The morning appears luminescent as it dawns on the windshield of the raggedy truck; the ubiquitous peaks of Fitz Roy pop into view and the road disappears under the truck’s treads. All the buddies are in the car, packed to the gills with haul bags, cheap beer, and English-Spanish dictionaries.
You look up from your computer screen, eyes blurry, as the Patagonia promotional video leads on to its feel-good climax with some Lumineers song playing …
And then you hear the dull roar of the copy machine in the other room. The tragic ga-chunk! of a stapler resonates off the fiberboard walls. Someone in the cubicle next to you seems to have broken wind.
You are a 9-5 dirtbag and you need help.
The very definition of a 9-5 dirtbag seems to present an ontological Chinese finger trap; both sides of the brain pull furiously to eke out some semblance of clarity but none is found. After all, if you have a car, an apartment, and a job, then you’re not really a dirtbag at all, right? You’re more like, well, your dad.
This demands an examination of the existential essence of dirtbagging itself. May it be, perhaps, more of a philosophical mindset than an aesthetic choice? Could we subvert the thin-skinned post-modern bastardization of dirtbag culture by such ills as the #vanlife movement via a more modernist subversion of the subversion and in fact posit that living a 9-5 lifestyle is, in fact, more of a counter-culture statement as a climber nowadays?
Perhaps we can answer these dilemmas at another time. For the time being, consider these five suggestions on how to not relegate yourself to being a mere weekend climber:
1. Develop a training plan
You know what’s easy after a long day?
Just some casual climbing at the gym. Maybe a smattering of doable boulder problems. A little top roping for zest. Perhaps one moderate lead if you’re feeling up to it.
Your want at the end of a long day is to be mindless, to “zone out.” But just because you’re not drooling into a bag of chips while Stranger Things flickers on your laptop doesn’t mean you’re doing yourself a service.
You must come up with a specific training plan with a structure and definite goals. Without this, you’ll find yourself aimlessly climbing around the gym after work, getting pumped after an hour, and justifying a burrito with such girth that it could be a stunt double for a nuclear warhead.
Take the time to create a realistic training regimen that will work on your weaknesses and further hone your strength. Set a time limit of weeks or months and a specific, realistic, goal at the end of that time period.
2. Be diligent
This piece of advice is simple but pivotal to the success of the 9-5 warrior.
You may have had a long day and at 4:35pm already be justifying a beer or a Game of Thrones binge, but just use that Catholic upbringing to repress those thoughts deep, deep down.
Once you have your workout routine, you just have to do it. Do it when you’re dog tired and want to collapse into a puddle of milkshake and shame. Do it when your alarm goes off in the morning and you convince yourself that “actually I think I read once that sleeping 15 more minutes actually is better for you.” Train when you want to and train especially when you don’t want to. Do this until it becomes an assumed facet of your life rather than a daily see-saw debate in your head of whether to go to the gym or not.
Structure it into your routine or build your whole routine around it, but regardless commit yourself to it.
3. Don’t go home after work
This is a simple one but a crucial one.
Going home after work is the death knell of many-a-climber once destined for fame. Remember that guy that Alex Honnold climbed with as a kid that got less and less involved with the climbing team after school because of other life commitments?
Yeah, neither does he.
If you have to trick yourself into coaxing your tired body and ego back to the gym “not to climb, oh no, just to get my water bottle I left last time …” and then WHAMMY you get chalked up and whipping before your logical mind can catch up with your climbing brain, then go for it. Whatever works. Which brings me to my next point …
4. You’re not tired
Unless you work a job that’s physically demanding for the majority of the time you are at work I can almost guarantee you’re not as tired as you think you are at the end of the day.
You may be feeling fatigue from staring at a computer or from the stress of your boss getting upset with you, but these types of tiredness are extremely different from actual physical exhaustion and are almost certainly not from exercise.
Even if you’re considering a walk-on role for The Walking Dead due to your lifeless eyes and drowsy gait, just throw your heap of a body onto a couple V1s and revel in the majesty of human biology as you feel yourself naturally wake up and come alive.
5. Distill your daydreams
A big killer of stoke in the 9-5 ecosystem, especially one centered around working on a computer, is aimlessly watching cool videos or reading random articles in your off-time.
The Jedi mind-trick of this type of behavior is that you think you’re increasing your level of psych by watching badass people send hard climbs or reading about the awesome climbing in a faraway land when really, you’re just getting lost in the loop of other people’s goals and achievements.
Be mindful about your aimlessness, especially online, and pick a specific goal, destination, or skill to pour yourself into or learn more about. This will keep you from being merely wistful for the golden years (newsflash: that was when you were surviving off old granola bars and were too malnourished to climb hard anyway) to actually focusing your mental energy on a realizable goal that will benefit your climbing progression and life.
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