One of the questions that keeps me up at night (or rambling at pub night) is this: how is it that 90% of us are stumped about how to incorporate exercise into our lives, while the other 10% are bloody doing it?
This seemingly superheroic 10% also have jobs, kids, school, significant others. How have they developed fitness obsessions on top of other major life obligations? And HOW CAN WE?
This profile series is dedicated to stripping these folks of their secrets. Hey, we want to be rugged too!
First Up is Trango Athlete and Climber Nathan Williamson
As a professional climber who also works two jobs, Nathan climbs “at night, days off, whenever.” He’s dedicated. He’s ripped. He climbs ’til his finger pads split. And he has a message for us: we can all be fit.
Well, those of us who are willing to rethink our priorities, physical limitations and how much time we spend in chairs.
Making Fitness a Priority
Nathan says getting fit starts with a lifestyle reboot, which starts with a sensible look at our priorities. Because if you’re a miserable slug, all that money in your bank account isn’t really going to matter, is it?
Nowadays, there’s more emphasis on mental performance. You don’t get praised for being strong — it’s all about your smarts, your bank account. Athleticism in my family was important. When I stepped away from that, I got praised for being financially stable, but I was physically falling to pieces.
My mom always prioritized health. In the ’70s and ’80s she was a student, had a full-time job and two kids, and yet she was a super athlete running races. When I talk to her about her dedication, to me it seems like, it has so much to do with the comfort we’ve created. We don’t go out and explore, we can just find everything online. People work so much, sit so much, everything is wrapped around that, and by the time they get home it’s a constant cycle of unhealthy. She didn’t buy into that.
People always have excuses of being too busy to exercise — that’s a funny one. I’m busy too. It’s what your priorities are in life. For me, and for my mom, it’s a fight to be healthy and live a long life. In my mind, I want to be old and having fun.
You Don’t Need to be a “Natural Athlete”
It’s easier to get hooked on a sport if you have some natural aptitude for it. But you might be surprised at what you end up enjoying and getting good at. You might also be surprised that you can cash in on those brains at the gym, too.
I’ve tried every sport I could get my hands on. I’m not a natural athlete — that’s one of the biggest conversations I have as a climber. To go beyond average performance, it’s all how you can handle and maintain pain. When it comes to aptitude, it’s all mental, not physical.
What really got me into climbing was my older brother. At that point I was drinking like crazy, and one day he came home from REI with $3,000 worth of gear and said, ‘I’m fucking sick and tired of not being strong.’ So we started getting into it big time in Red Rocks, in Nevada. It clicked for me because there’s such a thing as project-ing — that’s my personality, to work on something until it’s done, even if it takes a year ‘til I figure it out. It’s a challenge and there’s always more work to do. Even climbing high 14s, even in the 15s, no two climbs are ever the same. It happens to be one thing I can really excel in because I can be maniacal.
A lot of people hold back from trying new things. No one’s good to begin with — during that learning curve you figure out what you like.
But You DO Need to Get Off Your Ass
To be clear, when I said ‘regular people’ in the title, I didn’t mean lazy people, or even necessarily sane people. Rather, people who have incorporated fitness in their lives through dedication and living conscientiously. While natural aptitude can make an activity more fun, what it really comes down to is getting used to working harder. That’s within most people’s grasp.
I teach bouldering 101, and out of the seven in a class, five will sign up for the membership. They have stepped out of their comfort zone and end up loving it. They’ve been going to regular gyms and it’s boring and they wanted to try something different.
Most people want to have an average basic life, go home, relax. Everyone always loves shortcuts. There have been two thousand hits on my post on how to climb 5.13s — they want to be big, fast, strong, but if they can’t get it now, they’re just going to stay home. You have to want to take it beyond and to work at it. It’s a truly different human being that can go full blast.
While there are no shortcuts, there is, actually, one shortcut:
The first thing I talk with people about as a personal trainer is eating healthier. It fuels the day. It’s because of a good diet and staying active that I have the energy to work and climb every day. And in climbing specifically, without a good diet, they’ll fall apart at the wall, mentally and physically. Good food is what’s going to get you off the ground.