Rock climbing has been a big part of my life for the past two years. It helped me get over three relationships, make new friends and become fit in a way I had never felt before. I gained self-confidence, impressive stories and a new community. But I also learned a lot of things about life along the way.
Here are some of those bigger life lessons:
- The first step is showing up.
Many people will tell you “practice, practice, practice” is the most important piece of advice to getting good at something. And that’s sort of true. But you have to show up for it first.
- Be prepared.
Showing up with the right stuff you need and feeling comfortable makes you better equipped for the task at hand by reducing distractions and allowing you to focus your energy on more important things. Investing in good equipment, wearing the right clothes and being hydrated doesn’t just apply to the gym. Good preparation also means taking care of yourself: eating right, getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water and stretching regularly.
- A great partner is worth holding on to.
They’ll know when to help, when to push you, when to let you complain or call you on your crap. They’ll also help you stop panicking, keep you safe, help you focus, remind you to breathe and be ready to celebrate your successes with you afterwards. It’s no wonder climbing partners often make for great friends and relationships.
- Small goals add up.
By breaking up goals into pieces, you can reduce the intimidation factor of a project. Climbers often look at routes as a series of problems. Multi-tasking is an important skill to have, but sometimes the best thing to do is just focus on the problem in front of you, deal with it and move on.
- Find simple things that motivate you.
When I first started climbing, I was awful. My hands sweat too much, I had no strength or endurance, and I was afraid of heights. I could barely climb the easiest routes in the gym.
I stuck to it for a few reasons: I always had friends or a partner I knew would be at the gym that would provide support and need me to belay them. The old location of my gym was near Sadie’s Diner, and weekend trips for their breakfast burritos kept me daydreaming during the rest of the week. And in the summertime, lots of dudes in the gym switched to being shirtless because of the heat. Those three things were enough to carry me through my first six months in the sport.
- It’s okay to be scared.
Being scared means you’re doing something you haven’t done before, which is important. You should always push yourself, even if it’s just a little something more than what you’re used to. Ask yourself, what have you got to lose? The difference doesn’t have to be big. Normally run 10k? How about 11 or 12 instead?
- Don’t panic.
When you panic, your body freaks out and you can’t focus. Your breathing becomes erratic, you get sweaty and you spend valuable energy worrying rather than taking action. Climbing quickly teaches you not to panic, because doing so will cause you to literally fall off the wall.
- Your body is capable of amazing things.
Before rock climbing, I couldn’t touch my toes. I only did yoga on cruises. Now I can flexible enough to step up on a kitchen counter. I can grab thin edges and step on incredibly small spaces. My body now heals quicker, is able to withstand higher levels of blunt pain, and I’m more aware of small injuries.
- Pay it forward.
Sometimes it’s not so obvious other people are helping “hold the rope” to your success. I know I could not be where I am without the support and friendship of my climbing partners and the people at my gym. So I actively encourage others to try the sport, especially women. I’ve helped half a dozen friends during their first day, buy their equipment and watch them get hooked.
I want people to know climbing really does feature a variety of ages, backgrounds, occupations, ethnicities and body types. There are even couples in their late 50s and a double below-the-knee amputee. Almost anyone can do this.
- Have fun
Sure, sometimes you have to muscle through something you’re not sure of. And life can be frustrating. It’s important to regularly de-stress and set aside time to do things that make you happy. You’ll feel better and the people around you will definitely notice.
What other life lessons has your sport taught you?