Tag Archives: climber body image

Climbing & Body Image: Losing Weight to Win at Climbing

The rise of climbing gyms may be one reason for an increase in eating disorders amongst climbers.

The increase in climbing gyms and competitive climbing teams is one hypothesis for why so many survey respondents reported taking drastic measures in weight management.

Today’s post continues our analysis of the 2,014 responses to our climber body image survey

The longer we climb and the more climbers we meet, the more we realize that like any other sports’ athletes there are climbers willing to take drastic measures to lose weight to perform better. In fact, 28% of our 2,014 survey respondents know someone who has taken drastic measures or personally have taken drastic measures to improve their climbing performance. While the term “drastic measures” can be interpreted in many ways, including dieting, excessive exercise, and taking muscle-promoting supplements, nearly all of the respondents described it in terms of dramatic weight loss.

When we first started climbing, we naively believed climbing was immune to the body weight issues that many other sports’ athletes fall prey. From our view, most people begin climbing through a community or “just for fun” rather than on a competitive team where weight management may be encouraged. However, recently the number of climbing gyms, teams, and competitions across the United States has skyrocketed. For example, over the last two years in the Boston Metro area the number of climbing gyms more than doubled from four gyms to nine and along with it the number of climbers and competitive teams. As is evidenced in the graph below, the more serious one becomes in climbing, the more likely one is to have taken, or know someone who has taken, drastic measures in weight management to climb harder.

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Climbing & Body Image: Is There an Ideal Body Type for Climbing?

Climbers definitely aren’t a bunch with “average” bodies. Photo by Jake Naughton.

Today’s post continues our analysis of the 2,014 responses to our climber body image survey. 

If you look around the climbing gym or the crag, of course you’ll see some degree of variety in body type, but by and large we can probably agree that what we are going to see are people who have less body fat and more muscle than the general population. So how does this affect a person when they spend a lot of time with this cohort? Personally, I have realized that spending a lot of time with ultra fit folks causes my view of reality to be a bit skewed. I have had my moments of being at a climbing gym and feeling like, “Man, if only I was like 10 pounds lighter and my thighs weren’t so damn huge I could probably send that climb,” only to go to a regular gym or some random social situation and have people actually remark on how fit I look. After reading through our survey results it was a bit of a relief to see I’m not alone in this experience, but at the same time it’s been saddening to hear the painful experiences people have when they feel they don’t measure up to what a climber “should” look like. In our first post on body image we looked at some of the ways in which climbing improved body image. Today we look at some of the more negative trends including a surprising find about male climbers and their body image issues. We conclude with a deeper look at the question “Is there a right body type for climbing?”

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Climbing & Body Image: Community, Confidence, and Self-Worth

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Just a few of the many words used by the 2,014 climbers who took our survey.

Over the past few years we have watched many pro climbers transform their bodies in the name of climbing. This, compounded by our own personal experiences with body image issues, led us to create a survey that asked the climbing community to share their take on climbing and body image. After reading through and analyzing all 2,014 responses, we are excited to share our findings with you. Due to the complexity and level of detail that survey respondents provided, we have broken this piece into three sections that we will share over the next two weeks. In today’s post, we will discuss how climbers feel about their bodies and how the sport has affected their self-image. Check back in over the upcoming weeks when we discuss the “ideal” body type for climbing and the drastic measures some are taking to attain it. Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our survey. For those of you who are curious, you can see the survey questions and basic results here. We welcome and look forward to your comments in regards to this series of posts.

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