Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Climbers with tops off at indoors wall...

...and how you can cope with it.

To start, this is not an indoor wall, but it is NED:

Ned is climbing outside, at night, in December (this is likely to be a lot cooler than a typical indoor wall in summer)....with his shirt off. Why is Ned doing this?? To provoke a bunch of punters on UKC into a debate about the fiction of friction?? To bait a jobsworth Fontainbleausard into banning him from La Foret if he persists with such indecent attire??

No, Ned is doing it for the same reason many of us climb with minimal attire: Because he wants to minimise any possible sweating and maximise any possible friction (and maybe reduce a tiny bit of weight and inhibition from a t-shirt) - yes, even at night, in December - and thus climb more effectively right at his limit.

Because Ned knows exactly what the fuck he is doing. If you DON'T know exactly what the fuck you are doing, fair enough, but don't spout your opinions or make knee-jerk rules based on ignorance.

Instead, try the following to deal with the so-called "issue"...

For wall managers / staff:

If people are climbing at your wall with their shirt off, it's for the same reason that they would be climbing in vest tops or sports bras or shorts - because the wall is warm, they are sweaty, and then are trying to reduce that to train more effectively. It is an athletic training environment with a high emphasis on grip and contact strength, and minimal clothing reflects that.

Those people are paying customers who are wanting to train. Obviously you can't provide perfect conditions with immaculate air con in summer and infallible heaters in winter, but you CAN accept that people might need a bit of leeway with climbing attire to make the most out of conditions.

If other customers complain that they feel "uncomfortable" with someone else climbing with their top off, ask them WHY they feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in itself isn't a reason, there must be something behind it. Eroticism? Jealousy? Disgust at sweaty torsos? General prudishness? Most of these are fairly shallow reasons, not as weighty as a genuine physical reason of sweating off holds, and thus not worth impinging on a climber's use of your facility. If there's an actual genuine reason, it's likely due to behaviour, thus...

If you have a problem with macho and boisterous behaviour from people with their shirts off, then you have a problem with macho and boisterous behaviour - tackle THAT. People can act like dicks in just a pair of shorts or in a full £800 Arcteryx outer shell. Don't pin the blame on clothing, tackle people's attitudes instead - ask people to reduce shouting and swearing, to be courteous to other people climbing and hanging out, to avoid getting in peoples' ways etc, and you'll find that people can be polite and respectful irrespective of what they're wearing.

In short, COMMUNICATE with customers on both sides. And remember that a rule without reasons is an unreasonable rule.

If parents complain that it offends the perceived delicate and fragile sensibilities of their children, refer them to the advice in the section below (feel free to print it out).

For critics on internet forums:

If you don't understand why people are climbing with their shirts off at a wall, ASK. People will often give good explanations of conditions-related questions (e.g. climbing grit in winter, shoe friction, reduced sweating etc) and they are likely to give the correct explanation as above.

If you want to try any of the following non-arguments, think a bit more about them:

"But you don't really need to, it's not that warm"
Hey here's some fucking news for you: People sweat when they exert themselves, and some people sweat a lot more than others. Sweating reduces friction and grip on holds and makes training less effective (and less enjoyable). If you don't sweat that much and can climb through summer in a downie, good for you. Medal is in the post / bin. But try to use your fucking brain and realise that other people might sweat a lot more than you, and might need to reduce that sweating a lot more than you do. If you're too ignorant to understand that, turn your computer off and throw your keyboard away.

"But you wouldn't have your shirt off at a gym" 
No shit, that's because firstly at a gym you are sitting / lying on lots of equipment and thus would get sweat all over it, and secondly almost no exercises at the gym rely on hand friction (even deadlifts or lat pull downs are on rungs) so there is no need to go shirtless.

"But girls aren't allowed to climb with their tops off"
No shit, that's just the way the current status quo on general public decency is. Boobs are still regarded as somewhat private / taboo / sexual / whatever, and first world social norms are that they are generally covered in public, along with genitalia and buttocks. Sobeit. If you have any socio-philosophical issues that boobs should be entirely public or male torsos should be equally private, sort it out elsewhere, change the whole society's views, then get back to the climbing community only when that's done. Also note that girls can wear sports bras as minimal decent upper torso attire, going along with the minimal sweating purpose.

Oh fuck off.

For parents complaining that shirtless climbers are intimidating their offspring:

Get a fucking grip. If you've failed so dismally in raising your little shits that they somehow view a male torso as indecent, then you never should have spawned in the first place. Unfortunately it's too late now, but at least you can shut the fuck up and not whine to wall staff about it. Instead, take a long hard look at yourself and your parenting skills - and try to work out how the hell you're going to cope when your grubs go to a swimming pool.


Finally, some anecdotes.

I train with my shirt off regularly indoors (apart from in winter, I wear a skimpy vest then), because I sweat a lot, I find that sweating reduces my training effectiveness and enjoyment a lot, and I need to minimiseit (yes I keep repeating this, but despite being so bloody obvious people still are determined not to get it). I use liquid chalk and normal chalk and brush holds regularly and let my skin recover in between attempts and ask the staff to turn fans on if there are any. I also grunt and strain and occasionally shout with exertion.

I also don't show off and pose and flex and do any macho bullshit - I'm slightly overweight and wearing compression stockings FFS. And I talk politely and affably to people in general. When I've been at TCA climbing shirtless....

I've been chatting to one of the youth girls trying to get beta for a comp wall problem (youth girls is about the level I can manage usually!) and asking politely if I can try the same problem as it had inspired me - NO PROBLEM.

I've been refilling my chalkbag at the end of the wall, and ended up sitting, sweaty and shirtless, chatting to a very elderly lady who was accompanying her grandchildren and was wondering what the chalk was for and didn't seem to care less what I was wearing - NO PROBLEM.

I've been jumping down off a problem when a tiny girl ran around the corner and almost hit me, we both stared a bit shocked, and I smiled down at her and said "Oooops sorry" out of courtesy before she trotted off wide-eyed - NO PROBLEM.

Add in a few hundred casual chats to other climbers and occasional non-climbers - NO PROBLEM.

The moral being: If a provocative arse like myself can both an efficient shirtless climber and a civil human being, then maybe that's another small indication - along with common fucking sense - to not have any draconian restrictions or moronic criticisms of climbing with shirts off indoors.

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