When Chris Brown was 17 years old, his mother sent him on an Outward Bound expedition, where he learned to rock climb. It was a life-changing experience.
"I was totally hooked," said Brown, now 36. "Then I came back home to Clearwater where there was nothing to climb."
Luckily, he heard about a new gym in Tampa that featured an indoor rock climbing wall.
"That was it," said Brown, co-owner of the new Vertical Ventures St. Petersburg. "From that point I was there every day."
A decade ago, climbing was a fringe sport. But as more Americans are looking for new ways to get fit, many are turning to indoor climbing gyms for a chance to build muscle and blow off a little steam. All you have to do is take a look at a hardcore climber to realize the benefits of this total-body workout. Hit the wall and you'll use your hands, arms, shoulders, back, legs, feet, abdominal muscles and, of course, your mind.
"It is definitely a physical sport," said Brown, an avid climber. "But there is also a mental aspect that is often overlooked. Getting up the wall is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle."
Brown started working at Vertical Ventures Tampa after high school. He also had a brief stint as a cable inspector on the Sunshine Skyway bridge. "Amazing job," he said. "I hung around all day from ropes on the bridge."...