Full Time Climber, Full Time Job - Slightly Chaotic

In February 2018 I wrote a four-piece article on being a full-time climber with a full-time job. It was an insight into my day-to-day life, trying to balance regular 2 to 3-hour training sessions. You can read it here. They were honest and heartfelt, and they represent how productive and enthusiastic I can be, and how much it can be possible to train alongside working.

But they also made me think “full time job, full time climber - but actually I'm sometimes a bit of a shambles and that kind of works too - oh and also could I really see as much of my abs at the time? Can’t find them…” Looking back at those articles, I condensed my life into the productive bits, but I left out the shambolic and less-than-impressive side of me.

I'm writing this during the UK COVID-19 lockdown, having just had some time off work and not sure what I’m about to return to. Fortunately for me, the less-than-impressive elements are really the essence of the me, that I know and love.

It is quite hard to reveal that version, the part where I’ve thought “I hate this [sport], it doesn’t make me happy any more” and had to unravel several years of thinking. Or the part where I realise I’ve not baked for ages because I’ve been trying to keep up with other things and “I can’t be bothered, I think I’ll just buy it from this café here". Or even the part of me that turns up to the climbing wall, realises I’ve forgotten my climbing shoes and hires some terrible ones because I know I won’t have the motivation to come back if I go home. 

Of course, no we are in Lockdown, I have been forced to resume baking.

That paragraph sounds pretty depressing, but actually, doing the session in the hire shoes – or climbing a circuit or two below my max when I’m fed up – those are life’s successes. I’m a person who really wants to train to be a better climber, but sometimes I just can’t - and that's okay. Here’s the other side to “Full-time climber with a full-time job”.

I consider myself to be a morning person, because I work best in the morning and generally get out of bed without someone beating me with a pair of slippers.

That doesn’t mean that I actually want to get out of bed most mornings and I get quite cross about it regularly. I enjoy my job, I really do. I get to work in a lab, doing research that has a clear purpose. It’s the type of job I’d given up looking for. And yet, I wake up some days and launch myself out of the wrong side of bed. I do my shirt up, find that the buttons don't line up, run up and down the stairs twice shouting about various things to remember. I might finish with a quick circuit around the bedroom shouting "I'm going to be bloody late where the hell are my keys oh for god’s sake I hate bloody mornings" just so that if my husband wasn't awake he completely, totally is now. Sorry about that…

When that happens, and I feel like I’m feeling the wrong things. I enjoy my job, so I feel like I'm supposed to be delightfully full of vim and vigour.

And I've latterly realised that loving your job doesn’t mean you have to want to go to work every day. 

I’ve also learned to button up shirts from the bottom (or re-learned, since I presumably could button up a shirt when I was at school).

I consider myself to be a morning person, because I work best in the morning and generally get out of bed without someone beating me with a pair of slippers.

I am the absolute queen of buying the number of ingredients required, minus one of them. I’ve noticed that people seem to have wildly varying abilities to remember things on a short-term basis and I’m completely useless at it. Lunch is a particular problem that I have and I forget it, on balance, once a week or so. Often this results in scrabbling in the glove compartment for snacks because I often forget my purse and have still not set up Google Pay. 

Something I struggled with over the last year was something I alluded to above – mental fatigue in terms of training. I’d probably been pushing through it for about three years. I felt that if I stopped training, I’d get worse at climbing and those feelings were essentially spiralling.

If I got worse at climbing there’d be no point because I wouldn’t be happy. Eventually, I was inspired by a friend who had stopped training for a sport in which he performed at a significantly higher level than I do climbing. He had come to the conclusion that he was no longer enjoying it, and he had stopped training. Having stopped training, for now, I can’t quantify, from this year’s indoor winter, whether I have got stronger or not but I certainly don’t feel like I’ve got weaker. I’ve learned how to move and I’ve stopped dreading going to the climbing wall. I imagine I’ll go back to training at some point but for someone like me it was very much a breakthrough to let go enough to enjoy climbing.

Getting better at getting stuck in, on Spartacus 7b+ in Kalymnos

Another thing I think that is hard when combining training with a full time job is that I am part of the generation(s) struggling to meet the high standards that we have self-imposed based on the performance of our parents/grandparents. Many people I know, myself included, attempt to emulate both parents at once – attempting to have a blossoming career and a clean and tidy house with balanced and nutritious cooked meals every day. And that’s for those of us who don’t have children! My slow cooker might be able to manage that but I’m not sure I can. I also really like beans on toast.

Nutritious, home-cooked meals. Though who can argue with beans?

The shambolic side of me is the side that spends 5 minutes trying to rescue a woodlouse but fails to take the bin out on a Thursday night. It’s the side that returns back to the office every night from the car to retrieve the car key that I’ve left on my desk. However, the shambolic side is also the person, through a series of well-intentioned events, some of which don’t happen that were intended and some of which do happen that weren’t intended, that keeps moving forward. This is the person that makes training and training happen, and I get better at climbing.

Or sometimes not, and that’s okay.

By Lisa Alhadeff


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