What are your climbing goals?
Climbing big walls when I am 60, of course 🙂
How did you start climbing?
I came to all the athletic activities that I have ever practiced quite late in my life. I guess it might have been the manifestation of my midlife crisis and a way to treat my frustration and deep emotional burnout from my work in the nursing field and the social isolation that I went through after moving from the city of Moscow to a small rural area located in the Midwest.
I was rebuilding myself after breaking down so many times by the lack of deep connection and support in the community where people somehow function on their own as independent individuals and get together probably only at work or in church. I was rebuilding myself from being looked at as if I were a real alien from outer space (which unfortunately often times equates to being a legal alien, as just a person with a different outlook and cultural background).
I could never count on anyone to be supportive in doing things together with me on a regular basis unless I belonged to their church or some sort of miracle happened, so I put all my efforts into individual sports that don’t require a partner or a team. I spent 2 years teaching myself how to swim and how to do inline skating. The most appealing to me was a state of flow that makes you feel alive and connected to yourself again. The state of flow only comes to me with distance, so I started practicing distance skating and distance swimming.
My husband, who climbed many years ago, asked me if I would be interested in trying rock climbing in a gym that was open in a bigger city located 2 hours away from where we live. Our then 7 year old daughter who had already climbed all the doorways in our house, immediately appeared to be the most efficient and strongest climber among the three of us, and pretty soon she proclaimed herself The Mother of All Climbers. After hearing this statement, I decided to become the Grandmother of All Climbers.
Honestly speaking, I didn’t like rock climbing much at first, because unlike inline skating or swimming, I couldn’t easily find any rhythm or reliable recovery phase in it. I was hurting all over and I felt exhausted without seeing much progress. Fortunately for me, I accidentally discovered that climbing helped my lower back pain and was more effective than all the distance I swam in the pool that only ended up aggravating it. Then I saw a video of Jain Kim and fell in love with the grace of her climbing style. I wanted to look as beautiful and as efficient as her on the wall. It gave me a lot of motivation because I was always very sensitive to beautiful things.
What do you enjoy most about climbing?
Climbing is my therapy and my way to connect with other people and the gym is my church and my State of Love and Trust. I love that climbing is possibly the only sport where everyone is supportive of each other and people are genuinely happy for someone’s success in something that they might still be getting the hang of.
The atmosphere of trust, care and genuine support is very appealing to me. Rock climbing quickly shows the real personality of people, how they treat you, what they are worth and what their true self is. In climbing there are no politics or social games of being alpha and beta that I hated so much when I worked in the environment of competition. I didn’t like to be constantly pushed without allowing myself to optimize the process instead, and I felt that I was often surrounded by people who are quite dysfunctional and toxic to me and others.
In the climbing community you have to equally care about each other to deserve each other’s trust by putting your life in your belayer’s hands. You cannot fake it, especially if you have problems with trust or have fear of heights. Who you climb with has the greatest impact on your own performance. You have to be on the same frequency with your climbing partner. This atmosphere of deep interconnection among people gives me the feeling of being protected, as well as influencing other people’s lives in the most positive and therapeutic way. And of course, like in any sport, you learn things about yourself that often time surprise you. I enjoy this experience even when these things surprise me in the least pleasant way. Nosce te ipsum (Know thyself).
Another surprising thing is that I found a lot of creative and analytically minded people in the gym and I always felt that I belong to this category. Working as a nurse and being often surrounded by people who are mentally and emotionally broken, physically unhealthy, deeply depressed, people who see no light at the end of the tunnel and have no energy to move forward, people who often willingly or unwillingly drain you. It felt so refreshing to be at last surrounded by physically healthy beautiful people who didn’t lose hope. All people who work in the healthcare industry need to experience health and beauty on a regular basis so as not to lose the right perspective on what life really is. Due to the specifics of our profession, we are being exposed to pure ugliness and unhappiness so much that it depletes our internal resources before we consciously notice it.
I was looking for this beauty in people long before I came to climbing. I was recreating it in my photography, trying to help people feel that they are beautiful at any age and still have potential to be happy after all the traumatic events that life had upon them: http://arinathomsenphotography.com/
I love that in climbing you can only compete with your old self and oftentimes you need to find solutions that will work only for you: your own body type, your height, your current technique, your strength-to-weight ratio, your current mindset. Even when you see how someone else did it, most of the time you still have to find your own beta. Climbing is very intellectual and strategic sport. It is very appealing to me to see my brain and my body working in harmony in order to find the most efficient way of climbing the route, and how difficult it is to stay consistent from day to day. It gives you the sense of meaningfulness and achievement.
Favorite Climbing Discipline?
The main problem for me was that I couldn’t find a reliable climbing partner who would come and climb with me for at least 3-4 hours a day. I felt too old and too fragile to boulder and the safety of top rope was very appealing to me. For a long time I felt desperate and then something changed and people who were wanting to work as hard as me suddenly started coming my way. As now, I am the most comfortable with top rope, but I want to do more lead climbing in the nearest future.
Most memorable climbing experience?
It actually happened very recently: My climbing partner introduced me to Prattville in Sand Springs, OK. It was the first time I tried outdoor lead climbing and I was able to lead easy routes like 5.6 and 5.7+. I was really excited when I managed to top rope an outdoor 5.10+ route. I never would have expected myself to be able to do that because I just started climbing my first indoor 5.10’s. It was a perfect day. I felt alive, happy and carefree as if I were a child again and it was an amazing feeling.
What do you like most about MyClimb?
The first time I visited a climbing gym was in 2017, but I only started climbing regularly in July 2018. Traveling to the gym and back home takes me 4 hrs, so when I am in the gym, I spend the whole day there to justify the trip. Climb Tulsa (https://climbtulsa.com/) opened a new excellent gym in 2018 and since that time, I decided to commit to the sport. Being a complete beginner, who climbed all the colors just to get to the top, I decided that the only way for me to learn is by doing a lot of volume.
For an adult person whose climbing experience was limited to tree climbing in her childhood days, the best way to work on technique and endurance was to find some gradual and consistent way of training and keeping a reliable tracking of my climbs. It can become rather challenging when you climb for 26 routes a day. Often times by the end of the day in the gym I felt exhausted and lost at the same time because I had no idea how many climbs I did, what was my average difficulty and what I am going to work on my next day in the gym. I discussed my concerns with my climbing partner saying that I feel that I need a more structured training at this point.
My climbing partner who is a much more experienced climber than me, recommended MyClimb as a way of keeping records. MyClimb is an excellent app if you want to keep track of your progress, especially when you climb volume or use it as a reference point when you simply want to remind yourself what you did last time. When I realized that I can consistently climb 85% of all 5.9 and 5.9+ routes in the gym, I started working towards my indoor lead certification at my gym and now I can add some easy to low intermediate lead climbs to my routine. These are the reasons why I use and will continue using this great app in the future.