The Aging Climber and Why Working Full Time is a Great Thing

When I was in my 20’s, climbing every day didn’t impact me until I was deep into weeks of nonstop of pushing hard. I would start to fall on routes that I shouldn’t and I eventually decided that I should rest in order to be able to try hard again. Over the years, college switched to a real career and I had to fit climbing and training into the schedule. I would train 4 days a week after work (or get in after work sessions outside weather permitting) and then try hard on the weekend. Monday would be a rest day if I felt that I needed it and then I would focus on what I needed on Tuesday-Thursday. A Friday rest day again took me into the weekend where I would pitch it out and attempt to climb as many new routes as I could in the few precious nonworking hours that I had. There never seemed to be enough time and my body was never a limiting factor.

Fast forward 20 years to my life now. Still a full time high school teacher, but now a father of two boys and husband to a wonderful and motivated distance running wife. The hours that I used to spend at the gym are now replaced by swimming lessons, music lessons, birthday parties, sports practices, coaching, and everything else that parents do for their kids and each other. The time that used to be dedicated to me improving my climbing is now dedicated to everyone else. Now you might be thinking that this is a bad thing or a challenge or even negative to someone who has let climbing basically take over his life, but you are wrong. Here is why.

At 41, my body doesn’t feel like it was 20 anymore. That means that

  • I need more recovery time after really pushing hard whether I am training or climbing
  • my body doesn’t recover as fast as it used to
  • I now focus on quality over quantity
  • there are movements and sequences that I will choose to not even try in order to prevent injury or further injury
  • I am always focused on the long term
  • taking care of my body is not a goal, but a daily commitment
  • not every route must be climbed
  • the forced rests are ultimately allowing me to climb longer and stay psyched

So as you age and have decades of climbing under your belt, remember that your body needs the change in order to just stay healthy. Allow it in and make the most of the time that you do have outside and it will always be great!

On the contrary, I have been watching those folks who are “living the climbing dream”. They are either sponsored or self sponsored and living out of their vehicles for years on end and sleeping where ever the next great climb lies in the world. Each continued day outside is wearing them down, and making them look as if they have been run over by a truck. They are traveling alone, constantly seeking out partners, and only focused on one thing, the project. The stress from feeling the need to complete their one and only project (really only temporary and fleeting because there is another already planned) keeps them only talking about it. The time alone or with fleeting partners, gives them plenty of think time to continue being stressed since nothing, but climbing occupies their mind. I have watched them pass through climbing gyms that I have worked at or trained at for the last 15 years. It is always the same thing, people are excited to see them, the chat to everyone about climbs that we should know about and do their routine alone until they convince someone to belay them. Their bodies never recover from sleeping in a vehicle no matter what kind of bed they have made. Cold nights and going to the bathroom outside or in a bottle takes its toll. I commend them for doing it, but from my perspective the dark side of it overshadows all the “big sends”.

Happy Holidays


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