Why You Should Learn to Lead Climb

As with any sport, climbing follows a natural progression.

First you learn to boulder. Then you try out top-roping. Eventually you muster up the courage to try lead climbing. And once the fear from lead climbing subsides, you test your luck on gear. Generally. I know people who have done this in reverse, or skipped an element all together. It’s all in the eyes of the climber.

For about four years I was content letting someone (usually my boyfriend or another really strong male friend), lead the climb and set up the top rope for me. Then I’d willfully flail around on the thing for however long, maybe make it to the chains, maybe not, be lowered, maybe get grouchy for being such a terrible climber, rinse, repeat.

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Let me say, there is nothing wrong with top-roping. In fact, top-roping is an essential and useful aspect in learning how to climb. The falls are more protected, you can hone in on your technique, and it requires little know-how. Top-roping plays a vital role in climbing.

This is sticky, so bear with me.

Before I learned how to lead climb I was always dependent on someone else. I needed someone with a higher skillset than my own to hang draws and set-up the rope for me. Climbing wasn’t my own. I couldn’t call up just anyone to go climbing, I had to call someone who would be willing to take me out and do the work for me.

The more I went out and lacked the skills to set-up my own climb, the less empowered I felt.

In fact, I started to feel everything but empowered.

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I understand teamwork and collaboration. I value the power of we. And climbing is far from a solo endeavor. You need a partner. You need a catch. You need a spotter.

Like every good partnership, however, it can easily become exhausting when one partner is doing all the work. I noticed this in my relationship with my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time of these revelations). I wanted to be this strong, independent woman, but I was unable to own my climbing. And it was so easy to use him as a sort of crutch. I started thinking, if he hadn’t come into my life, would I be climbing at all?

I needed climbing to be a thing for me. I needed it to be something I did because I could. At that point, I couldn’t just go out and climb because I lacked the skills.

So, I learned to lead climb.

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And yeah, lead climbing is terrifying. While it gets less terrifying over time (and then ups the terrifying levels when you least expect it), learning to lead climb is scary and uncomfortable and if you’re anything like me, can be downright paralyzing at times.

When you’re first starting out, it’s type II fun, for sure.

But once you start hitting that flow on lead, and you realize that every fall won’t be your last, you tap into a part of yourself that believes you can.

For the first time in my climbing career, I’ve been able to go out and project 5.12 with some incredible, crusher, badass ladies. I’ve introduced women to the sport. I’ve been able to setup top-ropes for beginner climbers on routes they wouldn’t have been able to try otherwise.

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I love this circle.

So to all of you out there, who want to try lead climbing, but are maybe scared (or, like I was, downright terrified), I encourage you to try it. Take a class. I know the gyms in Salt Lake offer lead climbing classes on a regular basis. There are also dozens, maybe hundreds of people in climbing communities who are more than willing to mentor and encourage new climbers.

So get out there, and get scared.

 



 

**All pictures courtesy of my dashing, and incredibly talented husband, Coby Walsh. You can follow him on Instagram @icoby24

 

Trail Run Tempo

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Trail running can be hard.

In Utah, where 99.9% of all trails head directly UP, and switchbacks are scarce, getting into trail running can be, well, exhausting. If you’re hard-pressed to find a moderate trail to begin on, is it even worth “running” at all if you spend the majority of the time speed-hiking?

When I talk to people about venturing into the world of dirt and scraped knees, the most common, and almost immediate, response is this:

I don’t think I can run the whole thing.

My dear, sweet friends, I have good news for you!

The majority of trail runners walk the uphills.

You read that right! When I first started trail running I had no idea that even the elitest of the elites will hike the uphills and run the downhills (granted their uphills are literal mountains, but still).

So when we’re talking about how fast or slow you should be trail running, the best answer I can find is to do what feels right for YOU and YOUR BODY. It’s easy to get so caught up in what we think we should or shouldn’t be doing, that we make it impossible for ourselves to even start. That’s a nasty trap to get caught in.

In Salt Lake, there are some great, moderate trails for beginners. The Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon, and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail near the Avenues and the University, are both great options. And as you move on from there, give yourself grace, and a high-five for getting out in the first place.

The outdoors can be intimidating, I know from experience. It’s even more intimidating when you live in a place that professional athletes use as their training ground. However, I suggest we use that as motivation to get out and get after it.

Who knows? After a few years of training you could be running laps around the Wasatch.

 

Quick and “Easy” Ab Workouts

It goes without saying, your abdominal muscles are some of the most important in your body. They help stabilize and reduce the incidence of injury. They’re also probably the most photographed muscle in all of Instagram history. As with any muscle group, the beginning steps to definition are hard. I’ve been known to feel defeated if after one workout my abs aren’t debuting they’re presence in the world. C’est la vie.

Professional climber and athlete, Paige Claussen, commits to ten-minute abs after every climbing session. She picks ten different exercises and does each one for a minute without stopping.

My go-to ab exercises are either five minutes of leg lifts or circuits. My husband has been doing five minutes of leg raises for quite a while and has begun modifying to include scissor kicks, butterflies, and raising/lowering at different paces. They’re easily adaptable. If you’re unable to complete five full minutes of leg lifts, start with one minute, rest 10-30 seconds, do another minute, rest 10-30 seconds, and so on. Do what’s best for you, but I also encourage you to push yourself.

When I have more time or brain power I like to do ab circuits. Choose 3-4 ab exercises and repeat 2-3 times. Generally, if I’m doing an ab circuit I like to throw in an arm or leg exercise, like squats or push-ups, to mix it up.

Favorite ab exercises for circuits:

V-Up:

Start laying flat on the mat. In one motion raise your upper body and straight legs up to form a “V.” For a modified version, you can keep your legs bent at whatever angle is doable.

Russian Twists:

Start sitting. Lower your upper body slightly, so that it’s at a 45-degree angle from the mat. Bend your knees slightly, with your heels just grazing the mat. With hands clasped above your stomach, lower them down to your right side, and then over to your left. Repeat. Add weights/medicine ball if it feels too easy.

Planks:

Good old fashioned fun! Planks are my definite go-to because I know exactly what to expect and there are so many modifications. Start laying face down on your mat. Place forearms on mat and lift body so your only points of contact are forearms and toes. Take extra caution to not rise up in your shoulders, or sink your lower back and hips. Think stiff as a board!

Lie-Down-Sit-Up:

Start lying down on your back. With arms across chest, right hand touching left shoulder, left hand touching right shoulder, roll up, and reach to touch your toes. Re-cross arms and lie flat. Repeat.

Hanging Leg Raises:

I confess, these are tough and I fight my will to complain whenever I incorporate them. Using a pull-up bar, extend your legs straight below you. Engaging your core, in an effort to remain still, bend your legs at the knees and raise to your chest. Lower, and repeat. The real trick with this one is to keep your body from swinging and using the inertia to bring your knees to your chest. Go slow, and be precise.

There are so many ab exercises out there that this list isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Climbing Magazine did a great article on ab exercises for climber’s that you can find here.

Happy exercising and may your abs soon be defined!

Because Mexico!

I don’t know about you, but this month has been painful–politically, emotionally, and mentally. I’ve felt exhausted by the negativity on my news feed, the reports on NPR, and the wonderful winter weather threw my work days into a tailspin. With all this mental exhaustion I’ve barely had the chutzpah to get myself into the gym for a solid workout. One day I went to the climbing gym, went up to the fitness deck, and sat in my butterfly stretch for 30 minutes. So yeah, it’s been a struggle.

But all that’s changed! Because it’s February! And it’s time to get it together!

Plus, my husband and I are putting together a climbing trip to El Potrero Chico in April, and I have to be swol before I can even THINK about hauling myself up 12 pitches of 5.12 climbing…

I started with a little research on training for climbing. Climbing magazine has a pretty decent training section on their website as does Rock and Ice. I also found some great stuff at Training Beta. The main focus of climbing specific training is power and endurance climbing, however I’m not quite there yet. I’ve decided to spend the next month focusing on an overall fitness base.

This is what I’ll be shooting for every week of February:

Yoga: 30 minutes

Running: 20 minutes X 3 times

Arms/Abs/Leg Workout: 4 sessions

Climb: 3 sessions

And every session (besides a solid ab workout), I’ll follow with 10 minute abs (10 ab exercises each for a minute without resting).

I knew I needed to start small with the yoga and running because every time I’ve tried to become a runner or yogi in the past I’ve gotten overambitious and quickly lost interest and the wherewithal to keep at it. With this vague training plan I hope to start developing my base fitness, lose the layer of fat hiding my most precious abs, and have better endurance on the wall.

Hoping to start some kind of power/endurance circuit by the beginning of March.

Let me know what your trusted routines are! I’d love to incorporate them.

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