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March 21, 2016 by
Jay Medley
I have a fear of falling. I scaled a 36-foot rock climbing wall. These two statements shouldn’t go together, but they’re both true. It turns out that I’m not the only climber who has overcome fears to reach the summit, climbers with a fear of heights are quite common.

If you have a fear of heights or falling, you can still climb. Not only can you get a great workout from climbing, but you could also build confidence and conquer your fears! Here are a few tactics to help you climb if you’re afraid of heights.

It’s natural to be a little fearful when you try rock climbing for the first time, so don’t be embarrassed. Pay attention to your safety class: not only will it ensure that you’re properly strapped in and that you know what you’re doing, but knowing the ins and outs of the safety equipment can give you peace of mind.

For me, realizing that my belayer wouldn’t let me fall was a big relief. I even tested the equipment and my belayer a bit by putting my weight on my harness and the rope (rather than completely holding myself on the wall with my hands and feet.)

I realized that the rope, harness, and my belayer would indeed hold me. Plus, the floors in most gyms have some sort of padding to put your mind at further ease.

Just getting out there and climbing will help ease the fear.

Repeated climbs will work in the same way that exposure therapy does for fears of flying or public speaking. If you get too scared mid-climb, simply stop and give your belayer the signal that you want to come back down. With repetition, you may be able to climb higher eventually.

Rock climbing isn’t all about getting to the top of the wall – you’re in it for the end-game, conquering your fear and gaining confidence. Try some relaxation techniques like taking deep breaths if you start to feel overwhelmed, but remember that you are in charge of yourself and you can stop whenever you need.

In gym class, I had a difficult time climbing a rope ladder simply because I could see straight through it (and down to the floor.) With rock climbing, I didn’t even notice how high up I was because I was constantly looking at the wall or upwards for my next hold.

Even when I did look downward, it was at my feet and the holds on the wall. It wasn’t until I reached the top that I finally looked down at the rest of the gym and saw how small my belayer and the other people were. This may sound overly-simplified, but just don’t look down! If you focus on the wall and the holds, you just might get to the top before your fear kicks in.

You can conquer your fears of heights and falling while climbing, but you need to take it at your own pace. Try to relax, know that you can come back down at any time, and don’t look down. You’ll be at the top in no time!

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