Date: January 7th, 2015
Direct Download: LINK
It’s been FOREVER since I published a podcast episode and I’m really sorry for the inconsistency! My surgery and ensuing weirdness has had me away from working very much at all, but I’m hoping to start putting podcasts up again on a regular basis.
This episode is with my friend, Heather Weidner (nee Robinson), who is a badass sport and trad climber, having redpointed Stockboy’s Revenge (5.14b) in Rifle this summer and Must’a Been High (5.13c R) in Eldorado Canyon in Colorado soon after.
She and her husband, Chris Weidner, are full time climbers living the dream, although Heather was a veterinarian for about 5 years before that. When I think of Heather, I think of a very sweet woman with a bullish determination to climb her projects. I also think of kneebarring, since she’s a pro at it.
Here’s what we talked about:
- Her lack of fear and how that helps her climbing
- Whether kneebarring is “cheating”
- How her vegetarian diet affects her climbing
- Her longest (time) project and how she kept trying even when she felt defeated
- How she makes it as a full time climber
- Heather Weidner site at www.heatherclimbs.com
- Heather Weidner article for TrainingBeta, “Headstrong”
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Intro and outro song: Yesterday by Build Buildings
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast, where I talk to climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn. I’m talking to you today from Florida, sunny Florida, in the middle of January, which I’m very excited about. We’re about to get going back to Boulder and then we’ll be going to Vegas for the spring so hopefully I’ll see some of you guys out there.
I want to apologize because I know that there’s been a huge lapse of time between last podcast and this podcast. I think, as you know, if you’ve been listening to the podcast, I had surgery in November and since then I’ve basically been putting all of my energy toward recovering from that. My shoulder is doing pretty well. I started climbing again, very, very easy, and I wrote about it on the site if you’re interested in what surgery I had done and how my recovery is going and a bunch of other advice that I had for anybody in this same situation.
Since then, I’ve been having some weird medical stuff happen so all I’ve been doing is going to lots of doctors and figuring out nothing, by the way, and trying to heal my shoulder. I’m getting back to normal at this point, luckily, so hopefully I’ll have a podcast out every couple of weeks again. Hopefully. We’ll see.
Today I’m talking with Heather Weidner. She used to be named Heather Robinson before she married my friend Chris Weidner. She’s a super strong, super motivated, determined sport climber and trad climber. You’ll hear all about some of her accomplishments but just to let you know, she did Stockboy’s Revenge, .14b, this year in Rifle and she also did – or last year, I guess now, 2014 – and then she did Musta Been High which is a super scary 5.13c R in Eldo, so she’s got a really good head on her and that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to talk to her. She’s also a full time climber so you’ll get to know how she supports that and what her life is like.
Before we get into the interview I just want to let you know, as always, that these podcasts are made possible by your support, by everybody who purchases our training programs on the site, which we are so grateful for. Thank you. We’re getting good reviews so check those out on www.trainingbeta.com under the ‘Training Programs’ tab. We have our bouldering strength and power program, which is a subscription program, we have our power endurance program, our endurance program, our nutrition guide, and our strength guide. Definitely check those out.
Without further adieu, we’ll get on with it. I hope you enjoy this interview with Heather.
Neely Quinn: Okay, hey Heather.
Heather Weidner: Hi, Neely. How are you?
Neely Quinn: I’m great. Thanks so much for being with me on the show today.
Heather Weidner: Of course. Thanks for having me.
Neely Quinn: So tell me, where are you talking to me from today?
Heather Weidner: Right now I’m in Boulder, Colorado. This is home and Chris and I are hanging out with our pseudo-family, our pseudo- mom and -dad, a family that Chris lived with for 10 years and we lived with together for about six months. They’re really special to us.
Neely Quinn: That’s cool. I didn’t know that you guys lived with them for six months.
Heather Weidner: Yeah.
Neely Quinn: Cool. So you’re spending some holiday time with them?
Heather Weidner: Yep, a little holiday time. We have some gift giving and yeah – it’s just good to see them. Headed to Vegas tomorrow to be with my real family.
Neely Quinn: Nice. Cool, so yeah. That’s kind of what I was getting to, is you are very – my dad would say ‘peripatetic.’ You travel a lot. So you’re spending some time this winter in Vegas because you guys have a house there?
Heather Weidner: We do. It’s definitely/Vegas will always be home. I was born and raised in Las Vegas so it’s always nice to go back.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. How much time do you like to spend there every year and why? I mean, you’ve obviously climbed a lot there.
Heather Weidner: I would say the main reason why I like to be there is to see my brother and my niece. They’re super special to me. They are the closest family that I have, real family, and my niece just – she’s six and a half and she’s started climbing. We’ve gone together and she loves it and it’s just really fun to be around her. She’s at a great age.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Will you do any climbing while you’re out there, too?
Heather Weidner: Yes, of course. We love climbing around Vegas. I feel like Vegas has some of the best year-round sport climbing in the US, so yeah. We’ll climb at Red Rock a bit and maybe Mount Potosi, maybe the VRG. We’re kind of leaving it open so it will be fun.
Neely Quinn: Nice. Thanks to you guys, Seth and I discovered the glory that Las Vegas is last year.
Heather Weidner: Yay! I’m glad you love it. Some people hate it so I’m glad that you love it.
Neely Quinn: I don’t know. I don’t think we could ever hate it. Before we went there Seth was like, ‘I will never live there. There’s no water there. People aren’t supposed to live there.’ We get there and he’s like, ‘Yes.’
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I think if you are a passionate climber, particularly a sport climber or a boulderer, you can’t not like it. It’s a cool place to be.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so let’s back up here a little bit. For anybody who doesn’t know you, can you tell us a little bit about your history as a climber and where you’re at now?
Heather Weidner: Sure. I started climbing 12 years ago. I first discovered rock climbing in Colorado, in Fort Collins, when I was an undergrad. My boyfriend at the time introduced me to rock climbing and he took me outside to Vedauwoo, Wyoming, fat crack country, and I did my first climb outside and I didn’t hate it, even though it’s Vedauwoo, and I’ve been climbing ever since.
I went to veterinary school. I practiced veterinary medicine in Las Vegas for five years after graduating and once I was working there I had three days off a week and I really kind of had the opportunity to push my climbing further. Being in Las Vegas there was a lot of climbing to do so I felt really lucky.
Now, we’re in Boulder and I’m climbing full time. I quit my job shortly after I met Chris, really, and living the dream for sure.
Neely Quinn: For sure, and I would love to talk about that a little bit more. Can you tell people who Chris is?
Heather Weidner: Chris is my husband. We’ve been married just over two years now and we met – oh god – three and a half years ago? Yeah, he’s awesome. He’s the best climbing partner, the best day-to-day life partner I could ever imagine. I feel really lucky.
Neely Quinn: And he’s quite a strong climber as well, so…
Heather Weidner: Yes, yes, he’s a very strong climber. He’s also very well-rounded, which I really admire. We have a lot of fun together.
Neely Quinn: I thought it was super cool this summer when I saw you in Rifle and you guys had the same project.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, it’s a blast. It’s really fun, actually, having the same project as Chris because we can really geek out over the beta and just be our silly climbing selves. We often do things really differently and we can help each other and support each other and it’s really cool.
Neely Quinn: Yeah – go ahead.
Heather Weidner: It was even cooler when I sent the project before him. Haha! [laughs]
Neely Quinn: I know. Didn’t he leave and he came back to you having sent?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, he left for a bit and I [unclear] and put my head down and got it done, so I was psyched.
Neely Quinn: What was that? Was that your hardest route?
Heather Weidner: It was. I was really fortunate. This year has been kind of a year of firsts for me. It was my first .14b and it’s called Stockboy’s Revenge in Rifle, Colorado.
Neely Quinn: What were the other firsts that you had this year?
Heather Weidner: The other firsts were I did my first 5.13 traditional rock climb and that was in Eldorado Canyon. I was able to do a first female ascent of Musta Been High. It’s a .13c R/X. It’s kind of notoriously dangerous because of the gear. The pro is not very good, there’s not a lot of it, and it’s very small. It was a really good thing for me, just a different challenge. A challenge in a different way, more in your head than physical, which was cool. Eldorado Canyon is beautiful. I’ve always loved it there.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s gorgeous. Let’s talk about that route a little bit because that’s something that came out of the blue for me with you. I didn’t know that you had interest in that kind of thing. I knew you were super strong, I knew you had a really good head, but I remember – I’m good friends with Jen Goins and her now-husband, Eric Decario. I remember when he was doing that route and she was like, ‘This route is insane. It’s extremely dangerous. I don’t like belaying him on it.’ So when I heard you did that I screamed. I was like, ‘Oh my god. Holy shit.’
Heather Weidner: You’re so sweet. Thanks.
Neely Quinn: So tell me about the head game with that. What was your process with it?
Heather Weidner: It was really cool. I started out climbing traditional climbing and so it’s always held a special place in my heart and I like how it’s more complicated and just more involved than sport climbing, in a way. This route, Chris had done a number of years back and he was like, ‘Oh Heather. I have the perfect Eldo trad climb for you,’ because I just wanted to do something a little different. I was feeling a tiny bit stagnant.
He recommended the route and he helped me a lot. I would set up a top rope and practice the moves and practice the gear. You know, it came together fairly fast for me. I think because the actual climbing is very similar to Rifle in a way. There are knee bars, it’s really slopey and compression-y, and so really it was just a matter of keeping everything together and learning the gear placements.
Neely Quinn: So you practiced and practiced but tell me about the head space that you were in.
Heather Weidner: It was pretty funny, actually. I guess I’ve never/I’ve had this little bit of an issue before but I’ve never had extreme fear rock climbing. Of course, if you know you’re going to take a ground fall or something you’re scared, but I remember even when I first started climbing with my boyfriend at the time, he wouldn’t let me lead climb for a while because he noticed how bold I was and I wasn’t scared. He just didn’t want me to get hurt so he wouldn’t let me lead climb, even though I wanted to.
For me, it was less about fear for this route. It was more just getting my placements dialed and the movement dialed. It was funny. It was near my birthday and Chris gave me a brand new blue lowball. It’s this tiny little piece of equipment that you’re not supposed to fall on. It’s supposed to be used in aid climbing and that was one of the placements. The first time I tried to lead the route, I fell on the lowball and it held. It was kind of cool because that was my birthday present and it held. I don’t know. It was kind of symbolic, right?
But yeah, then I was able to do it second go on lead. Yeah, second attempt leading.
Neely Quinn: So for you, it’s not even like, ‘I’m risking my life doing this.’ It’s just like, ‘Can I do this?’ and then the risk part isn’t really there? Or…?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I try not to be careless or stupid about it, but when I am focused and I’m in the zone, that doesn’t come into my head. All that’s in my head is like, ‘Okay, I need to execute.’ Yeah, so I felt really lucky it came together so well and that the lowball held. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Well it’s a good thing you’re so tiny, too. I mean maybe it wouldn’t have.
Heather Weidner: And Chris gave me such a good belay. You have to be really on the ball and time it right with the jump and everything to reduce the impact, so yeah.
Neely Quinn: I mean, I think that – and myself included here – a lot of people are held back by their fear, whether it’s rational or not, so for you it’s kind of a gift. Obviously you’ve had to tame it probably, a little bit, since you said you were so bold, but do you think that there’s any way that people with a lot of fear can learn to be more fearless like you?
Heather Weidner: Thank you. Oh, definitely. I’ve read Arno Ilgner’s books, The Rock Warrior’s Way and Espresso Lessons and he talks a lot about rational versus irrational fear. I think everything he has to say is pretty much spot on. I mean, I think fear in one regard keeps you alive, the rational fear. But irrational fear, like fear of falling when it’s going to be a safe fall, you know that there’s not a ledge below you and it’s not a ground fall and whatnot, sure there are a lot of factors but I think that if you work on it – and his books helped me a lot – and just if you’re scared of falling, take a bunch of falls. Start small and go bigger. Whatever the fear is, I really think you can combat it and kind of work on it.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, you’re pretty lucky.
Heather Weidner: Thank you. Well gosh, knock on wood, I’m still here and relatively healthy.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. So, I like to ask people what their biggest accomplishments in climbing are and what their biggest failures are so can you talk a little bit about those? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a certain route.
Heather Weidner: Yeah. Gosh – I know my/I guess it wouldn’t ultimately be a failure but I’ll just tell you about it. I had a climb that almost broke me, in a sense. It was at Mount Charleston and it was a .13b called Run for the Border. I really thought that this would end my rock climbing career, so to speak, because it took me five months to send this route. I don’t know if it was mostly a physical block or a mental block but I eventually did it, but that, to me, was like, ‘Oh my god. I’m pulling my hair out.’ I think the only thing that got me through that was just perseverance. I don’t know if you would call it a fail but I certainly have never had an experience like that again, where you’re just trying your hardest and getting nowhere.
Neely Quinn: So let’s stay on this. Maybe it was like a near fail? So it wasn’t a fail.
Heather Weidner: It wasn’t a fail so I guess it wasn’t the greatest example, but in my head, I was like, ‘Oh my god. I don’t think I can ever get through this. I don’t know that I’m ever going to do this. What am I doing?’ [laughs]
Neely Quinn: So you did it for five months straight? That was pretty much all that you were working on?
Heather Weidner: Yeah. It was all that I was working on. I was getting out to climb twice a week on my weekends. I was working as a vet so twice a week for five months, consistently.
Neely Quinn: You put in a lot of attempts per day, as far as I know.
Heather Weidner: [laughs] Yeah, I think that route I did three or four attempts a day. Sometimes I think that may still be the hardest rock climb that I’ve ever done.
Neely Quinn: Really?
Heather Weidner: [laughs] Yeah.
Neely Quinn: Like if you went back to it today, would you not be able to do it?
Heather Weidner: It was heinous, yeah.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so let’s talk about that. Why did you keep going and how did you hold yourself together?
Heather Weidner: I think this is kind of probably the reason why I have had successes in rock climbing, because of the mental part. I’m very stubborn and if I commit to something, I’m fully committed and I don’t give up. I think it’s hard, it’s really hard, to stay strong mentally. I think that’s the only way that you’re going to push your own physical limits, is to be super strong mentally. For me, that was the way that I got through that climb. You know, putting my nose to the grindstone and just kind of treating it like work, you know? Like, ‘I’m going to put in my attempts, I’m going to try my best, and keep coming back until it’s done.’
I think that if more people were able to deal with failure on a day-to-day basis, which is really, really hard, I think that more people could achieve their physical limits in rock climbing. It’s a super mental sport.
Neely Quinn: Yes, it is. I mean, having worked on things for months myself, sometimes when you’re sitting there tying in…
Heather Weidner: Oh, it’s like you’re dreading it. You’re like, ‘Oh my god.’
Neely Quinn: Yeah, and there’s a lot of negative self talk. You’re like, ‘I’m never going to do it. This is a waste of time. I need to lose some weight. I need to go train.’ Do you have ways that you can turn that around?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I think it’s always a constant battle but I think the best way is just to be like, ‘Hey. I tried my best. That’s all I can do,’ and try to stay positive. You know, it’s normal, I think, to be a little disappointed if you have negative progress for instance or whatnot, but at the end of the day just be like, ‘It’s rock climbing. Let it go. It’s okay.’
Neely Quinn: That’s the other question. What is your – why do you, personally, spend five months straight on one route. What do you get out of it?
Heather Weidner: I think, as a rock climber, we’re all a little crazy, but I think I am able to become really hyper-focused. Like, if I really want something then I just hone in on it and I just try and try and try until I do it. I think that that has been why I’ve been successful in other parts of my life, for instance, getting into veterinary school and getting through veterinary school. It was because I was like, ‘Oh god, I have to figure this out.’ From undergraduate education in organic chemistry, being like, ‘I have this problem. I need to figure it out,’ to the application or whatnot. I think it’s just being able to fully commit and focus and get the job done.
Neely Quinn: So for you, it’s more about the process, like your ability to stick with something.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, for me, if I want something bad enough I’m going to stick with it, you know, no matter what.
Neely Quinn: And the day that you sent the .13b was it like, ‘Oh yeah, it was totally worth these last five months?’
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I think it was. I think it was a really good learning process for me. I think it’s helped me a lot to really not thing about grades that much either or not put a lot of weight into grades because they can be all over the board, you know? Different climbs of different levels can be challenging in different ways for people. You know what I’m saying?
Neely Quinn: Yeah.
Heather Weidner: So yeah, I think it was a really good learning experience to be like, ‘You know what? I’m going to commit fully to this. I finally got it done, and now I can move on with my life.’ Yeah, you have to go through those things.
Neely Quinn: And then – I’m going to ask you another question about not necessarily that route but that route included, and that is about your projecting process. I talk to Dan Mirsky about this a lot and I know you’ve seen him project things, and it’s like we all have our own process. For him, he’s always doing low points, right? What’s your process?
Heather Weidner: That’s a good question. The first time I get on a route, if I can do most of the moves, I’m happy. I don’t really stress about it too much if I kind of don’t do well at all on the first go. It depends on how hard the route is also, but if I’m really pushing myself, if the first half dozen times I don’t do all the moves, I don’t stress.
Once I can do all the moves I’m psyched because I know I can do it. [laughs] That’s kind of the process for me. Then, it’s just day-to-day trying to stay positive and putting things together slowly. One thing I’ve learned through projecting that’s really helped me is to strictly focus on the progress, no matter how small it is. Like, if you have a day where you figured out a little bit better beta, that’s progress. It’s a good day. If you linked one more move than you had before, awesome, because otherwise it’s overwhelming. If you try to think, like, ‘I can’t make any linkage and I think I’m going to do this one day?’it’s impossible.
I think just baby steps and focusing on progress, no matter how small it is, is the way that I approach projecting.
Neely Quinn: That’s interesting to hear that the first, about, half dozen times, if you don’t do it – I think that’s where a lot of people give up, the first time if they can’t do all the moves or the second or third. You’re saying six times.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, definitely. Rock climbing is often like a puzzle. Putting all the pieces together of a puzzle and there are so many little secrets, you’re not going to figure it all out in a day. It might take half a dozen or a dozen times to figure out the moves, for sure.
Neely Quinn: How do you know when you can’t do a route?
Heather Weidner: I guess, I hate to say that I can’t, but I would never say never. Often, if I avoid a route it might be because there’s one move that’s, for instance, really tweaky like I’m going to hurt myself on it. That would be my biggest deterrent for a route but other than that, I just try to stay open because it’s amazing what you can do if you really set your mind to something and dedicate a lot of time to a project. You can achieve things you never thought you could.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. So, this year you did .14b and .13c R/X. What are you stuck on next? Are you going to get on a .14d? What are you going to do next?
Heather Weidner: Actually, my goal for next year, I really would like to sink my teeth into this .14a crack climb in Boulder Canyon. We’ll see how it goes. I’d like to try that and we’re going to the Green River in Utah and I’d like to do some more first ascents in the desert, and then I don’t know. For Rifle, maybe try another .14b. Yeah.
Neely Quinn: Cool. So, we talked about your biggest failure, which wasn’t a super big failure, but what’s your biggest success, do you think?
Heather Weidner: That’s a hard one. Gosh, you know, I guess it would just be Stockboy’s Revenge. I think any time you break a grade barrier it’s a huge accomplishment, so I guess I’d have to go with Stockboy’s.
Neely Quinn: Okay. Since this is a lot about training and we haven’t talked very much about training at all, although I did really want to get your insight on mental stuff because I think that’s one of your biggest assets.
Heather Weidner: Thank you.
Neely Quinn: What do you do to train?
Heather Weidner: Actually, right now I’ve been training. Really, only last year and this year have I ever really fully trained. I basically have been putting aside 4-6 weeks of just mainly climbing in the gym. I’ll do a light aerobic workout to start and then do some moderate bouldering, nothing super hard but just to kind of warm up more, then jump on the hangboard and sometimes I’ll do hangboard and weights in the same day. I’ve been campusing, so yeah, if I’m doing handboarding and campusing in the same day, I will stick to jugs on campusing, just to prevent injury, and work on big muscles. I’ve kind of made up my own little training program, per se, through a conglomeration of a few different sources and just always picking other people’s’ brains.
Mike Doyle’s training program I’ve followed quite a bit, and then just extrapolating from other climbers and trainers along the way. I think it actually is helping.
Neely Quinn: I’d love to hear the details about that but that’s what I was going to ask first, is you said that you’ve done this over the last couple years. Have you seen it help?
Heather Weidner: Last spring, Chris and I were really diligent and we trained for a month and a half straight. Then I had, I would consider, my best and most accomplished year rock climbing. It really, really helps I think.
Neely Quinn: So did you train this spring before you guys got to Rifle?
Heather Weidner: We did, yeah.
Neely Quinn: I would say that that worked. [laughs] Getting into more of the details, when you hangboard are you doing/do you know if you’re kind of doing what the Anderson brothers would do, or I don’t know what Doyle’s program looks like…
Heather Weidner: So, I’ve done a little bit of the Anderson fingerboard workout but right now I’m kind of following more of Mike Doyle’s workout where you start out the first two weeks and you’re hanging with a max between 12-15 seconds on a hold. You do all different grips, you know, the four-finger and inners, outers, three-fingers, slopers, and pinches. Then after two weeks you go to a max of 8-10 seconds so usually your holds will get smaller or you can add weight.
I feel like that has worked well for me. I’m definitely open to other things. I’ve done the Anderson a little bit and I think that that makes sense as well, hanging for a few seconds, resting for a few seconds, it definitely seems a little more similar to real rock climbing but for now, I haven’t been using pulley systems or anything. I’ve just been doing the hangs.
Neely Quinn: And sometimes you will campus on the same days?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, you know I told someone else that and they were like, ‘Oh god,’ but I think that as long as you’re listening to your body and you’re conscience of what you’re doing – honestly, when I’m campusing on the same day as fingerboarding, it’s on jugs. I’m just working lock-off strength and bigger muscles.
Neely Quinn: Moving on. This is kind of a personal question but I think that a lot of women are a little bit, well, men too, are a little bit intimidated by the campus board.
Heather Weidner: Oh yeah.
Neely Quinn: I’m wondering, where did you start off with it and what can you do on it now? Like what are you basics?
Heather Weidner: I’m a terrible campuser. I’m the worst campuser you’ll ever see but I really just throw myself at it. I’m not impressive at all. I see these people just levitating on the campus board and I’m like, ‘Holy cow. I just don’t understand.’ I fully epic, but you know, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Right now I do things like go-against, to work on lock-off, and I’ll just do ladders and I’ll do – I don’t know what it’s called but you’ll go at your max, bump down, go at your max again, bump down two rungs – those kinds of things, just really working on lock-off strength because that’s one of my biggest weaknesses, is bending my arms. I need to learn how to bend my arms.
Neely Quinn: How is that possible? What do you mean?
Heather Weidner: Ever since I started climbing it’s been sort of a running joke. Actually, it was from Mike Doyle. He was like, ‘God, you know, you’d be a really good rock climber if you could just bend your arms.’ [laughs] So yeah, I’m working on it.
Neely Quinn: Who needs to bend their arms when they’re knee barring all the time?
Heather Weidner: I know. When your legs become your arms.
Neely Quinn: When you started off campusing, did you ever have to use feet?
Heather Weidner: Oh yeah, definitely. The first couple of days that I started I would definitely keep the feet on and I think that’s a really good option for people who are starting or if you’re just starting your training, just to prevent injury. So much less impact but you’re still getting a lot of the benefit.
Neely Quinn: But now you don’t have to use them?
Heather Weidner: No, but again, I’m such a flailer on the campus board, it’s ridiculous.
Neely Quinn: Do you ever deal with injury?
Heather Weidner: Yes. Fairly recently, actually, I took a weird fall and I stretched out my right shoulder and [unclear] really hard to stabilize all the surrounding musculature. It’s been very helpful to be lifting weights right now and doing a lot of therabands and it’s feeling dramatically better.
Neely Quinn: That’s good. Where did you get the information for how to work your shoulder back into stability?
Heather Weidner: Gosh, online and just through my good friend, Elizabeth, actually, who’s a doctor. She recently had shoulder surgery, unfortunately. I’m really diligent about doing the therabands at least three or four times a week.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s good. I’m trying to scream it from the hilltops that everybody/all of us need to be doing that.
Heather Weidner: It’s so important, for sure. It’s just not worth going through – as you know – what you’re going through. It’s so easy to kind of get lax about that kind of stuff when there are so many other things that you’re focusing on in your training.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, totally. Okay, and then you said that you’ve been lifting weights. What are you doing in the weight room?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I have been doing bicep curls and bicep [unclear] curls, lat pulldowns, bench press, and – is that it? I think that’s it. Yeah, so not a ton, but a little bit.
Neely Quinn: Just the big muscles.
Heather Weidner: Yeah. I try to get a little bit of strength.
Neely Quinn: Are you doing heavy weights or are you doing lighter weights?
Heather Weidner: I’m doing a little bit heavier to where my max reps are eight.
Neely Quinn: Alright.
Heather Weidner: Just because I feel I need a little more strength. I need to bulk up a little bit. I’m a stringbean.
Neely Quinn: I don’t know that you need to bulk up, but building muscle will help any of us. Are you doing anything else – oh, you said that you start your sessions out with aerobic stuff. Does that mean running or does that mean really easy, long climbing?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, good question. At the gym that we climb at, there are these elliptical machines and it’s just super easy to get on one of those so I do 15 minutes, to where you’re kind of sweating a little it but you’re not super taxed. I think it’s cool because it simulates hiking up to the cliff, too. I think it’s just a good thing to do.
Neely Quinn: I was just talking about this the other day. We were having sort of an argument about running, again, because you can talk about it forever.
Heather Weidner: It goes in and out of vogue, right?
Neely Quinn: Yeah, right? We were talking about how Kris Peters thinks if you don’t have a base level of fitness, then you should be running or whatever. I think that that’s true but then I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t really have that great of a base level of fitness. If I went to Ceuse or something and I had to walk up that hill, you know, for an hour everyday, I’d get to the cliff and I would pass out.’ I think what you’re saying is pretty legit. You need to have a base level of fitness.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I feel like you don’t have to go crazy but just have a little bit of a base of just general fitness stuff.
Neely Quinn: Have you ever been a runner?
Heather Weidner: I was temporarily in high school. I was in cross country but, unfortunately, I have really flat feet and I had to stop because all of the little metatarsals in my feet ended up so achy, even with inserts and seeing a podiatrist, that I had to stop. I was super bummed because I like running but it’s just not right for my body. I remember the podiatrist saying, “Maybe you should find another sport.” I’m glad I found rock climbing. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: I think a lot of us are like that. Other sports just didn’t work out.
Heather Weidner: I know. We’re kind of like the misfits, right?
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I wanted to talk to you – actually, is there anything else that you’re doing for training? And actually, how many days a week are you doing that?
Heather Weidner: I’m doing it every other day or every – what would that be, every third day? Then, I’m climbing outside a little bit but nothing major. Then, I’ve been doing this core power yoga. I’ve been doing four times a week, just to maintain flexibility and it’s good for my head and it just feels good. I think it’s good composition, doing all of the push-ups and the chaturangas and all of the chest opening, like upper dogs and whatnot. I think it’s a really good counter for climbing.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Would you do that if you were projecting something?
Heather Weidner: You know, probably not, honestly. I do some light stretching and whatnot but I feel like when I’m projecting and really close to doing a project, my rest days are complete rest days. I think that helps a lot.
Neely Quinn: When you’re projecting, how many days a week do you climb?
Heather Weidner: It depends. If it’s a really powerful project I usually try to do day-on-day-off. That works the best for me, so 3-4 times a week.
Neely Quinn: Interesting. Okay, cool, so you’re doing a lot. You’re training pretty hard.
Heather Weidner: I’m trying. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Do you notice, when you go outside, do you feel – and I don’t know what you guys are doing right now outside, but do you feel weaker because you’re training so much?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I definitely feel weaker. I have to constantly/it’s a hard mental thing, right? Because constantly you’re like, ‘Oh my god, the training’s not working.’ It’s easy to say that in your head and to be negative, but you have to realize that the training is intense and you’re not fully rested. I probably shouldn’t be going outside while I’m training but I’m a fanatic and I feel like I have to sometimes.
No, I feel a lot weaker when I’m training, but it’s okay. As long as you’re like, ‘It’s okay. It’s going to be alright. I’m not getting weaker, I just need some rest.’ [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I mean you really do have to remind yourself pretty vigorously.
Heather Weidner: Yep.
Neely Quinn: Because people give up on training programs because…
Heather Weidner: They’re like, ‘Oh, it’s not working,’ but you just have to be patient and stick with it because it’s a system. I think that’s the most important part of any kind of training regiment is consistency.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, and picking the right time. It seems like you guys are in between places and seasons right now, which is…
Heather Weidner: Which is great. It’s ideal.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Okay, I wanted to talk to you about a couple other things and one of them is: you are living the dream. You guys definitely are living the dream.
Heather Weidner: Thank you. I think so.
Neely Quinn: You go to amazing places to climb and you get to climb full time.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I love it. It’s amazing.
Neely Quinn: So you don’t regret quitting your job?
Heather Weidner: No, not at all. That’s a really common question that I get, particularly from non-rock climbers. Yeah, I mean, if you’re really passionate about rock climbing like so many of us are, I have no regrets. I loved my work. I loved my job. It was great, you know, but man – if I had to pick rock climbing versus working, it’s like: no question, no brainer. I would much rather be outside, rock climbing. It’s such a good life.
Neely Quinn: Do you have sponsors that help you?
Heather Weidner: I do, yeah. I have a number of sponsors that help me. They help me with travel and a small salary, which is really nice, but I definitely have help from Chris and it’s just nice to have my career as a back-up, you know? If I am needing any finances then I can always fall back on that job.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, you have a pretty solid job to fall back on.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I feel really, really lucky.
Neely Quinn: So, do you have any advice for other climbers who want to live the dream? Like, have you noticed other ways that people make it work?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I mean you can go full dirtbag. I’ve seen a lot of that and it’s great. I mean, sure – you’re eating a can of soup a day and you’re living out of your car and stuff but I feel like there’s always a way. If you want something bad enough, I feel like you can always make it work. I’ve seen a lot of people do it.
Neely Quinn: Do you think you’ll ever go back to work? By your choice?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I’m not sure. Right now, I would say in the next few years I wouldn’t. I’m definitely maintaining my license and whatnot. Of course, I always will, but I really can’t see myself going back by choice right now. I miss animals but I don’t miss the actual work where there are a lot of really stressful days and hard cases, difficult clients, you know? Dealing with financial issues is never fun in the medical world, and really long days. 12-16 hour days. I’d much rather be outside rock climbing. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it sounds amazing. Moving on to the second thing that I wanted to talk to you about and that’s your diet. You’re a vegetarian, right?
Heather Weidner: Yes, that’s correct.
Neely Quinn: A lot of people have asked me, “Find someone to talk to about a vegetarian diet,” so can you talk about that and how it helps or hurts your climbing or whatever?
Heather Weidner: Yeah, you know, I’ve been a vegetarian – I’m a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, meaning I eat dairy and eggs. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 18 and so I’ve never had an issue with it affecting performance. I can’t say whether or not it’s better. I think everybody is so different and it just depends on the person a lot of times, how diet affects performance, but for me it’s really easy. Being a vegetarian is super chill, especially now with all of the meat alternatives. It’s so easy to get protein, all of the grains like quinoa, and then eating eggs that have 100% bioavailability of protein is just so easy.
I love it because I feel like I would be a hypocrite if I was a veterinarian eating animals. To me, it just didn’t ever make sense.
Neely Quinn: So that’s why you went vegetarian?
Heather Weidner: In part. I had a boyfriend when I was 18 and he was a hippie and he showed me some documentaries of some slaughterhouses and whatnot. I was always an animal lover and I was appalled. Ever since then it was super easy to be like, ‘You know what? I can find other sources of protein and that way, these animals aren’t suffering.’
I never try to push it on anyone but for me, it just makes me feel better.
Neely Quinn: When I was 12 I went vegetarian because I read The Jungle.
Heather Weidner: Oh yeah.
Neely Quinn: It wrecked me and the only reason I went back is because I got sick, and the only meat that I eat now is not tortured, so…
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I think if you’re really conscious about the sources and whatnot, I think it’s totally fine. I think it’s great.
Neely Quinn: But it just works for you to do this?
Heather Weidner: Definitely. For me, it makes me feel good. I’ve never had any issues, I make sure to definitely incorporate protein, particularly after hard workouts, and then take vitamins – make sure you’re getting your B1 – and yeah, I’m feeling good.
Neely Quinn: Well you must be. I mean, you sound like a pretty energetic person and you look healthy so I think that’s encouraging for a lot of vegetarians. I do think that a lot of vegetarians don’t eat enough protein and it seems like you’re pretty conscious about that.
Heather Weidner: Thank you. Yeah, I mean, particularly after a really hard workout, it’s definitely – there have been plenty of studies that suggest that it’s essential for muscle building.
Neely Quinn: Do you notice a difference in how you feel if you don’t get enough protein?
Heather Weidner: No, I don’t honestly. I mean, it’s hard to say because there are so many factors in day-to-day life I guess I just don’t pay enough attention to it. I feel like I try to eat as balanced as possible day-to-day and then get the protein after a workout. Often, the protein powders are super easy and I do that and some days I just feel a little more tired and who knows? Maybe it is diet, maybe it’s a million other things. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: I know. I think all of us feel tired many days.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, but in particular I haven’t noticed.
Neely Quinn: I can foresee comments and emails of people saying, “I want to know what Heather eats,” so would you mind going through a typical day?
Heather Weidner: Oh yeah, definitely. Breakfast will often be egg whites and a vegetable of some sort, like sometimes I’ll do an egg white scramble with broccoli and spinach on toast or with sweet potato hashbrowns or something like that. Or, just oatmeal with fruit and honey. That would be an alternative, and some orange juice or whatnot.
Then for lunch, usually I try to do a grain or beans, like lentils. I’ll do a lentil dish or a quinoa dish. I love cooking so I’m always experimenting with these different dishes. Out at the crag, often for lunch, it will be really light like Cliff bars, something really light. Nothing too heavy because I feel like it really affects performance.
Then dinner, I’ve been really into making lasagna lately, like a vegetarian lasagna is delicious. What else? I made this stuffed acorn squash the other night that was stuffed with cannellini beans and veggies and quinoa. That’s kind of a typical day I guess.
Neely Quinn: Wow. You eat a lot of veggies. I’m jealous.
Heather Weidner: [laughs] I try.
Neely Quinn: A lot of plant matter in there.
Heather Weidner: Yeah. Lots of fiber.
Neely Quinn: Cool. That’s good. That’s helpful, because I think a lot of climbers who are vegetarians are kind of confused or they have questions so it’s good to hear somebody who’s doing well performance-wise, so thanks for that.
Heather Weidner: Thank you. Great to be able to hopefully help.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, so then my last question here, which I like to ask all climbers, is about bodyweight. I don’t know if you’ve ever struggled with your bodyweight one way or the other but I think there’s a tendency to think the lighter the better, so a lot of times people end up starving ourselves or whatever. What are you thoughts on that, personally?
Heather Weidner: Definitely. I really believe in strength-to-weight ratio. We talk about it all the time but it’s so true, right? You can’t be so light to where you’re not feeling strong, right? It’s a hard balance. I feel lucky. I’ve always had kind of a smaller stature. When I was in elementary school I would actually get made fun of for it, like I was so skinny that people would make fun of me and be like, ‘Are you anorexic?’ It was horrible. I always thought, ‘God. I wish I was normal. I wish I wasn’t like a little twig.’ I think naturally I’m a little bit smaller but I’m definitely always a little bit conscious of my weight, honestly, because it’s so important in climbing.
I feel like I go through periods where, say I’m really close to doing a project. I’ll eat light and I’ll still try to eat really balanced but just less than I normally do, but it’s not sustainable, you know? I feel like, especially when you’re training and you’re working out really hard and you’re building muscle and whatnot like right now, I’m eating a ton. I don’t really care about my weight. I’m just eating whenever I’m hungry and again, trying to make it healthy and balanced, but I’m not worried about my weight right now.
It’s definitely a real thing. The strength-to-weight ratio helps to be a couple pounds lighter when you’re in redpoint mode and it can be hard sometimes because you’re like, ‘Oh my god. I am kind of hungry but I’m going to go to bed right now. I’m going to drink some tea. Don’t think about it. I want to send my project.’
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s a super hard balance. I’ve been there, too, where I’m like, ‘I need to be strong to hike up there and try several times a day but I also need to get rid of a little bit of this, so…’
Heather Weidner: Yeah.
Neely Quinn: Have you found that it helps?
Heather Weidner: Oh yeah, it definitely does, but again, it’s a balance thing. You can’t deprive yourself too much because otherwise you don’t have the strength so…
Neely Quinn: This is embarrassing but I went a little bit too far one time for a couple of days. I was hiking up to this area that had an hour-long hike and I just sat down halfway through and I started crying. I was like, ‘I can’t do it.’
Heather Weidner: Oh I’ve been there, too, where you fully bonk and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I need some calories.’ [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I stopped and was like, ‘Give me some food.’ It didn’t work. I didn’t send.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I guess the best advice I have is eat healthy, eat balanced, and don’t worry about it that much until you’re maybe really close to sending. Then, work hard and deprive yourself a tiny bit for like two days.
Neely Quinn: That’s good advice. Very practical. Thanks for that.
Okay, we’re about up on time. Is there anything else? Like, any advice that you have for climbers who are trying to be better at climbing?
Heather Weidner: I would just say have fun with it. Work hard and don’t take it too seriously. I think it’s a cheesy saying but honestly, the best climber is the one that has the most fun. I think letting go of the ego and trying your best, you’re going to get better. If you’re doing all of those things, you’re going to be better and happier in the long run.
I feel like I learned from everybody, too. We have a really great community. Yeah, just have fun with it.
Neely Quinn: I’ve heard from more than one person that when they’re climbing with you, they look up and even in the midst of a struggle, you have a smile on your face.
Heather Weidner: Ah, that’s really nice. I try. I’ve definitely had my moments. Chris will be like, ‘Oh my god.’
Neely Quinn: Do you? Do you get angry and yell?
Heather Weidner: I’ve definitely had my meltdowns where – yeah. You’ve got to, at some point, reel it in because it’s all just silliness. I’ve definitely had my meltdowns where I’m like, ‘I can never do this. I’m not strong enough. Blah, blah.’ We’re all human.
Neely Quinn: That’s interesting to hear from you. You’re just very sweet and I try to take some cues from you on that level, of being kinder to myself when I’m climbing.
Heather Weidner: Thank you. Yeah, it can be hard because we’re working really hard and we really want to achieve things. We can be hard on ourselves but it’s important to realize that what really matters is being with people that we like being around and having fun.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, being outside in beautiful places.
Heather Weidner: Exactly. We’re so lucky.
Neely Quinn: Then, lastly, what are your plans for this year? I know you’re going to Vegas for a little bit but then what else?
Heather Weidner: We’re actually going to Patagonia, in Argentina, late January for a month. I’m really excited. I’ve never been to South America and I’ve been studying my Spanish and Chris’s friend, well, my friend too, Bruce Miller, he and Chris are going to attempt a big alpine route. One of my friends is going to fly down and we’re going to tour Buenos Aires and go to the beach.
Neely Quinn: Nice.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, but I want to do a lot of bouldering and sport climbing there. Then, we’re going to the Green River in Utah in May, Vegas for a little bit for the Red Rock Rendezvous before that, and then I’m not sure. We’re kind of leaving it open. Probably Rifle for a little bit in the summer and then, who knows?
Neely Quinn: You went to – where did you go this winter?
Heather Weidner: I was in Turkey recently.
Neely Quinn: That’s what I thought.
Heather Weidner: I was able to go with the Petzl Rock Trip which was really fun. It was a wonderful – I can’t even imagine a better trip. It was such a wonderful life experience.
Neely Quinn: You’ve been there – go ahead.
Heather Weidner: Yeah, I was going to say being with all these athletes that I’ve looked up to for 12 years then I get to climb with them and just hang out with them. It was so amazing. The new cliff they developed is beautiful. It’s a gorgeous place and the culture is fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about Turkey.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it sounds awesome. I just remembered one question that I have to ask you.
Heather Weidner: Oh yeah.
Neely Quinn: There are lots of knee bars in Turkey, too, right?
Heather Weidner: There can be, yes. There are a lot of tufa lines.
Neely Quinn: That’s kind of your shtick. You’re really, really good at knee barring, right?
Heather Weidner: Thanks. I try. I can get really tricky with them.
Neely Quinn: Do you have any advice? How did you learn how to be so good, I mean, besides doing it all the time. Is there a trick to it?
Heather Weidner: Gosh, you know, I would say Chris helped me a lot, too. He’s really good at knee bars, too.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, he crawls.
Heather Weidner: I think it’s a lot about visualization. Thinking about body position and looking for toes and surfaces where your knee can go, because before a few years ago, when I wasn’t knee barring as much, I wouldn’t even think to look. I think just taking the time and kind of experimenting around helps a ton. Now, it’s like: oh yeah, I could totally knee bar that little surface or whatever.
I think it’s also just committing to the attempts of knee bars. I see a lot of people who will try it once and then be like, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that.’ It’s like a move. You have to try it a couple of times to see if you can do it.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Do you think it’s cheating at all? I mean, I don’t. I’ll take a knee bar any day. Any second of any day.
Heather Weidner: No, I don’t. It’s funny, though. There’s a lot of controversy around knee barring. I think it’s just kind of funny. It’s such a style thing, right? Some people are super anti and that’s okay. I really don’t think it’s cheating. We wear rubber on our feet and often, knee bars are really hard on your core and it’s not like it always makes it easy, you know?
Neely Quinn: Yeah.
Heather Weidner: So I say no on the cheating. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Or even the kind of knee pads we wear. Like, in Spain, they were just the neoprene pads.
Heather Weidner: It’s so wild. I’m like, ‘What are you guys doing?’
Neely Quinn: Then I come up and I’m duct taping this huge thing to my knee and they’re like, ‘You’re a cheater.’
Heather Weidner: Yeah, totally. I know. I always get the glares in Europe, too. They’re like, ‘You must climb in Rifle.’
Neely Quinn: Yep. Alright. Anything else? Any last words?
Heather Weidner: I just wanted to thank you, Neely, for having me and I really appreciate being a part of this community and being a part of your website, which is super successful. Thanks for having me.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Thanks so much for talking to me and thanks for the kind words.
Heather Weidner: Yay.
Neely Quinn: Alright. I’ll talk to you soon.
Heather Weidner: Awesome, Neely. Thanks a bunch.
Neely Quinn: Thanks so much for listening to episode 15 of the TrainingBeta podcast. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and that was Heather Weidner. You can find Heather online at www.heatherclimbs.com. She’s actually a really great writer and she wrote an article for us called ‘Head Strong.’ If you’re interested, I put the link to that article in the show notes, down below.
If you liked the podcast episode today or if you like any of our podcast episodes, or if you like anything that we do on the site, please consider showing your support by checking out our training programs that we have, which are designed to help you train smarter and be a better climber. We have a lot now.
We have our bouldering strength and power program, which is a subscription program where you get three workouts every week. That’s by Kris Peters. We also have a power endurance program by Kris Peters. We have an endurance program by Kris Hampton. We have a nutrition guide by Acacia Young, and we have a strength guide by Steve Bechtel. Now, we also have an injury prevention guide by Jared Vagy, who is a physical therapist.
If you go to www.trainingbeta.com and go to the ‘Training Programs’ tab, that’s where they all live. That’s that and hopefully I’ll talk to you in a couple weeks. If all is well, Steph Davis and I are trying to figure out a time to talk. Hopefully that will happen and you’ll get to hear what she has to say in a couple weeks.
Until then, happy climbing. Train hard and maybe I’ll see you soon.
Thanks for listening!