Terra Firma: a more interesting way to exercise


Working out is hard. Going to the gym is a hassle, and one can’t help but feel intimidated by the daunting, muscular people that inhabit it. The “gym culture” is not one that personally appeals to me, and I find that there are many others who can say the same. Unlike others, Terra Firma, located near downtown Grand Rapids, is a fairly recent addition to the collection of bouldering locations in the area that cultivates a less formidable environment to exercise in.

Based inside of what seems to be an old warehouse, Terra Firma is comprised of two levels. The first level contains three walls: a main, large one, and two side walls. The upstairs has a designated workout area and another wall with more courses. Along with helpful stickers that show where to place hands when starting, a color coding system ranging from level “V1” to “V9” is placed upon the routes to determine the difficulty of the course.

Bouldering is essentially a puzzle; it forces you to not only challenge yourself physically, but mentally as well. The ability to simultaneously hold yourself onto a wall with rocks while also figuring out a way to get to the top is definitely a skill that takes mastering. Luckily enough, bouldering is so entertaining and fun that you can work out without feeling like you’re working out at all. Until afterward, of course, when your arms are sorer than they have ever been. This too takes some getting used to; however, the pain is well worth the enjoyable, social experience that accompanies it.

The fee to climb at Terra Firma differs depending on what you want out of it. A day pass costs $16 and provides unlimited access to all amenities for the entirety of a day. If you are a student, though, this fee is lowered to $12. Climbing shoes and chalk can be purchased for a small price of $2 each. Although specific shoes and chalk are not required, using these items certainly helps make the climbing experience easier and more enjoyable.

As for the atmosphere, it can accurately be described in one word: comfortable. I was initially intimidated by the throng of coffee-drinking, beanie-wearing, hipster college students that gather there. Once I began to explore the place more, I came to a freeing realization: no one cares what you’re doing. While this may seem harsh, it allowed me to explore climbing in peace without the worry of being judged or looked at.

The extremely laidback staff only added to the sense of calm cultivated by the place. Everyone found at Terra Firma is almost always happy to converse with you, help you with a difficult course, or engage in meaningful interaction.

Moreover, the atmosphere is only furthered by the wonderful selection of music that is played in the background. Playlists containing a variety of music are common there; oldies but goodies, newer, more popular music, and more unknown artists perfectly blend into the backdrop of the mind.

So, if you are a person looking for an enjoyable, interesting way to work out your muscles in a new way, Terra Firma is just the place that you’ve been searching for. The combination of an easygoing atmosphere, affordable prices, and friendly surroundings create the perfect, non-threatening environment to exercise in.