The biggest fear of overweight climbers is often thinking everyone else is staring at them…

Being scared to climb high on a wall is normal (we’re not squirrels). For the overweight woman or man who’s drawn to this exciting sport, there’s an extra element of fear:


After all, many overweight or plus size people have anxiety, self-consciousness or fear just from working out at ground level at a gym.

I used to do a lot of wall climbing. Though I wasn’t overweight, there are many things I picked up during the four years that I pursued this sport.

• Overweight people DO climb. It’s rare, but it happens.

• When people are looking up at the climber (perhaps waiting for the route, bored, etc.), their eyes are focused on the movement or technique of the climber, not how much fat is showing on their legs and butt.

• If onlookers are drawn to a plus size individual struggling up a route, they quietly root for that person and are happy to see them get to the top.

• Plenty of thin people “fall” off the wall and hang helplessly in the harness.

• If someone, regardless of size, is struggling on a route, experienced climbers often call out suggestions.

• There are super easy routes that an overweight person (or any newcomer) can focus on.

• The climbers who get stared at the most—by far the most—are the ones “leading” (clipping the rope in as they ascend) routes rated 12 (advanced) and higher—especially ones that travel across the ceiling.

• Who’d rather watch a plus size person struggling on an easy route than some dude crawling on the ceiling way up high like a spider making impossible maneuvers?

An overweight or fat man or woman has nothing to fear at a climbing gym, as far as being ridiculed, stared at with scorn, laughed at, etc.

So what are you waiting for?

Fear of Injury
The overweight climber’s odds of falling off the route aren’t much different than an intermediate-level, skinny climber’s odds of peeling off an advanced route.

Even the gym’s best climbers will come off the wall. It happens all the time. It goes with the sport.

The plus size climber has nothing to fear when working with a reliable belayer.

All climbers, overweight and thin, run the risk of finger injuries when slipping off the route. This risk is built into the sport.

My advice is to take things gradually, don’t rush up the route, don’t get ahead of yourself, and be faithful to hand/finger strengthening exercises.

Many climbing gyms have implements to help strengthen the hands and fingers. Of course, nothing strengthens them like the actual climbing.

Learning proper hand-hold techniques will help immensely. If someone wants to give you advice, don’t take it the wrong way.

There’s something about this sport that inspires people to give advice to complete strangers who are struggling with a route.

One need not be a master climber to give out good advice. An intermediate-level climber is very qualified at giving advice to a beginner who’s struggling with a particular “problem” on a route—it will likely be the same advice that an advanced climber will give.

Do not fear getting fatigued. I’ve seen one climber after another, not the least bit overweight, show exhaustion at the top of a route—or only midway when they give up and tell the belayer to let them down.

If you think you’re too fat to climb and have fear or anxiety, just try it anyways.

Once you’re on the wall, you will be pretty much incapable at that point of worrying that others are staring at you.

In fact, you will be SO absorbed in trying to get up the route…that you’ll swear that you’re the only person in the gym. Just choose an easy route (gyms usually go down to 5.4, which is considered very easy). And have fun!

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.