Molly Donelan Credit: Courtesy Miguel "M.i.G." Martinez

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Home Gym is a series by City Paper writers looking at the different ways D.C. is working out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay updated on our coverage of the global health crisis, and visit the CDC website for information on how to practice safe habits during this time.

More than a week had passed since I last attempted a non-running workout, so I was eager to find something new. While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I saw a post from Sportrock Climbing Centers, the Northern Virginia-based climbing gyms, challenging their followers to a fitness test.

In the video, Sportrock’s director of programs and events, Molly Donelan, completed a workout involving 100 squats, 100 shoulder taps, 100 squat jumps, and 100 mountain climbers. Sportrock encourages people to finish the challenge in 10 minutes or less.

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Donelan, who says that she adopted the workout from a Spartan challenge, did it in 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, I decided to give it a try. I rolled out my newly purchased yoga mat, hit the timer on my watch, and started the challenge.

About 30 squats in, I felt my quads begin to burn. I put my hands on my knees to catch my breath before continuing and, in all, it took me 2 minutes and 15 seconds to complete this portion of the challenge.

For the next set, I got in a pushup position on my mat and tapped my left shoulder with my right hand, and then my right shoulder with my left hand. I counted that as one repetition. This one hurt—a lot. I took about half a dozen breaks and finished the set in 3 minutes and 56 seconds.

I paced around the room and chugged a few gulps of water before heading into the squat jumps. Finishing in under 10 minutes appeared increasingly unlikely. I completed the squat jumps in 3 minutes and 31 seconds.

That left me with 17 seconds to do 100 mountain climbers.

With my legs fatigued and sweat collecting on my running cap, I powered through the set in 3 minutes and 48 seconds. 

My total time: 13 minutes and 30 seconds.

Again, I questioned my fitness. But before my self esteem spiraled downward, I discovered that I did twice as many shoulder taps and mountain climbers than I needed to do. (Donelan counts each side as one rep.)

“You can take a couple minutes off,” she tells me with a laugh.

I breathed a sigh of a relief.

The challenge is just one of several that Sportrock plans to share with its followers and members. The climbing center, which has locations in Alexandria and Sterling, has been closed since March 17 and will not reopen until April 23 at the earliest due to a statewide order for non-essential businesses to shut down during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Without access to climbing gyms and social restrictions in place, Donelan says it’s important for climbers to focus on what they can do. That means putting in cardio work in the form of biking or running and incorporating strength training. She suggests doing pull ups or wall hangs to work your back, core, shoulders, and arms.

“A lot of climbers have hangboards and if they don’t, they’re probably using their doorframe,” Donelan says. 

Sportrock plans to stream yoga sessions live on its website four to five times a week, and Donelan says she will post climbing-specific instructional workouts as well. The Instagram workout challenges will also continue. In the past week, Donelan says she’s been tagged “a hundred times”  in the pushup challenge that’s been popular among CrossFit athletes and climbers. Those tagged must record themselves attempting a set number of pushups and post it on Instagram.

Without a physical community, climbers have used these challenges as a way to stay in touch.

“It’s two highly addictive sports, and we both have close knit communities,” Donelan says of rock climbing and CrossFit. “That’s hard to lose and so that’s why we’re doing so many virtual workouts. We’re very competitive, same with CrossFit. Challenging friends to pushups, that takes three minutes and you get to connect with people.”

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