Friday, October 24, 2014 · 8:46 a.m.
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Founded in 1999 by Luis Rodriguez and Eric Pittman, this St. Elmo climbing gym offers a unique indoor climbing experience that can keep you fit without all the drawbacks of a conventional gym. (Photo: Staff)

I don’t understand how a sane human being can enjoy the gym. Sure, we all love the benefits of working out, and we may put up with exercise for one reason or another, but I think we can all agree that actually going to the gym usually sucks.

The exercise is painful, the building usually smells rank, and I’m fairly certain that most contagious diseases are cultured on the disgusting floors of gym locker rooms.

Fast facts

Where: 3804 St. Elmo Ave.

When: Monday-Friday from 12-10 p.m., Saturday from 12-8 p.m., Sunday from 12-6 p.m.

How much: $8 for adult day pass, $4 for children, $35 for monthly membership

Phone: 423-822-6800

It’s difficult for me to see how someone could love all of that.

I go anyway because I need every bit of help I can get in the dating world, but I’m still miserable every time I go. Lifting weights next to a line of regulars who look like they live on a diet of protein shakes and eggs isn’t my idea of fun.

Thankfully, my friends introduced me to a treasure in Chattanooga that has saved me from this sweaty nightmare: Tennessee Bouldering Authority.

The basics
Founded in 1999 by Luis Rodriguez and Eric Pittman, this St. Elmo climbing gym offers a unique indoor climbing experience that can keep you fit without all the drawbacks of a conventional gym.

TBA was originally created to be an indoor training gym for climbers during the workweek, but it has now evolved into a much more comprehensive element of the climbing community in Chattanooga.

The gym is composed of seven man-made walls that line the interior of the building. These vary in steepness, and each is set with a variety of holds to scale them with.

Basically, indoor gyms use these walls to create artificial climbing routes—problems—that mirror those you would find in the boulder fields around Chattanooga, and no one sets better problems than TBA.

Problems range in difficulty from simple, recreational-level routes to expert level problems that require superhuman strength. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a first-time climber, there is something to try your hand at.

Beneath every wall there are several mats that are approximately 2 feet thick. You can climb all day, and when your arms start to give out, you can just fall back on a waiting mat.

Bouldering is the perfect blend of exercise and entertainment. Rather than mindlessly doing reps with metal weights and machines, you get to make an ascent and reach an end goal, all while battling gravity to solve unique problems. (Photo: Staff)

The first time I visited TBA, I thought it seemed somewhat small, but I’ve discovered that walls are consistently reset almost every week. This means that the 3,000-square-foot climbing space is always loaded with some new problems to work on.

All of that means this is one gym you will never get bored with.

Extras and thoughts
Bouldering is the perfect blend of exercise and entertainment. Rather than mindlessly doing reps with metal weights and machines, you get to make an ascent and reach an end goal, all while battling gravity to solve unique problems.

Instead of slaving away in a gym alongside jocks and meatheads, I actually enjoy physical activity here.

Aside from the exercise, one of the greatest things about TBA is that it offers a supportive, friendly community that makes climbing all the more interesting.

Bouldering is taking off in Chattanooga, thanks to an abundance of natural boulder fields around the city, and many of the locals choose to train at TBA. That means that there are always a few locals hanging around the gym, who are usually more than happy to give instructions.

The exercise is great, but this group of passionate individuals was what really won me over at this gym. I signed up with a membership and haven’t looked back.

You can buy a day pass and rent some shoes just to check it out sometime, but the membership is the best deal at the gym. It gets you unlimited climbing and free shoe rentals.

It’s essentially a license to train however and whenever you want.

Tennessee Bouldering Authority

If you’re looking for more personalized instruction to either get started climbing or take your form to the next level, TBA offers a range of different climbing lessons for every possible scenario.

The wrap-up
I should be clear and say that I am not, nor do I ever want to be, a fitness expert. All you have to do is look at how regularly I eat Taco Bell and Wendy’s to see that I’m not exactly the picture of healthy living.

However, I do know that bouldering has become my favorite form of exercise in the past year.

The problem is that no matter how much I harp on about it, I can’t communicate the full experience. So with that in mind, I invite you to stop just reading about it and come visit TBA this week.

You can get introduced to a recreational activity that is taking Chattanooga by storm, and you may fall in love with it all by yourself.

If nothing else, I promise our gym doesn’t make you lift weights. 

Emmett Gienapp is a writer trying to make it through college in Chattanooga. You can usually find him bouldering around the city, catering to pay rent or reading Dostoevsky in public places to appear intellectual. You can follow his column, Native Eyes, on Instagram and Twitter. Also feel free to contact him with suggestions, comments or stories via email.

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