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HEALTH & FITNESS : Sport for Upwardly Mobile Athletes

March 26, 1992|DAVID SHAUGHNESSY

In pursuit of a fit and healthy lifestyle, North County residents have pursued all the usual routes--walking, cycling, running--and quite a few of the unusual routes, too. They climb rocks, chase trails marked with flour and ride their bicycles in circles.

For every variation in taste, schedule and physique, there seems to be a route to fitness out there. Some folks have charted their own way, others have connected with an established program. Whatever your own program or lack thereof, fitness starts--or ends--with a good night's sleep. And whether you exercise occasionally or often you'll feel a whole lot better if you do it without injury.

If you're ready to get up and get going, still just thinking about it, or looking for new ways to put yourself through your paces, we offer these suggestions for getting the lead out:

Some say they climb rocks in answer to an inner call for exploration and adventure, others to build fitness or to get closer to nature. Some talk about the mind-clearing, heady sensation they get when they conquer their own fear.

"You really get to know yourself when you're up there climbing," said Brian McInerny, a 37-year-old lifetime Carlsbad resident who's been climbing for 20 years. "You learn to keep fear under control. Fear is there for a reason--to keep you alive--but you can conquer it. Climbing teaches you that you don't have to bow down to your fears."

"In climbing, the focus is 100% on you," said Bart Berry, executive director of Aquarius Adventures, a Solana Beach company that teaches basic and advanced rock climbing, and provides guided Alpine trips. "Climbing is a personal challenge type sport, it gets you fit mentally and physically, and can benefit other aspects of your life. It encourages people to develop themselves. You have to persevere. You have to push yourself to get better."

Although some travel out of the area in pursuit of the sport, rock climbers in North County have heights to be conquered close to home. The most popular climbing area is Mt. Woodson, a 2,894-foot-high, boulder-covered peak situated between Poway and Ramona. There are a smattering of other sites where climbers have found footholds, but some are on private property or are in otherwise restricted areas.

To the uninitiated, rock climbing may seem dangerous, perhaps justifiably so, but most climbers feel secure with the safety record of their sport, despite the fact that there's always a chance of death or injury.

"It's one of the safer sports around," said Daniel Karten, a climber who works at Adventure 16 in Solana Beach, a retail outlet that caters to the rock climbing set and provides classes on all aspects of the sport. "It's kind of interesting. There's less injury per capita than football or basketball. You are in control. The equipment is a backup; it's designed as a safeguard against injury."

According to experts, it is not necessary to be a great athlete to be a rock climber, nor does it require exceptional upper body strength, at least not until the more difficult ascents are attempted.

"A lot of people have a misconception about rock climbing and upper body strength," said Daren Dembrow, owner of the Rock and Roll Rock Climbing Gym in Murrieta. "Climbing takes a combination of flexibility, balance and grace. Women can be great at it. It's as akin to dancing and gymnastics as it is to any muscle sport."

With high tech equipment and instructors like Berry and Dembrow to assist them, more and more people in North County are taking up rock climbing.

"Climbing has come a long way in the last few years," said Berry. "Advancements in technique and instruction have taken place, and advancements in climbing shoes, harnesses, ropes and equipment have made it more comfortable to get into climbing than it used to be.

"Climbing is almost like scuba. You need to progress responsibly. It's much better to take lessons so you can learn how to use the equipment and avoid mistakes."

The basic equipment consists of the essential rubber-bottomed rock shoes, a harness with leg and waist loops, and a chalk bag. The bag is attached to a belt that fits snugly around your waist, and contains the much-needed gymnastics chalk that will dry your soon-to-be-sweating palms and fingers. Of course, you have to let go with at least one hand in order to dip into it.

The rubber-soled climbing shoes are an industry unto themselves, with many kinds of choose from, from all-purpose climbing shoes to shoes designed for more specific climbing techniques, such as crack climbing or friction climbing The shoes look like a cross between suede sneakers and rubber-bottomed ballet slippers. They can be high or low-top, and come in every color imaginable.

"When I first started climbing in '72, there was only one type of climbing shoe. . . . now there are probably over a hundred," said McInerny.

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