The Outdoor Cure


  There is an impressive new indoor climbing facility not far from where I live.  Visited it recently with youngest daughter and had a blast.  Vertical kinesthetics always provide their own special sort of joy.

  Daughter has been frequenting one in the Bay Area and was quite a bit more fit than her pencil pushing old man.  She cruised up and past the overhangs to the fifty foot summit with grace and ease.  Climbing is one physical endeavor that is gender neutral. 

  The sport’s most groundbreaking feat to date – the first free ascent of the Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite NP – was accomplished by a woman.  Lynn Hill.  Women know right off what it takes most men a long time to figure out, that finesse trumps brute strength.

  Anyway, the new wall incorporates a few hand sized cracks which up to this visit I’d seen in nature, but not plastic.  Either way, that sort of feature provides considerable security.  Slide your hand in, cup it, pressing fingers and hand heel to one side and knuckles to the other, and you have a multidirectional bomb proof purchase.

  Only trouble is that after a bit of upward progress thus effected the backs of your hands tell a tale of woe.  Especially if you’re out of practice and uncalloused.  (There’s a short such climb in Yosemite named “Meatgrinder”)  Oh well, I was visited by a waves of ouch and masochistic nostalgia as I slid my hands into my pockets later on.

  We had great fun, but it is not the same thing as being outside – somewhere between a video game and the real thing.  That thought occurred a few days ago when I came across an article in the 11-30-10 Science Tuesday section of the NYT titled “Head Out for a Daily Dose of Green Space”.

  Turns out that there is something called “outdoor deprivation disorder” and we learn that its “effects on physical and mental health are rising fast”.  The diminished importance given to physical activity and the natural environment has led to a diminished populace young to old.  Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, etc, etc.

  Not to mention the most important thing of all – the state of one’s mind and the experience of living.  Depression, stress, attention deficit disorder, are included in what one researcher called “diseases of indoor living”.

  Even regarding our present topic.  I’ve been repeatedly astounded to learn that gym rats visit other gyms within miles, within sight even, of world class natural outcrops completely unaware and uninterested.  You tell me which situation would constellate one’s neurons most spectacularly – the one above or the one below. 

 *The building in the background is IM Pei’s National Center for Atmospheric Research


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