How to get into a new sport as a total beginner

Well! I had plans this weekend — big plans. I had plans to see Arkells with Jane (that both did and didn’t happen — Jane came down with a flu and I gave her ticket to my friend Chris, which ended up being a good time too). I had plans to climb on Saturday morning. That happened. I also had plans to go to MEC with Jar, walk around downtown looking for gifts, have a nice dinner, go see Jumple with my old high school friends, and spend Sunday learning about photography.

None of that happened.

Now, I’m well aware that bragging about my immune system of steel, never getting sick and being a walking anti-biotic is really me just begging for poetic justice to rear its ugly head. And three years ago when more than half of the attendees of a conference I was at got norovirus and somehow I managed to avoid it (even though literally everyone in my inner circle was sick), well, I was feeling just a little too proud for that.

I spent more of the weekend alternating between heavy, sheet-drenching sweats and chills that rocked my stomach back and forth, along with a healthy dose of muscle aches and a lump in my throat the size of a Nerf football. It was classic strep throat. Screw you, strep throat! I’ve actually had it a few times, but that doesn’t make it any less draining.

I took yesterday off work (but still worked from home — typical Bree). And by last night, I was scarfing a burrito down my face-hole and even hit the boulder for awhile. Of course, with how little food I consumed over the weekend, I wasn’t really in the mood for a food post, but I wanted to talk about one of my other favourite Lifestyle topics which I hope to cover more as time goes on: sports!

I wasn’t much of a jock when I was younger. Of course, my parents enrolled me in everything for at least a season or two — soccer, hockey, baseball, tennis, figure skating. I liked some of them (soccer), I loved some of them (tennis), I hated some (figure skating). But the bigger problem was that I was always so clumsy, uncoordinated, and also had a hard time paying attention. My teammates always hated me, no one ever wanted me on their team, and it was especially embarrassing when I would be out-performed in school gym class by kids who didn’t even do that sport outside of school.

Dance changed that. The funny thing was, I was just as bad at dance as I was at everything else. But if I loved tennis, I was crazy about dance. Crazy about it enough that I suddenly didn’t care that I was bad at it. I would watch every video, go to every workshop, take every extra class, stretch and practice at home until I was just as good as the senior team at my studio. It was a lofty goal, but I came close. And 14 years later, I’m still dancing.

When I started actually becoming a great dancer — when I was about 18 or so — I developed a lot of confidence to start trying more new things. I got into running for awhile. I joined my friends’ intraumural teams at school. I started pilates. A lot of these things were things that I was not very good at to start with and remained quite bad at. But I had so much fun just putting myself out there that I felt really accomplished and still had a ton of fun with my friends.

Then came the big one: climbing.

I was prepared to not be good at climbing. It was just something I wanted to do with my at-the-time boyfriend. I ended up taking to it so well that I quickly came up to his level and even started climbing about a half-grade higher than him. I started lead climbing about a year after I started, and am generally seen as a strong climber (especially in sport climbing).


My first outdoor climb in Jasper, AB, May 2013.

It’s something I totally dedicate all of my free time to these days. Sometimes I go to the gym just to see the friendly faces there and work on the hangboards upstairs. I’ve successfully gotten a few of my friends to start climbing.


My friends Andrew, Alex and Stephen and I fooling around on the boulder, November 2013.

But what’s more important to me is that other people learn from me to not be afraid to try something new.

It can be hard or scary, but there are a few things I’ve learned:

    1. Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re a beginner. Whether you’re on an intramural team, taking a class or doing a solo sport, make sure there are others around (don’t go around free soloing a wall if you’ve never done it before, you’re no Alex Honnold!) and that the right people know you’re new. You may think this is embarrassing or makes you look like you’re asking for special treatment or extra attention, but people appreciate it. Small sports communities are very tight and there’s generally always a few people willing to help you learn your basics.
    2. Don’t buy expensive gear or apparel right away (it’s not a fashion show). In my two years of climbing I have never once bought “climbing pants” or any other such apparel from MEC. And though I’m admittedly a bit of a sports bra junkie, for the most part when I try a new sport I wear the same athletic clothes I’ve always been wearing. There are some obvious things you should get for safety purposes — a helmet for hockey, for example. But as long as you’re in clothes that can help you move, that’s all you need. If you’re doing a sport like climbing which requires gear, inquire about renting before you commit and the the comes to buy.


      My friend Alex showing her amazing footwork.

    3. Learn the lingo. Perhaps the most intimidating thing for me being around people who knew what they were doing when I didn’t was hearing the way they’d talk. There were a million words I didn’t understand, and they’d throw them around so freely! Fortunately, it was a good excuse to get onto Google and figure out some of these terms. Don’t worry about memorizing everything. Just worry about the words you’re hearing the most of.
    4. Get inspired. When I started climbing, my ex sat me down with a bunch of the Reel Rock videos and we watched a bunch together. I also spent hours on Youtube and Vimeo looking up climbing videos of the greats and the up-and-comers. The best thing was remembering that they all started where I started — even if some were younger (and some started as adults too), there was a point for every single one of them when they didn’t know what they were doing.


      My (other!) friend Alex taking a much needed break after a fall.

    5. Tell yourself, “I like it, and I’m good at it.” My friend Alex said that he had a gym teacher who used to tell them to say “I like running, and I’m good at it” whenever they came close to giving up at running. While everyone needs to know their physical limits and listen to their bodies, sometimes it’s hard to differentiate fear and doubt from actual exhaustion. I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought that I needed a break and it’s really that I was scared. Ever since Alex put that little earworm in my head, I tell myself at least once a climb, “I like climbing, and I’m good at it.” You’d be surprised how much such a cheesy thing works! Remember, you got up there — tons of other people didn’t. And even if you’re the worst person playing, running or dancing that day, there are tons of people just outside of where you are who can’t (or won’t) do it. You don’t have to say “I can do it,” because you’re already doing it. And that’s awesome.


      Bouldering at the Guelph Grotto, New Years Eve 2013.


About breerodymantha

Proud Canadian. Long arms. Tiny head. Big dreams. CBC. Longboards. Bicycles. Upper Jarvis. Ballet. Acrobatics. Top-roping. Stemming. Smearing. Lip balm. Early mornings. Double-layered socks. Tea time.
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One Response to How to get into a new sport as a total beginner

  1. normanras says:

    Great post – especially given the fact that climbers have a strong sense of identity. Some are warm and welcoming and the others… Not so much.


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