June 16, 2022 4 min read
Zofia Reych, author of Born to Climb, is an accomplished climber and founded the Women’s Bouldering Festival that takes place annually in Fontainebleau. The book covers the diverse history of rock climbing alongside the author's own personal history of the sport.
‘I don’t remember the beginning of my love affair with the mountains. As soon as I could walk, my mother packed her walking boots, a huge bag full of things apparently necessary for toddlers, our dog and my three-year-old self, and headed [to the mountains].’
Born to Climb, Chapter one
But it wasn’t until Zofia turned sixteen that they headed off to complete the formal training that was obligatory in Poland at the time to obtain their Rock Climbing Licence and, ultimately, their Tatra Climbing Licence.
‘Our instructor’s name was Robert, a cheerful, stocky man who within minutes announced he had never taught climbing to a group of four girls. One female on the course, yes, that had happened a few times. Two, he wasn’t sure. But never, ever in his career had he seen a course of four women.’
Born to Climb, Chapter three
As Zofia's journey in climbing continued, they pursued ways to improve their climbing strength and ability. Hangboards, fingerboards, pull-ups, climbing harder, training longer … but, as explained below, Zofia says that the turning point came when they began a Lattice Training plan ...
Scroll to the bottom of the blog for a discount code should you want to follow in Zofia’s footsteps and purchase a training programme for yourself.
For a very long time, bouldering harder and harder was the main reason that I climbed. Setting and achieving progressively bigger goals was the one thing I was into, so training became a part of my climbing early on. Slightly overambitious, getting into bouldering in my mid-twenties meant that I had to play catch-up with those who inspired me, and I believed that the more I trained and the harder I went after it, the sooner I’d get there.
Needless to say, a long string of injuries followed, along with bitter frustration that my body couldn’t sustain the training load and climbing intensity that I demanded from it. Yes, I was getting better results on the rock, but my sends were often interspersed with long periods of recovery from both overuse and acute injuries. On top of that, inappropriate nutrition left me tired and lacking in motivation. Clearly, I was doing things wrong – but I didn’t know how to fix them, or that they could be fixed at all. Today, on the other side of a lot of learning, my main takeaway is that solutions are often out there, and I only need to look for them.
Getting on a Lattice Training programme was a part of a plan to make me train and send smarter. I sorted out my nutrition and started regularly seeing a physiotherapist – two things I realised were necessary if I wanted to put my body through a hard training regimen. The big surprise was the training load: it was both much lighter and much heavier than I expected. Tailoring exercises and intensity to specific climbing goals meant that weaknesses could be worked much more effectively and without putting unnecessary strain on the system, leaving me with enough time to rest and recover. The Lattice plan allowed me to train to the max and reap the rewards without hurting myself.
Unsurprisingly, after six months, I broke through a plateau that had haunted me for nearly two years, climbed my hardest boulder and, incredibly, stayed healthy. Shoulders and fingers were feeling better than ever, while in the past, breaking into a new grade often had meant paying for it with a pulley injury or chronic pain.
Following a training plan was the first time I realised that the training equation could be, at least to a degree, controllable and predictable. You know exactly how much to put in and with high probability you will get the intended results. The motivation to stick to it is the only big variable that can throw a spanner in the works but having a clear schedule makes it much easier to stay consistent. Ticking off exercise after exercise, session after session turns into weeks and then months of well-balanced, focused training. Returns on that kind of an investment are huge.
Unlocking this puzzle was extremely rewarding and I was so happy to feel stronger than ever but, at the same time, I felt I was ready to change my approach. My focus shifted from constantly pushing myself in my climbing to having a little bit more fun. At the moment, I want to get out on the rock as much as possible, maintain good fitness levels and feel that my body is well taken care of. In my case, this probably means a few more core and weighted pull-ups sessions than for the average healthy person, but still the training load is quite low, which allows me plenty of time to play on the rocks. Being able to dip into the wealth of Lattice Training resources brings structure to this unstructured approach.
I am certainly not as fit as I was at my peak but I know that the option is out there and that it is always available, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not chasing the next grade. At the same time, after a break from following a detailed plan, I am beginning to miss the fun of it – the discipline, the sense of achievement, as well as the sweet, sweet feeling of going to the max. I can sense that it is time to get back to following a strict programme but this time it will be more for the fun of it. A few years ago it would be unthinkable for me to say but the results on the rock, sure as they are to come, will be just a nice perk.
(Photography © Andy Day)
You can get your hands on Zofia's new book, Born to Climb right here and follow them on instagram: @upthatrock.
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