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Motivation when the shit gets tough...

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Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 1,140

There was an old thread that was great, but I can't find it. At any rate, I continue to do battle, with my head telling me I'm fighting a losing battle (so why bother) on the one hand, and knowing that word "losing" is zero help short or long term.

For those who care, this really is just me whining about arthritis (I'm not actually dieing here, or at least no faster than expected, lol),  plus the baseline lazyass not wanting to do anything. In fairness, until I stumbled into climbing about fivish years ago, I had zero experience as anything remotely athletic. Read: Average American Couch Potato. So, no discipline, no knowledge, starting entirely from scratch trying to build a strong body that will make the most of what I've got.

And I'll be 63 in a couple weeks. January birthdays just suck, IMO.

A TED talk I stumbled into hits my dilemma squarely. I know ​what I need to do, I know ​I need to suck up buttercup and just do it, I know some (many) on here will roast me alive​​​​​​ for feeling sorry for myself (feel free, I hate it too, lol), but here it is anyway.

For those of you who have ​pulled off the necessary changes in your lives, and created new ​habits? What helped you get there? Especially when the needful thing is totally foreign to you, difficult, and perhaps even painful?

Here's the TED link:

For myself, I have to keep starting over. And over. And over. I understand that, and I will keep trying. Climbing has taught me that much at least. Keep trying. No matter how many "fails" there are. In this case, the stakes are very high. If I "quit" I'll lose a lot more than my climbing ability.

My one big "win"? Somewhere in the last 5-6 years I slowly went from about 160 to about 130. Heaps of weight off of a 4'11" frame. I'm sure part of that success is simply jumping on a scale regularly. Instantly seeing it stay on track....or not. I can't see how to do that with other parts of this, though. The "rewards" seem so distant, and when it's trying to stave off loss, maybe not even having gains, that's even harder to see progress.

Thanks for your ideas, much appreciated! 

Best, Helen

revans90 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 50


Nat Vorel · · MN · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 42

One of the things I like to do when trying to form new habits is to have constant things reminding of what I’m trying to do. Whether it be sticky notes around the house or reminders every day on my phone, I’ve found that this really helps me stay focused on what it is that I want to achieve. It also helps to have a specific goal in mind, and the path planned out. It’s a lot easier to work toward a goal when you have a day to day plan established, because it breaks it down into relatively easy pieces, versus trying to look at the whole big picture. Make sure you’re being specific in what you want to achieve; “climb harder” is a lot less definitive than “climb 5.12a by June”. Other than that, I really just think that a big part of setting habits is really wanting them, and reminding yourself what you’re working for in the end. Hope this helps you out in some way.


revans90 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 50

now for a more constructive answer( despite the choice advice above)

Im not sure what your failing at but are you having fun? if your having fun i doubt you will fail.

do you have a baseline of fitness? Like a routine you can do off the couch any day of the week?  like a calisthenics workout? Light weights? A hike or jog?

daily core works out go a long long way. having a daily calisthenics routine can go a long way not only in health but towards motivation. edit: for example a calisthenics workout right out of bed while the waters getting hot for coffee or what have you

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

Action is the parent of inspiration. Not the other way around. That is a key thing to always remember. You MAY be feeling shitty and depressed because it's the dead of winter and you live in Idaho. But GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. Even if you just go for a walk. Do it. Inspiration will follow.

Dave K · · San Diego · Joined Jul 2019 · Points: 0
SAD, maybe?
Hugo Watt · · Southern California · Joined May 2012 · Points: 15

Motivational quotes on your helmet.

Mine says "keep moving, asshole" on the back. 

the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 115

Didn’t Boise just get a giant new climbing gym?

Mike Kaserman · · Salt Lake City · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 0

Hi, Helen.  Glucosamin/chondroitin, fish oil, and CBD oil all (at various stages) helped with my hip arthritis pre-surgery.  
And feeling sorry for yourself is fine, I think, at times.  It'd suck as a lifestyle.
My climbing psyche goes in phases.  Maybe you're in a phase where it's time to focus on something else for a bit.

PNW Choss · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2019 · Points: 0

Set little tiny achievable goals. Nothing huge or abstract. Little things but make sure they take work no give aways. Then achieve them! Success is a great motivator!

Fritz Nuffer · · The Western Slope · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 445

You don't need motivation, you need ...


I've got a three-pitch 5.7 with your name on it anytime you want to visit again!

Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,696

Yes  - goativation.  :) 

Aaron T · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 5

Trying something new can help, if I understand where you're coming from. I have been ice climbing for 5 seasons, hit it pretty hard and made decent progression. This year I just wasn't feeling it for some reason, so I decided to give skiing a try. I really suck at it, but I've been stoked to get out again every time. Haven't swung an ice tool yet this season, and I don't even care.

Willis K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 40

Set goals, but don't forget to set values too. It's easy to set concrete goals, like "Climb 5.10" or "Do 10 push ups" or whatever. But goals take time, and some factors aren't under our control. I like to remind myself to look at the values behind those goals - values like being healthy, pushing myself, enjoying the outdoors, and spending time with those I care about. Goals may come and go, but those are values I can act on every single day. That also helps me with the "rewards" you mention, because those values are their own reward for me.

As far as setting habits goes, I find calendars helpful. Put one where you can see it. Mark off every day (or week) that you complete your new habit. Get a few under your belt, and you won't want to see the streak broken. Helps me.

I don't have experience with arthritis, but I do know how difficult chronic pain can be. Congratulations on the success so far, and best of luck on the journey.

Carolina · · Front Range NC · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 60

Do it for someone else instead of “you”. Stay healthy and in shape for your friends and family.  Get a part time gig volunteering or working somewhere alike a food pantry where you will be physically active (think exercise). Now your helping others. And benefits yourself at the same time.  

This helps me stay motivated if it ain’t about me. Good luck!

Josh Rappoport · · Somerville, MA · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 26

I won't presume that my experience matches onto yours, but I was over 40 when I started climbing, and have a near constant string of physical concerns to contend with on a daily basis.
Anyway, I think for me there are three keys to staying motivated:
1. Do what you enjoy.  If it is a struggle to get yourself to do it, then it probably won't be sustainable.  In my case, I don't love core, or running, but I like pull-ups and hangboarding, so I may have weak-spots, but that is OK, because I can get myself happily to the climbing gym 4 times a week for the things I do enjoy.  Plus to paraphrase Jonathan Siegrist, climbing is the best training for climbing
2. Focus on broadening your skills rather than simply improving in one area.  I started out thinking that leading vert routes was what I enjoyed the most, and what felt most natural, and I focused on grade-based goals.  However, this got old fast.  When I now think of my favorite climbing moments, they include many things that I used to not like/do at all (e.g. my first trad lead)
3. Be deliberate about what you do and don't do.  My partners are generally 20 years younger than I am.  Their bodies move and recover very differently from mine.  If my partner wants to get on a route with a dynamic move to an awkward crimp, that doesn't mean I have to as well.  Just last week I started to lead a route in the gym that had a high first clip and the hands off the start were worse than I had thought they would be, so I simply asked my partner to spot me as I down-climbed, and then found another route

Kedron Silsbee · · Munich · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0

This may be a terrible idea for any number of reasons, but have you considered moving?  Say to somewhere with a larger climbing community, better weather, and more nearby routes of the type you want to do?  Perhaps it would be easier to be motivated if you had the option to climb outdoors most days of the year, somewhere with a lot of routes at your grade, rather than making an effort to stay in shape for occasional trips.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 190

For me backpacking and climbing were the motivation. If I wanted to be capable, I needed to maintain fitness. Maybe you need to find the activity that makes so excited that the boring exercise and eating healthy is worth it 

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 1,140
Fritz Nuffer wrote: You don't need motivation, you need ...


I've got a three-pitch 5.7 with your name on it anytime you want to visit again!


You got it, sir! 

All, I've signed up for a six week challenge at a Spartan/boot camp type gym half a block from my house. The "deal" is to take 24 classes in the six weeks, so pretty doable. I'm taking everything stretchy they offer, plus stuff for strength and cardio. Probably some obstacle training, because, well, it's fun, and being a climber, I can kick ass at getting up something, lol! There is regular time with a personal trainer, so really soon I'll see if I can schedule an evaluation, get some numbers that can be measured. Weight and BMI aren't very useful if you don't have a pile of weight to lose. But numbers that improve? That's helpful.

Walking, almost every day. Running my errands by foot, anything withing 3 miles one way. Once the mud season settles down a bit, or the ground refreezes, I'll head for the Boise foothills and some steeper hiking.

As far as climbing outside? Don't tell, but Boise is close to year round, depending on the winter and your personal limits. You need a willingness to get out early when it's hot, and an understanding of our weather and little microclimates. Living here since 1980 pays off for understanding when it's really going to do something (rarely) versus "weather" that just keep noobs home because it sprinkled somewhere or other, lol!

Mostly I'm just pissed off at this whole thing, but whatcha gonna do, eh? The injustice of discovering I'm a climber, and almost instantly body parts start falling off....grrrr.

Thanks, all. Really greatly appreciate you peeps so much!

Best, Helen

Oh! TWO climbing gyms in progress, one only two miles from my house.....but not open yet. That's the downside of being in a really fast growing area. Construction projects are plagued with delays all the way through. Both are at least 6-9 months behind schedule, with no set dates to open, still!!!!

EDIT to add, in spite of the whining, I'm actually pretty stoked for the climbing ahead. For the first time, I have all the time I want, whenever I want, and can even afford a trip now and then. I have NO idea what I'm actually capable of....but it will great to try! All I can say for sure, is my local rock is far more challenging (for me) than everywhere else I've climbed. Who knew??!? That, is perversely encouraging. I'm better than I thought I was!
John Vanek · · Gardnerville, NV · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0

Do you keep a calendar or notebook where you record your training each day? Have a goal of five hours (or some other realistic number) that you will train each week. Add up the hours weekly, and yearly. I track my training time by heart rate zones, my core/strength training time, my recovery (aka dog walking) time, along with the hours of climbing on climbing days. As I approach goals I up the hours to support my goals. Looking at my book gets me out the door, or at least on the floor for stretching. Think long-term (your weight loss is testament to the commitment you’ve made). Be the fittest 4’11” 63-year-old climber you can be. You have many mountains left to climb!

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

Helen, if you're retired and can afford the gas, why not hop in the car ASAP and head for sunnier climate and climbing? You might love El Portrero Chico or Hueco Tanks or somewhere like that.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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