Thursday, May 17, 2018

How I Stopped Being a Couch Potato and Learned to Love Climbing

Today's sale picks: my favorite leggings for working out (or just lounging at home), this cute strappy sports bra (I like how it's not basic black), and this drapey muscle tank (I frequently wear airy tanks like this because they help me stay cool).

I was a couch potato for years. I blame it on having grown up in the Midwest, where there isn't much outdoorsy stuff to do and where the weather is only nice for 6 months out of the year. Also my parents are couch potatoes, so I didn't exactly have good (physically active) role models to pattern myself after. Another problem was that I kept trying to force myself to do activities that I simply don't enjoy. I thought that was what you were supposed to do. Just keep trying until you learned to like it. For example, I hate running. For years I would periodically force myself to start running, do it for a couple weeks, and then go back to being a couch potato. Turns out it's hard to make yourself do something you don't want to do. No wonder I could never stick with it for long.

In April 2016, I accidentally discovered what is now my cardio of choice: cycling. J, one of my best friends at the time (now my boyfriend), was an avid cyclist and convinced me to go with him on his then-girlfriend's road bike. I almost said no (because I felt overly anxious) but ultimately decided to go, because I had always enjoyed biking as a kid. I was instantly hooked (on cycling, not him... yet). Cycling is even more fun than regular biking! You can go way faster with less effort! (Mountain biking is fun too but in a different and kinda scary way.) I became so obsessed that I started looking for a bike right away, and I bought a new-to-me carbon bike less than two months later. To this day, I never get tired of looking at it. I find it beautiful. Is it odd to be this enamored with a bike? Probably (haha), but I don't care. To me, it symbolizes freedom. No matter how stressed I am or how bad of a week I've had, I feel free the moment I go out for a ride, and my cares just melt away as I zip down the streets and trails.

My love and I (haha)
In September 2016, I discovered my current greatest passion: rock climbing. For years, my friends had been indoor climbing and invited me to join them. I always made up some excuse to avoid going, because honestly I was too afraid. For one, I had a terrible fear of heights, and also I was just super anxious about doing new activities that I had never done before. Even the idea of climbing made my stomach clench into knots. The one time I worked up the nerve to go in 2015 was so awful that I almost never went back (the "friend" I went with was a terrible teacher and didn't prepare me at all for my first climb). One day, almost on a whim, I decided to give it a second chance, this time with a much more sensitive and trustworthy climbing partner/teacher. In the back of my mind, I remembered how afraid I had been to go cycling that first time and how surprised I was to find that I loved it. (I didn't know it then, but I would later use the cycling example time and time again to push myself to try new things that were out of my comfort zone, because I felt like they would be good for my personal growth.)

I thought maybe the same could happen for climbing. And my wish came true. It has become one of the greatest joys of my life. It's a sanctuary for me, where I retreat to build myself up after the world knocks me down. What I love most about climbing is that you have to give it your all, sometimes more than your all, strength that you didn't even know you had. Also, when you're working on a route or a problem, the entire world shrinks to just that moment, that next move. It requires laser focus. And when you finally finish what you've been working on, there's a feeling of personal triumph that I've never found in any other activity.

It's really satisfying to overcome your limits, both mental and physical. When I first started climbing, I felt vertigo every time I looked down from the top of a route, so I decided to just stop looking down and only look up. Over time it ceased to bother me, and now I'm totally fine, even from the top of a 60 ft wall! So if you're interested in climbing but are afraid of heights, don't let that stop you! It definitely gets easier, and the fear will eventually go away. Also, climbing has noticeably changed the shape of my body. My biceps, triceps, shoulders, upper back, and core are all much stronger than they used to be, so it's a great workout. Best of all, it feels more like fun than exercise!

Another thing I love about climbing is the amazing community. Rock climbers are the friendliest, most helpful group of people you will ever meet! They are so encouraging, so willing to share tips, and just stop to chat. It probably helps that you see the same group of people around the gym or at the crag (outdoor climbing area) all the time. I met some of my current best friends through climbing, who I would literally trust with my life and who trust me with their lives. (I mean, you actually hold each other's lives in your hands when you climb together.) How's that for friendship?

My first outdoor climbing trip ever
So I'm completely obsessed with the sport. Right now I go to the climbing gym a couple times a week, usually for 2+ hours at a time. In the past, I've gone as often as 3-4 times a week, although now I find that to be too time-consuming, and it also makes me more susceptible to repetitive stress injuries. Since spring is here, I am planning to do some outdoor climbing trips too. In order to climb harder (i.e. complete harder routes), I've started focusing on better nutrition and working on my flexibility (via regular stretching and yoga). Anyway, I hope you will consider climbing the next time you want to try something new and fun, and that you enjoyed following my journey from couch potato to athletic woman! 

Are you or were you a couch potato? What do you do to work out? Have you ever tried climbing? If not, would you consider it?


  1. Sounds like it's been a very empowering process! I definitely do not take naturally to physical fitness (I was basically the slowest, least athletic kid in every PE class ever, always the last to be picked for every class), so the process of learning to enjoy working out and do it frequently has been empowering. I used to hate running, but learned to enjoy it and made what felt to me like great strides when I was in law school and lived near a good park for running outdoors. Sadly, I don't live in that neighborhood anymore and am really picky about where I run, so I just stick with the treadmill now.

    1. I hadn't thought of it in exactly those terms, but yes it's been great! Haha I can also identify with being the least athletic kid in class, although now I'd argue it's because I didn't spend enough time as a kid doing athletic stuff and my parents never emphasized the importance of being physically active. As much as I dislike running, I'll still do it sometimes on the treadmill, because it really is one of the easiest forms of cardio!