Dear Rock Climbing, I Miss You. Let's Try This Again Soon, Okay?

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This is how I should look and feel
when I'm climbing... (D. Herscovitch)
It's Sendtember, the month where most rock climbers are planning or on their big year-end trip with the goal of crushing everything in sight before winter. Most climbers, that is, with the exception of me. I haven't climbed outside since May. In fact, I haven't climbed at all in over six weeks. But wait, I'm the girl who couldn't stop writing about, eating, sleeping and breathing climbing. How is that possible?

It's hard to keep the psych going sometimes. It's hard for me not to be completely committed to everything I do and climbing is no exception. I can't quell the will to get better, I can't stop wanting to push harder, and sometime, that's enough to prevent me from having fun.

It's been difficult to walk into the gym and just say, "today, I'm not going to worry about finishing problems or doing anything super hard, and just have fun." It's part of why I hesitated to compete, but also part of why bouldering comps are among my favorite climbing days. It's just who I am, but that intensity can burn me out.

It's even harder to keep the psych going when you're fighting powerful emotions. Climbing is, and likely always will be, terrifying to me. Even thinking about thinking about climbing a multi-pitch route is enough to get my heart racing, and not in a good way, in a run-and-hide sort of way. But a lot of people are afraid of climbing, right? And that's part of what keeps me going back for more. Climbing is a way to step out of the protective bubble that is everyday life and to get in touch with a side of myself I don't often see. Sometimes, though, my desire to fight the fear just isn't there. The thing I've learned lately is that it's not necessarily about fighting the fear, or making it go away; it's about accepting its presence and not letting it affect you. I've accepted the fear, but sometimes, that acceptance is a deterrent.

So, what am I doing about it?

I'm giving myself permission to take a break. I wrote a post about identity that was inspired by others' thoughts on what it means to be a climber. One of my conclusions was that it really didn't matter. It's not what we do that defines who we are. That said, it's still hard to hear people identify me as a climber when I haven't touched rock or plastic in weeks. I'm pushing all of that aside, recognizing I'm just not enjoying it as much as I want to be able to, and giving myself permission to take a break. When I go back to the gym or hit the crag again, I want to feel that sense of connection with what I'm doing, the beauty of the movement of climbing, and the love for the sport I haven't been able to channel lately.

I'm recognizing that things change, people change, and it's okay to accept the ebb and flow of our passions. I'll never stop loving climbing, but that doesn't mean I have to love it all the time. Part of being someone who thirsts for perfection is that it can be easy to get burned out. By allowing space for things like Crossfit in my life and spending less time obsessing about how I'm not climbing, I'm generally feeling better about, well, everything. Life is about balance; I only have a bit of time each day to spare for physical activity, I need to make that time count and feel good about it.

I'm still reveling in the accomplishments of the climbers around me, and looking forward to getting back into it when I'm ready. The last gym sesh I had was at Elite Climbing with some of my favorite ladies from Go Vertical. It's a group - more of a community - of amazing women who get together to boulder at least one night a week. There was so much positive energy in the group, it was amazing. That's what I really miss - watching my friends excel and having them there to support me. It's also been great reading about things like the Chicks Climbing clinics and seeing some familiar local faces in the clinic reports. I'm feeding off of the energy and passion of the climbing friends I have who are out there doing great things.

Now this? This I definitely miss! Yay ice!
(D. Herscovitch)
I'm looking forward to ice season! The crisp, cool air, the giant mug of hot cocoa at the base of the climb, the noise the tools make when you take a solid swing, standing on two tiny metal point stuck in a frozen waterfall...yep, I'm ready for winter. Ice climbing is a relatively recent discovery, and after getting out several times last winter, I can't wait to get out again this year. That excitement proves I'm not in need of a break from the vertical world entirely, just a very small part of it.

So, my climbing gym membership resumes in October, and I think I'm just about ready for it.

Have you gone through ups and downs with climbing, or another sport you're passionate about? Any tips for getting through one of the "down" periods? Leave a comment!

18 comments :

Whitney said...

Good stuff Katie! I can relate to the part about struggling to fighting the fear, very frustrating sometimes.

Katie L. said...

Thanks, Whitney! Have you found any specific ways to stay motivated that really work for you, despite the fear?

krysia hepatica said...

Great post!  I will bookmark it so I can revisit it to help me accept my 'forced' break in climbing because of my injury.  For now, my goals are -> walking -> hiking -> fall camping -> winter camping and keeping a positive attitude!

Christine Perez said...

Oh, I TOTALLY understand.  Just the other day, I had to remind my climber partner (and self) "We're climbing for fun! Everyday isn't going to be perfect."  It's definitely hard to keep that in mind.

I ALWAYS talk about the ebb and flow of emotions and desires!  Take a look at where I came from: http://www.trackingteeny.com/about.html

You'll get back to it!  Enjoy Crossfit in the meantime.  Oh..and if you're looking for something to continue the Ebb and flow thinking, check out "The Power of Now." by Eckhart Tolle.  It's sooo good!

Get it lady!

Patricia said...

Katie, 

Thank you for putting this out there into the world! I have actually been what is now close to a six month break from rock climbing as well. I have been kicking my butt these past few days as friends email or call to see if I am going to be joining them on trips this fall. I have decided to spend the next two months back down in warmer temperatures so I can reignite my passion for climbing as well as combine that with my new found love for ice as well! 

Keep finding that balance! I look forward to hearing an update come October! 

Patti

Katie L. said...

I like your plan, Krysia! I can imagine a forced break has been incredibly difficult to deal with, but I hope you're healing quickly and look forward to reading all about your adventures when you do!

Katie L. said...

I love your description of your relationship with theater, and thanks so much for the kind words! I'll have to look into that book, too!

Katie L. said...

Thanks, Patti! It's helpful to hear that others go through the same thing. I hope you're able to reignite your passion for climbing, and can't wait to hear more about your love for ice! We definitely have that in common.

Gif said...

Nice, Katie.  I just finished my 2.5 month hiatus by going to the NRG this past weekend.  It was glorious.  I hadn't climbed since July 4 outside.  The hot weather this summer was unbearable, as I'm sure you know.  I took July and August to visit friends around the country, do other things, and move.  Now that the temps are back down, I'm climbing again and it feels so good.  I didn't even want to climb this summer.  It just wasn't much fun in July.  But going down this past weekend and enjoying the weather and crisp rock reminded me how much I love it.

Also, what aspect are you afraid of?  Is it a fear of falling or a different fear.  If it's a fear of falling, the best way to beat that is repeated practice.  You should come down to the New with us this fall and we'll work on kickin' that fear.  Soon you will be takin' whips and enjoying the air time  :D

Until then, enjoy smashing out burpees.  Crossfit is badass!

Katie L. said...

Thanks Gif! Glad you had such a blast at the NRG this weekend. I can definitely relate to the "I didn't even want to climb this summer" sentiment, as that's exactly how I felt. But part of me thought I should want to, and that pressure I put on myself to go even when I didn't want to took all the fun out of it.

And, yes, I'm afraid of falling. I'm just generally afraid of being up high, which is part of why I love bouldering so much! Bouldering is definitely my favorite climbing discipline, and I knew when I couldn't even get myself to boulder, I needed a break. I think it'll all come back soon!

Gif said...

Sometimes breaks are exactly what we need.  It builds the psyche back up again.  If you get an itch for some perfect sandstone, meet us at the New sometime this Fall.  Maybe you can convince Patrick to come too.  We (Patrick and I) had a good time down there in July, even in the swamp conditions.  

Climbingbetty22 said...

Love this post. So true. My husband is a climbing guide, so sometimes I feel pressure to that our relationship is based on my climbing. It's totally not though and he loves me just as much whether I'm climbing a lot, a little or not at all. In fact he taught me a lot of these lessons, that it's OK to cycle through different areas of focus, depending on where I am in life at the time. The only pressure to climb or enjoy climbing is the pressure I put on myself.

Katie L said...

It's so great you have that relationship with your husband! It sounds perfect, and so supportive. The last line of your comment really rings true for me, too.

Tiffany said...

Great post! I haven't touched plastic since June and only touched real rock twice this year. And I haven't missed it all that much. I was tired of the pressure I put on myself for 2-3 years while climbing with the (now-ex) boyfriend and all his climbing buddies (however, at the same time, I wouldn't trade those adventures for the world, I loved them). While they didn't put pressure on me, I was constantly questioning why I didn't feel as passionate as they did about the sport. In fact, I preferred the huffing and puffing of backpacking. 

So, huff and puff I did this summer and focused on myself, my gardens, the outdoors in general and my friends. However, part of me looks forward to getting back to regular gym sessions, and who knows, maybe next summer, hit some real rock. 
But something deep down tells me I'd still rather climbing a big mountain than a multi-pitch.

It's funny the timing of your post too - several of my girlfriends who were BIG rock climbers a few years ago have stepped back and found other sports they've thrown themselves into. I've actually enjoyed seeing them blossom like that because frankly, there's WAY more to life than rock climbing. 

Sharon said...

Having not known you for more than I'd say 7-8 months I hadn't known that people categorized you as a "climber" although you are a great climber and obviously very experienced at it. To me, you are just great at every sport you touch and you touch many! You inspire me to get out and try new things because I really think THATS whats important in life. Being awesome at one thing just isn't fulfilling enough in my book. We need new adventures and new things to challenge us and to learn from. That's what climbing is for me right now. Do I see myself climbing 4 days a week for the rest of my life? Hell no. I'll burn out eventually (it happens to me all the time with whatever I'm obsessed with atm) and probably feel guilty for a while but I'll be ready to start something new and I'm excited to be such a stronger person when I do!
Katie I'm so glad I met you and I always look forward to seeing you whether its at Elite or on a Paddle board or at a bar!

Katie L. said...

Thanks Tiff! I can understand and empathize with everything you felt. I put the pressure on myself. But it feels so good to recognize that it's not worth it, and to do what you really, truly want to do instead. That last paragraph is awesome :)

Katie L. said...

Sharon, thank you SO much for the kind words! It really means a lot. I was definitely climbing 3-4 days a week a year ago, it's too bad our paths didn't cross sooner :) But agreed, I'm so glad I met you and look forward to any chance we get to hang out!

Computer Support said...

Rock climbing is the most exhilarating thing i have ever done and because of this website i did it!

Brian