In a previous post, I described why bouldering inside is very different from outside, making it clear that I preferred being outside on real rock. Of course if I actually compared, hour for hour, where I spend more time, it would be in the gym. So what are the good things about the gym?
Besides the obvious selling points of convenience and concentration of problems, there are intrinsic qualities I enjoy. One of them is social. I can climb by myself if I want or I can meet new people or hang out with those I already know. Many times outside I find myself alone or having to plan well in advance to meet up with a partner. In fact I can't count the number of times a chance gym meeting has resulted in a new opportunity for writing or some other project.
For me the chance to climb on other people's problems,especially in a style I don't prefer, is a huge part of improving as a climber. Only at a good gym with good setting, can you encounter multiple ideas of what it means to move and which can encourage you to adapt accordingly. This can be a huge benefit in trying new problems or visiting new areas outside.
In a gym, when motivation on outdoor projects is waning, an indoor project, with a tight deadline, can spark effort and drive. The knowledge that a problem will be coming down soon forces me to concentrate on getting it done as quickly as possible. This is a good attitude to take outside.
The climbing style may not be easily transferable to outdoors but more athletic, dynamic kinds of movement promote an aggressive powerful approach that can yield real benefits on the rock. The tendency for rock holds to be small and often closer together doesn't mean that you don't need to apply overall body tension and compression to make the holds work. For whatever reason, I find that gym climbing especially, forces that side of my climbing to work harder.
So although I would definitely prefer to climb outside as much as possible, I try to make as much as I can out of the gym experience, especially given the excellent range of options locally. Especially at the Spot, whose setting crew is second to none, but also at the Boulder Rock Club and CATS, is where I can maximize my limited training time and enjoy the experience at the same time.