12 in 12: Quit Being a Baby


Julie Ellison feeling worked after a day of climbing. Photo by Alton Richardson

After a disappointing weekend at Shelf Road, where I flailed on an 11b/c and wheezed my way through some 10s, I decided to hit the gym hard-core on Monday. OK, yeah, so I was pretty dang sick last week and am still coughing up a storm and a lung while drowning in my own mucus, but still it was frustrating. A fellow climber had to remind me quite gently, while I scowled and pouted, that, “Hey, you’ve been sick for a week and traveling the few weeks before that. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” But who else is going to be hard on me? I need constant attention to move forward in life. Truth.

I went to Movement (the hip and chic gym in Boulder, also the biggest and busiest) with my friend Hale, who is not only a strong and determined climber himself, but also gracious enough to help me along with my silly little project. He is also generous enough to offer himself up as belay slave even when he’s taking a rest day/week to recover from a finger injury (among other things). The goal of the day (and the following weeks) was to work on my piss-poor endurance.

Honestly, I don’t really enjoy route training in the gym. It seems monotonous and boring, and I end up doing the same routes over and over, and even more annoyingly—waiting in line for the same routes over and over. (#boulderclimberproblems) When I go to the gym, I like to boulder because the problems are more fun and it’s easier to hop from one thing to another, allowing me to feed my climbing ADD.

Hale (a former climbing coach) and I decided on doing some laps to really wear me out. I would warm up, climb two routes back-to-back with no rest, then get about seven minutes of rest, rinse and repeat. I would do this until I got to 15 routes. OK, I’ve done this sort of thing before; I got this.

Warm-up is simple, first two rounds go by like a dream. I’m starting on my ninth route and starting to feel pumped and sweaty and breathing heavy. OK, OK, I should be tired by nine routes anyway, right? Finish that, move on to the 10th (by this point Hale is shoving me toward the start of routes to prevent my stealthy resting), get halfway up and am absolutely slammed by the most ferocious pump I have experienced. With that comes the mental: You’re going to fall! You’re going to fall! And in the gym no less. Ugh. I look down and ask for a take. Hale just says a simple, “No.”

Damn.

So I do a few more moves and take the whip. No biggie, I’ve taken many a whip in my lifetime. Sack up and move on. I do my seven minutes of rest and complete my 15 routes, including taking another whip after asking for a take about three times, each time pushing through the numbing pain in my pulsating forearms. Hale congratulates me and says good job as I gasp and pant in my own swampiness. I feel weird.

Why was this gym workout so different—mentally and physically—for me? Oh, right, because I actually TRIED. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in a climbing gym, and yeah, it felt weird. Then I realized that weirdness was actually satisfaction. I’ve never had that feeling leaving the climbing gym. I’m usually bummed about my performance or wishing I could have stayed longer. But this time I walked out with shoulders hunched by exhaustion, looking dogged and downtrodden, but feeling elated and proud. I’m happy as a clam leaving puddles everywhere I walk while the perfectly permed and primped college coeds are exquisitely unsweaty in their Lululemon yoga pants and Prana sports bras. I enjoy working hard and feeling the rewards of sweat and breaking my mental barriers. Now I’m off to see if I can make myself cry on the treadwall.

Don’t forget to throw me some feedback—beratings encouraged—or your own gym stories at jellison@climbing.com.

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