When I was at school, I did a GCSE in climbing. I'm not really sure why. I'd like to think it was for the love of the sport (is it a sport? Is it ok to ask?) but frankly I'm not a huge fan of heights and I've never looked good in a harness. So I am forced to conclude that I was shamelessly collecting A-grades like they were tokens in a cereal packet. On which note, isn't it a shame that food brands no longer reward our indulgence like they used to?
Fast forward a decade of army training, ski racing and marathon running, and a boy asked me to go climbing with him. Reflecting on my vertical prowess aged 16, I scoffed and took him up on it. Embarrassingly, I think I may even have promised I would "nail him at climbing". My fitness arrogance, it seems, really knows no bounds.
So we met on a Sunday morning. It was early. I was violently hungover, and furiously pretending to the boy that I was not. It seemed to be going well - I surely had this in the bag.
Rather late in the day (or early in the morning, I suppose), it had become clear to me that where we were meeting wasn't a climbing centre, and it didn't have a climbing wall. Instead, what we would be doing was hamster-wheeling on a climb machine which I can best describe as a vertical treadmill. We would be going precisely zero feet up.
My immediate reaction was to leave. There's been some sort of horrible mistake. I'd signed up for colourful hand grips and a fun, SATC-type date (remember the trapeze?) What I got was a room full of super-pumped people and an instructor intermittently shouting 'one two' and 'bounce bounce' to the beat. I mean, really. No hangover deserves that.
But then about half way through I had a bit of a break-through: it wasn't terrible. If I'm honest, any kind of bouncing was always going to suck in my self-induced state, but it could have been worse. And frankly, the 300-or-so calories I'd burnt in under 20 minutes was a bit of a selling point. So I stuck it out.
Apparently climbing is going to be the next big fitness trend. I'm semi-on-board - the lack of impact certainly trumps the treadmill for joint health, and the number of stacked men in my class assures me there is nothing cop-out about it. A word to the wise, though - leave the helmet at home.