Lange, a research expert covering sports and recreation in the UK and Europe said: “The number of women who participate in any kind of sport or physical activity in England is slowly and steadily increasing in recent years. As of 2020, approximately 17.8 million women participate at least twice a month at any intensity or duration an increase from 17.33 million women in 2016.”1
This can only mean good things for people’s fitness levels, and sports equality but with so many sports centres all clambering to benefit from the rise in the market, which sports will benefit the most?
Climbing has been increasing in popularity over the past few years and is claiming a slice of this growing market. Introduced into the postponed Olympics in 2020, Sports Climbing has surged in popularity ever since, with approximately 350,000 regular participants climbing in England alone1 .
The combination of climbing being in the media spotlight and an increase in women within the sports fitness sector, means when it comes to sports equality, climbing centres have an opportunity to attract a larger percentage of women than many other sports centres, an opportunity to lead the way.
The Climbing Experience Co-Founder and CEO Robert Woods said: “Male climbers do outnumber female climbers at the moment, but climbing is gender equality orientated, not just in thought leadership – which is already strong here at The Climbing Experience, Maidstone – but in sports achievement as well. Climbing uses core strength but strength needs to be twinned with strategy, tenacity and agility.”
Robert continued: “Women are being drawn to climbing for a number of reasons, providing social, challenging, all-round fitness, climbing is a fun, skill fueled sport where you see your fitness changing from day one.
Shying away from image conscious messages – such as women concentrating on ‘leg, bum and tummy’ exercises – climbing simply increases physical and mental fitness as one.
Other reasons women are drawn to climbing are the same reasons men embrace the sport – it’s absorbing, calming, meditative and social, with a network of people to support them, one-to-one guidance available and a clear path of achievement – the bouldering area follows the French bouldering grading system ‘Fontainebleau’ – growing from novice to expert climbers. People are also coming here because as part of the centre we have a Yoga and Well-being Studio and café. People come here for all round physical and mental fitness and use us as a fitness hub plus the lofty hanger space we utilize means indoor climbing here is easily Covid-19 compliant.”
This raises another issue for climbing – it is one of the few sports that can be covid compliant the whole time and according to research undertaken at De Montford University, Leicester, for the ABC (Association of British Climbing Walls) chalk is unlikely to transmit the Covid 19 virus. Their results showed that within just one minute of the virus coming into contact with the chalk, the number of infectious particles in all of the samples was reduced by more than 99%.2 Maybe this is another piece of information that has encouraged women to put their trust in climbing?
One of The Climbing Experience’s instructors is 19-year-old Em Highams. Growing up watching her Father climb, Em was always drawn to the sport and started climbing in Tunbridge Wells, joining a competition squad. Trained to BMC Fundamental level 3, she is now planning to become a personal trainer too. Having always had fitness as part of her life, Em prefers climbing to going to the gym. She explains: “Climbing pushes parts of your body that a gym doesn’t – including hand and finger strength and flexibility.”
She has also seen the sport change, attracting more women into the sport: “There are definitely way more females climbing then when I first started. I think it’s partly because of what people see around them, the open layout.”
Em had this to say to any would-be female climbers: “If it’s something you are interested in, head in here and have a chat. There is always an inclusive group and people here to help you. Go for it.”
The sports arena has been male dominated for over a millennium, but equality is on the rise and with 2018 figures showing less men than women embracing fitness activity for more than 150 minutes per week3 there is a potential to ensure the tide keeps turning and, as a sport, climbing could be a big wave in equality.
Contact The Climbing Experience Maidstone: Tel: 01622 677977
Website: https://theclimbingexperience.co.uk/ Instagram: @theclimbingexperience Facebook: TheClimbingExperienceMaidstone
2. Source: DeMontford University website article link https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news/2020/september/research-shows-climbing-chalk-is-unlikely-to-transmit-coronavirus.aspx