Creating Space For Me: Learning To Climb

I was living a few short blocks from the local climbing gym after I had my daughter.

I asked my midwife when it would be ok for me to return to exercise and get back in shape. So it was that 3 months after my daughter was born, I signed up for a 6 week class to learn the basics of top roping safety and skills for rock climbing.

Taking about 3 hours twice a week became my new self care routine. I quickly went from basic routes rated at 5.8 to advanced routes at 5.10. It felt so good to feel strong and to challenge my fears and to build new trust and confidence in myself.

As a new mother, my self esteem was at a pretty low level. All of my experiences were new.

Learning how to breastfeed, sooth my baby and keep up with all the feeding and cleaning of myself and my home was an unending whirling dervish of tasks and essential needs to manage. 

When I went to the gym, my identity shifted. All of those things fell to the wayside. I tapped into my body and my breath with all of my focus on what was directly in front of me and nothing else. I could feel my fire and fierceness with the capacity to define my intention with my own willfulness. My wildness and sense of freedom.

Being on my own time and in my own rhythm. Knowing who I was not only as a mother and homemaker but as a woman in my own strength, fears and self expression.

Once I started climbing outside, my experience was amplified. As an outdoor enthusiast I have always found contentment and refuge under the open sky and with dirt beneath my feet. Getting my hands in rock holds and hanging by rope thousands of feet off the ground was a whole new high. I had the opportunity to climb outdoors just under a dozen times. I eventually learned to sport lead which added a whole other dimension to climbing for me. I climbed better than most men I’d run into at the gym and my weight gain now was the result of muscle instead of fat.

As years went by I took breaks from climbing to have my second child and to nurse injuries here and there. I’ve learned I am a different person when I climb and when I don’t. I feel myself in different ways. I trust myself more. I surprise myself with things I didn’t think I could do when I make it through a seemingly impossible climbing move. I feel my emotions more intensely as they drive me to push harder, determined to win at my own game with myself. Climbing has become one of the most healthy outlets and vehicles for me to find myself, over and over again.

What is the place where you find yourself? Where do you find your strength or sense of peace? Is it a sport, is it a place? Is it in the presence of others or alone in silence or with music in your ears?

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