Professional rock climber Sasha DiGiulian has an infectious laugh. And at age 24, she has a lot to smile about—she's a graduate of Columbia University, a Boulder, Colorado resident, and the winner of the world rock climbing championship for females overall.
Sasha started climbing at the age of six at her brother's birthday party when she discovered that she had a knack for an activity that everyone else was struggling with—her brother included. To this day she puts her heart and soul into the sport, and when I caught up with her at Adidas' Furture/Fit Even in Austin, Texas, she told me she always smiles before every single climb. That's dedication.
She also opened up about which parts of your body rock climbing works, the strangest thing people say to her, and what a great mind exercise climbing is.
LW: What parts of your body does rock climbing strengthen?
SD: Climbing is a full-body workout. Your core and hips drive a lot of your movement, but it’s also upper body focused—like you need really strong shoulders—but you’re also exploding and accelerating off of your legs. So you need all your muscles to be tuned, but I would say it’s predominantly upper body and core focused.
LW: What's your favorite thing about climbing?
SD: I love that it's a mind-body oriented sport. For everything you're doing physically, you have to be mentally in tune as well. There’s a lot of puzzle-solving. It’s also a really cathartic sport—you’re entering this very meditative state where you’re only thinking about what’s right in front of you, so you have to be in the moment.
LW: How do you recover and cross train?
SD: The key ingredient to recovery is sleep. I need eight to nine hours of sleep each night no matter how busy I am. If I go to bed at 12, I’m not waking up before 8:30. And if I go to bed earlier than that I can go to bed earlier. I also do a lot of cardio cross training to keep my body in good health. I’ll do the rowing machine and skier. I don’t run on the treadmill so much, but I will do a lot of hiking. I live in Colorado now so it’s pretty awesome.
LW: What's one thing everyone gets wrong about climbing?
SD: That you have to look a certain way. Whenever I meet anyone they’re like, “Oh, you don’t look like a rock climber.” And I’m like, what does a rock climber look like? I think that’s the thing with this sport—you can look a lot of different ways and still be a rock climber. It’s also thought of as this adrenaline junkie fear factor sport. The thing is, climbing is quite safe when you actually get to the bare bones of it. Even if you do fall, you’re falling onto a huge gymnastics mat. So there’s a low barrier of entry.
LW: What's your advice for someone who wants to start rock climbing but is intimidated by it?
SD: Go to a climbing gym and sign up for a class!