Whoa! My poor, neglected blog. In my defense, I’ve been pretty busy doing ‘the thing.’ My climbing season started the first week of April and it’s been nearly full-steam ahead since. Even with the little hiccup of a tweak to my left A2 pulley, I’m back to leading as hard as I was at the end of last season, which gives me a lot of hope that I’ll be breaking into the next number grade by the end of this season. I finally got to climb with DH a day last week and it was exciting to hear from him that I’m really placing excellent gear, so that also gives me the confidence to begin to push it a bit!
The BIG news though is where my head is at so far. See, here’s my dirty little secret. I’m not naturally small and lean like many climber chicks, especially the really good ones. I’m definitely a classic ‘pear’ shape (read: probably the worse shape for climbing!). For many, many years of my climbing career, the story in my head (my excuse, really) is that I’m just too fat to be able to climb as hard as I want to climb.
I have invested a lot of time and energy in this story over the years, so I’ve had to invest even more time and energy to tear it down. For instance, all of my goal climbs for this season I can climb without falling on top-rope. So I have to remind myself that my body is physically capable of doing these climbs without falling. Therefore, I can lead them. So what is stopping me is not that I’m ‘fat,’ it’s that I’m scared. Odd as it may sound, its easier to accept the ‘fat story’ than the ‘I’m just scared’ story. Probably because with the ‘I’m too fat’ story, I don’t have to change anything. In those moments that I am standing under the climb, looking up at it and contemplating the lead, I can’t do anything about being fat in those moments, whereas I could choose to be scared and do it anyway. But if I blame my body, I don’t have to do the harder thing- I don’t have to be afraid.
The hidden cost of this ‘fat’ story though, is that I was constantly defeating myself on any efforts I made to get in shape or eat better. In a way, I didn’t want to do these things because if I succeeded- if I lost weight- I wouldn’t have my convenient excuse available for when I wanted to wuss out of doing a climb.
There’s an idea in the psychology literature that people are basically motivated in their actions and behaviors by one of two things: they are either motivated to move in the direction of something they love or are passionate about or they are motivated to move away from something that causes them pain. We all do both of these of course, depending on the area of our lives, our previous learned experiences, etc. However, some people, through their upbringing or genetics or something, tend to be more positively motivated whereas others tend to be more negatively motivated.
Once I learned this concept, it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. I was square in the ‘negative-motivation’ category. I would choose easy climbs, or make excuses for why I couldn’t or shouldn’t do harder climbs because I was primarily motivated to avoid the fear of being on the sharp end. I would start a workout routine or a diet with the negative-motivation of trying to move away from the pain of self-hatred & disgust. Upon seeing it so clearly, it was also easy to see how these strategies clearly were not working for me! Suddenly it made complete and total sense as to why I would say I wanted one thing in my life, but my behaviors and actions seemed to indicate that I wanted the opposite! All this time, I thought that that incongruence was just because I was lazy (another painful thing to berated myself for!) but it turns out that nope, I just had my mind attuned in the wrong direction.
Somewhere about the beginning of April, I was struck by an idea. One of the things I do possess is a strong and powerful mind. Perhaps I could find away to put that gift to use to change my situation; to start being motivated by love instead of fear. I decided to embark on a month long journey of “radical self-love” where I was just going to accept and love everything about myself, even the parts that I didn’t think where very worthy of that love. Especially the parts that I didn’t think were very worthy of that love (I’m looking at you, Cellulite on my thighs!).
I started simply. I challenged myself to journal regularly and to start each entry with 3 things I love about myself, focusing primarily on my body (because it’s easy to say things like ‘I’m smart’ but much harder to say things like ‘I love my thighs’). I also challenged myself to change to my relationship with food. To feed myself like I would feed a daughter or someone else that I loved- with lots of wholesome, healthy foods.
Interestingly, this journey didn’t conclude in a month as much as it evolved. Especially once I tweaked my finger pulley, I knew I need to find something to do to help me stay active. I decided to get in to trail running. At various points in my life, I have been a runner. I even ran a marathon 8 years ago. After that experience though, I pretty much felt like I had run enough for the rest of my life and was not motivated to run anymore. I hate the treadmill with a passion. Cardio at the gym bored the heck out of me, etc. I knew that if I was going to be motivated to do it consistently, it needed to be something I enjoyed. Trail running, luckily, is that for me. And also luckily for me, there are tons of awesome and fun trails minutes from my home. It became fun and addicting to explore new sections of the Ridge on my own two feet. I also love trail running because its perfectly acceptable to walk up the big hills and even to go slow, especially over really technical terrain. It also puts me out in nature, which I love because its feeds my soul as well as my physical body. Once I found something that I enjoyed and once I change my mindset from ‘I’ve got to do cardio because I’m fat’ to ‘I want to run because I enjoy it and I enjoy taking care of my body,’ it became so much easier to get out of bed and go for a run in the morning! No mental fighting with myself. No extreme acts of willpower. Just being motivated to do and follow something that I loved.
With this evolved mindset, it was much easier to put myself in training. I started to think of myself as an athlete, which gave me the motivation to want to take the best care of myself that I could. I started following the training plan from Training for the New Alpinism. I’m only in Transition Week 3 so far, but I feel amazing & fit and I’m so excited for what I’ll be able to do when I ‘peak’ around the first of the year- just in time to go hard for ice climbing and ski mountaineering!
Other people are starting to notice too. A couple girlfriends have mentioned that my arms look more toned or that I look thinner through the torso. Another friend followed me as I busted up a rocky ascent trail with very little huffing & puffing and remarked about how all the trail running seemed to be paying off. In the gym today, I actually really liked what I saw in the mirror! I’ve lost a few pounds, but nothing too big yet and maybe an inch off my hips. (Also, I can’t say that I exactly ‘love’ my cellulite, but I have given up making gagging and retching noises when I see it in the mirror.:-) ) I’m more excited about being down about 2% body fat in three weeks and I know that with time, the rest of it will come.
And if doesn’t, I’m totally OK with that. Because my goal is to be fit and healthy and I know that I can do what I want to do, even if I never drop another pound. Because I know that all that is stopping me is that 3 pound squishy thing between my ears. Because I know that if I choose to pursue the things I love instead of avoid the things I fear, no matter what number grade I climb or what number shows up on the scale, I’ve already won. <3