LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the calendar ticks over to 2023, lots of people set fitness goals for the new year. A growing number of them are thinking of fitness in another dimension - not distance across the ground, but height above it.
When you come to the gym in January, you know what to expect.
"I guess that's why the parking lot's so full right now!" said Saniya Pervin inside a busy LEF Climbing gym Tuesday night.
She has been a member for several months.
"I came one day and I loved it. I came a second time and I'm like, this is amazing," she said.
As people make new year's commitments, managers at the gym see people looking for something different.
"Climbing works muscles that no one is used to using. Might be different parts of your forearms, your back, obviously there's the technical science behind that. It's a workout unlike any other," said director of operations Ryan Smith.
Climbing has seen a boom in popularity across the country.
"It had the 'Free Solo' boom. People love to talk about that," Smith said of the Oscar-winning 2018 documentary chronicling Alex Honnold's ropeless climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. "It also had the Olympic boom this past Olympics as well. All of that's gotten people a little more intrigued to it. A lot of us have been climbing for a while. We've seen it coming. It is definitely up and on the rise."
Smith said LEF has grown 40% since 2019 and they expect about 8% growth in 2023.
"40% of Americans all have an active fitness membership and lately, we're actually seeing an increase in check-ins as well, so that means people aren't just having them and keeping them active, they're having them and using them," he said.
As the new year brings in more people, BiBi Nichols says the climbing community welcomes them in.
"It's a really great community. People are very friendly, very outgoing, humble, genuine. It's a very different environment than other places," Nichols said.
It's also a type of exercise with some built-in accountability.
"If you want to rope climb, you need a partner. If we can give you that new buddy, that new friend, and you guys say 'Hey, we're going to meet every Tuesday at 5:00', it's a whole lot harder for next Tuesday for you to say, 'Hey man, I can't make it anymore'. When you have that partner that's relying on you just as much as you're relying on them, you two are going to meet your goals together," Smith said.