4 Things Every Athlete Can Learn From a Professional Rock Climber

As an athlete, would you rather have raw talent or drive and passion? Though the former may seem like the “correct” answer (there is no “right” answer, btw!) professional rock climber Nina Williams would argue for the latter.

"Growing up, I had talent but I wasn’t the best of the best. I’m certainly not the best of the best now,"

But in addition to simply being willing to put in the effort, Williams has another character trait that separates her from any other talented rock climber: creativity. Here, the 27-year-old Boulder, Colorado-based rock star (literally) shares her secrets to success.

Take note: these tips and strategies apply far beyond the rock wall and translate to courts, tracks, and gyms alike.

4 Things Every Athlete Can Learn From a Professional Rock Climber

Create Your Own Path

“I have to [literally] create my own path sometimes because I am on the shorter side,” says Williams. “A person of average height will go the average way. Being short, I branch out. It really makes me think outside the box.”

This idea can be applied to your whole life – and any workout. Just because some people do bodyweight exercises for 12 reps, why don’t you try eight reps at a slightly heavier weight? That’s just on simple way to keep your body guessing and look for ways to forge your own fit path. “It’s very freeing to think: I actually have the power to create my own individuality and don’t have to go the path of everyone else,” says Williams.


4 Things Every Athlete Can Learn From a Professional Rock ClimberOf course, much of Williams’ training happens on the rocks or in the rock climbing gym. But she understands the importance of cross-training for injury prevention, yes, but also for staying strong overall so she can have that edge. Her weightlifting routine includes deadlifts, box jumps, and a little bit of cardio.

“In the past, climbing has overlooked power of the legs and people think it’s all about upper body strength,” she explains. She also focuses on a more surprising body part: her fingers. “Hanging from my finger tips on edges allows my fingers and hands to support my full body weight,” she says, noting how key this is to her sport in particular.

Eat According to Mood

“Priority number one is always coffee,” says Williams of her pre-climbing ritual. The meal, though, depends on her mood.

“Sometimes I make a lot of vegetables and eggs and have a big breakfast to sustain me for the rest of the day; Sometimes I’ll just have some oatmeal or yogurt,” she says.

Mindful eating – and simply eating with awareness of how full you are, paying attention to cravings, etc – is one of the keys. Williams also knows that long days on the rocks require additional fuel so she packs well: “I like bringing a jar of peanut butter and bananas, an apple, nuts, and an energy bar.”

Listen to Your Body

“Recovery is extremely important because if you don’t let your body rest back to 100 percent, then you can’t give 100 percent the next effort,” says Williams.

“I try to listen to my body whether it’s during my training or climbing when I’m pushing hard or the next day when I’m really sore and I think ‘I better take a little bit of a longer rest, she says. “I push myself as far as I can but I rarely push myself to 100 and 110 percent all the time because that’s when people start get injured. For me climbing has always been about long-term. It’s rarely been about that one immediate result. I want to climb for the rest of my life. I want to climb until I can’t climb a set of stairs anymore. In order to achieve that ultimate goal I have to take care of myself.”

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