Sarah Ho

The Work Behind the Body

After months of badgering her during our weekly climbing and training day, Sarah Ho finally caved in and said yes to being a part of this series. It’s not in her nature to step into limelight. She’s been quietly crushing for years now here in Bozeman, myth-like in her repute for ticking off local test-pieces. Like the elusive wolverine, Sarah goes out into the wild, sinks her teeth into a project, tears it apart, and returns home to nurture her two amazing daughters.

She said yes because I stressed the obvious: her ability to maintain a high-level of performance in her sport while also holding a job and raising two kids is extraordinary, and the world needs to know her secrets. Simply put, she’s a role model to parents everywhere, and to anyone balancing multiple obligations in life.

It’s not just that she’s the nicest person I’ve ever known. It’s not just her humility, nor her relaxed approach to climbing. It’s not just that she’s strong and graceful on the rock. 

Climbing women strong bouldering

It’s that her passion for climbing, as part of her health and wellbeing, helps make her the all-star mom, wife, friend, and climbing partner she is, day in and day out. 

Sometimes our passions can become all-absorbing, pulling us away from our relationships. As Sarah will write about below, she’s had moments where this was the case. It happens to most of us, I think, to varying degrees and lengths.

Today, Sarah has found her climbing time, limited to a day or two a week, to be a “refresher,” and a “reward.” The time she spends enjoying her passion allows her to return more fully to her beloved family.

I think it can be hard, especially as women, to gift ourselves permission to do “selfish” things like climbing. Although I know at times Sarah still feels conflicted about the day or two a week she takes to climb, her commitment to make it happen is admirable. She’s role modeling to her daughters (and her friends) that me-time is not only okay, but important. 

Strong women climbers talk beauty and training

In the end, those hours we spend doing what we love can make us more present to the people in our lives. Sarah is living proof of this truth—a truth that is simple in theory, but can be challenging in practice. 

Below you’ll read more about how she juggles home, work, and play, and how being a mother has changed her relationship to climbing. As per usual with the series, you’ll also read about Sarah’s relationship to beauty and her body.

I’m glad I persevered with my shameless coercing so we can all spend a moment in the wisdom of Bozeman’s quiet crusher, the one and only Sho. 

Meet Sarah Ho

climber and family woman

Kelsey: What sports do you enjoy?

Sarah: I have always enjoyed being physically active, but I am most passionate about climbing!  I enjoy other outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and skiing, and I enjoy doing all those things with my husband and two daughters (7 and 9).

But climbing is my passion. I think it’s important to find your passion in life, whether that be running, soccer, basketball, skiing, gardening, quilting, your job, [insert your passion here]. In my case it is climbing.

Sarah climbing The Gleaner, V6, in Bishop. Photo by Erik Cbristensen

Sarah climbing The Gleaner, V6, in Bishop. Photo by Erik Cbristensen

K: How often do you workout? What do those workouts usually involve?

S: As far as climbing specific workouts, I try to get that in 2-3 days a week, but this depends on the time of year. My climbing specific workouts include rope climbing or bouldering followed by some weight training, resistance training, hang boarding or campusing, and core workouts.

Mother training for climbing strong and fit

I do believe the best way to get better at climbing is to do lots of climbing, so that tends to be my main focus. On days I’m not doing a climbing workout, I enjoy doing something physically active such as yoga, stretching, running, and/or playing with my kids. 

Strength training mother outdoors

K: How often would you say you get out to enjoy your sports?

Again, this depends on the time of year, but on average I get to climb outside once a week (sometimes twice if I’m lucky!). 

K: What are some of your favorite places to go?

I love climbing around Bozeman, in particular anywhere I can get there and back before 4pm (the time the bus drops the kids off in the afternoon), which can be the Bozeman Pass, Practice Rock, Scorched Earth, the Tower, and the Cube. My favorite places to travel regionally include Tensleep, Lander, Spearfish and the Fins.

Sarah hanging ten in Ten Sleep. Photo by Erik Christensen

Sarah hanging ten in Ten Sleep. Photo by Erik Christensen

K: How has being a mom changed your relationship to climbing?

Being a mom has definitely changed my relationship to climbing, for the better.

Before kids I just climbed whenever and didn’t really think much of it.  Now, with the limited time I have, I feel like I am more focused in my climbing time and training. 

Strong woman climbing and training mother

When you only get a shot at a project once a week, I want to make sure I am performing my best.  My one day a week I get outside has been my mental recharge/refresher/day-off/reward. We all have obligations, and that’s the one day I get to have none. It's very freeing. 

My husband and I have always felt it important for each of us to have a day off each week to climb, and I am very thankful for that.

I won’t lie, though, when the kids were really little and I was a stay-at-home mom, I put too much value on my one climbing day.  I couldn’t wait until my next climbing day, and I got a little caught up in it, missing out on what was going on around me.

Sarah climbing while her husband, Jeff, double-duties below. Photo by Erik Christensen

Sarah climbing while her husband, Jeff, double-duties below. Photo by Erik Christensen

K: How do you make time for climbing between working and being a mom?

It is challenging (but worth it) to make time for climbing. I make time for climbing by making it a priority, but I also recognize my other commitments and priorities at the same time.

My family comes first. So between family obligations, working and other commitments, anyone who knows me, or climbs with me, knows I’m only free once a week from 8:30-4 (times the kids are at school). I’ve been super fortunate to find amazing climbing partners who are understanding with my schedule. 

I rarely climb on the weekends, because that is family time, unless we go on a family climbing trip. I strive to be completely available to my kids when they are home from school: that is important to me.

Sarah making the most of a day outdoors with friends. Photo by Erik Christensen

Sarah making the most of a day outdoors with friends. Photo by Erik Christensen

K: What’s the best thing about being a mom who is also an outdoor athlete and health conscious?

The best things about being a mom who climbs is sharing an outdoor lifestyle with my family, and hopefully being a role model.

I would go crazy if I didn’t have climbing in my life.  I hope my kids see my climbing as a good example of a healthy lifestyle.  My oldest daughter made the climbing team this year, and it's really fun to be sharing a passion with her. We also enjoy family trips and climbing time.

On a family trip to Bishop, California, Sarah climbs the classic Iron Man Traverse. Photo by Erik Christensen

On a family trip to Bishop, California, Sarah climbs the classic Iron Man Traverse. Photo by Erik Christensen

K: What advice would you give other moms?

S: I see a lot of moms climbing at the gym, it’s awesome! Keep getting after it girls! If climbing is a priority for you and your family, you’ll make it happen.  Just don’t be so obsessed about climbing (or your sport) that you miss out on life around you. 

K: What does beautiful mean to you?

Beauty, to me, is on the inside.  I have always tried to teach my daughters kindness, fairness, compassion, and respect through instruction and example.

That is what makes a person beautiful: how they treat others and themselves.

Someone could be the most physically attractive person on the planet, but if they don’t care about and respect others, that person doesn’t look very beautiful to me. We don’t choose our friends based on what they look like, rather how they treat us or how our personalities interact and complement each other.  I have some very beautiful friends!

Sarah's beauty shines from the inside out.

Sarah's beauty shines from the inside out.

K: How has your sport shaped your body image and your relationship to your body in general?

S: The older I have gotten, the more I respect my body. 

You don’t realize how amazing your body is until it isn’t able to do what it is supposed to do.

 I appreciate my body for what it does and what it allows me to do. I maybe didn’t realize that until my body wasn’t able to perform (due to a broken ankle and when I was recovering from c-sections) and I couldn’t do what I loved. 

You obviously need to respect your body and take care of it for it to perform. We all have different body shapes, and we all enjoy different things.

Strong mother training sports

A body doing what it was made to do, whether that be climbing, skiing, shot putting, sumo wrestling, synchronized swimming, is beautiful.

The cool thing about climbing is there are so many different styles and types that you can find one that fits your body type. Anyone can be good at climbing for different reasons and that’s what I love about it.

Mother climbing bouldering indoors strong

K: What advice would you give women and/or fellow athletes in general to better enjoy their unique bodies?

Accept where you are at and focus your training to your specific goals. Love your body and take good care of it by eating healthy, exercising, and resting. Your body is amazing and we don’t usually give it the credit it deserves.  But we only get one life and one body, so you have to take good care of it. 

Strong mother climbing training bouldering beauty strength

Thank you, Sarah, for being a part of the series and for being a supportive and motivated climbing partner. 

More from The Work Behind the Body