For today's Groupon—$59 for a rock-climbing lesson and one-week pass to the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers—we're featuring our first ever guest writer, TIME humor columnist Joel Stein. We asked Joel to try rock climbing at Chelsea Piers and write about his experience. Enjoy!
Joel Stein Climbs Rocks at Chelsea Piers
Twelve years ago, I went rock climbing on the wall at Chelsea Piers on a date, where we both learned a valuable lesson: Though a harness sounds like something that will make your ass look hot, it is definitely not. “You want to wear a long shirt,” said my new rock-climbing instructor, Abby Nelson. “Maybe a long tank top so you can see upper arm strength.”
I’m a wiser, more cautious man now, so instead of buying long tank tops for me and my wife, I left her at home and brought my sister, Lisa. This turned out to be stupid. Especially since on my first trip up the 46’ wall—the largest in the Northeast—I got two-thirds up, looked down, and then said/whimpered/screamed-like-a-girl, “I think it might be best if I came down now Abby.”
And there was the moment before Abby belayed me down where I asked for a moment to fix my harness, and she said, “Yeah, you better rearrange. Cause you want to have another kid.”
Also, Abby kept mistakenly calling me Joe, which I liked since it made me feel more like a manly outdoorsy rock climber but cracked my sister up.
But the good thing about rock climbing with your sister, or even that date 12 years ago, is that you can’t afford to wimp out. Especially after Abby tries to make you feel better by saying, “Climbing is like going back to being a little baby again because you’re changing your plane of motion.”
As if that weren’t emasculating enough, just to my left, a professional climber who works at Chelsea Piers, Mike Feinberg, was crawling up a wall with no ropes, without using the plastic holder-things, trying to create a new path, like Spider-Man on his way to a Phish show. I might have allowed myself to be out-rock-climbed by a date, but I was not going to be shown up in outdoor athleticism by another Jew.
So I got back up that beginner’s climb and scrambled to the top as fast as I could, never looking down and using the soft rented shoes to grab onto whatever colorful plastic outcrop I could find on the fake grey plastic mountain, ignoring all of Abby’s helpful advice of which colors to use. The fear plus the use of muscles I don’t normally use made it a pretty good 10-minute workout; if I did this often enough I could definitely wear those tank tops Abby had been talking about. Still, I had only matched my sister. So I went up the intermediate and scurried to the top, looking—I like to believe—like Sylvester Stallone in that movie I didn’t see that I think was about rock climbing but may have been about having a six-year-old black kid as a police partner. Either way, my performance up the wall shut my sister up. And for that moment, I really did feel like my name was Joe.
The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers boasts a 10,000-square-foot indoor climbing wall and a radically designed overhung competition roof with sculpted, three-dimensional imprint climbing surfaces and numerous, continually changing routes that challenge novice and expert climbers. It's a wall with fake rocks fit for kings who rule with iron fists made out of gold. With today's Groupon, you'll have unlimited access to them for one week and get a 60-minute lesson on how to climb.
If you're new to rock-groping or don't remember how to abseil and belay, worry not. You'll learn every aspect of the climbing craft during the 60-minute small group climbing class. You'll quickly be able to navigate the walls like professional rock-climber Joel Stein.
The Sports Center is a huge, state-of-the-art facility overlooking the Hudson River. It has two river sundecks, 20,000 square feet of every kind of cardio and strength-training equipment, and a friendly, helpful staff. There's a six-lane, 25-yard indoor swimming pool; a 1/4-mile indoor running track; group fitness classes; an indoor sand volleyball court; a boxing ring; and three indoor basketball/volleyball courts. Use your week-long pass included in this Groupon to take advantage of much more than just the climbing wall.
Climbing in a rock gym is nothing like grappling the plywood-and-plastic climbing walls at a company picnic or building a batting cage in your backyard. Rock gym walls are covered with state-of-the-art textured products that mimic the conditions of real rocks (indentions, protrusions, overhangs, underhangs, and cracks included). Veteran climbers say rock climbing is sort of like training for and running a marathon, but you get the adrenaline rushes in shorter, more intensely concentrated spurts. Indoor climbing is a great way for someone to get started, or is a perfect after-work and climb-during-inclement-weather alternative for experienced climbers who want continuous practice.
Buy a few Groupons and learn how to climb with people you trust. Buy three and learn to climb with people you're highly suspicious of and friends you trust watching them.
Yelpers give The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers 4.5 stars:
- This is the best gym in NYC. – Tim C.
- The staff is extremely nice and there is no attitude anywhere...The equipment is state-of-the-art, and there is so much of it you never have to wait. There is no other gym that has the space this gym has! – Richard B.
- Allow me to say WOW!!! I am not a work-out freak but I absolutely love this place. THIS PLACE IS A TOTAL PACKAGE!! anything you ask for you will get it. – Lucy L.
The Mind Body Studio at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers
Relaxing and working out don't usually go hand-in-hand, but things aren't usual at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers. As soon as visitors set foot in the Mind Body Studio, they're set at ease by a modern lounge area, which boasts sleek bamboo floors, exposed brick walls, and sprigs of verdant plants. Inside the workout space, classes such as yoga and the barre method emphasize the mind-body connection. The Nalini Method classes also push students toward inner harmony with a combination of Pilates, aerobics, barre work, and yoga, helping students de-stress while toning limbs and burning calories without ever tossing any cheesecakes into open flames.