Moments of Reflection: Enjoying Nature’s Gift While Getting Your Climbing Fitness On!

Today I went for a training hike and realized how much I miss hiking and how I need to do it more.  Why? I love all the lovely gifts nature has to give.  This piece is really more about fitness and climbing, but I cannot help but share the loveliness I found today hiking nearby my house.  While you read on my insane thoughts on climbing fitness, let the pictures remind us all of how we can enjoy getting fit for climbing while sulking up the beauty of outdoors.

Just a few years ago, I learned this thing called rock climbing and can I say I truly have become addicted.   However, a recent finger injury has forced me to see that in order to improve my climbing and hopefully prevent injuries, I need to cross train.  Duh!  Well I have known this all along, but I rode the climbing gravy train as long as I could.  This year I have suffered more than one finger injury than I ever have wanted to experience, and ironically both were unavoidable.  One injury was when I was in an easy warm-up, my foot cut off while I was holding onto a pocket and my finger got literally stuck in a pocket.  I was so lucky I did not break my finger.  And just as I was getting over that 4 or so weeks later, I ran my hand into the side of the door and my middle and index finger performed a gymnastic split (plus earlier that day I stressed it on an overhung climb while training hard).  X-rays showed my tendon was overstretched, funny how we turn everything into climbing, but I visited a hand surgeon I interned with over 10 years ago and I told him….”oh my, my tendon has slack in its system!”  He looked at me and said, “I don’t understand that language, but I gather you know exactly what’s going on here!”

That being said, I am very busy traveling around, earning my PhD and doing that thang called a J-O-B and I seriously am just pooped.  So I have been trying to engage in activities I loved before I became a climber.  Running, yoga, surfing, hiking, kayaking and mountain biking were some of my favorite activities.    But, to be realistic, I just cannot do them all at once.  So, I started alternating running and hiking week by week only over the past couple weeks and so far, things are good.

I used to be an elite gymnast and most of my life on through adulthood; I have been quite the skinny chick.  After my divorce, I gained weight, and then I learned about rock climbing.  I know that if I want to really up my game, I need a better weight to strength ratio.  However, I love myself and no longer want to stress and obsess all day striving for a 10% body fat kind of body.   I do however, need to get into better shape and want to avoid building a buff, too muscly type body.  I love the more gymnast/dancer softer look.  So, by default, I almost always like to do callisthenic type of exercises or do higher reps/lower weights.  I know some will disagree, but as a gymnast, I got strong and pushed the limit when I had longer, lean muscles and when I could carry my body weight, rather than have tons of manly muscles.  If you notice gymnasts, they swing and flip, bounce around and execute moves with good form.  As a gymnast, I hardly ever touched weights, had less than 10% body fat and could do over 100 proper push-ups or pull-ups in any sitting.  Gymnasts need the proper body to weight ratio just like climbers.  I am 5’4” and well over 150 lbs., yet I can climb all over the world.

That being said, I attribute my ability to climb so well despite my weight and lack of exercise because of my sheer determination, but 99% due to my ability to understand my body and movement from doing gymnastics so long. Most think I am quite a unique climber, but really, I am always looking for the best technique to get through a move or sequence.  I even think about torque, and physics type crap while I climb!

So I figured, even though I am no fitness expert, I did spend most of my life as an elite athlete and ironically in the kind of sport that I think parallels climbing a lot.  As a gymnast how did I avoid injuries?  I WAS FLEXIBLE and STRONG in the tiny muscle groups, not just large muscle groups.  I also could hold my weight in all kinds of body positions and execute tricks and all kinds of arm locking moves. Sound familiar?  Sounds like the kind of things we do in climbing, right?!?!



Here are my goals for the next 4-6 weeks:

  • Heal that finger! – While my finger heals, I want to climb fairly easy, and emphasize on technique, focus on soft and precise footwork, transition those D-Money cirque de soleil body movements from gratuitous to intuitive (almost to the point to where it is natural), and work on climbing endurance.
  • Enjoy Nature’s Gifts – I love the outdoors and used to only really enjoy hiking on my climbing approaches.  But now, I realize how much I miss hiking and getting lost in nature.  So I will hike, hike, hike and alternate with trail running.
  • Cross train – As much as I love indulging in fun and fatty foods, I do need to do some cross training and get into better shape. I like to do callisthenic type exercises and lower weight/high reps because, even though I am no expert, I really feel if you simulate exercises that rely on building strength off your body, that can improve one’s climbing. Why?  Climbers agree good strength to weight ratio is money for performance, and I guess if one is strong with his or her body weight, that should not make one’s climbing worse but actually better.

Here is what my last two weeks have looked like.  I plan to do the same the next two weeks, except I will boulder one day and rope climb (easy, endurance) one day vs. boulder every time I go into the gym.  At my 4-6 week point, I will change it up a little and start trying to ease into hang boarding and so on.

Climbing Activities – 1-2 times per week

  • Boulder – My finger hurts on V2s, so I have bouldered all the V0s and V1s & focused on my footwork and technique.  Also rather than ladder up, I take every opportunity to find other ways to get up the problem other than climb up like a ladder…use heel hooks, in steps, back flags, lock offs, and so on.  I then go to the lead cave and on the areas that are slightly overhung to vertical, I boulder 10s and 11s up to about 15 or 20 feet. I do each one about 3-5 times and move on.  I try to not exceed 5 climbs.  Stretch, particularly your fingers, wrists, shoulder, back and legs….oooops, as much as your body you can think of!
  • Endurance Boulder – I up and down climb 3 times without touching the ground up on about 3-5 V0s and 3-5 V1s. I then go to the gym and alternate stretch then some form of opposing muscle exercise with either light weights/high reps or my body weight (e.g., planks).  Stretch, particularly your fingers, wrists, shoulder, back and legs….oooops, as much as your body you can think of!

Non-Climbing Activities – 4 times per week

  • Week 1 – Run 3-5 miles (fairly flat terrain with a couple small hills) 3 days of the week and cross train (arms, legs, then both).  Again, I generally like to do light weights/high reps or use my own body weight (e.g., planks, push ups, etc.). Stretch, particularly your fingers, wrists, shoulder, back and legs….oooops, as much as your body you can think of!
  • Week 2 – Hike about 1-2 hours, medium to fast pace and do some form of yoga that same week. While hiking, every 2-3 songs, stop and drop and do push ups, or lunges, squats, and so on.  I like the number 25 x 2 because it works for me to keep it simple and repetitive.  So after 2-3 songs I drop and do 25 push ups, rest/stretch that area for about 10 seconds, do it again.  Drink water and hike on. Stretch, particularly your fingers, wrists, shoulder, back and legs….oooops, as much as your body you can think of!

Again, I am no expert and have read a ton of everything.  And I keep defaulting back to what I know best, my gymnastic background and what my body likes.

Also, I found this link the other day and not sure yet how, but I think I will incorporate some of these tips in my fitness goals.  Since sharing is for caring….and I am a girl, here you go, for the girlie readers:

In the meantime, while I hiked my butt off, I managed to get great pictures, enjoy what gifts nature has to give us!

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