rock climber

FITNESS IRL: ROCK CLIMBING

In Joshua Tree, these athletes ascend and reflect.

For even the most experienced rock climbers, focus is paramount. “If I don’t focus, I get pulled into my head, distracted, and I fall,” says climber Katey Ford. “And not many of us want to fall.” The proverbial safety net: a steadfast dedication to training.

“Sometimes my mind wanders to the risks,” says climber Amy Amodio. “But the more I train in the gym, and the more comfortable I am in my abilities, the more I’m able to simply enjoy the climb.”

Building a climber’s body involves ample cardio work and heart-rate training, and an emphasis on functional fitness. “A focus on finger strength is always a good idea,” says Ford. “Joint stability is also key. Climbing may involve a lot of pulling and pushing motions which can be very aggressive on certain joints.”

On a recent night outing to California’s Joshua Tree National Park, Amodio and Ford honed this focus scaling in sub-freezing temperatures.

Despite the dangers and discomforts, both athletes use this form of fitness in real life to access zen. “Climbing is moving meditation for me,” says Amodio. For Ford, “it’s freedom from my ego, from civilization—I am free to express myself in any way I please. Climbing is my chance to build self-confidence and break down any negative self-talk.”

Hear more from these athletes below.

The Shortlist: Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is known as a site of spiritual healing and outdoor adventure. But, the cosmic desert locale also boasts excellent options for hospitality, food, and non-hiking activities. Here, where to stay, eat, and explore:

Where to stay:

-Book at Sacred Sands, the most luxurious option in the area, offering panoramic views and mineral water hot tubs.

-Get the full desert experience at this dome-shaped rental with two bedrooms and a rustic, boho vibe.

Where to eat:

-The Natural Sisters Cafe serves vegetarian sandwiches, smoothies, and locally-roasted coffee with an emphasis on seasonality and minimal environmental impact. Try the vegan carrot cake.

-For upscale, inventive fare head to La Copine. Dine on dishes like citrus and beet salad and eggplant al forno.

Where to climb:

-Relax with a sound bath at The Integratron.

-See the stars at the Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center.

-Check out the spiky collection at the Cholla Cactus Garden.

— Leah Bhabha