The Real Thing By Ivan Lisica

So, is it possible to raise kids, work full time and (continue to) climb well? There are many examples that it is possible, but the real question is how? 

Having children means a day-long action, regular job last for 8 hours and training also takes part of the day. Except mentioned you have to eat, sleep and do a pile of other small things that also require some time. Bearing in mind that day lasts only 24 hours, it becomes clear why incorporating climbing into this jumble often called "real life“ is all but an easy task.

After you become a parent it is quite normal that climbing is not anymore the most important thing in your life. The arrival of these little creatures is a miracle which awaken the most powerful feelings and often significantly changes your view of life. When you reset to new settings overnight, raising kids and providing good for them becomes the priority number one. Consequently, it increases the importance of having a job and a place to call home while everything else, including climbing, becomes the thing of the secondary importance.

If you are a passionate climber, it is not easy to accept new circumstances.  At this point many of my friends, young parents, just stopped climbing and started enjoying some of the less complex activities. When I say complex, I am thinking about those who take less time to perform and are much simple in terms of logistics. 

There is also another part of the crew that continued to climb but often have problem to accept the fact that their climbing level has dropped and it becomes much harder to reach and maintain a good form. They keep climbing but are suffering from inner restlessness which is hard to withstand for longer time.

Anyway, this is the point where you need to show maturity and admit to yourself what climbing really means in your life?

Why do I climb? Is it just about climbing top lines and reaching our personal limits? Can we enjoy the game despite the level of our climbs? 

This is a very personal matter and it is important to note – whatever you decide, you´re right. For example – when Jerry Moffat got into a similar life phase, he explained why it was not worth continuing:

"Climbing means diferent things to different people...When people ask me about getting back into it, I tried to explain what it is to me. It is working on a campus board five days a week, twice a day. It is doing weighted pull ups. It is starving myself seven days a week, watching everything I eat and letting everything else take second place. It is finding the hardest route in the world and going and doing it. At least it was...That took total dedication. I can´t do that any more. My body couldn´t take it and I haven´t the time. So, in a way, I can´t back into it. " (Revelations, chapter The Next Move)

Unlike Jerry, I have chosen climbing in any possible form. Rock is my natural environment, it makes me feel good and creative, it gives me a chance to enjoy nature, inspire me to travel and hang out with the people I love in the way I find the best possible. To quit this way of life just because I will feel like a bag of potatoes every now and then in some hard routes, didn´t make any sense to me.

Apart from all that, climbing as an outdoor activity can generally bring a lot of good for the family. It teaches children about non-material values -   nature, experience, togetherness, it builds a strong character and is a "doorway to more fulfilling existence“ in the future. 

Of course, if you want things to work, partner support is one of the most important things in the whole story. In my case this was not a problem since my wife is also a passionate climber who shares equal views on life as I do.

After almost five years of paternal experience I am happy and proud that my family did not drop out climbing as something which can´t fit into "real life".  Now, more than ever I am convinced that we made the right decision despite all the energy we invested.

Climbing (good) in this life phase, is a real challenge which requires you to evolve as a person. It is almost incomparable with the days when I was younger and had more time to train hard and rest properly. Physically I feel weaker but at the same time in terms of experience, wisdom and efficiency. I am on a whole another level. Above all, I learned to appreciate climbing much more then before. 

Sometimes I manage to climb more, sometime less but have to admit that I have never lost the old habit of trying to be in good shape (although it is never a priority) whenever I feel the opportunity to do so. It´s probably something in human psyche that makes me at least to try so in case you are climber / parent on same wavelength, here are some suggestions that might be valuable to your daily efforts:

  • Make some proper planning and divide calendar year into periods. 

Sticking to a hard training regime with all the family responsibilities in the backgorung is really impossible for long periods. Rather than trying it whole year long aim for one or two high performance peaks during a year when you can expect to climb really good and hopefully tick some projects. Other part of the year you can simply stick to easyer climbing or don´t climb at all if you find it more appropriate. Good periodisation and realistic planning really make a huge difference.

  • Become a master of efficiency. 

When I was teenager I remember spending 3-5 hours in a gym almost daily. Today my sessions rarely last for more than 2 hours and I can tell you these are better quality than those former ones. Also, when obligations do not allowe more free time I do short „stay in shape“ sessions which can last from 45min to 1hour and if done correctly, they are suprisingly effective.

  • Find a trainer / join a training group. 

Periodisation, planing and efficient training requires a bunch of experience and some theoretical knowledge. If you are not capable to do it properly think about finding a trainer od joining a training group in your gym. Apart from professional guidance you can also get a strong motivational stimulus, and what people with a lot of daily obligations especially like, a precise term of the training you will stick to. 

  • Make your home a gym.

Home workouts are a real blessing. They are short, specific, effective and you can squeez them in between your home obbligations. If you don´t have enough space to build a Moon Board, you can surely find some to place fingerboard, pair of rings or TRX bands.

  • Live healthy life.

-Climbing good in older age definitely have a lot with your health in general. Take care of yourself, sleep well, do your daily streching and aerobic workouts to make the blood flow. Do not forget that what you eat is what you are and a fact that few weeks of heathy diet can give you much more than months of trainings.

  • Boulder more. 

-Bouldering is the essence of climbing and a perfect family climbing discipline. It is simple, doesn´t allow much equipment and lets you be close to the kids which, by the way, usually like it more than rope climbing. Beside all, if you are free for few hours,  you can organise some fast missions all by yourself. 

  • Festina lente.

-Talking about outdoor climbing with family it is important to be realistic and simple in your decisions. Escape complicated areas – with long approaches and duable conditions. Sometimes those few days in a forgotten local spot can offer you more joy than going to a world famous crags on other part of the globe. Learn to be patient or as Romans would say „festina lente“  - make haste slowly.

  • Surround yourself with families who share a similar lifestyle. 

-Everything is much easyer this way. Kids have more fun and parents get more chance to climb and to not forget the social aspect of climbing. Holidays with other families are always fun and in my experience loaded with good climbing.

  • And at the end, maybe the most important postulate:

Don´t take your climbing too seriously. People who are blessed to have kids will always first of all be a parents and than anything else. If, unlike Jerry, you choosed  to climb no matter what, prepaire yourself to enjoy the small things in your climbing. Don´t be selfish and to strict about your climbing plans, learn not to spend every weekend at the crag and think about needs of other members of your family. Offer climbing to your kids but don´t push them too hard, find the balance between all this things because climbing should be something you enjoy, your relaxation and stress reliever not the opposite. 

If you manage to find this BALANCE, it is at the same time an ultimate answer to the question from the very beginning of this blog. Wish you all happy climbing out there!

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