So you want to become the next Adam Ondra or Alex Puccio … but you work a 9 to 5 job. You spend hours in front of your screen at work—intermittently perusing climbing videos and your Instagram for the latest sends—desperately wishing it was you pssssat-ing your way up Jumbo Love. Dejected, you shake your head, admonishing your chances of sending hard because you’re not living the 365 #vanlife.
Don’t fret, rock-loving soul, that cubicle space doesn’t have to crush your climbing ambitions into complete oblivion. You can crush rocks and work full time, too.
Tip #1: Fully accept your potential to crush on rock and in your work.
Let’s first recognize that while having to dedicate at least 12-16 hours to work and sleep may seem significant, many professional climbers out there face the same time and financial constraints that you do. But, they don’t let the fuel run out on their desire and belief.
Sasha DiGiulian attends Columbia University as a full-time student (not exactly a “cruiser” curriculum), Kai Lightner has his own school obligations (and lives far from a gym), and Audrey Sniezek sustains a demanding career high up on the corporate ladder … yet they all find a way to climb 5.14.
So, before you even embark on the physical aspects of what a commitment to crushing hard entails, fully accept that if entirely dedicated, you can be successful in climbing and your career, too.
Take a deep breath, give yourself a fist pump, and embrace your potential to crush at life.
Tip #2: Hyperfocus a clear, deliberate climbing objective: make a SMART goal.
Simply saying you want to climb 5.14 won’t help you climb 5.14. All of us want to climb “hard,” but you won’t get there unless you’ve created a clear path and destination for achievement. The more focused your climbing goal, the better apt you’ll be to define and complete the steps necessary to achieve it … whether that takes days, months, or even years.
The elite climbers of the world all share this ability to hyperfocus. Just consider the relentless fortitude required for Lynn Hill to free climb The Nose, Chris Sharma to send Biographie, or Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson to complete the Dawn Wall project.
So, create a SMART climbing goal. An objective that is:
For example, instead of saying,
I want to climb 5.12,
create a SMART goal, such as
by abiding by a consistent climbing schedule in the gym, 3x per week, I will send Project X (5.12a) within 90 days.
By focusing on a clear target with actionable steps for success, you can more efficiently prioritize and allocate the time and energy you spend when you’re not at your 9-5 job.
Ask yourself: What is my climbing goal? Is it a SMART goal? No? Make one.
Tip #3: Optimize the hours in your day by eliminating wasted time.
Take note of how you’re spending your time (both at work and off-the-clock), and consider how you can use every precious second more efficiently towards your climbing goals.
The Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule) expresses that 80% of your output results from 20% of your effort. So, perform your own Pareto Analysis: identify the 20% that contribute to your greatest efficiency at work and in life, and eliminate the excess that weighs you down.
Are you spending hours scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed on your iPhone? Binge watching 15 episodes of Game of Thrones in a single day on Netflix? Leading the office award for perfect attendance at every after-work Happy Hour?
… If so, how you can alter these actions into ones that support your climbing goals?
When you’re not busting ass in the office, can you sneak in a lunchtime run? Squeeze in some push-ups in your cubicle? Use a forearm trainer while you’re reading emails?
Just imagine what could happen if you repurposed your less-impactful moments with those that count towards your climbing goals; such as spending time on the hangboard, at the climbing gym, or better yet, climbing outside.
Write out your daily activities, aggressively eliminate time commitments that hold you back from your climbing goals, and reallocate them accordingly.
Tip #4: Surround yourself with psyched and motivated people at the office and when you climb.
A little extra psych can go a long way in helping you reach your goals, and if you have a partner or a group of friends as stoked as you are, your chances of turning on the ‘try hard’ and pushing your limits increase exponentially. This applies to your work and climbing life.
Unfortunately, the stresses and politics inherent to office culture can often leave you feeling tired, angsty, and ready to drown yourself in beer—making you far less motivated to go climbing at the end of what feels like a very long day.
Related: 9 to 5 Ruins Lives
So, when you’re at the office, surround yourself with the enthusiastic and active crowd, and incorporate a wellness-related regimen with like-minded coworkers—be that a daily walk, hike, or midday yoga session. This will help you avoid the gossip, complaints, and donut-bingeing that fail to serve your career or climbing goals.
When you’re out of the office, look for that partner who will push you to muscle in an extra set of 4x4s at the gym when your arms feel like falling off. Seek the companion who will call your phone incessantly until you wake up and get in the car for an early morning session at the crag. Find that crazed and devoted friend willing to drive 1000 miles through the night to spend a single weekend at The Red to work on your project. And, be prepared to do the same.
Identify at least 3 people at work and in your climbing life who motivate you to work and climb harder. Make and execute plans with them.
Tip #5: Locate yourself in a place with ample access to climbing.
There’s no better way to improve your climbing than to climb … a lot. And the more opportunities you have to climb on both plastic and rock, the more likely you’ll be to achieve your climbing goals.
Gyms enable you to develop super-human strength, while hours on real rock greatly assist in improving your technique and mental fortitude. If you have access and take advantage of both, you’re guaranteed to see vast improvements in your overall abilities.
Accordingly, it’s no surprise why premier athletes, such as Alex Puccio and Daniel Woods, live in cities like Boulder, CO—places that offer year-round access to world class rocks and plastic.
So, if you’re serious about climbing hard, situate yourself in a place that accommodates your climbing priorities—a location where you can train and climb plentifully. If you absolutely cannot uproot and move, you better buckle up and become the biggest most badass weekend warrior out there.
Assess your access to climbing both indoors and outdoors, and make a consistent schedule for incorporating both into your routine.
Tip #6: Learn to say “no.”
If you truly want to climb your hardest and work full time, you need unflinching discipline and a willingness to make sacrifices. You must entirely commit to a rigid schedule that will inherently require you to frequently say “no.” Essentially, if you’re not working, you should be talking about, planning for, or actually climbing.
Your family, friends, and coworkers will think you’re completely obsessed with climbing (which you are), so be prepared to accept and embrace that.
For example, if you’re planning to send your season-long project this weekend, you won’t be attending the Friday night blowout concert of your favorite band. If your Sunday morning regimen calls for a trail run or yoga session, then you’re going to have to turn down your friend’s invite for a mimosa brunch. And when you have a rest day on your schedule, you better damn well rest—despite the 20-mile ridge traverse your best friend just challenged you to join.
Devoted climber and coach, Mike Doyle frames it well:
The reality is you need to prioritize your personal time. For me, I make climbing a priority outside of work. This affects all aspects of my life; activities, social and even relationships. Life is about choices and weighing pros and cons. It might not make sense to someone to sacrifice a social life just to be able to climb a little harder.
I have surrounded myself with a core group of friends that are all climbers and also like to train and perform at a high level. This makes it easier to wrap my social life into training sessions at the climbing gym. Unfortunately, I only have one night per week that is ‘free’ for non-climbing or training activities.
Draft apology response emails and texts for turning down invitations. Then go climbing.
All of that being said,
Most of us are perfectly content never climbing anywhere near 5.14 or V15. If that’s you, then enjoy your bottomless mimosa Sunday brunch, sleep in until you’ve gotta go to work, and hit the gym or the crag when it suits you best. Hell—go wild and treat yourself to an extra three episodes of Game of Thrones tonight.
Wanting to keep your climbing as just one aspect of your life isn’t a crime, so if that’s you, be honest with yourself and proudly embrace your desire to perpetually climb Vfun.
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