Date: February 13th, 2017
About Margarita Martinez
My first experience of Margarita Martinez was at the Red River Gorge, watching her dance her way up Bohica 5.13b. She ended up falling on it, but I remember her laughing as she fell, and then talking to her later she was as chipper as could be. In this interview, that positive outlook on life and climbing is very apparent.
Margarita is originally from Puerto Rico, but moved here in her late teens to be a ballerina, which she did for over a decade. She had to quit dancing because she could no longer travel for work and raise 3 children at the same time. She wanted something to fill the dancing void in her life, and at the age of 34 she found climbing. Since then, she’s suffered several heartbreaking injuries and surgeries (broken back, broken ankle, and most recently a serious shoulder issue), but she’s persevered and steadily climbed through the grades.
She created a new career for herself when she founded www.drypointe.com, which is a company that sells inserts for stinky shoes of all kinds. She’s giving you guys a 20% discount with the code “TBETA” if you’d like to try them yourself.
Last year, at the age of 58, she sent her first 5.13d in Maple Canyon and has not slowed down since. That was after she was told by a surgeon that she needed to have a shoulder replacement and quit climbing forever. Our good friend, Esther Smith (the PT who’s been on the show a couple times) helped her fix her shoulder, and she’s now climbing and training harder than ever.
Margarita Martinez Interview Details
In this interview, Margarita talks about her evolution as a climber, how she trains, and how she does things differently now that she’s a little bit older.
What We Talked About
- Training for first 13d at age 58
- How she deals with having rheumatoid arthritis
- How she approaches climbing and training at age 58
- What the MaxiPull is and how it helps her endurance
- Why she weight lifts and what she does
- Her training/climbing schedule
Margarita Martinez Links
- Margarita’s article “15 Truths About Being A Climber“
- How to Make A Maxi Pull – from Margarita’s Facebook page
- Esther Smith’s article on how to Hang Just Right (which Margarita uses)
- Margarita’s shoe insert company (for stinky climbing shoes): www.DryPointe.com
- COUPON CODE for DryPointe shoe inserts is TBETA – use it at www.DryPointe.com.
Training Programs for You
Check out our new finger strength training programs! Just released last week, we have separate programs for beginner, intermediate, and advanced climbers.
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Neely Quinn: Welcome to the Training Beta Podcast, where I talk with climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and I have been super busy since the last podcast with Danny Robertson. I did commentating for Bouldering Nationals in Salt Lake City last week, and if you heard me, I hope you were understanding of any bloopers that I had. I thought it went pretty well, but it was super exciting and a little bit nerve-wracking. I had such a good time and the comp was incredible. If you didn’t watch it, it was really exciting to watch. I had fun, and then I’ll be doing Nationals for ropes in a few weeks in Denver too, so you can have more of my voice [laughs] if you watch that comp too.
Other than that, I came home and immediately released our new finger training program which Kris Peters created for us. There’s one for beginner trainers, one for intermediate climbers and trainers, and one for advanced climbers and trainers. They’re all a little bit different- they all train your fingers so you can become stronger climbers. It’s just something that we needed to fill- a void in our training resources for you guys. Hopefully it does that and helps you reach your climbing goals. You can find that at trainingbeta.com/fingers.
Moving along, I’m here now, and I just finished an interview with Margarita Martinez. Margarita is 58 years old, and she’s actually the woman who Esther Smith had mentioned that had just climbed her first 13d. She said that she was 60, or maybe she even said that she is 69, so we needed to clear the air a little bit in our interview that she is only 58- she’s about to be 59. Nevertheless, it’s still incredibly inspirational that a person at 58 years old is still pushing her limits. That’s even through extremely bad injury. Margarita is going to tell us about her training, the fact that she only started climbing when she was 34 years old, and that she has consistently moved through the grades, and that she is still having a ton of fun doing it. I hope you enjoy this interview with Margarita, and here she is.
Neely Quinn: Alright, welcome to the show Margarita, thank you very much for being iwht me today.
Margarita Martinez: It’s great to be with you.
Neely Quinn: For anybody who doesn’t know who you are, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Margarita Martinez: My name Margarita Martinez, I’m from Puerto Rico. I was born in Ponce. I came to the US at the age of 16, to dance with the Cincinnati Ballet and finish my last year of high school. I danced with them professionally, and I also have a degree from the University of Cincinnati in dance, and my Masters is in Spanish Literature. I danced professionally for twelve years, and I stopped dancing at the age of 28, because I had children that needed to be in school, and I couldn’t travel and so forth- family gets in the way sometimes. But worth every second.
I decided I was looking for something else to fill that spot, that void of dancing. I tried a few things, like ice skating, tennis, and none of that worked. I was very afraid of heights, but I decided to go ahead and go to one of the gyms in town, which was at the University in Ohio. At that time, there were only a hundred and fifty gyms in the nation, which is hard to believe today. This was one of them. I was 34, and decided to give it a try, and conquer my fear. And that’s how I became a climber.
Neely Quinn: Wow. That’s a pretty crazy story. I was just reading an article about you where you said that you really missed dancing, and then you found climbing and you felt like it was sort of like dancing on the rock.
Margarita Martinez: Yes, and it is. It is vertical instead of horizontal.
Neely Quinn: Right- do you feel like it did fulfill that void for you and still continues to?
Margarita Martinez: Oh yes, it did. I thought that I would never lead. It took me about six months into my climbing to actually go out and lead, just because I was afraid of falling and afraid of heights. I remember even the first day going to the gym and only climbing twelve feet up of the twenty three feet that the gym was, and I felt accomplished even though I was afraid to go past twelve feet.
But it’s good, you can get to conquer your fear. I also, through that, met my husband Renee. He helped me raise my kids, and I have three kids and now I have three grandkids, so it’s great.
Neely Quinn: Nice, wow. So tell me a little bit more about starting climbing- there are a lot of people who think you have to start climbing when you’re 8 or 2 these days. You started climbing when you were 34. Do you think there is an advantage or a disadvantage to that?
Margarita Martinez: I think there is an advantage when you are older and wiser. Even though we are going to be talking about injury, because in climbing it’s not about if you get an injury but when you get an injury, so it’s really hard to deal with that fact. But the older you are the more you are aware of your body, and you listen to your body so you don’t let it get to that spot. Kids don’t know that spot yet. They get to be invincible, and as an older person, there is definitely an advantage to that.
If you want to be a professional climber, maybe you want to start early. But I’m not into climbing because of wanting to be a professional climber, I just love climbing. I love going out and doing 5.9, 5.10, 5.11, it doesn’t really matter. Even 5.7. It’s all about enjoying the day and the people that you are gong climbing with.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, but you have climbed a little bit harder than 5.10 [laughs]. Last year you did your first 5.13d, am I correct?
Margarita Martinez: Correct. But at the beginning, I came from the dance world, in which I did not use my arm, and one single pull-up took five months of very hard work. By the third month I was crying, thinking that would never happen- I would never be able to do one pull-up. Now I do twenty. So obviously there is a possibility to get stronger [laughs].
Neely Quinn: That’s awesome. I was actually going to ask you that- how do you think, if at all, the strength that you had from dancing transferred over to climbing?
Margarita Martinez: I think that dancing was a good thing because of the ability to balance. I knew my body, I knew how to move my body through a plum line and be able to balance out, so that was great. I was very, very lucky that the people who I started with had amazing footwork. I think that more than anything is if you have really, really good mentors. I had Tony Burlier, who has amazing footwork. He helped me through all of that, and he also introduced me to the Renee, which was great. It’s just great to start with really good technique to begin with, you learn to use your feet properly, and then you aren’t just pulling yourself on the rock, your whole body is going up the rock, not just your arms.
Neely Quinn: Do you continue to dance at all now?
Margarita Martinez: I do, I have a barre in my living room, and I give myself some ballet barres. Just the first part of the ballet class, so I still do that.
Neely Quinn: Do you feel like that keeps you flexible?
Margarita Martinez: Well, I lost a lot of flexibility, a little bit due to climbing because you use your muscles pulling in instead of extending out. Ballet is more about out, climbing is a little bit more about in. But I think I lost more of my flexibility when I quit climbing, from the age of 45 to 49. In 2005, I got rheumatoid arthritis and I woke up one morning and could not walk and could not see well. I think that I’ve lost more due to the RA than anything else.
Neely Quinn: Wow- so you quit climbing and then all of a sudden that happened?
Margarita Martinez: I quit climbing- it was really really weird, I think I was just inactive. I quit climbing to do a cake business, because I thought if I developed this cake business, eventually it will give me freedom. Of course it didn’t give me freedom, it just consumed me. In one year I did 120 weddings in one year, so it was just consuming, and a lot of money. But if I had any time, it would be sleeping because I was sleeping very little and I wasn’t exercising at all. I think that not having any activity of any type except making case precipitated it.
Neely Quinn: Just to go back a little bit for anybody who doesn’t know your history, and I just read this about you. When you were 16 or something, you had to pay for your own dance lessons so you started your own cake making business back then even.
Margarita Martinez: Back then even I used to make cakes for birthday parties.
Neely Quinn: Then when you quit dancing that was something that you went back to and got further training with?
Margarita Martinez: Correct. I went to Chicago and to Atlanta and got classes with some of the best decorators in the world. As a matter of fact, my teacher in Atlanta did Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s wedding cake.
Neely Quinn: Oh my gosh [laughs].
Margarita Martinez: And it was good. I had a knack for it, I was good at it. It developed very quickly into a consuming business. Then I missed my climbing, and I said no, I’m just going to get out of this, and went back to teach dance. At that point, I said I need to make something else, I want to be able to climb and work the two things together, which is what everybody tries to do. That’s how DryPointe came to be. I had a grip dancers who had sweaty feet, and I was able to study the product, invent the product, and that’s what I do today.
Neely Quinn: Can you tell us a little bit about that product?
Margarita Martinez: Yeah- DryPointe is a little ball that is filled with Silica gel. What it does is you put it in your shoes after you finish climbing or dancing or running- there’s every use for a sweaty shoe you can think of. It comes in three sizes. You just put it in there and the Silica will absorb all the moisture, and wherever there is no moisture there is no bacteria. It allows for your feet to be healthy, and your friends to not hate your shoes.
Neely Quinn: It seems like you found a way to have freedom and go climbing and have a business. Is that what supports you now?
Margarita Martinez: Correct. A day like today- I’m at the Red, I live at the Red- It is 58 degrees with 39% humidity on a beautiful cloudless sky-
Neely Quinn: Oh no! And you’ve been sitting here talking to me!
Margarita Martinez: No, don’t worry! I have a hundred pairs that need to go Australia, I have a gym that needs to get their DryPointes- it’s okay, I was working.
Neely Quinn: So you do have a flexible schedule now at this point?
Margarita Martinez: I do, I do. If I want to do this at night, I can do it at night and go climb. I have a flexible schedule.
Neely Quinn: I think people really like hearing about how people make it work with having their own business or having flexible schedules and being able to travel and climb. You guys are also the Maple Canyon camp hosts every year, right?
Margarita Martinez: Correct, and we will be this year also. Because I can take all of it there, I can work from there. I get my orders on the internet. Renee has set himself up with a MiFi card, and everything that needs to be able to get really good reception there, because he also does conference calls.
Neely Quinn: Right, because he does something else- is he a programmer or something?
Margarita Martinez: No, he’s a product manager for a software company, actually out of Sandy, UT.
Neely Quinn: Oh okay, right.
Margarita Martinez: He’s actually close to work when he is there.
Neely Quinn: So you guys are both remote, which is really convenient. That means you can live in the middle of Kentucky- because you guys don’t live in Lexington, right? You guys live in Beattyville or something?
Margarita Martinez: I am four miles away from the Motherlode parking lot.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, no big deal!
Margarita Martinez: It’s pretty good.
Neely Quinn: Okay so I have a million questions for you, and one I haven’t even asked you is how old you are.
Margarita Martinez: Yes let’s set this straight, because my friends said “You better say something!” [laughs]. I will be 59 years old in three weeks. I was born on March 5th, 1958.
Neely Quinn: And the reason why you’re saying you need to set the record straight is…?
Margarita Martinez: I think you said something on the last podcast with Danny, and also because my friend Esther had said it to you, so it’s not your fault because you heard it from Esther. She’s my [physical] therapist, she’s an amazing therapist which we will be talking about. She said I was 60.
Neely Quinn: Yeah I think she may have said 69, I don’t know. She said 60 and 69… so just to set the record straight you are about to be 59 years old, which is still incredibly impressive that you are continuing to increase your climbing ability.
Margarita Martinez: Yeah, at this stage, I call it the snail’s pace. But it’s progressive still.
Neely Quinn: So tell me about how you got to the point where you were climbing 13d last year. What had happened, and please go into depth about your injury and all that, and your recovery, and then your training. I’d love to know how you got to where you are.
Margarita Martinez: When I started back then, there were not that many gyms, and the gyms were not that great quality. But even then, I did my first 12a a year and a half into my climbing, which is still for today, everybody they climb a year and a half and they can do 13s. But you have to look at it, when I started climbing in the fall of ’91, the articles, there were six women in the US who can climb 5.13.
Neely Quinn: Wow.
Margarita Martinez: And this is what you would read in the magazines. So to climb 5.12 in a year and a half progression, it was actually really, really good. So at that time I read everything I could in Rock and Ice, everything I could in Climbing Magazine about training, and some people believed in having six weeks of this and six weeks of that and six weeks of the other. I tried that a few times, and that does not work for me, by the way. I like to train everything at one time.
Neely Quinn: You’re like Bill Ramsey, you’re like the female Bill Ramsey.
Margarita Martinez: I like to train everything, because I don’t climb because I want to achieve a number. Yes I did achieve a number, but that wasn’t important to me. For me, the important thing was that I challenge myself. I didn’t chase numbers. For a matter of fact, for a while, I had people say about a [grade] pyramid- one of these, four of these, sixteen of that. For a while, I had the biggest 13a plateau that you could ever think of, because I had done so many of them and I was so comfortable at that level, I didn’t want to pass to 13b. I just wanted to be on the 13a level, because that was easy. You don’t need a lot of training per se, to get there. It does not take a lot of hard work to get there, and I was comfortable doing them and I could do them quickly.
Crossing each level is really, really hard. It’s always hard from 10d to 11a, and it’s always hard from each crossing. 12d to 13a, or 11d to 12a, that’s always a crossing. I think the reason why the crossing is hard is because there might be a big difference between a 12a and 12b. There is really not that much of a difference between the 11d and the 12a. Those crossings are not that different. It is because most of the time, people put a climb at 11d level, and they really should have put it at 12a but they’re too scared to call it 12.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s true. I just had this conversation the other day.
Margarita Martinez: So the crossings become hard, just through it. And then just getting to the next level is always harder. You think “Oh my god, the next level”. At the beginning, I trained what I could train. I did compete quite a bit, so I did a lot of competitions back then- as a matter of fact I climb with people now who climbed with me when I was doing these competitions, but we’ve come a long way since those competitions. It was mostly the competitions with the Sport Climbing Federation at that time, and it was good. I got to meet a lot of really, really good people that helped me in training. Robyn would run some little weekend programs where we all got together and all got to train together.
Neely Quinn: Robyn Rabotou?
Margarita Martinez: Yeah, she was great, she was really good and helpful. At that time, I was going to this training, there was Chris Sharma, and Katie Brown, and everybody and anybody who was a climber at the time was in this training. I competed quite a bit at that time, and I think that helped too, because when you compete it was a sure way of getting rid of the nerves of falling, because in a competition you always fall. That to me, I mean, either you make it to the top or you fall somewhere in between. There’s always a fall involve because you’re trying your hardest. That helped quite a bit, training wise.
Now as an older person, to get from the 13a to three years ago, I decided that I got tired of the plateau, that I needed to get next level. That took two things. That took actually getting on a climb and working, because that was the hardest for me. I just didn’t like the process of working something forever. I want to have fun, and it’s definitely not a lot of fun when you are falling over and over and over. But it’s the name of the game, so… [laughs]. If you’re looking for only the good days, you only get about two or three a year.
Neely Quinn: So you just decided to put in the time and the work, and then you started climbing 13b’s.
Margarita Martinez: Yes, and then I started doing 13b, and they didn’t take as long as they thought in my brain as long as they were going to take. One season I did three of them, and then from there I went into 13c level, and I don’t like jumping really high, so I made sure that I had at least four 13c’s before jumping to the 13d. And then 13d happened, pretty much because it was an extension of something I had already done before. So as an example, I did the Great Feast, and I thought “Ah, lets just try Whole Shot”, and that’s how I ended up doing the 13d.
Neely Quinn: And that was in Maple?
Margarita Martinez: That was in Maple, mhm.
Neely Quinn: Cool.
Margarita Martinez: So training wise, I’m a true, true believer of the Maxi Pull
Neely Quinn: The what?
Margarita Martinez: The Maxi Pull.
Neely Quinn: Maxi Pull? What does that mean?
Margarita Martinez: So back then in the early 90s, there was a climbing board company that made a board called the Maxi Pull. The Maxi Pull is this pvc pipe covered in skate tape, on an angle, that you can hang on and stay on the Maxi Pull for a long time. There are different work outs you can do, and as a matter of fact, if you want for people to see it, if you go to my Facebook page and you go to one of the albums at the bottom, there is an album dedicated with measurements with what the Maxi Pull is. The reason why the company didn’t survive is because it was very easy for anyone to reproduce for about 15 bucks. The company didn’t last, and mine is actually homemade too. Tony had one, and I just copied his, because it was just so easy to reproduce.
What you do on the Maxi Pull, is you learn what your maximum pump is. If you don’t know what your very highest amount of pump, your brain will get in the way. The reason for it, is because you start thinking “Oh am I too pumped to clip?”. You need to know- everybody should know what the maximum amount of pump is, how does it feel, what is the danger that your body feels at that point. You hang on this board, and you hang 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off, for five minutes. So you’re doing 45 on, 15 off, 45 on, 15 off. You wait 5 minutes, you repeat it again, you wait 5 minutes, and you repeat it again. Most people need to start with 30 seconds, they don’t need to start at 45. It’s really hard to start at 45. But I’m not sure, because I’m not a doctor or anything like that, so I’m not sure if my body has learned to work with the lactic acid, or whether I learned how to recover better, but it worked.
Neely Quinn: Why do you feel like the- I’m looking at a picture of it right now, and it’s definitely really slopey. Why do you feel like that’s better than any other hangboard and doing it on edges?
Margarita Martinez: I do still do edges, because it’s not going to get you power, it’s not going to get you finger power, it’s just going to maximize everything that you have. If you have strong fingers, it will just maximize it. You get to use all your fingers, and when you’re hanging on it, you feel like your hands sometimes are receiving weights in between the top part of the finger to another part of the finger, trying to learn how to rest on that. It’s a weird feeling- I wish I could tell you. It’s a weird feeling. But it should be close enough to the floor that when you let go it’s because you have already tried to go to your happy place- little tears should be coming out of your eyes, and that’s when you finally let go. I’ve worked with people- I had a friend of mine that was trying this 13d and couldn’t do it, falling falling falling. I said “Step off of it for just a second, keep working your power at home on your board, and come to my house, hang on the Maxi Pull”. He did that for three weeks and sent it on the first go the next time he went.
Neely Quinn: Whoa, that’s a very strong endorsement for the Maxi Pull.
Margarita Martinez: Yes- it’s pretty amazing! I still do hangs, and as a matter of fact I’m trying to do weighted hangs now, the 10 second hang. I’m trying to follow Steve Maisch a little bit, and trying to do a little bit with what he’s doing. I believe- we have the same beliefs. That works out, because I didn’t realize we had the same beliefs until I heard a podcast.
Neely Quinn: Do you- actually, would you expound upon that? What do you mean you have the same beliefs, what are the main tenants?
Margarita Martinez: I believe that you work everything at one time, and he believes you should work everything at one time, even though he said he works on his little 6 foot wall up and down. I do that part on my Maxi Pull. I believe that it’s very important to have really strong fingers, and that it’s better to be on a large edge with a lot more weight than on a very small edge with not as much weight. That works out really well, just his whole approach to climbing, I believe that way.
Now I will not pass- except for today, I’m working here- but I will not pass up a good day. If I can climb on a good day, I’m not going to be the type of person who tells you “I’m in week 2 of training, and I can’t be out on a beautiful day”. The way I look at it, I am going to be 59. I have only so many days, and I’m going to enjoy every day that I can outside [laughs]. So in that part, I’m not going to do that. If I have to one day not do training and go outside and enjoy it, I’m doing this for the fun, so I definitely want to do that. I really felt that ability to be able to relate to what he was talking about.
Neely Quinn: Going back to training- when you do the Maxi Pulls, how often do you do them?
Margarita Martinez: I do them at least once a week, and I do them after climbing. I believe that even outside, I don’t go to that place. I’m talking about that place where you almost cry hanging on it.
Neely Quinn: So you always- you do it on purpose after climbing?
Margarita Martinez: I do it on purpose after climbing. It doesn’t hurt your hands, it isn’t going to tweak it because it’s too open to tweak anything. It’s a pretty big hold. I do it on my second day, of course. If I am working my project I will work my project on the first day, I never work my project two days in a row. Very rarely do I do that. I don’t think that that gives me a lot of gains. I’m better off getting into something else and getting my mind out of it. Then I come back, and I take a rest day, and I’ll go back to a project. I always have to- kind of like Danny in a way- have a few projects going on at a time. One that I can succeed on, something that I’m good at, which is endurance. If it’s on the low end- so as an example, if I’m working hard, a 13d, it’s going to be something that I’m good at. But at a 13b level, I can work something that I’m bad at. Right now it’s Molten, which is a very, very crispy, bouldery route, which I’m not very good at. So I try to mix those in at a lower level, so I can get better at those.
Neely Quinn: And you’ll be doing that at the same time that you’re projecting something harder, like second day on?
Margarita Martinez: On the second day on, yeah.
Neely Quinn: What are you working on in the Red right now?
Margarita Martinez: I want to- my hope is- that I can do Omaha before I turn 60.
Neely Quinn: Oh, nice!
Margarita Martinez: I’ve done a lot in the cave, I’ve done Madness, and Pushing, and Flower Power, and Bohica. Then I heard of The Last of the Bohicans, which is an extension, is actually harder than Omaha, because it’s more bouldery very high. So I decided that Omaha might be better suited for me [laughs]. I’m an endurance kind of person. And this summer, I would like to do Don’t Mess with Texas, which is actually a 13c. And I would like to do one of those that goes up- it would be great to do the Pipe Dream. Maggie [Odette] did it last year, she was fantastic on it. I got very inspired.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, wow.
Margarita Martinez: So I’m hoping.
Neely Quinn: You’re hanging out in some steep caves.
Margarita Martinez: Yes, actually, you can’t hit anything [laughs]. I’m still afraid of falling, so I think the steepness is okay because you fall into the air, and air doesn’t hurt.
Neely Quinn: I’d actually like to go back to that for a minute. You said that you had a fear of heights and a fear of falling. Can you tell me how you got over that and how you work with it?
Margarita Martinez: Well I feel that the rope is almost like the railing, as an example. If I was in a building, and there was a balcony, and no rail on the balcony, I don’t think I could be that close to the edge. I’d be really apprehensive. But if the balcony has a good railing, I can go and look down, so that’s okay, because the railing is holding me. The rope is holding me. I learned to depend on the rope, which makes me a great sport climber and a horrendous boulderer, because I’m afraid. Every fall is to the ground, so I think I’m going to invent “Old-dering”, and set top ropes because I really don’t care about sending v-whatever, I care about getting the movement it takes to get better at it, right? [laughs] So I’m going to set up top ropes, get some pieces, and set up top ropes on all the nice boulder problems and call it “Old-ering”.
Neely Quinn: That is quotable, I’m writing it down right now [laughs]. I’ll go with you- every day. I’ll go with you and get on those ropes.
Margarita Martinez: I want to do all those moves, but I’m so afraid, especially when they’re up high a little bit and you’re exposed. At my age, I’ve had some sever injuries and I have to be very very careful. In ’94 my husband Renee fell on top of me- this was before stick clips. And I was looking up, and I caught him, and I had exactly the same injury- it’s really weird. I pinched my spine in half, where my c5 and c6 discs exploded, so I had the same thing as Alex [Puccio], only mine paralyzed my left side, which was very scary. I thought I was never going to come back out of that one.
Neely Quinn: Oh so you had to have surgery?
Margarita Martinez: I had to have surgery the old way, where they removed bone from my hip and put it in my neck.
Neely Quinn: Whoa- obviously it was successful?
Margarita Martinez: It was successful- it took a few months to learn how to grab things with my left hand and to have feeling. I could put my hand into fire and not feel anything. So to get feeling took a lot of hard work. But just like anything, you get hurt, and you come back so determined to make it work. After I came back from the four years, a year into it, it took me about a year to be back on the 5.13 level after not climbing. I started back on 5.8 after those four years that I told you about. But because my body had done it before, within a year I was back on the 13s, because of my strong base. I broke my ankle on Spank, or Tika Monster, at the Red, with a terrible catch. I skipped a bolt, and my feet cut off, and the person- who was not my husband- thought I was falling, my feet cut off, and he jumped up and ripped me off the wall.
Neely Quinn: Ohh…
Margarita Martinez: Yeah. I was about 12 feet from the last bolt, and I ended up 4 feet from the bolt, and crashed into it. I broke my ankle, and I got required surgery two days later. I had to be completely off, on a scooter, for 5 weeks. Then I started back climbing, and it was the very first climb I did once I got back [laughs].
Neely Quinn: Really? Did you skip the bolt?
Margarita Martinez: No I learned how to get a kneebar and clip it. But that was the first time, so I didn’t know. Everybody said “Oh you skip that bolt”, and I’m known for skipping bolts, but not that one [laughs].
Neely Quinn: So I’d like to talk a little bit about your shoulder too, because one of the reasons I’m working with Esther- I just saw her last week in Salt Lake- is because you had so much success with Esther Smith with your shoulder. Can you tell me about he diagnosis of your shoulder and how you treated it?
Margarita Martinez: I did the Madness in December of 2014, and it taught me that I needed to be better at wide grip power. My biggest problem is power, upper body power. Not finger strength as much as upper body power. Offsets are really hard for me, campusing I’m terrible at. I wanted to get better at that, and I figured that I had just done the Madness, and I wanted to train. I was going to train and set boulder problems with really wide sets, and lock offs and things like that, so I could get stronger. And through that, I got hurt, which is actually almost everybody. Esther says 80% of the people that go to her aren’t traumatic, but just training- something happens when you are training.
I felt that I didn’t do much about it, I thought “I’ll just lighten up, back up the training a little bit”. I went on a trip bouldering in February in Chattanooga and that actually was the worst. But I didn’t want to go to the doctor, you know how climbers are, you just don’t want to go to the doctor, you don’t want to know. Then finally at the end of March of 2015, I decided that I needed to go and see a doctor and see what was wrong. I went to the doctor, they did an MRI, and the doctor said that the only thing he could do would be a shoulder replacement. At that time, I would have to quit and maybe not climb anymore, and I didn’t want to do that. I asked if I could do therapy, and so he recommended a therapy. I went through a whole bunch of therapy, and it didn’t do anything. I could still not lift up my hand past my waist, I couldn’t put a coat on…
Neely Quinn: Because you had all kinds of tears?
Margarita Martinez: I had two rotator cuff tears, and tear in the labrum, I had biceps tendinitis, bursitis, and because of the RA I had two bone spurs. One was very tiny underneath, and one was very big on the top that was pinching a nerve. Because of my age, the doctor said if I was younger he could do surgery, but because of my age, surgery to fix it would just make it worse.
Neely Quinn: And you couldn’t lift up your arm?
Margarita Martinez: Past my waist.
Neely Quinn: You couldn’t climb at all?
Margarita Martinez: I couldn’t climb at all. I’d try to climb and I would be in tears because the pain would be so extreme. And I know pain, I’m good at pain. I had a spinal injury, and spinal injuries are very painful.
Neely Quinn: And you’re a ballerina.
Margarita Martinez: Yeah, you’re on your toes! So I couldn’t climb. The doctor recommended therapy, and then no climbing until June, which was when we were due to be at Maple. When I was at Maple, somebody said “You need to see Esther, she will be wonderful”. I said that I’d try therapy and it didn’t work, but I’d sign up for whoever could help me. I went to her, and I walked out 100% better than I walked in.
Neely Quinn: And by that, you mean you were completely better?
Margarita Martinez: No- I mean I was 100% better. I was so bad that 100% doesn’t take much right? But I was 100% better than when I came in, and within a month and a half, I did Vote with a Bullet, which is 13b.
Neely Quinn: Okay, wow. A month and a half- that’s so crazy. So not to make this a complete advertisement for Esther Smith, but what do you think it was about the therapy that you did with her, and how can other people replicate that for themselves? How can we all get that therapy?
Margarita Martinez: She knew that the shoulder was in really, really bad shape. What she did was she worked from distal end of the injury. Instead of working my bicep at the attachment at the shoulder, she worked on my bicep at the other end. She said if I can just make room at allow it to heal, it would be better. She actually not only taught me exercises that I had to do, but I come from a dance background and you do what they tell you. So I did my therapy, but she also actually broke down and lengthened- gave me space and taught me how to hang properly with my arms to make space. I needed a little space in there because we had to deal with the bone. She said to me “That bone was not born yesterday, that bone was there a long time ago, and you’ve probably had this for a long time. All I want to do is heal all the little tears, heal the small tears that you have, and get you back to where you were. You’re never going to be perfect, but let’s get you back to where you were”.
Neely Quinn: And when you say “make space”, you’re talking about how she retrained you on how to hang, but also, did she do bodywork on you as well? Or with the exercises?
Margarita Martinez: She did a lot of bodywork, and as a matter of fact, the day after she would do bodywork on me, I was so sore. But the good kind of sore. I iced it, and I did everything. But she really took down the tissue at the distal end, and was able to work from the distal end to the shoulder, and loosened all that up- gave it space, gave it circulation so it could heal. Once we healed all the small tears, the only one that sometimes wants to come back a little bit is my biceps tendinitis, and it’s only because that extra bone hits it, and that’s the one that wants to once in a while come back. But she was able to teach me, and I do all the exercises and all the stretches and everything she taught me how to do, and work with my shoulder.
Neely Quinn: What would you say are maybe the three most important things that you learned and that continue to do, as far as exercises and stretches?
Margarita Martinez: I think mobility. I think mobility- to be able to keep doing your band exercises. She had me use a long webbing, just hanging and trying to stretch that shoulder mobility. Or wrap something where I can move my shoulders backwards. We started very simply- we started with a broom, trying to get my shoulder to go back. My shoulder was so bad that I couldn’t even put my hand behind my back to put it in a chalk bag. So we started with mobility, and then from mobility we went to strengthening. Then we went to each one with more strengthening- more resistance.
Neely Quinn: The biggest thing that she was telling me about was that I’d been hanging wrong all this time. Well actually, I’ve been doing a lot of things wrong. Did she explain to you the hanging, and do you still use that when you are on the Maxi Pull, and on the hang board?
Margarita Martinez: I’m on the Maxi Pull along, so yes I do. You have to make sure that you are concentrating on your shoulder placement and that you are engaged, and that you practice being engaged. Especially when you are on something like the Maxi Pull for such a long time, because 45 seconds can be really long when you’re hanging. But yes, I still do it. And I think people confuse proper hanging with elbows. They think that their elbows have to be bent a little bit, and that’s a hard concept to have your elbows completely straight but still engage your shoulders. That’s hard.
Neely Quinn: Yeah it is. It’s all about the placement of your biceps it seems like, but I’m not going to try and explain it myself. I’ll put a link on the show notes to the article and the videos that she made about how to hang. Anyway, moving on from there. Now, do you feel your shoulder ever?
Margarita Martinez: My shoulder is really really good. I always tell people, you know you’re having shoulder problems when you cannot sleep. For some odd reason, some shoulders decide to act up a lot at night. Particularly, because climbers we tend to be hunched over, and if we sleep on our back, the shoulder relaxes backwards and that can cause a lot of pain. If you do have pain, if you can sleep with a small pillow under your armpit, it seems to relieve a lot of tension under your shoulder at night. Sometimes, I catch myself waking up in the middle of the night and grabbing my little pillow and putting it right there. It’s almost like when you’re doing a lot of the exercises and they tell you to put something under your armpit, that feels good. If you have a shoulder injury and are having a hard time sleeping, just get that little pillow, put it there, and then at least you can get a good night’s sleep, because to need to sleep to heal. It’ll give you a little space.
Now, I catch myself on the other shoulder, wanting to have the same injury in my right shoulder- it came more from a small injury on my forearm, because everything is attached all the way to the shoulder. I realized what I was doing wrong, and now I’m fixing it. I’m able to massage myself, and give all the therapy. I bought the elbow thing that she sells, and it actually helps my shoulder.
Neely Quinn: Oh, interesting.
Margarita Martinez: I had the brachialis in my rotator, on my radius- radial brachialis I think it’s called? I’m not an expert [laughs]. And that was really bad. I couldn’t do anything. I could hang but I couldn’t pull up because that hurt quite a bit. I realized that it was actually coming from my shoulder, that I was doing something improperly. The minute that I corrected my shoulder it got better.
Neely Quinn: So now you’re able to climb and train?
Margarita Martinez: I’m able to climb and train, and I am. I’m not crazy when it comes to training. I approach climbing in a very different way from other people. As a matter of fact, when I’m on a route, when I want to do a route… I judge what the crux takes. There have been many cruxes, including this one [on Omaha], where the first five times I was on the route and I couldn’t even go through the crux. I even stick clip above it, to see if I can do it, and I still couldn’t even do it. So I knew that I needed the power to do that crux, and I needed to rest efficiently as possible.
When I go a climb, I use the bottom part to be very efficient. I call it “taking inventory” [laughs]. The reason why I say this is because I’m all the time taking inventory of which arm is more pumped than the other, so I keep an even pump throughout the whole thing. I think a lot when I’m climbing, I’m not just doing everything. I’m thinking about the steps, but I’m also in a constant inventory, especially when I’m onsighting, because I don’t know what’s next. Many times I’ll hang on a hold because the inventory isn’t the same on a very small hold as on a large hold. Sometimes I find myself grabbing a large hold as a small hold, so I can replenish my large hold. It’s hard to… I don’t know if you’re comprehending what I’m saying?
Neely Quinn: I think I am- that takes a lot of thinking, a lot of forethought and analysis, especially when you’re onsighting something.
Margarita Martinez: You’re constantly making decisions when you’re onsighting- you’re normally making decisions of “I hope I read this sequence right”. I also don’t just look at the chalked holds when I’m onsighting, I look at all the holds. I might have a good chalked hold, but I’ll see something that is smaller next to it, and my inventory has told me that maybe my hands would be better on that smaller hold. It’s a constant inventory. I don’t know if other people go through this, but so I take inventory just as much as I take inventory when I am trying to redpoint, of how much power that move takes.
For example, on Whole Shot, it’s the last three bolts. I need to make sure that I do two things: that I am so efficient on the bottom that I can recover totally to do it, and that that does not take more than seventy percent of my power, because I won’t have it. When it comes to that, I am kind of like Danny [Robertson]. I’ll repeat that section a few times, just to make sure that I can. Many times it takes developing the power to do that route. And in this way, you go back and try do to the route and you can’t, because when you sent the route, you had developed the power for the route and those particular holds. So I develop power to do the holds, and while developing the power to do the holds, I also have to work on the efficiency getting there.
Neely Quinn: So… okay.
I think what you were going to say- you’ll figure out cruxes and what you need to do for them, and then will you train specifically for those cruxes?
Margarita Martinez: No, I do it there. I’m mostly climbing outside- it’s very rare, like right now it’s winter, so I get to do a lot more indoors. But in a lot of my training, it occurs after I have climbed outside all day.
Neely Quinn: Like the Maxi Pulls…
Margarita Martinez: Like Maxi Pulls, boarding, weightlifting and things like that.
Neely Quinn: So for the sake of time, because I have few other things I want to get to and we don’t have that much time, can you tell me on a weekly basis kind of what you’re doing with your time?
Margarita Martinez: It all depends, obviously, on the time of the year. If I go climbing, I’ll go climb on something hard, my project. Right now I was out of climbing for a while, so now I’m just going outside and doing a lot of 12s to get back into it. But anyway, if I was projecting, I’d go work on my project, and then the next day I like to just go out and get on climbs I’ve never done before, or maybe a secondary project, but I do enjoy going and trying to onsight a lot on the 12 level. There’s so much here, because so much has opened and so many areas I haven’t been to, so it’s great to do that. I want to keep that up. Then I’ll come home that night, and work on either power or endurance. I pick one- either working on a hangboard doing hands, or I’m working on weights.
Neely Quinn: What kind of weights do you do?
Margarita Martinez: I do biceps, I do triceps, I do a lot of chest work, I do flys, benching. I have a friend of mine, his name is Adam Taylor. He is a good climber from this area. I said, “Adam, how come you lift so much weight? You’re doing these overhead presses with so much weight”, and he said to me very plainly, “I know how to climb. I just need to have the strength to do it”. And that’s really what it comes down to, particularly as a girl, and you’ve been climbing for so many years. I know how to climb. You were at the comps last weekend, and I’m sure you looked at those problems and you said “Oh, I know exactly how to climb that problem”. It’s whether you can do it or not, right? You had the feeling that you knew what the next move was going to be, so you know how to climb. The thing is to have the strength to do it. Because I lack so much upper body power, I need to do a lot more upper body work than somebody else would need.
Neely Quinn: And you mentioned that you do pull-ups too, do you do weighted pull-ups?
Margarita Martinez: I do weighted pull-ups, 100 of them.
Neely Quinn: 100?
Margarita Martinez: Yes, 100.
Neely Quinn: In what time frame?
Margarita Martinez: Very quickly, it doesn’t take much. I think I can do it in about 20 minutes. I start with unweighted, and unweighted I do 10, 10 and 5, and I follow that with 25 push-ups. Then I put a little bit of weight, and I do the next 10, 10 and 5, and I do 25 push-ups. Then I do 5, 5, 5, 5, like 5 times 5, with a lot more weight, that I am barely making the last one. And I do 25 push-ups. And then I repeat that, and then I do 25 push-ups.
Neely Quinn: I’m so impressed that you can do 25 push-ups because of your shoulder, that’s so inspirational to me.
Margarita Martinez: I used to do them improperly, and Esther taught me how to do them properly. When I do them properly, I have to do them on my knees. But it’s better. So I’ll do most of them on my knees, and then I’ll do 5 of them off of my knees.
Neely Quinn: So this is all after a climbing day? Like after an onsighting day.
Margarita Martinez: Yeah. And then I take a full rest day, and on that rest I might just bike, or do some aerobic exercise. Or lots of work, and then I just sit and work. Then start all over again, and that’s what I do.
Neely Quinn: So you rest one day, and then you’ll go climb on your project again.
Margarita Martinez: Mhm, and this summer there were maybe two days where I took two rest days in a row. A lot of people will say that it’s way too much climbing, but I find that with age I lose a lot very quickly. A lot of muscle, very quickly.
Neely Quinn: Interesting.
Margarita Martinez: And I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I can’t even hold my toothbrush. Maybe that’s why I need to be more than the next person.
Neely Quinn: That’s really interesting. More is better for you, because you’re doing two days or rest a week. The one thing that I want to get to right now, before we end, because so many people are going to be pissed if I don’t, is what do you think you do differently now that you’re almost 59, than you did when you were 34, to train and climb?
I think I listen to my body. As a matter of fact, if I’m in the middle of training at the end of that day, and I feel something is not going right, I stop. I say maybe it’s not the day today, I listen to my body. Or if I feel that a particular climb- when I hurt my radius brachialis, I was on Molten, and that has a really bad pinch, and I think that’s when it was happening. I decided to come back to it in the spring, and that I didn’t need to do it now. So listening to your body, to make sure that you don’t get it to the point where it can be hurt, because the progress at this age is a snail’s pace. It really is a snail’s pace.
Neely Quinn: You don’t feel like you can make as much progress as you did before?
Margarita Martinez: Oh no, it feels like it goes really really slow. It takes a lot more determination, a lot more of everything, from diet to sleep to everything.
Neely Quinn: You feel like you need more sleep?
Margarita Martinez: I feel like I need more sleep and I don’t get enough sleep because at my age you get up four times to go to the bathroom. It’s hard.
Neely Quinn: Lastly, about your diet. What is it that you’re doing with your diet now?
Margarita Martinez: Well, thanks to you [laughs], I couldn’t even think about my diet before. And then all of a sudden I was listening to your podcast. I do have rheumatoid arthritis, so I’ll start by saying that I am gluten free, and this past summer I even became milk free, so no milk products, no gluten for me. I don’t take any medications except for Aleve for my RA, so I am very, very good about my diet. I know a lot of people are gluten free but then they will go and have a beer. No. I do not have gluten. So that’s very good. But I was listening to your podcast, and I said “Oh my god, I don’t know what I eat, I need to find out what I’m actually eating because I do not know!”. So then I got into trying to find out all the micronutrients that I was actually eating and all that, and the average is probably between 15 or 1600 calories a day.
Neely Quinn: Wow, that’s not very much.
Margarita Martinez: It’s not very much, but my body seems to work fine. I didn’t know that- I got a FitBit, and I ended up logging everything, which I have never done before. The reason why I had not done it before is because I was a recovering anorexic, so I didn’t need to go there. I never weighed myself, I weighed myself once a year when I’d go to the doctor, or once a year when I got back from a climbing trip just to make sure I didn’t lose weight. That’s something I didn’t want to do. But then I thought, oh I’m just going to find out the quality of food that I’m eating, and trying to cut out sugar, also to help with my RA more than anything else.
Neely Quinn: And you feel like cutting out gluten and dairy helped your RA too?
Margarita Martinez: Oh that helped so much. Cutting out gluten helped my RA, cutting out milk… I didn’t realize people get stomach cramps. I lived my whole life with stomach cramps and I didn’t realize that you don’t have to live with stomach cramps [laughs].
Neely Quinn: You’re not the first person to say that.
Margarita Martinez: It was eye opening when that happens.
Neely Quinn: Cool, so you’re still learning about what works for you.
Margarita Martinez: Yeah! Even with training, because you’re changing all the time. You’re getting a little stronger, you’re getting weaker in this area, and stronger in this area, so your training has to change. That constant assessment of what you need is what needs to happen. Some people can afford to pay a trainer to tell them what they need, but if you’ve been climbing for a while, you know what you need.
I did this little thing that you might want to check out on Facebook- it’s on my notes. It’s called “Fifteen Things that Every Climber Should Know About Climbing”, and it really is eye opening I think, but it also shows people that you cannot keep saying “Oh I’m bad on slopers” for 20 years. If you’re bad on slopers, do something about it, you know? That’s what it comes down to. It’s actually facing your bad things, your weaknesses, and feeling like they are castor oil and you have to drink them.
Neely Quinn: Do you mean cod liver oil?
Margarita Martinez: Like cod liver oil, or something, like a pill. They’re a pill and you need to take it.
Neely Quinn: Yeah and it seems like you do that.
Margarita Martinez: Yes, and you have to. Especially the older you get, because it changes that much more.
Neely Quinn: So when you are 75, or 80, what do you hope you’ll be climbing?
Margarita Martinez: I don’t know. I have a good friend, Ed [unclear] who actually got here today, who at 70, is climbing 13s. So I’m hoping! [laughs]
Neely Quinn: So you don’t ever intend to give it up?
Margarita Martinez: No, no. And I’m not this kind of climber- I think the reason why most people quit climbing it’s because they say “Oh I climb at this level and I that’s the only level that I’m happy climbing”. I enjoy climbing 9s, and 10s. And I think I can do that for a long time.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I hear you.
Margarita Martinez: So if you’re the kind of person that has to find merit in themselves by your level of climbing, you’re probably not going to climb the rest of your life. But if you’re the person that enjoys the day, enjoys friends, enjoys climbing at whatever level, you’ll climb for the rest of your life.
Neely Quinn: Wise words, thank you very much.
Margarita Martinez: It’s been great! I love it. I love climbing.
Neely Quinn: It shows! You always have a smile on your face, and you’re doing it, and persevering through all these injuries. It’s really inspirational.
Margarita Martinez: And injuries will happen. Don’t ever think that you’re not going to get injured. You will get injured- but it’s how you deal with them.
Neely Quinn: Well thank you very much for talking with me today Margarita.
Margarita Martinez: Mhm, you’re welcome. It was great. And keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s helping a lot of people, and I hope I can help a few.
Neely Quinn: Oh I’m sure you well. Alright, thanks.
Margarita Martinez: Bye!
Neely Quinn: Alright I hope you enjoyed that interview with Margarita Martinez. She mentioned a couple of links in the interview that I wanted to point you to. One was an article that she wrote called “Fifteen Things Every Climber Should Know”, and another one is about the Maxi Pull, and it sort of explains how to make one yourself if you want that. Those are both on her Facebook page, but I’m going to link you directly to them. If you go to TrainingBeta, the show notes on Margarita’s episode, you’ll find them in there.
Also, if you need more help with your own training, and you want to follow a specific finger training program, Kris Peters created our programs that I mentioned in the beginning of this episode. They are finger training specific, and you will do two workouts every week, just hangboarding. If you’re in the advanced program, you’d do three workouts a week. We have a beginner, an intermediate, and an advanced program that are totally separate from each other. They all include super, duper hard core workouts as well, in case you are a masochist and you like doing that to yourself. So check those out at trainingbeta.com/fingers.
Lastly, I just wanted to mention that I went over to my podcast publishing website Libsen, and I found that we just surpassed a million downloads of the podcast, and I can’t even believe that. That’s a lot of downloads, and I never thought that would happen when I first started this podcast. For such a small community, I’m blown away, and I’m super grateful for you guys listening. Thank you for listening all the way to the end, and I will talk to you next week.