For professional Rock Climber Sasha DiGiulian, the smallest changes you make with your body will make a huge difference in progressing up the wall. To prepare for the challenge of a gruelling rock face, Sasha turns to running. Accompanied by music, running has a profound impact on her training and preparation. Here, we find out why.
As a pro rock climber, writer, speaker, and entrepreneur, it’s safe to say Sasha’s lifestyle is active. A resident of Boulder, Colorado, it’ll come as no surprise that she loves running in the mountains as well as biking, hiking with her dog and, of course, climbing.
“When I run, it’s to clear my thoughts and move my body”
A three-time US National Champion, she’s also the Pan-American Champion, remaining undefeated since 2004. Last year, Sasha and two fellow climbers, Matilda Söderlund and Brette Harrington, made history by becoming the first all-female team to scale Rayu, one of the hardest big wall routes located in Picos de Europa, Spain with a climbing grade of 5.14b.
To achieve a feat like this. You have to be prepared both in mind and body. For Sasha, the physical and mental aspects of training go hand in hand. “If I’m not in the right mental space, my training suffers, if I’m not in the right physical space, my mental game suffers,” she states. “You have to accept that there are going to be ups and downs. I’ve been in it long enough to know there will be extreme peaks and extreme valleys and finding that rhythm in between is essential.”
“Running provides this ability to traverse landscapes really quickly,”
When it comes to preparing for a climbing expedition, Sasha loves to run. “When I’m running, I’m listening to music and thinking about things, and it’s really therapeutic for me. When I run, it’s to clear my thoughts and move my body.” As much as running helps Sasha’s physical development, she also sees it as a tool to enhance her wellbeing. “I love running because it creates this space where I get to clear my mind. Building my stamina, my base and my endurance, together with the ability to push through feeling tired, is really important for building out my overall fitness for climbing. I see running in part as a cross-training tool, but also a really great mental health activity.”
And that’s not all. Whenever Sasha finds herself in a new city, she uses running to get to know her surroundings better. “Running provides this ability to traverse landscapes really quickly,” she explains. “I feel like running has been this amazing vehicle to explore locations because you can cover so much ground. When I land in a new city and if there’s still daylight, I love going for a run so I can get my feet firmly on the ground wherever I am.”
“Music sets the tone of what I’m doing”
Sasha finds herself in many different locations for her passion turned profession. And for each environment, it’s music that accompanies her movement. “Music has been a big part of my own journey with training and pushing my limits. In my profession, there are many different scenarios I find myself in where music sets the tone of what I’m doing, and I love the way music changes the way I move. If I’m on a hike, I choose to listen to folk music. If it’s a workout I listen to hip hop and rap because a fast tempo feels really motivating.”
Out on the rock, Sasha can mute the obstacles of daily life. This is where she feels fully in the moment. What’s not muted however is the music that can create the right mood. “On expeditions when you’re hanging on the side of a portaledge often there’s music. You’re listening to it and enjoying whatever emotion it is that you’re feeling with that sound.”
According to Sasha, “success is dictated by having fun.” She tries to see the tough times as temporary. Connecting with music can make a real difference in Sasha’s mind. “Music can really get me through tough times because I’m in control of what music I put on. If I choose a really good song that I click in with, my mood is boosted.”