Creative Tips for Every Athlete

Some athletes use creativity as a way to get an edge over their competition. Professional rock climber Nina Williams is one example: Since she’s on the shorter side, she says, she must think outside the box when she’s climbing and “create her own path.” Another creative climber is New York City-based Philip Kaminski. After a battle with synovial cacoma cancer, the now 28-year-old lost his right leg. A lifelong athlete, he was understandably down – before he literally climbed to great heights.

“When I walked in to Brooklyn Boulders for the first time, I met some of the adaptive climbers and volunteers with ACG [Adaptive Climbing Group]. Seeing what they could do made me realize that I could easily do this,” says Kaminski.

“Even on the first day they were pushing me to not only continue climbing but to work on harder “problems” [the routes that the climbers “solve” by climbing them]. I guess they saw something in me and I ended up seeing that in myself over time.”

Now, the North Carolina-native is setting his sites on a podium finish despite the fact that the adaptive climbing field is constantly growing and getting more competitive. Here, how he’s planning to get there – and what you can learn from him.

Get Creative

Creative Tips for Every Athlete

“When I look at problems, I think ‘that’s not what the route-setter had in mind but I’m going to find my way around it and be creative and be adaptive,” says Kaminski. “I’m constantly throwing conventional climbing technique out the window. Obviously it’s important – so important in many cases – and sometimes I have to work around it and that’s the literal definition of adaptive climbing.”

But even if you’re not an adaptive climber, thinking about any fitness pursuit in a fresh way can be exactly what you need to get to the next level.

Sharpen Your Mind Outside the Gym

“Off the wall, I’m constantly writing. I have a journal and notebook that I fill with various things. I love learning new languages,” says Kaminski. “I always try to be active with keeping my mind sharp and reading things that spur and challenge my intellect. I feel that having outlets away from climbing really helps you to stay calm and focused on the wall mentally because my mind’s not racing all over the place.”

Whether you study Japanese and Spanish like Kaminski or simply add more non-fiction to your life, consider ways you can engage your brain even when you’re not exercising.

Talk to “Better” Athletes

“I’m always reaching out to members of the climbing community for new ways to challenge myself physically or train. Just yesterday Nina [Williams] gave me some amazing pointers when it comes to working campus boards and training to increase the power in my fingers,” says Kaminski. “She’s been doing it for 15 years and has a wealth of knowledge… plus she’s cool and fun to climb with and that makes a world of difference. It’s really helpful getting advice from people who are better athletes than yourself.”

Seek Expert Help

Creative Tips for Every AthleteBeyond talking to the experts, Kaminski works with a coach as well.

“I just started with a new strength and conditioning coach at Brooklyn Boulders who was a division one track and field athlete in college so I’m on a pretty strict training and nutrition regimen that’s pushing me to my limits,” he says. “Working with a person who knows how to train at a high level for athletics has made a world of difference.”

The bottom line: Consider tapping your fit friends for advice (and sharing your own!) and even hiring a coach or personal trainer—even temporarily—to really further your knowledge and skills.

Accept This Invite

“To anyone looking to get into climbing for the first time, I extend an invite,” says Kaminski. “One thing I’ve learned from Brooklyn Boulders is that in addition to the amazing sense of community, it’s also an extremely diverse community. You see people of every race, color, creed, orientation, size, shape, ability, and disability, climbing and laughing and having a good time on the wall regardless of their skill level,” he says, “By all means, come on out. If a guy with one leg can do it, I’m pretty sure you can.”