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Chill Out: COVID-19 Doesn’t Mean the End of Climbing

Our sport is on hold right now, but there are always silver linings.

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Yes, all gyms are closed. Yes, most major crags are closed. Yes, you shouldn’t be climbing outside at all right now anyway. You’re at risk of both spreading the virus and putting strain on our already over-taxed healthcare system if you get hurt. Don’t get me wrong, the COVID-19 epidemic is deadly serious. We need to take it seriously, both within the climbing community and as a nation. But climbing itself hasn’t gone down the toilet. The Olympics are postponed, not cancelled. The rock is still there. Believe it or not, it hasn’t melted away into oblivion in the two weeks you haven’t been outside.

Below are six reasons to be in good spirits, despite this shitty situation.

1. A Mandatory Rest Period

It’s a known fact that climbers don’t know how to take a breather. Most of us consider climbing outdoors on weekends our “rest day” after a week training in the gym. But climbing injuries are notoriously time-consuming and debilitating to manage. Ruptured pulleys are hell. Many of us simply can’t force ourselves to take enough time off to ever fully recover from injury. How can we, when the rock is calling?

COVID-19 is giving us a chance to take some much needed time away, recharge our batteries, and hit the crags this summer (hopefully) or next fall (yikes), finally healed from that nagging tendonitis we’ve been ignoring for the past three months. Embrace the chill time.

2. Time To Expand YOur Horizons

At risk of sounding like my mom, we could all be a little more well-rounded. And I don’t mean throwing an aid route into your usual sport/trad mix once in a while. I can’t begin to count how many pro climbers I’ve interviewed who, when asked what their hobbies outside of climbing were, responded with “I don’t know.” Seriously. A climbing addiction fosters an extremely single-minded drive. That isn’t a bad thing, because being on the wall gives many of us the happiest moments of our lives. But think of this epidemic as the universe offering you a chance to expand a bit.

There are hundreds of Ivy League courses available online right now, for free. Dozens of artists, from punk rockers to concert orchestras, are hosting live concerts online, also for free. Now is the perfect time to put a ton of effort into your Tinder or Bumble profile, too. You may not be able to meet up in person, but you can still woo your beau remotely via FaceTime, Netflix Party, or online games. Start working on that novel, sculpting, painting, or learning a new language. With a computer and Internet access, your possibilities for growth and expansion truly are endless, as corny as it sounds.

3. Plan That International Climbing Trip

There are opportunities for dirt cheap flights at the moment if you know where to look, and most major airlines have completely waived change fees for flights purchased during this time. Sure, we may be in this nightmare until July, maybe August, maybe longer. But at some point the world will come back together and you’ll be smiling, because you’ll have a ticket lined up to Rocklands or Patagonia or wherever else you’ve been dying to hit the wall.

4. Beef Up Your Home Training Center

If you were angry about Item #1, here’s your bone. We’ve all wanted a home wall at some point, and many of us (at least me) always put it off in lieu of the comfort of our local gym. Rest up, but also take this time to boost the training capabilities around your pad. New hangboards, campus boards, a Moonboard in the garage, whatever. COVID-19 is giving you a chance to put 100% of your effort into making your home gym as good as it can possibly be. No more excuses about being too busy. Get to work.

5. Consume Climbing Media

If you ever wanted more time to watch climbing movies, read climbing books or scroll through climbing memes, now you have it. Do some heavy reading of Freedom of the Hills or a John Long anthology. Go back and watch all the Reel Rocks in order. Watch Vertical Limit and have a good laugh. Pore through the ever-growing plethora of climbing meme pages on Instagram in the early hours of the morning, the dim glow of your phone screen hovering inches above your face in bed, chuckling to yourself as you pop Cheez-It’s into your mouth like Jabba the Hutt.

6. Get Weird

This one isn’t climbing specific, but we all need to hear it. We’re in a global pandemic, folks. Typical societal constraints no longer apply. “YOLO” elicits memories of frat douchebags from my college years, but it was birthed from a wise mentality. Who do you have to keep up appearances for now? No one. Head outside in that bathrobe at midnight and howl at the moon. Drink seven beers at 7 a.m. Wear a Halloween mask around the house 24/7 to “prevent viral spread.” Ride your skateboard inside. Subsist on microwave popcorn for a week. Take a bath in mayonnaise. COVID-19 is proving that all those weird societal standards we follow don’t really matter, at the end of the day. Life’s short. Fuck it.

In all seriousness, when all is said and done, this is temporary. Despite our federal government’s poor response to the crisis, we will come out of it, whether in three months or six, and eventually we’ll all be able to climb again. Patience is a virtue.

In the meantime, support your local gym, respect social distancing and isolation, and make the most of the opportunities this shitty situation offers us.

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Op-Ed: Chill Out – COVID-19 Doesn’t Mean The End of Climbing