Following our sponsorship announcement last week, this is the first installment in a series of blogs written by Anoushé Husain. Each blog has been thoughtfully written to inspire you - in this first blog Anoushé tackles body confidence and perceived barriers to entering sport.
When I tried Climbing for the first time as an eight-year old, I was way too excited about the fact that I was being put into a harness and was going to try climbing for my first time. Back then, I knew I looked different as I have 1.5 arms and I knew I needed extra help with some things, but, I wasn’t body conscious otherwise.
That drastically changed as I became a teenager and when my health started degrading. My weight was going all over the place, I was becoming less and less active and once I started cancer treatment, I really struggled with how I saw my body. I also wanted to ask for less and less help as a reaction of having become generally more dependent for my day to day living. So when I was asked by my friend at 24 to try Climbing as a way to rehabilitate my body and my normal arm after treatment, I thought she was insane for a plethora of reasons.
I was struggling to lift my arm above my head for long enough to shower, how on earth was I going to hold myself on a wall with it? I had gained a lot of weight and was struggling to climb one flight of stairs without being out of breath.
I was also very self-conscious. I was going to look very silly not knowing how to climb and falling awkwardly. The harness was going to highlight all the bits of me that I was hugely uncomfortable with and I couldn't tighten it on my own due to my arms being weakened from cancer treatment. People were going to stare at me as I climb differently given I have 1.5 arms. Finally, I always thought that you needed strong arms to climb. Mine were clearly not. I also had a few concerns about how to climb with a headscarf.
All in all, anyone of those reasons could have stopped me from trying. They very nearly did. My friend called me out. She knew I had wanted to try climbing again for years, she told me I was scared and then she asked me something that has now become one of my mantras : “what's the worst that can happen?”
Your harness will highlight the same parts of you as anyone else. No one cares because every single climber is in the same boat. You don't need strong arms to climb, everyone needs to start somewhere, we will find a route that works for you and take breaks when you need. Like any other sport or exercise, you will gain strength and skill in time if you like it and do it consistently.
Everyone falls when they climb, yet people still climb. No one cares that you might take a fall, if anything, the climbing community is amazing and will encourage you to try again. You have 1.5 arms, when in your life have people not stared at you?
As for your headscarf, you've been going to the gym, you've done other sports, like with anything, we will find a way that works for you.
She was right to call me out. I wasn't scared, I was terrified. So much had happened in my life that I was living scared. I needed to know that I would be ok by trying something new and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
I won't say that first session was easy. The particular challenges I was facing with my arms was a struggle but I enjoyed myself. For the first time in a very long time, I had found myself so absorbed in something that I forgot my health issues and any other stress in my life. For the first time in ages, I actually felt normal. I was the same as any other new climber; I just had some extra challenges to contend with. Falling was actually really satisfying because it meant I was trying hard and everyone falls, especially the good climbers!
I kept climbing but maybe a couple of times a year until 4 years ago when I moved to London and lost my climbing partner. 2 years ago, I realised I was missing it a lot and that's when I found Castle. I was quite intimidated about trying out a new place that was so big, I was still a proper beginner but I had become a competent belayer by then. I called up Castle to check if I would need to do a taster course again or not and get a feel of how welcoming and inclusive they were.
That call was brilliant. The reception team were really welcoming and answered all my questions. I restarted climbing just over 2 years ago. I started with once every couple of weeks or so. Now I struggle if I don't climb every few days! Castle is now my 2nd home, the staff are fantastic and the community is great. I've also built my social circle through climbing there.
If you're thinking about climbing for the first time or are thinking about getting back to it but are hesitating, ask yourself why?
Castle have taster courses if you think you might need it and run social sessions for people who don't have partners. If you don't want a partner, you can come and boulder or use the auto belay system and being a differently-abled climber, I have always found something that works for me no matter what state of health I'm in.