How Rock Climbing Changed My Life

It’s one thing to know the right thing to do. It’s another thing to go out there and actually do it.

“Do as I say, not as I do”

-John Selden’s Table-Talk (c. 1654)

flirty young lady asking to keep secret sitting in office
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

One of the most interesting parts about a lot of self-help communities and advice-givers that I’ve seen is the hypocrisy. I think practicing what you preach is really important. So when I see someone saying one thing but then doing something else, a red flag goes off.

They say, “If you want to know how someone feels, ignore what they say and watch what they do.”

This is great advice for understanding people’s true feelings. And it’s this sort of disingenuous behavior that makes them hard to trust. It makes you not want to believe them – even if they’re espousing good advice.

My Fitness Journey

So in this post, I would like to share my fitness journey over the past year. I will explain why I think exercise is so important and my own personal experience.

One year ago, I was struggling. I was unmotivated, underweight, out of shape, eating poorly, and I wasn’t very happy. I was stuck. 

In early February 2019, my brother Alex suggested that I try going rock climbing with him. He had just recently started climbing himself and thought it would be something I’d enjoy. I had tried climbing a few times as a kid and had nothing but positive memories, so it definitely piqued my interest.

But feeling so out of shape at the time, I felt like I needed to gain a base level of fitness before I started climbing. So I told myself that I would start working out at home until I felt a little more capable. But honestly, that was only part of it. I was also embarrassed about my body and I didn’t want people to see me in my current state.

In hindsight, I was out of shape, no doubt, but there’s no reason I couldn’t have started climbing that day. It was just a mixture of low confidence, anxiety, and a lack of self-esteem that really got to me. 

Fast forward four months to June. I had been pretty good about working out, maybe 2-3 times a week, although I’m sure I had a few bad stretches. The workouts were nothing crazy, just basic stuff – trying to get my heart rate up and trying to gain strength. So one day after being reminded by Alex, I decided that it was time. I was ready to go. So I scheduled a belay lesson, signed up for a week trial, and I was on my way. I still wasn’t in great shape, but it was noticeably better.

Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was a big fan of this rock climbing thing. It’s great exercise, fun, puts me in a flow state, and is an all-around great experience. 

So I started climbing a good amount. At first, I was going about twice a week, but now I would say I average closer to three times. One of the most motivating parts has been the feeling of progress. Through climbing, I’ve gained strength, technique, and confidence. Finally, a hobby that I loved and could consistently improve at. It had been a while since I had something like this in my life – and it was great! 

Outdoor bouldering in Lake Tahoe, NV

The secret that I didn’t know I wanted

Things continued to go well and one day I watched a video that described the importance of keeping a progress journal or log. There were a lot of good points made, so I decided to give it a shot. I found a little notebook and titled a page “Progress journal”. I had two additional lines: Skill and goal. For skill, I wrote “running” and for a goal I wrote, “run a 7-minute mile”.

Now, why did I pick a skill and goal unrelated to climbing – the activity that I recently fell in love with, you might ask? I have absolutely no idea. For some reason running just struck me as a good goal.

So I started tracking my workouts. At first, I was doing just walks, runs, and biking, but I quickly decided to start recording my climbing sessions as well. The first entry in my progress journal was in October. At the time of writing this, I have 72 entries. Mostly a combination of runs and climbing sessions. Maybe that sounds like a lot to you or maybe it’s not impressive at all. We’re all on our own journeys, so I don’t worry too much about that. The main reason that I shared this is that although it got off to a strange start, this progress journal has been one of the best little habits I could have picked up to compliment the climbing. 

What makes it so powerful?

The main reason that I started doing the progress journal was to help me remember. I don’t have the greatest memory, so trying to remember times, distances, weights, and numbers for any extended period of time doesn’t work. So I thought it would be more interesting than anything. However, after tracking for a few months now, I’ve found there are many positive byproducts:

  • Organization. Helps you keep track and remember specifics.
  • More comprehensible. Gives a holistic view of progress. Keeping the data in one place makes it easy to digest. You can see patterns, trajectory, strengths, weaknesses, and get a holistic view of your progress.
  • Motivation. The most important reason I’ve found for keeping a progress journal is the intrinsic motivation it brings. Whenever I do a workout now, I’ve found myself looking forward to recording it. Then when I’m recording it, I can’t help but take a quick glance at past entries and get a surge of motivation. Seeing how far I’ve come. It’s just so validating to know that going in there and pushing myself is paying off. I’m getting better and I have the records to prove it. And it’s funny because most of the time we’re trying to prove things to other people. But this one was for me. I needed this proof for myself.

One last note about rock climbing

One last note about rock climbing, climbing gyms, and the opportunities available to us today. Recently I watched a YouTube video from Magnus Midtbo called CLIMBING WITH ALEXANDER HUBER #133. Alex Huber was the first person to do a 5-15 (5-15 is the hardest grade in climbing). He is a pioneer of the sport and holds many additional accolades. Even if you aren’t into climbing, the cinematography in this vlog is breathtaking (To skip the interview and start at the climb).

The first half the video is an interview-style where Alex Huber shares his thoughts and experiences about climbing. The entire interview is fascinating. But one part made me feel particularly grateful. Huber explains that when he started training in the mid-80s, climbing gyms simply didn’t exist. If you wanted to learn and go climbing, you pretty much had to go out there and start climbing walls. It’s interesting because I had never thought about it. Truth be told, I would have assumed they had been around that long – at least on some level. But nope. It’s thanks to the pioneers of the sport who took their passion and shared it with the world. They helped make climbing what it is today. For that, I am grateful.

I took this picture after a jog a few days ago. The treadmills are up on the second story so I get to watch people boulder as I do my jogs. (Bouldering is a style of climbing where the walls are only so tall, so you don’t need to use ropes). This was the moment I decided that I wanted to write this piece. I had watched the video earlier that day and seeing all of these people having fun and bettering themselves in this beautiful facility made it all the more powerful.

Mesa Rim in Reno, NV

Final thoughts

Up until nine months ago, I hadn’t been rock climbing since I was a child. But thanks to the encouragement from the people around me, I rediscovered a passion that I never knew I had.

At first, I hesitated, but as we all know that getting started is the hardest part. Looking back, as much as I wish I would have just started climbing sooner, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The way that I did it felt necessary to me at the time and I’ve learned from this experience. Now I think to myself, “Wow. I spent four months doing minimally effective, unnecessary workouts by myself. I wasted that time. I was paralyzed by fear and I wasted it. I won’t make that mistake again.”

That experience taught me a valuable lesson about fear, time, and trying new things that I don’t know if I would have learned otherwise.

Climbing has helped me in many ways. I’m:

  • In better shape
  • More confident
  • More open to adventure
  • More productive

..And climbing was the catalyst. The climbing community has been nothing but welcoming. I’ve met some great people and have had some amazing experiences already, and I’m just getting started.

Finding something that I love and am passionate about has made a world of difference for me. If you don’t have something like this in your life, my advice is to seek it out. Try new things. Be different. Mix it up.

You’ll never get where you’re trying to go if you’re stuck in the same spot!

Outdoor climbing, Lake Tahoe, NV

That’s it for this one! I don’t know how many of my readers are familiar with rock climbing so I tried to make it as readable as I could. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Have you ever been rock climbing? Would you go if you had the chance? What’s your favorite thing to do outside? I’d love to hear from you!

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more about motivation and If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more about motivation and climbing, check out another piece I did about my first-time outdoor rock climbing!

9 comments

  1. Great story Evan. I love your idea of keeping a log journal. That idea would work for anything we are trying to achieve. It’s great to look back and see the progress. You’ve done great with rock climbing and running. Inspired.

    1. I agree that the journal concept can apply to all sorts of areas. I think I’m going to start tracking some other metrics. I’ll probably try it for writing! Thank you as always for reading and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it!

  2. Keeping a journal is definitely the best way to keep track of things – in all aspects of life. I find it not only motivates me, but in an odd way it keeps me accountable. Admittedly, sometimes I can make excuses to myself… but I make them less when they’re written down 😉

    As far as rock climbing goes – it’s something I have never done, but have been curious to try. Perhaps one day 😉 Where I live there aren’t climbing walls – I’d have to travel. So for now, I’ll just keep it in my journal as a bucket list item 😉

    1. It helps keep us accountable… That’s a great point!
      And for rock climbing, I hope you get the chance to try it. The first time might be a bit scary, but it’s definitely an experience! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      1. I remember abseiling down a wall when I was 13 on an adventure camp. I was terrified as I waited in the queue for my turn. I started shaking as they harnessed me up. I didn’t think I could do it. Halfway down, I was having the best time ever… and I went 3 more times after that 😉 So maybe I’ll love it. Won’t know till I at least try 😉😊

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