Open for Business: Peoria Company Takes Fitness to New Heights



PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Amanda Villiger is no stranger to rocks, ropes and heights of climbing.

“I started climbing in college. And you know, I went to school for something else, but rock climbing has always been something that I enjoyed, ”she said.

Villiger is the Gym Manager for First Ascent Climbing and Fitness in Peoria. She has been with the company since it opened in its Warehouse District location. Every day she is surrounded by what she loves.

“What’s unique about rock climbing is that it’s not just a physical challenge. It’s a mental challenge. And I think it never gets boring, ”Villiger said.

It’s a challenge that WMBD / WYZZ’s Shelbey Roberts took on with the help of Villiger. Novice Roberts learned both the ropes and the walls of rock climbing: free climbing and belaying. Belaying is a two-person technique where the person underneath uses their weight and rope to anchor the climber.

Villiger said: “Since we opened, just seeing people’s love for rock climbing extend from the bouldering area to that top rope space where people use auto belayers, you learn how to do it. secure for each other, find their climbing partners and eventually become more advanced … “

Activity requires a balance between strength and bravery.

Villiger said: “One of our goals here is to make rock climbing accessible to people who want to try it. But it’s their first time and they’re nervous and you might know they’ve never done it before. And it takes some learning and you know how to adjust your body and learn to work with your own body and in new and different ways to make it a 50 foot wall.

Roberts hasn’t made much headway on the walls. But Villiger said his staff’s goal is to encourage all climbers, whether they are five inches or 50 feet off the ground.

“The climbing community is truly unique. It’s not like a normal gym where you might get a little nervous talking to someone else. In the climbing room, everyone talks to each other and always helps each other, ”she said.

The First Ascent climbing community is very different after 2020. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the building was closed for three months. Villiger said the facility underwent a massive deep cleaning before it reopened. While operations have not fully returned to normal, each night staff members spray the walls with disinfectant. Climbers are also advised to wear masks while climbing.

“All the things we used to do, but on a slightly smaller scale, just to make sure we stay within our capacity limits and leave enough space for everyone to move around the gym without feeling crowded. “said Villiger.

First Ascent Climbing and Fitness is located at 927 SW Washington St. in Peoria.



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