It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary
About two years ago, I was introduced to climbing by two best friends. It was summer and we just came back from a week at surf camp in France. Being back in the concrete jungle of Amsterdam left us slightly bored and discouraged by the lack of nature and adventure that we had just been surrounded with a few days ago on the atlantic coast of France. We were still pumped from camp and wanted to do something fun and active. They had already climbed regularly in the past, but hadn’t gone in a long time, so when it was suggested I was definitely up for anything fun and new. So off we went to the climbing hall.
My introduction to the wall
I had my first top roping session and I was hooked. Literally, in every way. But what was it? how could I fall in love so quickly so hard with this sport, this lifestyle? I just remembered the feeling of adrenaline, slight fear, the need to push and get to that top as my best friends stood below encouraging me to go up a little further. A combination of freedom, nerves, and focus all at the same time, while my mind is still somehow completely at peace. It was an amazing rush, that I wanted to experience over and over again.
We went a second time that week, and the next week I quickly signed up for the beginners course so I could get certified and learn how to belay properly so the real fun could begin(even managed to convince my instructor to give me extra classes so I could finish sooner). Soon after, I got introduced to bouldering, another addition to this newly found love affair. It was crazy, I discovered a whole other world that has come to mean so much to me, yet I was never fully aware of it’s existence before.
Just one thing came to mind, and still does over and over again: “How had I not discovered this sooner? I have been missing out big time!” My progress was incredible, as I continued to climb weekly, I continued to get better and stronger. I had never experienced something like it, I kept at it, I practiced and pushed, and the results were instantaneous. Four months later, I had come so far, so fast. Maybe even too fast at one point.
The wake up call
One night I was laying awake with excruciating pain in my left arm, a strange sharp pain that was just shooting up and down my arm. This continued for about a week or so, I pushed through it and didn’t miss any of my climbing sessions. And then it got really bad, I couldn’t ignore it anymore, I had to call my physiologist.
I was told, I had developed climber’s elbow no climbing for the next three weeks, or more depending on my recovery progress, and twice a week treatment. I was in pain, had no strength in my left arm, and I was angry, frustrated and felt weak. How could my body just give up on me? It all seems a bit silly now, but at the time, no climbing for three weeks after religiously keeping on my climbing schedule since the very day I started, seemed like the absolute worst thing ever. I felt like I just lost my escape from the world for the next three weeks, and who knows, if my arm didn’t heal up properly, how much longer it could take.
To those who know me well, this wasn’t much of a surprise. Not just the injury but how badly I took it and the frustration that took over. I fully and whole heartedly invest every part of me into the things I’m passionate about (some might even say “I don’t like, I ‘obsess'”). Slowing down, or “taking it easy” are not exactly some of my virtues when it comes to things I love.
However, I had to take this injury seriously if I wanted to get back at it as soon as possible. So, I did, and 4 weeks later I was given the go ahead to slowly start climbing again. I was advised to add a training regimen to my weekly session to build up strength in the muscles that aren’t developing as fast as others, so I don’t strain any other muscles. So I did, and started climbing and training a bit more strategically.
This was a wake up call. I started out focusing on the mind, and forgetting the body. This was my body reminding me that I was disconnected from it and had to slow down and regroup. I was missing a link, though, it took a while before I realised it.
Body & Mind & Love
It was about six months after I first started climbing and two months after I had my first injury that I really stopped and noticed the changes in my body. I was so focused and swept away by how climbing made me feel emotionally, that I overlooked how it made me feel physically. My body was going through some extraordinary changes, it felt like it was ‘all of a sudden’ by the time I realised it. I was stronger than I had ever been before, my muscles were growing and showing in ways I had not yet experienced. I felt lean and mean, and realised how important it was to not lose that mind body connection. It is only within that mind body connection, that I can truly and fully enjoy and experience the art of climbing, or any other sport for that matter.
One thing became clear from the very beginning, I was in it for mind and heart. I was conquering myself, rather than conquering the wall. I had found something that for the first time introduced me to the beauty and oneness of the mind and body connection. It just took me a while to recognise and realise that this was happening. I’ll forever be grateful to climbing. I found a sport and hobby I truly love, and finally was able to connect with a sport that introduced me to a whole other part of myself that I had not yet discovered.
I continue to climb hard, my body and mind continue to get stronger and I continue to look forward to climbing the world!
Love & light,