Post-covid: workshops, climbing and consolidating values

Its been over a year since my last blog, and it seems to me that’s probably the right frequency for a longer post! There is much to reflect on in the last 12 months, as we come to some kind of post-covid lockdowns ‘normal’, though many people are still suffering the ill effects of long covid, changes in work and home, and returning to old activities with new constraints. Podcasts were a feature of last year, something I was nervous about as I’m not used to being interviewed (I’m the interviewer normally!), but it was lovely to chat with Steve Dimmitt of the Nugget podcast across the water, and also Mum’s Gone Climbing hosts Nell and Eva, who all made me feel at ease and helped me navigate the tricky waters of not saying enough vs babbling on! I’ve also been back delivering face to face workshops and coaching and its been great to see people implement new skills in real time, and to be able to observe what a difference subtle changes can make. Its been great to work again with the Women’s Climbing Symposium, the Diploma in Mountain Medicine, the Expedition Essentials for Women Explorers, as well as continuing with online workshops. Oh, and a proud moment to see my book Climb Smarter released and hear from people using the exercises within and finding them helpful.

For myself, the last 12 months have marked a return to some reliable level of fitness – baby steps for sure, but I had a great trip to Font with the family and managed to climb every day, which is the first time in 4 years I’ve been well enough to maintain regular exercise without exhaustion and joint pain. A mindset shift has occurred for me, in accepting my situation, my limitations, and adjusting to not pushing through was hard. But ultimately I think its paid off and I can now feel some level of strength and fitness rebuilding, provided I don’t push. Climbing culture has so many messages about pushing through, the same as the current societal zeitgeist, that its hard to let go of striving – it feels wrong, it feels like you are wimping out, and I heard echoes of ‘lazy’ and ‘giving up’ in my self talk. It took all my psychology skills to meet that voice with gratitude and say “Thanks, but I don’t need this right now”. January 2023 finds me in a different place with climbing firmly back in my life, along with other low key exercise, and it feels good to say that.

With not striving in mind, I’ve also let go of the social media merry-go-round. Its easy to be swept up in posting regularly because everyone says you should, and posting content just to stay ahead of the algorithms felt to me like the epitome of waste, the equivalent of single use plastics in the digital world. I have been regularly told I need to post more, on more sites, have email lists, and so on, but the reality is, I find it distasteful and the constant sales on Insta and FB is something I find irritating, and less likely to make me want to buy anything. So much is promised, it seems that everyone now has the answer to all life’s problems, if you just sign up in the next 48hrs….My goal with Smart Climbing has always been to give tailored, practical psychology coaching based on the latest research and evidence base, and just to earn enough money to support my family. Growing the business is not on the cards, and with only so many hours in the day, there are only so many people I can work with at any one time. Scaling up means losing the personal and tailored approach, and I’m not willing to compromise. So if I’m not posting regularly, its because I don’t want to clutter your feeds and minds with sales posts or mindless chitchat and I hope that when I do post, its with something relevant. This has been part of a strategy for me of aligning personal and business values, where treading lightly and thinking regeneratively have been important for me and our family.

I read some great books in 2022 which really helped me to think about whether our impact is positive, neutral, or negative. George Monbiot’s Regenesis, whether you agree with all his research or not, helped me to think about what we take out from the earth and how little we put back. Around the same time I read Barkskins by Annie Proulx, which is a beautiful and ultimately sad book about the commoditisation of the natural world. Climbers are certainly not immune to this, and I began to reflect that ‘leave no trace’ is not enough at this point in our environmental catastrophe, we have to also be making a regenerative impact. Donut Economics was another helpful read, thinking about the concept of ‘enough’ and what that means in a cultural narrative which pushes for ‘more’ constantly. I feel like all these books were also entwined in my recovery through listening to my body and not pushing ever onwards. Finally, Oliver Burkeman’s 4000 weeks helped me with understanding that it is pruning activities in order to make space for what is really important, is the major shift to manage the time we have effectively. These were all conceptual changes for me which I have been trying to make practical – not easy at times! But I have been getting excited about compost and improving our soil, supporting local conservation projects, cutting waste in all its forms (including empty social media posts, or coaching which doesn’t result in change, or even just emptying my inbox!), volunteering my time for coaching people or groups who might otherwise struggle to access it due to finances, as well as thinking carefully about how any trips we might make could be carbon neutral and add something back into the local environment or community. Its hard work and we are by no means perfect, but it feels good to be thinking circular and not exponentially.

With that in mind, this post has gone on long enough, so I’m off to empty the compost bin and take in some fresh air… Rebecca

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