Tom's Zest For Life

Tom & his guide in Colorado (now 72)     Follow his adventures here:

Tom & his guide in Colorado (now 72)

Follow his adventures here:

My mission with Stay.stoked Adventures is rather simple: I want to introduce active pre-retirees and retirees (the 50+ community) to the many wonders of rock climbing. I’m not talking about what you probably think of as “rock climbing” – the media has done quite the job into portraying it as something explicitly dangerous that only young, ultra-fit, white men do. The truth is that rock climbing IS an activity that anyone can learn. It does not matter how old or young you are. It does not matter how many limbs you have ( It does not even matter if you are afraid of heights.

Recently, I sent an e-mail to a 72-year old Iowan (Tom) about his experiences with rock climbing and I thought his responses would articulate some of rock climbing’s most popular misconceptions. We had originally met in 2016 at the Climbing Wall Association Summit in Colorado and I can say that he is one radical fella, with a zest for life, health and learning. 

Rock climbing?! Isn’t that extreme & dangerous?

Tom: I have been unwilling to stand close to a drop-off or cliff edge all my life - I can, but get extremely uncomfortable. So, I’d say my biggest fear was of falling and getting hurt or worse. In my case it doesn’t quite amount to a phobia so when I researched injury rates for indoor climbing I was able to overcome my fears and give it a try. However, I enrolled in a beginner class at Climb Iowa to ensure I learned the best risk management practices possible from qualified instructors. I had no idea of the benefits to come.

I do not recommend older adults walk into a climbing gym and try it with no instruction and minimal information given about the techniques, risk management and the physical and psychological benefits to be gained by climbing properly. Some Boomers are so enthusiastic during my class and between classes that I make a special effort to explain that muscles gain strength much more rapidly than tendons and ligaments. The tip for these folks is obvious - maintain an even strain. In other words, pay attention to your body and don’t rush the process; getting hurt will unnecessarily delay the fun and benefits of climbing. My special tip for all Boomers is that they enjoy - and indeed, revel - in the improvements to their strength, agility, health and happiness that climbing regularly tends to deliver. The reward is in the journey of climbing and learning smart movement techniques, not the destination.

Rock climbing?! But, I’m too old…no?

(Tom probably thought he might be too old. But when one of his grandchildren challenged him to try the climbing wall at an REI, he stepped up to the challenge).

Tom (on benefits): I went from nearly 230 lbs to 175 with a massive increase in strength and agility over several years. This literally resulted in a new me. My asthma condition improved, and I feel amazing just walking around, opening car and restaurant doors, playing golf, doing chores around the house, nimbly changing directions while walking in a crowd, carrying heavy items or digging my own ham radio concrete tower base hole at age 72 by hand (5’x3’x3’ in dense/sticky hard clay soil). In other words, ordinary things in my daily life are better!

The joy and gratification I receive from (a) being a rock climbing instructor for adults 50 & over after discovering climbing late in life and now at age 72, and (b) from experiencing my Boomer students’ exhilaration as they reach the top of their first route.

Rock climbing?! I’m not strong or fit enough for that?

Tom: There’s a reason inspirational posters so often feature rock climbers. If you wish to exercise, why not pick an activity that’s social, exhilarating, adventurous, total-body, non-repetitive and that exercises the mind as well as the body. One that has a world class fall prevention system, one that greatly improves your balance and center-of-gravity awareness, one that doesn’t pound on your joints, one that’s smooth not jerky, and one that you can do at your own speed with new friends or by yourself (with auto-belays).

So, if you are looking for an activity that is truly different, inspiring, meaningful and full of health benefits (both physical and psychological), look no further. Sign up for one of our Stay.stoked Schools today or contact us for more details!