About 1.5 years ago, I was told that I may never be able to run again. I would never experience the runner's high, never feel my hair bounce about as wind cooled me down, never feel the comforting warmth of the sun on my face as I ran along a trail. Running meant everything to me. It was something I loved to do, something that brought me purpose, something that gave me a sense of accomplishment. How was I supposed to get my endorphins now? How was I supposed to live my life?
Six months later, a friend brought me climbing one afternoon and, something clicked. The high came back. The passion, drive, endorphins, accomplishment, and smiles came back. I had finally found something that I loved to do again and, about a year later rock climbing has taught me more life lessons than running ever could. So, I thought I'd share a few things rock climbing has taught me about life.
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Instant gratification is something that has become accustom in our society. We want everything and we want it now but, that's not possible when it comes to climbing. Tendon strength takes about 3 months longer to build up than muscle strength so, you may be strong enough to do pull ups but, may not be able to perform the delicate moves needed to conquer the wall. It takes time to be good. It takes time to get strong. It takes patience to keep with it until you get there.
There is something so incredible about the raw beauty of nature. The feel, the smell, the sites, the sounds present while climbing a wall outside are breath-taking. Headphones off. Shoes off. Head in the clouds. Climbing isn't just about climbing, it's about living in the moment and enjoying the raw beauty of nature.
3. Overcoming fears.
I'm desperately afraid of heights. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to land wrong. I don’t want to break my legs. Heights are simply terrifying to me but, for some odd reason, that's why I love climbing. There is something so powerful in overcoming fears.Over coming fears makes me feel alive, makes me feel like I’m winning, that nothing can hold me back and that’s kinda what life is all about. Not allowing anything hold you back.
Multitasking is omnipresent in our world today but, to really enjoy something I've learned that you have to do it one-mindfully.Doing things one-mindfully is one way to combat anxiety and stresses of the future. Climbing allows me the ability to concentrate on one thing at a time, to truly enjoy the one thing that I'm doing. Focusing on the now, what’s directly in front of you allows you to do your best and truly, honestly enjoy the moment.
Climbing isn’t just brute strength. There is a level of intelligence necessary to figure out how to even climb the route. Where do you put your feet and hands? How do you maneuver your body? Which rocks are footholds and which one's are hand holds? Climbing is as much mental as physical. To climb a route you need to sit back, look at the entire route, and plan out your path or course of action. They call routes problems for a reason: you have to solve the problem to climb the route.
6. Go for it.
Sometimes it seems like a rock is just out of reach; it’s just too far away, too small of a rock, too poor of a grip. When this happens to me I have 2 choices: quit or go for it. You have to trust yourself and your ability in order to grab it. If there is any doubt in your mind then you won't reach it but, if you let go, jump, and trust then you'll be surprised how strong you really are. In life you have to trust yourself and your decisions in order to go for it, to get what you want, to succeed.
7. Take your time (slow down).
We move too fast in this world. We want to get things done right away and we forget to enjoy the moment. Trying to climb a specific route, as fast as humanly possible, leads to mistakes and unnecessary use of energy. Taking your time and making each move calculated and precise is how you become a better climber and I think it’s similar with life: take your time and you’ll get it right.
8. Take a break: spend time doing nothing.
In this day in age it seems like the concept of ‘no days off’ is omnipresent. It’s almost like a badge of honor saying that you exercised every day last week. “Don’t give up.” “No excuses.” “Push yourself.” However, I quickly learned that this isn’t always the way to go. Actually it’s quite the opposite. Climbing is extremely strenuous on the body: pulling yourself up, contorting your body, and the adrenaline rush of an imminent injury. Muscles deserve a break, no, they need a break. Our bodies need a break to rebuild what we have torn apart whist exercising. I never quite understood the concept until I started climbing. It is physically impossible for me to climb more than 3 days in a row. There comes a point in which I physically cannot grasp the finger ripping crimps or the precarious slopers. No matter how good you get at climbing, you always need days off, you always need a break. This mentality of ‘no days off’ doesn’t apply to climbing and should apply to anything because in reality, it’s just torture.
There is a kids rock climbing team at my rock gym, and its hard to feel good about yourself and abilities when you see a 10 year old climb a route with ease that you couldn't even dream of climbing. The thing is, we cant compare ourselves to others. We don’t know their life, their story, their bodies, their anything. Comparing yourself to others isn’t the way to live. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing as long as you do the best you can for yourself every day.
10. It's not about how good you are, but how happy you are.
Every time I bring someone climbing with me they always say, “Sorry I’m not that good.” The thing is, I don’t bring people to climb with me because they're good, I do it because they're my friends and I want to have fun with them. Climbers are a friendly and welcoming bunch. No one cares about how good or bad you are, they care about the fun times and good memories you can cultivate between 2 people and a rock.
My rock climbing partner is 62. We are friends. We climb the same level. He is kind of a rock star. I’ve befriended numerous people with grey hair and many people too young to drive. The sense of community is something I treasure. Friendship, relationships don’t need an age range, it’s just a number.
12. Trust yourself.
My entire life, I've never trusted anything about myself. Not my athletic abilities. Not my intelligence. Not my conversation skills. Not my drive. I'm too ugly. I'm too stupid. I'm too slow. I'm too fat. I'm too awkward. I've spent most of my life putting myself down, thinking there's no way I could do it. Rock climbing has brought me this incredible skill to trust myself and my abilities. I've thought a lot about it and, I believe that to live a life, full of adventures, life-long memories, and extraordinary accomplishments, you have to trust who you are as a person. You have to trust that you know what's best for you. Life's too short to be afraid of who you truly are. Life's too short not to be yourself.