I accidentally started rock climbing in 2015. I left a job in which I was working 70-80 hours a week and traveling each week to a different area of the United States. During this time, I had no room for exercise, eating properly, making new friends in a new city of Boston, or anything remotely fun. So when someone recommended that I get a 10-pack punch pass to the local rock climbing gym, Brooklyn Boulders, I didn’t hesitate. I needed something new and fun in my life.
What started as a casual activity that I did with friends quickly became something I got more and more excited about. At the same time, my body dysmorphia and general unease at being visual came out in full force. I was simultaneously living in the moment, being fully present, while also being terrified of being truly seen.
I did everything I could to make myself small. I didn’t eat dinners after workouts, I didn’t see protein shakes as something I should be ingesting, I didn't allow myself rest days. I was running to the gym, climbing or lifting for hours, sometimes running home, and then not eating anything more than popcorn for dinner.
Fast-forward a few years and I am in a much better place. I worry much less about the amount of food I eat. I don’t cringe at being ‘on-display’ in the gym. After years of therapy, I am finally coming into my body after years of pushing my mind and body very far apart from each other.
With my newfound mental fortitude with my body and eating issues, and a recent surge and new wave of stoke for climbing, I thought it was high time I give my body what it needs. I thought it was time to see how I could use fueling for rock climbing as an act of self-care. I almost see it as a radical act. My brain has operated in one, unhealthy way for a long time, and I was given narratives about what fueling should look like and who should do it. Going against those deeply held truths that I’ve had for so long feels pretty rebellious in itself.
A few months ago, I decided to see what would happen if I ate enough, took in the right amount of protein, and gave myself the right nutrients for recovery. And what if I looked at all of these activities as nourishment rather than expensive and annoying extra things I had to do? What could I accomplish?
Since diving back into climbing after returning from a month-long, holiday celebration extravaganza in New England with my and my partner’s families, I can’t believe what a difference fueling makes. I knew people recommended using protein shakes or drinking Collagen as part of your daily routine, but I kind of just thought it was one of those things that people preached about but wouldn’t work for me. Why? Who knows, but I’m glad I changed my tune on it.
Now, when I’m headed to the gym for a harder workout, I plan ahead (what a concept!), and drink Collagen Pro & BCAAS together at least 30 minutes before I start my workout. The combination of the two supplements starts to open up my body to receive some serious training. I feel slightly elevated, on a sugar high but it’s not sugar, and there is no crash. There is this uplift of necessary energy from this combination of supplements that lifts not only my attitude but my focus and ability to start the workout itself.
When I’m done either training on the wall or picking up heavy things and then putting them down, I drink the Vanilla Whey Grass-Fed Protein. I had tried protein shakes before, and some have been good and some have been terrible. This one? The tastiest protein shake I’ve ever had.
There is a fine line between rewarding yourself for working out with food, and giving your body what it needs after you’ve worked hard. The reward system with food is a slippery slope for me, and I know that. However, giving my body what it needs recently has proven to only increase my gains. After only two weeks of working with this fueling routine, I am starting to see real improvement in my abilities and, perhaps more importantly, I’m not constantly exhausted from under-fueling myself.
The other big difference in my approach is trying to see my food preparation and intake as a kind thing to do for myself instead of an extra chore during my day. I have been working on taking chunks out of my day to prepare real meals for myself, not just grab a random Luna bar that may or may not be enough food or remotely good for me. The impact of this change has been large. Every meal and supplement I prepare and put into my body feels purposeful and thoughtful, instead of chaotic and ad-hoc.
This year, I have goals in climbing but they’re mostly mental and not exactly quantifiable. I want to work on my mindset, taking courses to fortify my mental strength, and with that comes working on my fear. And the only way I see to be able to work on those aspects of the sport is by pure exposure. I need to keep going, keep being in these situations so that I can stretch myself enough to change my perspective and strengthen my mind. Without proper fueling and injury prevention, I could easily become fatigued or injured, which would make my goals much harder.
I’m excited for what’s to come this year in climbing and even more excited that I’m at a place where fueling is not a scary word, food thoughts don’t dominate every minute of my day, and I’m willing to treat myself and my body with the care it deserves, in rock climbing and beyond. It was about time.