Problem Solving On and Off the Wall With Indoor Rock Climbing

By method

Life comes with problems. There’s no way around that. Whether you are facing matters of logic or emotional challenges, problem-solving skills are important. Since indoor rock climbing requires problem-solving, it’s a great way to build this vital skill set for the challenges you’ll face both on and off the wall.

When climbing, you can map your route but you’ll probably have to make adjustments while you’re on the wall. That’s part of what makes climbing a great adventure. Until you’re gripping a hold and looking at the next one, you don’t know what kind of motion and strategy it will take to advance. Climbers have to have a sharp focus and keep asking themselves questions, like:

  • If I reach with one hand, will I be able to stabilize myself with the other?
  • How can I shift my body weight to balance while I reach?
  • Can I reach from this angle or do I need to get to a different hold altogether?
  • Is a dynamic movement the only way to get the momentum to get there?
  • How long can I sustain this hold? Do I need to back up and reroute?

As climber Daniel Kelley points out, one crucial element of successful problem-solving is persistence. Rock climbing requires you to persevere mentally and physically. You have to be willing to try again, adapt, ask questions, and keep moving forward when it seems impossible. 

What Happens In Your Mind When You Climb

All the problems you solve while rock climbing stimulate your mind. That’s why, along with giving you a cardio workout and building your strength, one of the main benefits of climbing is that it is fun and good for your brain.

Some of the mental components of climbing include:

  • Focus, similar to what is experienced through meditation
  • Memory improvement as you learn routes and recall strategies
  • Boosting mood through endorphins released during exercise
  • Decision-making as you adapt on the wall
  • Confidence and persistence as you achieve goals
  • Mind-body connection to translate thought into precise action

Research shows climbing can actually be good therapy for depression because of the mental focus combined with physical exertion. When it’s a social activity, it’s even more helpful since that adds to the mood-boosting qualities of climbing. 

Translating Problem Solving Skills to Real Life

The problem-solving skills you develop on the wall come with you when you leave the climbing gym. These skills translate to real life. Whether it’s using your focus to cram for an exam or your ability to make strategic decisions to navigate dilemmas at work wisely, your problem-solving practice will be put to good use. For example, professional writer Gemma Hartley says she learned how to “think out of the box” and change her approach on the wall, and as a result, she shifted her methodology at work to increase creativity and productivity. 

Problem-solving, along with tons of other everyday skills and life lessons, can be learned on the wall. Keep up with other great stories and tips, as well as what’s happening at Method Climbing + Fitness! Sign up for our newsletter.