Climbing is an amazing tool to balance the physical, mental and emotional demands of motherhood. But mums who climb face unique challenges; logistics of time and often remote locations, risk that needs to be managed with complete diligence, and unwavering focus (the mythical unicorn of mothers). We demand performance from every part of our body, from the calloused pads on our fingers to the squished tips of our toes. We need to do all of this while keeping another being, or 4, alive…and hopefully happy.
Of course the challenge is worth it, and whether your children are newborns or almost adults, here are five tips that will help you send this project.
1. It takes a climb village to raise a crag baby
If you want to be a rock climbing mama, you have to rely on other people. Mother Guilt can rudely announce that mothering must be your ONLY focus, and that you should NOT be palming off duties to others. Tell Mother Guilt that villages are the biological norm, and without one you may go insane. The fact is that climbing requires complete focus, so we need people in our life who we trust with our babies.
Family, close friends, crag aunts and uncles… start making a list of people who would be stoked to be in your village. Remind yourself that chasing your passion will fill your cup, and infuse your parenting with inspiration. By creating a life of balance and joy, you teach your children to do the same. Never underestimate how willing people are to help you on the journey. Give those who love you a chance to share the load, and share in the joy of raising rad, dirtbag, crag babies.
2. Fuel your body
Learn to build a healthy plate of food with adequate protein, fats and carbs. Veggies first, then add healthy fats (avocado and/or coconut/olive oil), plus a palm sized amount of protein. Vegan mama’s should ensure they are eating enough calories to support their climb sessions, consider vegan protein powder if you’re feeling exhausted. Choose fruit over sugary refined snacks. Coconut water over gatorade. Fueling yourself with real food will help to prevent burnout. Remember to munch regularly, after 3-4 hours without food our adrenals switch into stress mode, and it can leave you feeling drained. If you don't get hungry while climbing take bone broth or veggie broth to sip on throughout the day. That way you're still getting nutrients.
When you are climbing do not forget the H2O, particularly if you are breastfeeding. Cooler climates minimum of 2 litres, and warm climates a minimum of 4 litres. Limit tea and coffee on the day of your climb - they can dehydrate/act as a diuretic and affect performance. One morning coffee is fine! Moderation is key. Lastly, consider taking a high quality magnesium citrate with activated B vitamins. It can help energy, adrenal support and muscle relaxation.
3. Care for your Core
Climbing builds lots of core strength and stability, pregnancy tends to demolish that. Our ever expanding babies, along with pregnancy hormones, cause abdominals to change significantly in length and strength. Back muscles become shortened and overworked, while our hips become unstable. Housing another human is a big deal, and building your core back should start with good foundations. Here are three important points to keep in mind. - Soft tissue takes 6 to 12 weeks to heal post birth. So take it slow mama.
If you are concerned about abdominal separation (Diastasis of rectus abdominis muscle DRAM), or if you want more professional guidance then seek the advice of a physiotherapist. Regular practice of pelvic floor exercises, and deep belly breathing (or pranayama for the yogis) are both great first steps back to a strong core. They also help you stop wanting to pee every 10 seconds. The abdominals actually consist of four muscles; Transverse abdominis (TA), Internal Oblique, External Oblique, and rectus abdominis (your six pack). Training core postpartum should begin with activating and strengthening the TA. There is plenty of online information when it comes to specific exercises.
4. Body says NO
Modern day society often glorifies exhaustion, but that shit ain’t cool. If we are going to ask our body and mind to perform at it’s best, we also need to listen when everything says STOP. Earlier this year I went climbing when I actually felt terrible, I almost collapsed at the gym, it turned out I had pneumonia. Every inch of my body had been screaming at me for days, but I used Mama Super Power and carried on. It is so important to honour rest, to be truly aware of what we need, and to nurture ourself the way we would a good friend. If we ignore the signs, illness and injury will be waiting around the corner to sucker punch us into submission.
5. Viparita Karani
Our last tip is about getting your feet up the wall, no not by climbing it. Viparita Karani, also known as legs-up-the-wall pose, is a yoga pose to cure everything. It helps relaxation, sleep, circulation, energy levels, rejuvenation… pretty much a wonder pill for motherhood. I love this pose because it helps us to process cortisol, a hormone that is produced by the adrenals when we are in flight or fight mode. Interestingly enough it is also created when we do high intensity physical exercise… ahem scaling rock walls. If you ever wonder why you lay awake wired after an evening session at the climbing gym, this is probably why. Being an adventure mama can be exhausting at times, all this badassery plus being a mom is not all beer and skittles. So give yourself ten minutes, to lay down with ya legs up, and zen out.