The Mind and Body

Being on the Podgy Side of Climbing and Why it Shouldn’t Matter Anymore

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be classed as overweight. I know I am a completely normal looking person (albeit with perhaps slightly larger than average shoulders, I am proud of that however). This is just what goes on in my head on a daily basis.

I am a average, slightly “podgy” person, and I am learning to be okay with that. When I say I’m carrying a little podge, take that with a grain of salt.

In everyday society, I am completely normal looking, average weight, average height, wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, you get the idea. But in climbing, skinnier is always better. Or is it?

In the old days of climbing (during the time of the “Stone Masters” all over the world), it was the norm for climbers to do anything to their body in order to make themselves light yet strong enough to be able to haul themselves up the wall. A typical climber’s diet usually consisted of canned food, some bread and ketchup; combine that with hard climbing almost every day and you get a sinewy, skinny climber. Although this usually got results on the wall, it definitely left its mark on the body and mind.

It was quite common for climbers to develop injuries over time, some of them being: elbow tendinitis, pulley tears and anything else you could think of. This was in part to do with the climbers bad diets, and not getting the nutrients and vitamins needed to maintain a healthy body. Saying that, it wasn’t their fault. Nowadays, you can search Google for the best climbing diet and get a plethora of different articles based on science and research about what the optimal climbing diet is. The climbers of the old days didn’t have any science to fall back on, so if you got an apple in occasionally then that was considered “healthy”.

In a weird way, not much has changed from the old days. We have the knowledge and facts now, but are we any better?

Have we gone from one extreme to the next?

Now every meal is analysed , to be added or discarded depending on the latest fad. This is especially so with sponsored competition climbers, where image is everything, that includes the body. With most of the top climbers sporting muscles and skinny bods, it’s easy to fall into the trap of idolization, wanting to look like them, climb like them, be them.

“If I were like that, I would be able to climb so much harder.” – A regular thought I have.

But these are athletes, there is a reason they are so good, and it’s more then just their diet. I can get so caught up in my fantasy of being like them that I forget the factors that I can’t control. Experience, training, even mental strength. These athletes have been climbing for 10+ years, compared to my measly 3 1/2. I could train hard every day for the next year and I still wouldn’t be at their level.

The point is, there is so much more to climbing than your body shape.

Which brings me to my next point, fat shaming. Unfortunately this is something that has recently been brought up in the climbing media, and is certainly a sensitive topic, so I don’t want to delve too much into it. In short, it is a problem and it needs to be dealt with. It’s all connected.

Have a read of the post here.

Do I have a big bum and thighs? Yes.

Can I still bust out some hard moves at the wall? Hell yes!

Just because I don’t have a top heavy profile, doesn’t mean I can’t perform well. In fact, I don’t know what it is about me, I must just look weak to people, so I always find it funny to see their faces when I bust out a hard move or do my sets of pull ups on the Beastmaker. That’s fine by me, I actually find I quite like being underestimated.

Articles I read on the topic of nutrition and climbing:


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