I talk about bouldering a lot. It's something I do 2-3 times a week, and it takes me out of any negative space I've been camped out in. Not that I've been in a negative space lately (more floating around on the cloud of a new relationship).
There are 3 kinds of (indoor) rock climbing:
Bouldering -- up to 15-20 feet (max), no rope, no harness, just you, a rock, and at least a foot of crash mats at the bottom.
Top Roping -- as high as you can go with a rope pre-attached to the top, generally around a pulley or supported bar. You have a friend on the other end of the rope "belaying" (holding on and keeping the rope tight as you climb) you.
Lead Climbing -- this is the one where you can occasionally see people dangling from the ceiling. You have on a harness attached to a rope and a friend on the other end, you climb the wall, and you clip yourself in to pre-set points on the wall. To do this, you need to get certified that you're safe to do this. I want to do it, but I'm also TERRIFIED of heights, so it might be a while.
So here are some basics you need to know about climbing:
1. You need to take breaks.
If you try to climb a wall and fall off, take a couple of minutes' break before trying again. Your muscles are holding your entire bodyweight in new and interesting ways! When you first start climbing, it's hard to use your legs, instead you'll focus most of your attention on your arms so they'll get tired VERY fast: especially your hands and forearms. If you attack the wall over and over again without breaking, you will be done after 15-20 minutes.
2. Bouldering is arm-heavy, but you don't use only your arms. Top-roping is a bit easier to use your legs.
Generally, bouldering isn't done straight up and down, like top roping. While top roping, you use your arms as much to hold you on the wall as you push up with your legs as you do pulling with your arms. In bouldering, you want to follow the same logic, but you'll find that this is harder to accomplish because you're not operating on a strictly vertical face. While indoors, this has as much to do with ease of set-up as realistic circumstances: the rope can get in the way while you're wrapping yourself around a corner, after all. All in all, once you find your balance, it WILL get easier. After all, not only are you building strength in those areas that tire quickly, but you'll become more comfortable on the wall so you can push with your legs rather than "muscling" your way up.
3. Knowing how to fall is the first key to safe climbing.
A controlled fall is your best friend. I have been climbing 2-3 times a week for more than 9 months. *knock on wood* The worst injury I have had was a twisted ankle, from an uncontrolled fall. For me, I will not let go until I know I can get my legs underneath me and land with loose knees and allow myself to fall wholly to the mats. I do my best to fall straight down, every time. Occasionally I will swing for a hold and miss, but if you don't let fear lock up your joints, you will likely catch yourself without incident. The reason drunk people fall down without getting hurt is that they don't let fear tense them up so the muscles are supple and the joints are loose and ready for impact. THAT is the key to safe falling.
4. (hardest lesson) Do not be embarrassed about your level of climbing.
This took me FOREVER to learn: I first started top-roping irregularly about 6 years ago, but I hated to go with anyone "good" because I was slow, and I'd panic, and I'd fail... and we'd have to jump around the gym so that the good climber could go to challenging routes and I would go back to the easy ones. Now I love bouldering because no one is waiting for you (except maybe to do the same route as you) and you're not slowing anyone down. However, even in a top-roping situation, no one is judging you! Other climbers may stop to give you tips on technique, or point out places to put your hands and feet, but every one of us in the gym remembers where we were when we started. We know how hard it can be, and how very worried we got about people laughing at us.
I know that this camaraderie exists in other sports, but I have never seen it so decisively applied as at a rock climbing gym. Maybe because every person in the gym has been the belayer at some point, and recognizes the need for support. Maybe it's just my brain suddenly recognizing that a well-timed "you got this!" can be as heartening as a rope tying you to the ceiling, but climbers have been simultaneously the most close-knit and welcoming group I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I regularly show up to the rock gym alone, but I rarely climb alone. In fact, the only days I have climbed alone were the days when I showed up to an empty gym.
So what are you waiting for?
Go climb a rock!