The Work Behind the Body
If you climb in Montana, or the Pacific Northwest for that matter, you probably know or have seen Becky. She won last year's Full Gravity Day contest here in Bozeman, a competition showcasing the region's strongest climbers. She trains like a MoFo. Outside, she's ticking off projects as hard as 13+.
What's more, Becky trains, skies, travels and climbs all the while fulfilling the demands of a full time job. She's a devout dog mommy and a standup friend.
Many female climbers will agree when I say she inspires me to continue pushing my physical capacity. As Becky demonstrates again and again, you just never know which training day or cycle will prove to be the one that pushes you past a plateau to the next level of performance.
In this inaugural post for the series, you'll learn how Becky trains to climb like the she-beast she be.
Meet Becky Switzer
Kelsey: What sports do you enjoy?
Becky: I grew up playing all the sports, sometimes going from one practice to the next on a school night. Many times I was the only girl on the team. Once high school hit, soccer became my focus and I enjoyed playing goalkeeper at a high level, taking third in the nation my senior year. I played two years of college soccer and learned the rigors of both division two and division one athletics.
After my soccer career ended, the university outdoor center spoke to me and I became very involved with backpacking, kayaking, and most importantly, rock climbing. While climbing didn’t yet become an obsession, I enjoyed the style of movement as well as the camaraderie the climbing community offered.
Eventually I found myself in Bozeman and while I dabble in many outdoor activities, nothing fulfills me like climbing. I enjoy climbing for the same reason most people enjoy climbing—the strength and precision it demands, the problem solving component, the lifelong friends you develop very quickly due to the amount of trust involved. For these reasons, I can comfortably call climbing my passion and obsession, and I’m completely at ease with this relationship.
K: How often do you workout? What do those workouts usually involve?
B: I’m trying not to train year round as this model isn’t physically or mentally sustainable for most. Both the body and the brain need breaks every so often, and it’s important to allow yourself the space to relax and push the reset button. When I’m in a training cycle, (i.e. working on a specific component of climbing or getting ready for a specific climbing event), I’ll workout 4-6 times per week.
These days are not all climbing days as I incorporate both weight training and cardio into every week. It’s also important to note that every climbing day is different. Only one or two days a week are used for hard projecting and trying to climb at my maximum capacity.
The other days I climb I will operate anywhere between 50-80% of my max, depending on the goal for the day’s workout. I could write a lot about training and training for climbing, but in any given training cycle I try and utilize all the tools out there to make me a more well-rounded climber. These tools include hangboarding, campus boarding, the TRX equipment, and of course, the weights and cardio machines.
K: How often would you say you get “out” to enjoy your sports?
B: I was very lucky over the course of this last year to take a few phenomenal trips. In the spring I was able to climb in at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky for almost two weeks.
The RRG is my absolute favorite place to climb in the world thus far. The style of climbing fits my strengths—longer routes with one or more rests on good holds, and fairly gymnastic climbing with lots of opportunity to be creative. The summer took me to a new location, Spearfish, SD, for another week. And in October I was in Spain for two weeks.
Of course there are rest days, but I figure those trips total about 25 days on the rock. Between those trips I also made six visits to Ten Sleep for another 15-20 climbing days. Finally, I’m not sure how many days I was able to get out to climb in Montana, but I would estimate somewhere between 15-20 throughout the year. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have the ability to get up and go fairly easily while still maintaining a full time job.
K: What does beautiful mean to you?
B: In the context of being a female athlete, beauty to me is being comfortable in your own skin.
Having the confidence to believe, engage, and own your sport can turn into a self- fulfilling prophecy.
Of course, this is all enhanced with passion. Athletics is only one example, but there is nothing more beautiful than someone (male or female) who has a goal, works hard, and believes they can achieve that goal. Whether that goal is accomplished is merely a byproduct, the journey is the most beautiful part of the process.
K: How have your sports shaped your body image and your relationship to your body in general?
B: I mentioned my soccer background earlier because I believe it has really shaped my body image over the years. I’ve always been involved in some variety of sport or activity, and thus I’ve viewed my body more as a tool than anything else.
I had to be physically and mentally strong and capable to face whatever was thrown my way. Especially back when I was a goalkeeper, if I wasn’t solid, there were players that would not hesitate to demolish me on the field.
In this regard, I’ve never desired to have a body like any celebrity or model because I always figured those types of bodies would break if they were ever out doing what I was doing (soccer, climbing or otherwise). Climbing is not unlike traditional athletics in that there are still opponents that are out there to crush you.
These opponents, however, take different forms, whether it be the climb itself, your own mental state, or a physical insufficiency. By creating a healthy body image through climbing, training and diet, I can approach each trip or competition with the positive mental state needed to set me up for success.
With climbing, I’ve always enjoyed/and continue to enjoy pushing my limits, seeing how far I can take the sport. I’m pleased to say that even in my 30s, I’m still improving, still getting stronger, and, most importantly, still learning.
K: What advice would you give to fellow athletes to better enjoy their unique bodies?
B: The advice I have to give to others would be to find and (most importantly) embrace your personal strengths. Work hard to better your weaknesses. It’s very easy to compare yourself to others but you have to keep in mind that everyone puts their best foot forward when out in public (in the climbing gym, skiing at Bridger, etc).
When it comes to body image and fitness, there has to be an understanding that nothing comes easy.
This doesn’t mean working out has to be torture, there are many tools to make getting in shape and feeling comfortable in your own skin an enjoyable process. Turn on some music, find some friends, figure out what type of activity really ignites your soul, and passionately pursue it!