Today we’ve got a special feature on Polish climber Aleksandra (Ola) Taistra by Zofia Reych of the UK blog Up That Rock. When she’s not busy managing her own training regime and sending 5.14s, Aleks spends her time preparing training plans for climbers and coaching a team of young athletes. Aleks has even become Zofia’s online coach! So here’s a little piece on the truly amazing and multi-talented Aleks (Ola) Taistra.
At sixteen, Aleksandra Taistra was a well behaved young lady. She was hoping to become a vet and start working with her beloved horses. Yet summer holidays brought an abrupt change of direction in her life as her mum sent her on a climbing camp to Jura, the biggest sport climbing region in Poland. Like so many others, she was instantly hooked. Unlike others, and much to the horror of her parents, in the first days after the holiday she threw away all the furniture from her room and built a training wall. Two years later she started university, but quickly dropped out, moved in with her boyfriend/coach, and began chasing her dream.
“I was obsessed! Everything was climbing, climbing, climbing. My life became a laboratory, where components such as training, diet, carefully administered rests and mental attitude were blended in order to produce a top level athlete. It might have been a bit too intense!” recalls Aleks and laughs, looking at her fingers with visibly thickened knuckles. “They’re fine now. And that’s also pretty much the only part of my body that suffered from climbing. The rest is 100% healthy and I’m quite proud of that!”
From the very beginning, Aleks has seen climbing as a serious sport and wanted to be a professional athlete. This concept was pretty unheard of ten years ago, especially in Poland, where climbing has a history of being a quite punk, underground activity. And when climbers in the West started signing sponsorship deals and becoming full-time competitors, in Poland it was still seen as unethical to even display a rope on the top of a back-pack. “That would be seen as showing off, and the last thing you wanted to do was to show off. Unless you wanted to be laughed at,” explains Aleks.
But with Poland having limited potential for sport-climbing, she quickly started escaping to Spain and that’s where she found her true love: steep limestone. “My first infatuation was Rodellar, now it’s Catalunya. Spain feels like second home and I certainly spend there as much time as I do in Poland.”
However, over the last two years Aleks has been working a lot as a coach and physical therapist, and climbing a little bit less. “After sending my hardest project, I felt like I needed a break. Helping others achieve their fitness or climbing goals is great fun and I definitely see it as a career path, but for now the climbing psych is back on! I’ve got a new project in Margalef, which is harder than anything I’ve climbed before. I’m training indoors, but as soon as the spring comes, I’m going to be back in Spain. I can’t wait, yet it seems like there isn’t much time to get ready!”
She’s psyched, but she’s also more balanced than she used to be. “I’m more aware of my surroundings and the people I climb with these days. I realize it’s the atmosphere and the lifestyle that are best about climbing. I think I’m learning from my Spanish friends! But when I’m training, I’m training hard and life has to be pretty organized. Good diet, early nights, and most of all, a detailed training plan. Achieving results in sport is pretty much an exact science.”
With Aleks’ hardest tick being Cossi Fan Tutte (8c+/5.14c) it is easy to do the math and figure out how crazy hard her next project is. In the meantime, check out this short athlete-spotlight video produced for The Arch Climbing Wall in London: