Different sports require certain body types to excel. Alert sports fan notices the small things. For example, the next short, thick, swimmer to win Olympic gold will be the first.

Basketball welcomes all, but the very best have a certain 'Be Like Mike' appearance. Football is all about bigger, faster, stronger, to the point of suspicions about Human Growth Hormone.

Steroids are easy to hang on football, but baseball still basks in the afterglow of their steroid years.

As sports fans we look for the edge, for the reflexes and vision one athlete has over others. There's an old saw around basketball coaches about 'you can't teach height,' followed by wistful laughter.

For all of the contests I've witnessed, from Olympic Trials, the first Inter-league baseball game between the Dodgers and Mariners in the since imploded Seattle Kingdome, to Michael Jordan and the Bulls' last visit to the Rose Garden, the athleticism was what you'd expect from big leaguers.

On the other end of the scale I've coached t-ball and youth soccer at an age where emerging athleticism is hard to find. It's there with eye-hand coordination, endurance, and a willingness to learn from mistakes instead of pitching a fit.

With such a background, I searched through all of sport to find one that closely matches the physical ideal of strength, flexibility, and decision making.

And I found it.

My twenty-something sons came home from work and said they're going to a new gym. It went in one ear and out the other. New gym? What's wrong with the old gym, or the garage?

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They left and came back with something resembling respect. They encountered something that humbled them. Since it's such an unusual feeling for my two superstars, they did what they usually do after encountering something in sports that is harder than expected.

They invited me to go with them the next time.

The place is called The Circuit Bouldering Gym. In a series of colored walls covered in hand and toe grips, the Bouldering Gym is a safe training haven for rock climbers to practice their sport.

If you're wondering if rock climbing is a sport, it carries many of the same qualities as football: it's dangerous, you could die, and helmets are advisable.

Colored tape marks the walls, showing the grips to use on the way up, down, and sideways. Yes, sideways, but don't worry, the floor is padded for falls and drops.

Stand back and look at a wall before climbing and you can see the patterns of the red route, orange route, and the rest.

The important part for baby boomers, at least this boomer, is the starting point of each climbing trail. They start close to the ground in a squat position with both hands on a climbing ledge, each foot on a small wall bump. You go up from there. Even after four moves it's low enough to step off.

Because I was with my kids and one of their friends, I wanted to show well if not show off. It started with renting climbing shoes and chalk. The chalk is key. With such strong grips on the walls it's hard on the hands.

After getting up and down a few walls and falling off one, I slowed down and noticed the crowd.

This had to be the leanest, strongest, group gathered in one place. They all had a quiet confidence, the sort of thing required to take the hard routes.

And they all had good height to weight ratio.

As an older man participating in new activities with young men, I had their best interests in mind. That's what role models do to be called role models. Duty required me to bring a most unusual observation to the young men's attention.

Bouldering is a big draw for beautiful, strong, women.

I looked around what felt like Spiderman's training ground and noticed an equal number of men and women. The guys looked like outdoor individualists with patchy beards and ponytails on some, the eye of the tiger-climber on others.

But the women had more in common. They knew they were as good at climbing as the guys, but looked better doing it.

One woman climbed up and dropped down over and over. It wasn't an accident. It seemed too far to drop, but she knew how to do it without injury.

I asked the guys if they saw anyone they knew. No. I asked if they saw anyone they'd like to know. Yes.

To review, this isn't a climbing gym with ropes and spotters. Show up, sign in, and go. Do this and you're joining a new breed of athlete. If you like associating with lean, strong, people, this is the place.

If you want to try and turn into a lean, strong, baby boomer, start bouldering. Call it the next step in boomer-ness.

 

 

David Gillaspie is an active researcher, skills he honed during twenty years with the Oregon Historical Society. His education wavered between English major/Fiction writer at the University of Oregon where he met Ken Kesey, to a BS in History from Portland State with news writing. Married, with two millennial sons, he connects sports and fitness to the realities of baby boomer life, with no mention ever of skydiving or base-jumping. David covers a wide variety of fascinating topics on his boomer-centric blog, Boomer PDX. Check it out -- you'll be glad you did.