Sometimes men grow boobs. This is just a fact of aging, or more accurately, the lack of priority we give to fitness as we get older and more things take up our time, and our bodies don’t respond the way they did when we were 19. Lots of men accept the development of man-boobs as a rite of the onset of middle age, like grey hair, wrinkles, pattern baldness, colonoscopies, and moving out of their parents’ house.
I started 2010 with a two-month bike tour, which meant I had strong legs, but didn’t do a single push-up or pull-up for the first three months of the year. I got back from my trip, continued to eat ice cream like I had when I was pedaling 60-80 miles a day, and voila, was on the verge of having man-boobs.
I had gotten out of climbing shape, and just wasn’t that motivated to get back. Sure, I got out on some long, easy routes here and there, but I was a pile of flab — my arms got tired flaking the rope. I had lost whatever it was that used to get me fired up about climbing. I wasn’t doing two-knuckle pullups on the door frame because I was scared of not being able to pull the roof on the second pitch, wasn’t doing sit-ups so I had the core strength to punch it through steep or overhanging sections. I was climbing, but not hard. I got pumped hanging onto ice tools while toproping WI3 over the winter.
This year, 2011, I said, would be different. My program? Easing back into it. Lead onsight 10 pitches of 5.7, then 10 pitches of 5.8, then maybe some alpine 5.7, alpine 5.8, maybe 5.9 rock. Some other vague goals like learning to trust hand jams. Climb in Eldorado Canyon more. This plan was working pretty well for me, and I was getting on the 5.7 second pitch of West Overhang with my friend Mike, and we were talking nonstop about climbing and all the other stuff we like to do in the outdoors.
Mike said for this year, his goals were: Climb 100 pitches of trad, 100 pitches of sport, 100 boulder problems, 100 pitches of ice, 300,000 vertical feet of skiing (lift-served and non-lift-served), and ascend 100,000 vertical feet of mountaineering terrain.That sounded pretty ambitious to me, a guy who was starting to set a bad trend of staying home to work one day every weekend.
“It’s been good. It helps when I go out cragging, to say, OK, I’ll climb one more pitch, do one more lap on something, to get me closer to 100.”
That made a difference to me — one more pitch at the end of the day. That stuck in my head, and I started to cram in more pitches — let’s pack a lunch and do two 5-pitch routes in Eldo instead of stopping after the first one. How about two 5-pitch Lumpy Ridge routes? Another single-pitch route at my limit after we finish this 3-pitch cruise, instead of driving down to Kind Coffee to drink milkshakes and take it easy by the river? Sure. I started setting goals, motivating myself.
I started a spreadsheet to keep track of how many pitches I’ve climbed in 2011, because I knew I’d lose count otherwise. Mike, this is a brilliant idea. I have been going cragging a lot lately, and even on the days when I’m taking it easy, I tack on one more route, one more experience, a few more feet of climbing, a few more minutes being in the outdoors with one of my friends, instead of getting home 45 minutes earlier so I can — what, check my e-mail on a Saturday?
People say that if you have a goal, you should write it down, and that will help you follow through. It’s so simple, but it’s working for me this year, as far as my climbing goes. I don’t have one big event this year that I have to train for, a mountain climb or a bike tour, so there isn’t that big, ominous goal staring me in the face. Instead, I have a spreadsheet, and I’m keeping track. I’m sure it works for other people who bag peaks, run races, do big bike rides, go backpacking — the past few years, I’ve set a goal of spending 30 nights sleeping outside, and always made it; this year, I have only one night so far. So, my climbing list is what’s keeping me sane.
It’s just a list. But I’m doing pullups on the monkey bars at the playground by my house, going on long trail runs, pushups, crunches, and when I get out on rock, I’m more confident. A little over halfway through the year, I have 80-some pitches on my list. I feel like I’m back in the game, even though I’m not the world’s strongest climber. I have this list, which is a bunch of small goals that push me to do one more route, and those small goals add up to a bigger goal of being a climber again. And I am winning the war against boobs.