• alex puccio
TBP 021:: Alex Puccio on Training, Bodyweight, and Crowdfunding 2017-12-18T10:28:33+00:00

Project Description


Direct Download: LINK
Date: May 20th, 2015

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About Alex Puccio

Alex “The Pucc” Puccio is the strongest female American boulderer, and the most accomplished female American bouldering competitor. She’s won ABS Nationals 9 times, and has medaled 13 times in Bouldering World Cup events since 2009. Her goal this year is to be the overall IFSC World Cup Bouldering champ and to climb V15.

She was the 4th woman to climb V14 (Jade and then Wheel of Chaos in Rocky Mountain), she’s climbed 7 V13’s, and she’s done all of this in the past year. Naturally, I wanted to know how she went from climbing V12 to crushing V14 in such a short amount of time, so we talked all about how her training, diet, and mental game have changed recently.

What We Talked About

  • Exactly how she trains on a weekly basis
  • Exactly how Justen Sjong is helping her improve her mental game
  • Why she doesn’t have enough sponsor money, and what she’s doing about it
  • How she lost weight, and whether or not she’s anorexic
  • What she thinks about performance enhancing drugs
  • Lots more – she’s very honest and open

Links We Mentioned

Discount on The Best Chalk Ever

Alex Puccio loves FrictionLabs chalk, and so do we. This chalk really does make a difference – it’s no joke. Go to www.frictionlabs.com/trainingbeta for a special discount to try it out for yourself.

Training Programs for You

Please Review Us on iTunes!

  • Link to the TrainingBeta Podcast on iTunes is HERE.
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Photo Credit

Photo of Alex by Joel Zerr

Music

Intro and outro song: Yesterday by Build Buildings 

Transcript

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. Thanks so much for joining me. This is episode 21 and it’s with Alex Puccio, which I am extremely excited about.

Before we get into the Alex Puccio interview, though, I want to let you know that I got you another awesome discount from a great company that I love and use all the time now called FrictionLabs Chalk. This company was actually, randomly, created by an old friend of mine from high school in Wisconsin. But anyway, he created this company to make chalk that actually works better. The formula is such that it sticks to your hands more, it stays on your hands for longer, and I really like the feel of it. I’ve noticed a huge difference between it and the old chalk that I used to use. We have our rave review of it up on the site.

If you want to check it out for yourself, you go to www.frictionlabs.com/trainingbeta and they have some discounts there for you guys so you can try it out. That’s that.

If you want any other help with your training you can always remember that we have training programs for you on TrainingBeta. If you go to www.trainingbeta.com and go to the ‘Training Programs’ page, you’ll find stuff there for route climbers and boulderers and for nutrition and for injury prevention, so definitely check those out. That helps support us and keeps this podcast going.

Okay, so now we can talk about The Pucc. As I said, I’m super excited about this interview. I’ve been trying to interview this girl for about a year. She’s very hard to nail down. She just recently recruited her boyfriend, Joel Zerr, to help her stay on track and help her with sponsorships, which we’ll talk about more in the interview, and make appointments with people like me.

Alex Puccio was one of the most forthcoming people I’ve interviewed. I had burning questions for her, which I’m sure you have, as well, about her weight and how lean she’s gotten and how she’s gotten so much stronger in the past year, about her sponsors, and all that. I think without further adieu I’m just going to get into the interview so enjoy this interview with Alex Puccio.

Alright, welcome to the show, Alex.

 

Alex Puccio: Thank you. Thanks for having me here.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. Thanks for taking the time. I know you’re very busy with work and climbing and all the things that you do so thanks.

 

Alex Puccio: I always find time for these things, even if it’s hard to get in touch with me to do those things. I come around to it.

[laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: You are a bit hard to get in touch with.

 

Alex Puccio: I am. I’m sorry for that.

 

Neely Quinn: No, no, it’s okay. You’re busy and we’re going to talk about all the things that you do in your life that make you so busy but first, I know that most people – well, probably every person who’s listening to this podcast – knows who you are but I would like you to give me a sort of overview of who you are, from your own perspective.

 

Alex Puccio: Who I am. Well, I’ll start with: my name is Alex Puccio. Maybe something interesting that most people don’t know about me is my real last name is Koka so I have two last names.

 

Neely Quinn: Where does Puccio come from, then?

 

Alex Puccio: Puccio is my dad’s last name and Koka is my mom’s maiden name but then, when I was born, we never legally changed my name to Puccio. My parents weren’t married yet and my mom just kept her name at the time, which was Koka, so eventually everyone just called me Puccio. But then, when everything became legal like when you start working and have a bank account, I had to go by Koka which was really weird.

I actually tried to enter into competitions as Koka at one point in my career in America. I thought I was being tricky because usually they would put you wherever in the running order they thought they wanted you to/if they thought you were better or more of a show or a highlighted athlete, they would put you kind of last. I didn’t really want to go last so I entered as Alex Koka but somehow they found out so it didn’t really work.

 

Neely Quinn: I mean, that’s really interesting. Do you think you’ll legally change it at any point?

 

Alex Puccio: Probably not. I enter World Cups as Alex Puccio and everything so I’m probably not going to. I’m probably going to get married someday anyways, hopefully, so if that happens I’ll probably change my name again. I guess there’s no real point to it.

Other than that, I’m about to turn 26 in June. I’m getting old. I live in Boulder, Colorado.

 

Neely Quinn: And you’ve been back here for how long?

 

Alex Puccio: So, I travel everywhere but there was a three year period where I lived in Europe and Asia and England. I fully moved back to the US and Colorado about two and a half years ago?

 

Neely Quinn: Oh yeah. In those two and a half years a lot has happened. You were always strong and all of a sudden, last year it seems like you just kind of skyrocketed. Would you agree with that?

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, I guess with outdoor achievements I would agree with that. I never really went outside for more than a week trip here, a week trip there, in between competitions so the last year and a half I started focusing a lot more on outdoors and kind of surprised myself.

 

Neely Quinn: Do you want to talk about that. Do you think it was just you spending more time outside or did you change your training?

 

Alex Puccio: So, it’s kind of funny. I kind of stopped training. It was last summer and I was doing the World Cup circuit. I have a personal goal that I want to be the overall winner of the World Cup circuit. I’ve come really close. I’ve come third overall a couple of times. I’ve done it four years in a row and this will be my fifth, but last year was a pretty long season. I think I did – I think there’s eight World Cup comps and I did six of them. I kind of had a horrible season for myself. I made one podium and that was the worst I’ve done yet out of all the years I’ve done it. I made a decision after Vail not to do the last two World Cups of the season and just kind of decompress and go outside and have fun.

That’s exactly what I did. I just started going outside to Rocky Mountain National Park and all over Colorado with my boyfriend, Joel Zerr, and just didn’t care how long a boulder problem took me. Didn’t go to the gym to train for them. I just went outside everyday, hiking everyday, and basically everyday I surprised myself by climbing something.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I mean you did a bunch of V13s, you did Jade, you did Wheel of Chaos.

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, and it was such a great feeling. I remember my first V13, Top Notch, I kind of built up to it in a way, I guess. I didn’t go outside and be like, ‘I want to do a V13 right now.’ I kind of just/we went outside everyday and I started with just doing V11s in a few tries and maybe some V10s and then we would go to a V12 and I would say 98 or 99% of the boulder problems we went to in the first month, they were probably V12 and under and I would do them in a few tries or that session.

Then, eventually, we went up to Upper Chaos and tried Top Notch and the season was good and everything was unburied. I was like, ‘Okay. This is something I’ve always wanted to try. I’m kind of nervous but we’ll see how it goes.’ I remember the first three hours, maybe two hours, I couldn’t get off the ground. Like, literally, the first move is the hardest move. I was a little discouraged. I could do the other moves and then finally I just sat underneath the boulder. I think there were some people around us and they were all talking. I kind of just felt by myself, like I was by myself and in my own head, and I just felt normal. Neutral. I didn’t put pressure on myself in that moment and I stuck the first move and then I was getting towards the top. I was like, ‘Wow, I just have to try harder.’

I went back I think two days later, my second day on it, and did it first try.

 

Neely Quinn: Wow. So it was more of a letting go, sort of.

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah. It’s funny because that’s exactly what all the coaches from all the other countries that I know really well from over the years competing in the World Cups, they’ve always told me. ‘You’re so strong. You just need to let go. You just need to mentally let go and you kind of just feel movement and relax more,’ and I’m like, ‘What does that mean? Let go. I don’t understand you. I’m trying! It’s not like I’m not trying.’ I think it really took me going outside and not caring as much and having less pressure to really understand, kind of, what that meant.

 

Neely Quinn: Maybe being outside and not in a gross gym helps.

 

Alex Puccio: [laughs] Exactly. It’s like, when you’re outside you get to take in the view and see where you are and when you’re resting, it’s like everything is so surreal and beautiful and it really makes you appreciate where you are and what you’re doing.

 

Neely Quinn: It does. After you did Top Notch, what was the sequence after that? Did you start trying harder stuff or did you just do a bunch of V13s?

 

Alex Puccio: After Top Notch I went back up to film for it within that week. I remember there was this boulder problem, another V13, that I tried the previous year. I was actually still living in Europe and I came back for the Vail World Cup and I stayed for a couple weeks after the Vail World Cup and I climbed outside. There is this V13 called Nothing but Sunshine and it was a mental struggle for me. I kept on getting to the last move of it, even first day on it. I kept getting to the very last move and almost sticking it but then I would pull on the last move right after I fell and I did it. I did it, like, 100 times and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

I think I tried it for seven days and then finally I had to leave so that was kind of a defeat for me. It was a mental battle and I had to leave it. Then, last summer, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t even think, ‘Okay, I want to go back and do this one,’ even though it was something I would always/it was still on my list to accomplish. After Top Notch I remember I filmed it and then I was like, ‘Oh, there’s an hour of daylight left. Let’s go back to Lower and I want to try Nothing but Sunshine, I guess, really quick.’

We went down to Nothing but Sunshine and I did the last move real quick, just to kind of re-warm up and then went from the start a few minutes later and just sent it. It was like, ‘Wow. That was really cool.’

 

Neely Quinn: So what was the difference there? What happened in your head?

 

Alex Puccio: I think I was just, honestly, not really caring that much. Of course you always want to send something fast or you want to do it as quick as you can, but not caring if you do or don’t, I think, was the difference. Realizing, ‘Well if I don’t do it right now I’ll just come back tomorrow or the next day, or the next day.’ Being confident enough that you will do it at some point but it doesn’t matter when you do it actually helps you do it faster in a weird way.

 

Neely Quinn: I mean, when I’m trying things over and over and that pressure starts to come, which I’m sure you’ve felt, and you’re standing under the climb and you’re like, ‘Okay. How do I calm myself down here? How do I make myself not care?’ It sounds like your trick is just knowing that you’ll do it at some point but it doesn’t have to be right this second.

 

Alex Puccio: Exactly. Every try I would try my hardest to do it but I never – it was this weird balance. I never thought that, ‘Okay, I’m going to do it this try.’ It was kind of like a neutral state of mind. It was almost thoughtless and it’s kind of different for – it’s funny. My boyfriend, Joel, he’s always been more of an outdoor climber as I’ve been a competition climber and when we climb outside it’s so different. Over the years, it’s always been his mental struggles have been outdoor climbing, in a way, where he cares more about outside and I’ve always cared more in the competition. Our pressure is different. It almost seemed he had the same pressure he put on himself outside as I would in the comps. It kind of makes you/it’s harder to manage. He would always be like, ‘Why do you send stuff so quick outside? How do you just do it?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to do it before I actually send it. I just think nothing. I honestly didn’t care if I did it right now or tomorrow. I know I’m going to do it at some point.’

 

Neely Quinn: I was going to ask you about that, too. Does this translate into your indoor climbing now?

 

Alex Puccio: I found that mental state and I’m trying to keep that and realize I can be like that in comps. I guess comps, the hard part is you have to do it in five minutes so you can’t say, “Oh, I’ll come back tomorrow.”

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I guess that was a stupid question. [laughs]

 

Alex Puccio: I did learn some things from it like how to enjoy myself, how to be more confident, just in the World Championship. I guess a lot of people – last summer, I didn’t do the last competitions, I climbed outside, had a great season, and then I think it was two months of just climbing outside and then there was the World Championships in Germany. My mom was like, ‘I want to go with you to Europe and have this vacation.’ I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really know if I want to go because I had a horrible season and it’s really expensive. I don’t have the money to go. I’m just not psyched. It’s just too much pressure right now.’ She was like, ‘Well, I’ll pay for it.’

It was this big thing. I almost didn’t pay for it. If I had to pay for it I wouldn’t have gone because I really didn’t have the money at the time. She was really nice about it and she paid for me to go.

We went and I didn’t have any expectations, or I guess my expectations were to make semi-finals. I climbed, literally, five days in the gym in that month and a half or two months and I went and I came second place by one fall so yeah, that was an accomplishment in itself. I remember making finals I was so psyched. I didn’t do that amazing in the semi-finals. I did two out of the four climbs but I still had a different presence. I had a different feeling about myself. Every time after I fell, even in the finals when I fell, I was smiling. I has happy. I didn’t overthink things. I kind of just had that neutral state of mind and part of it was maybe not having that much pressure because a) I didn’t pay for it and b) I didn’t train all of my time inside for this event. I was climbing outside and climbing hard and having fun.

 

Neely Quinn: I’m wondering if the mentality that you had at that World Cup transferred over to you winning the ABS Championship. Do you feel like you still had that same calmness and neutrality in February?

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah. I don’t know if Munich really – it was such a far span in between Munich and the ABS Nationals and I definitely trained inside a lot more for ABS Nationals. I still went outside and had some trips but I focused more on preparing for that competition and I did feel more pressure at ABS than I did in Munich because I trained for it. I think that was a big confidence booster going into this season, knowing that I had trained my butt off for something and I was really motivated for that so I had all this pressure. In my head I was like, ‘If you train for this event, you’re really strong right now and you know you can do it. You know you can win, you just have to keep it together and be mentally there and present.’

Now that really helps me going into these World Cups coming up, knowing that same exact thing. Training and, ‘I’m really motivated for it and you can do it.’ The pressure with – there’s so many young kids out there that are climbing really well. Megan Mascarenas is one of my main competitions here in the US and she’s always really hard to beat and she’s a great competitor so that was really encouraging.

People say, “Don’t compare yourself to other people,” but I think there is a way everyone does slightly compare themselves. Just like people say, “Grades don’t matter,” yes, they do matter. I think people are silly when they say these things. You can compare yourself, I think, in a healthy way of measuring yourself. If someone is really good at slabs and I’m in the gym and I did a slab in one or two tries and it took them one or two tries, I’m like, ‘Okay. That’s really encouraging.’ You can use it as an encouragement, as a tool, rather than be unhealthy with it.

 

Neely Quinn: You can kind of measure your progress against other people.

 

Alex Puccio: Exactly. Friends are like, ‘If you’re number one, of course everyone is going to be out to beat you. They want to beat you. If they do beat you and you’ve been number one for awhile it feels great.’ I’ve always wanted top competitors there at a competition and win against them rather than them not be there and me win.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay, speaking of you being number one, I have a question. I have a lot of questions for you about training but before we get to that, I have this burning question for you about money. You just said that your mom paid for you to do that World Cup. I’m wondering how you’re not the most sponsored person on the planet. Or sponsored climber on the planet.

 

Alex Puccio: I would love to be. [laughs] With sponsorships it’s really tricky and hard. Joel’s been helping me a lot with trying to help me find more sponsorship and helping me be on top of my emails and everything to be more of a professional athlete and act like one. Social media and everything. I don’t know. You don’t have to be – obviously there’s a lot of people out there that show that you don’t have to be the best to be sponsored or even one of the most sponsored athletes. You have to have an image. I would like to think that my image isn’t horrible but I could be biased. That’s my opinion. Everyone has a different opinion on everyone.

It’s tricky. I don’t think there’s any real answer for that. Maybe some people or other companies think I do have sponsorships, which I don’t. I don’t make it very present but I don’t have a lot of sponsors but honestly, I work five days a week being one of the head coaches at ABC. I do that also because I enjoy it but I do have to have a job and I have to work. I don’t have enough money not to work.

My sponsors that do support me, they support me well and they’re awesome and they do what they can but still, with the sponsorship I have it’s not enough to even – maybe it’s enough to pay rent but it’s not enough to travel and pay rent and be a professional athlete. In some sense, yeah I’m a professional athlete but I also think being a professional athlete means you can support yourself from just that and not have to work.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, for sure. Do you want to/who are your sponsors right now?

 

Alex Puccio: My sponsors are Scarpa. They’re awesome. They’re a great, family-oriented company. I love working with them. Petzel. I just signed the contract with them not too long ago and they have always been a great company and I’m honored to be working with them now. They make crash pads, too. I don’t rope climb, I know, but I do a little bit. I did Nationals for sport climbing. Not too shabby. And, Fugoo headphones and FrictionLabs chalk.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh yeah, I wanted to ask you about that because I recently started being a huge fan of them. Do you like their chalk?

 

Alex Puccio: I do. It’s funny. The first time I used it I think we were in Joe’s Valley and someone had FrictionLabs chalk. The chalk that I had – I don’t even know what I was using. I just bought random chalk or something and it wasn’t sticking to my hands and then our friend was like, ‘Oh yeah, try this stuff.’ I tried it and was like, ‘Wow. It feels really good right now. I don’t know if it’s just the weather or the difference or whatever.’ It felt amazing and I was like, ‘Okay. I’m a believer and I’m sticking to this,’ so we contacted them and they’re just really cool people, too. They’re super psyched and I think when you love what you do, and they seem like they pour their heart and soul into this, they really believe that chalk matters and it does, 100%. They make an amazing product out of that, so…

 

Neely Quinn: I had a similar experience. I tried it then I stopped using it and I was like, ‘Wait a second. This chalk sucks,’ so I’m a die hard fan.

 

Alex Puccio: So now you’re like, ‘Yeah, okay. This is my chalk that I have to use.’ Everyone has, almost like a superstition. I don’t know, like some people use only one pair of shoes or some people will only wear a certain pair of underwear in a competition – not that I do that – but something silly like it works once and it’s in your head that it’s going to work all the time. Even just believing something will matter. I’m a believer, for sure.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s cool. I’m just going to take a second here to remind the audience that, in the beginning of the show, I said that FrictionLabs was giving you guys a discount. You can find that at www.frictionlabs.com/trainingbeta and on that page you’ll see that they’re giving you a pretty big discount on the 10-ounce packs of any one of their three different kinds of chalk for $19 instead of 33, so it’s almost half off. Then, on the sample pack, they’re giving you that for $5 instead of $8. If you end up loving the chalk and you become a member, you’ll get chalk every month sent to you for $14.

It sounds expensive. It is more expensive than other chalk but I do think it’s worth it. If you think about it you could go to Whole Foods and spend $14 on a salad so it does make a difference. It’s almost 100% magnesium carbonate whereas a lot of the other brands are only 50% magnesium carbonate and that’s why they don’t stick to your hands and they don’t feel as good as this stuff does.

Anyway, go over to www.frictionlabs.com/trainingbeta and get that discount for yourself so you can try the good stuff. I’m going to turn my attention back to Alex now.

 

Neely Quinn: I mean, you work – I just found out that you work at ABC five days a week and my jaw just dropped. I’m like, ‘How is she training as much?’ because I’m assuming you’re training a whole lot and working. How many hours are you working.

 

Alex Puccio: It’s not a lot of hours because the kids don’t train all day. They’re in school and stuff as well, so Monday I work for about 3-5 hours depending if I do private lessons but usually, if you’re teaching the team, it’s three hours long for each group. Mondays I work about 3-5 hours, then Wednesday three hours, then Thursday three hours, then Saturday and Sunday I get a fill-up with my private lesson schedule. I make my own schedule throughout the week so that these are my hours for private lessons and kids will just sign-up for the private lessons.

Usually – right now I’ve pulled back a little bit so I don’t do as many private hours so about 10 hours a week I’m working right now, before the World Cups, but during the bouldering season, especially getting them prepared for Nationals and Divisionals and stuff for bouldering, I work about 20-something hours a week.

 

Neely Quinn: So Megan Mascarenas is on team ABC, right?

 

Alex Puccio: She is on team ABC but she lives in Colorado Springs so we don’t/I don’t get to work with her that much. She comes to our practices here and there but it’s kind of a long commute from Colorado Springs to Boulder for a practice. I think Robyn goes to her gym often as well and will take trips there to help train her.

 

Neely Quinn: So it’s not like – it would be ironic if you were training her all the time. [laughs]

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, I don’t like taking credit for things I definitely don’t do and the times I do go see her and climb with her it’s really awesome and she’s really strong and talented, but I don’t personally train her that much.

 

Neely Quinn: Got it. Let’s talk about your training a little bit. You’ve been training with Justen and have you been training with Kris much? Peters?

 

Alex Puccio: I have not been training with Kris, personally. I did a few times before ABS Nationals but now I just have this thing with Justen Sjong and I guess I call him my coach, I would say? He and I have been training about two days a week since I got back from my trip after ABS Nationals.

 

Neely Quinn: So since March-ish or late April?

 

Alex Puccio: I’d say beginning – when was ABS? Was that in February? Or March?

 

Neely Quinn: I think it was February.

 

Alex Puccio: So I trained with Justen a few times before ABS, just three different sessions. That was the start of our relationship. The day or two days after ABS or something I went to Bishop for a couple week trip and as soon as I got back he trained me for sport climbing. I had two weeks to train for sport climbing Nationals and then – which is cool [laughs] – then we went straight into bouldering the day after sport climbing Nationals.

 

Neely Quinn: So he trains you – Justen, for anybody who doesn’t know, he does a lot of mental work with people – but is he also working with you with weights or campusing or anything like that?

 

Alex Puccio: Not really, no. I make my own training program. Our relationship was probably different from what he does with other people because when I approached him he was like, ‘Okay, you’re kind of uncoachable in some ways but there are things I know I can help you on.’ A lot of it was my mental game, and that’s exactly what I needed.

Part of it is, so we’ll do a session and sometimes he has me do some funny things that I don’t necessarily like doing but kind of like jump roping. I’m horrible at it. After the first time he told me to look more athletic when I do. I’m really, really bad at jump roping. I’m getting better but I have to jump rope for a couple minutes then go into these box jumps then into two more minutes of box jumps and two more minutes of these jumping pull-ups, so kind of get a full body fatigue on, and then we go straight into some boulder problems downstairs in Movement. He would have me try to do boulder problems that I’ve done before but are around V10-V12 and still try to accomplish the boulder problem, even though I’m tired.

I guess it’s working your physical strength but also mental. He wanted me to see what it felt like, mentally, being tired and knowing that you can still do it and finding that fight to not get discouraged.

 

Neely Quinn: So why not just have you boulder and then have you boulder those V10-V12s? Like, boulder to get tired.

 

Alex Puccio: We do that sometimes but I guess, for me, he tells me it’s harder to get me tired and if I’m just climbing it doesn’t get me as tired. He wants a full body fatigue instead of just a pump in the arms. I run five days a week so I’m like, ‘Why don’t we just run? Running is easier than jump roping for me,’ but he won’t allow me to do that because even running doesn’t get me that tired anymore since I’ve been doing it for so long. He wants to get me to do something that is hard for me like jump roping. I get discouraged and I kind of want to give up. I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m not good at this. It’s not very fun for me,’ but he’s like, ‘You know, say you’re on a slab or a run-and-jump or something that’s your weakness I guess. In that five minutes in a competition that’s another mental strategy to not get discouraged from it. Not to be like: I’m bad at this or this is hard for me. Be like: okay, it’s game on and I can do it.’

 

Neely Quinn: Wow. That’s really smart. I know that one of his main things is making sure that people always think that they’re awesome so does he tell you things to say to yourself when you’re feeling sort of down on yourself after the big jumping rope and all that? What are his tactics?

 

Alex Puccio: He’s kind of like me in that he’s very blunt but in a funny, nice way so we work really well together. He’ll tell me things like, I mean, even telling me, “Okay, let’s look more athletic this time.” Some people that might not work with but me, I’m fine with that stuff. I laugh with it but I kind of take it serious, as well.

He’ll tell me, like, ‘You’re looking tired,’ or, ‘What are you doing wrong?’ if I approach a boulder problem, and that’s another big thing that he does. My attitude, my face, my breathing when I approach the climb and start it. If I’m not in a great mental space when I’m about to pull onto the wall he’ll be like, ‘Let go. Refocus and then approach the climb again.’ A lot of that is – and if I didn’t express my breathing right or if I kind of looked not so nice on the wall or if I climbed it kind of poorly, then I’ll come down, even it it’s a V11, I’ll come down and he’ll be like, ‘Do it again.’

Sometimes, when I’m warming up and if I know I’m not trying or not doing the climb perfect or I’m messing up my breathing or if I’m overthinking it, I’ll be like, ‘Okay. I know he’s watching. Try to be more perfect because he’s going to tell you to do it again.’ [laughs] I try to be all nonchalant and he’s like, ‘Do it again.’ I’m like, ‘Oh no. I knew he was going to tell me to do that.’

 

Neely Quinn: Wow. It’s funny. Justen is going to be in your head forevermore outside.

 

Alex Puccio: He is. I remember at rope Nationals I heard his voice in my head on some move and I was like, ‘Okay, now you have to learn to turn it on and fight.’ It’s funny. I do hear his voice in my head and I just laugh at myself after that. I’m like, ‘Oh, Justen’s here even though he’s not here.’

 

Neely Quinn: Do you feel like it’s helping?

 

Alex Puccio: I do. I honestly do feel like it’s helping. You know, time will tell for the World Cups but I do think it is helping. I just have to remember the things that he’s taught me and to be very confident in myself. I mean, I really believe that someone can help you get to where you need to be and achieve your goals but ultimately, it’s you. It’s all on you. You have to be willing to put the work in. You have to – they can’t be climbing for you. When it’s time it’s going to be you climbing so you can make or break it. You’re the one that can control whether you win or not but I feel like I’m putting the work in and trying hard.

Sometimes he says, ‘Oh, are you poopy again today because the day before you were?’ Or, ‘Are you going to be in a good mood today? Bring your A-game?’ Kind of funny but he’s serious at the same time and I really struggle with that sometimes. You know recently, the last few weeks, I’ve been kind of in a little slump but he reminds me that’s normal and that you’re always going to have lows but with lows come highs, then you’re going to have – I remember a few days ago he was like, ‘Okay. Take two days off and we’re going to meet in a couple days,’ which was yesterday, ‘I bet you’re going to have a great day climbing.’ I actually did have a great day climbing. It’s funny. I was like, ‘You’re psychic. How did you know?’

 

Neely Quinn: Is that something you don’t normally do? Take two days off.

 

Alex Puccio: Not normally, no. I think I normally climb about five days a week and three days on at one point then two days on at a different time.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay, so you’ll have two days of rest, not ever consecutively.

 

Alex Puccio: No. I think that’s the hard part, listening to your body. Like, today I’m struggling with taking a rest because I only had two days off and then yesterday I climbed, and I climbed really well, but then I kind of hurt my shoulder a little bit at the end of the session because I was doing a lot of jumps. I think it’s just sore so I’m like, ‘Okay. Listen to your body. Another day of rest is not going to hurt you. It would probably be beneficial.’ He said, even when we started working, he said, “It’s going to be really important that you listen to your body and take rest. I don’t think I’m going to have a hard time getting you motivated and working hard. It’s going to be me trying to make you rest that’s going to be the hard part.”

 

Neely Quinn: How does his training with you fit into your training days otherwise? Like, your other work that you’re doing like the campusing and the climbing.

 

Alex Puccio: With him, we usually do two days a week. Sometimes he’s gone or I’m gone and we don’t meet for a week but normally it’s two days a week for an hour and a half session. I can either – and I usually climb a little bit after we’re done, too. I don’t do as much campus board as I should, and he even – I asked him the other day, “Justen, I don’t really/haven’t really been doing as much campus boarding as I wanted to when I wrote my own schedule. I think it just became too much during the week.” He was like, ‘You know, that’s fine. I don’t honestly think you’re going to benefit anything from campus boarding. You’re so strong you’re just naturally good at it but I do think you should keep on doing it maybe once or twice a week as much as you can, because it’s a good confidence booster. Since you’re good at it, it will give you good confidence.’

 

Neely Quinn: What does he think will make you stronger? What has made you stronger?

 

Alex Puccio: My mental approach. It’s so hard to describe things mentally and I did an interview the other day about Justen training me and what he’s actually been working on with me and the whole mental approach. I said that I’ve always known that I’m strong enough to win a World Cup. Plenty strong enough to win the season, but it’s always been in my head. So many times, at least half, I’m first going into the semi-finals and first going into finals and then I just mess up in the finals and it all came down to me and my head and not that I couldn’t do the boulders.

A lot of times they’re actually a little easier in finals. Either they’re just trickier and it can be a snowball effect. If you don’t do well on the first one then you’re kind of down on yourself and you kind of give up early and you’re bad on the next one, and the next one, so we’ve really been working on my fitness as well, a little bit, but I really make my own training program.

When I’m with him we really work on my breathing, which has been tremendous. I never thought expressing your breath or even if he could hear it. He’s standing 20 feet away from me and I thought expressing your breath that loud on a climb meant you’re trying really hard, but that’s not really true. It’s focusing and it connects to your mind. Your breathing and your mind, it kind of helps balance everything out, and your core.

He’s told the that I would do this thing sometimes where I would look around spastically, like, ‘What’s my next hold? Where’s this? What’s this?’ just overthinking it. That’s a distraction as well. You just need to look at the next hold and kind of take every move by itself. I’ve really been working on that. Like I said, if I do something poorly or if I start looking around the wall really frantically or my breath isn’t the way it should be, then he’ll tell me to do it again or come off the wall and restart it.

 

Neely Quinn: With your breathing, what is he looking for? Just audible, slow, rhythmic breathing or what?

 

Alex Puccio: This is so hard to explain. [laughs] It’s kind of like, before you go – everyone expresses it a little bit different but I’ve found my way. It’s usually before I get on a climb you can either see it or hear it. It’s kind of like your body drops a little bit with it. You look a little bit more relaxed and it actually drops your heart rate before you get on the climb. Then, when you’re climbing, before you do a hard move or something that you have to actually, kind of, if you’re doing something powerful or focusing in on the next move and the way you prepare your whole, entire body, it really does come from your breath. If you have to breathe in really deep and then you do the move, then you have to exhale. If you’re holding your breath the whole time then that’s bad as well.

Breathing really helps your heart rate, your focus, your energy level.

 

Neely Quinn: And it sounds like what he’s also training you to do is, with him making you come off the wall and refocus under pressure, it seems like that’s really perfect for comp climbing because you have to come back down and you have to know how to snap your finger and be focused, as opposed to wallowing or something.

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, you can’t overthink it because if you start to overthink it – say you come down and you did the wrong beta the first time and you fall and you’re on the ground. If you start freaking out in your mind, it becomes like, or it would for me, it always becomes kind of crazy sometimes. ‘What can I do here? What can I do there? Did I do this wrong? Did I do this right? Do I just need to try harder?’ I would start thinking super fast, way too fast, but the breathing and the calming down really helps your heart rate. If your heart rate is slower then you can think clearer. You do have five minutes but that five minutes is a little longer than you think it is.

 

Neely Quinn: This is cool. Actually, I’ve been thinking about asking to work with Justen and now I want to even more.

 

Alex Puccio: Awesome. He’s so great. Everyone has someone different. It always needs to be a personality click to but he’s one of the easiest people to get along with and is really real and cool.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay, so everybody listening is wanting to know how you train. Can you run through your weekly, what exactly you’re doing on a daily basis?

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, for sure. So my training: I usually do Monday, Tuesday climbing, take off Wednesday, climb Thursday, Friday, Saturday, take off Sunday. That’s the climbing part of it and that will – I don’t think it’s always important to stick to a strict schedule. That’s kind of what I wrote down for myself in the beginning of the season. I would say about 75% of the time I stick to that but if I go outside one of those days, maybe I won’t do a gym session. That would be my session. If I need two rest days because I’m just tired, listen to your body is the number one thing I would always say to anyone.

The other thing that I really stick to is I run about 4-5 days a week. I’ve been doing that for maybe the past year or so and it’s kind of just for cardio or fitness, a little bit of mental state as well. I don’t really like running. I run on the treadmill for the fitness part of it. I know I should go outside but I’m kind of lazy. Running on the treadmill kind of helps me focus in about not wanting to give up. I want to give up because I don’t like it but push your body past that point of: okay, I’m just a little tired and I know when my mind says, “Oh, you know that cake sounds really good. You should just go and sit in front of the TV and relax.” I’m like: no, I should actually keep trying harder and fighting through this. I’m going to feel better afterwards, which I always do and I’m really happy that I do run.

 

Neely Quinn: When you say you run 4-5 days a week, how much are you running and how fast? I mean, not exactly how fast but how hard is it for you?

 

Alex Puccio: I run about 3-3.5 miles each time and that’s why I also like the treadmill. You can look at all the stats and you know exactly how fast you’re running, the incline, and everything. I run, well, a lot of the time it’s going to be multiple days in a row running and I have a recovery run where I put the speed at about 6.5-6.8 and I’ll just make myself stay at that pace the whole entire time. If I want to do a little bit harder then I’ll bump it up every half mile or every quarter mile, maybe by two points. 6.5 is where I always start after I warm up and then I bump it up to 6.7 and then 6.9 and then to 7, usually to 7.5 miles an hour and after that I do a heavier run where I’m sprinting the last mile, where I bump it all the way up to 8 or 8.5 miles an hour.

 

Neely Quinn: So you’re kind of doing intervals.

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t go up and down. I kind of just gradually keep going up. I have a few different runs and sometimes my knees hurt. I think if your knees are hurting then don’t do it. I hate the bicycle but if my knees are hurting then I’ll stop and get on a bicycle.

 

Neely Quinn: So on your rest days, are you running or are you resting fully?

 

Alex Puccio: There’s one day, at least, where I rest fully. Usually that’s a Sunday but a Wednesday, when I’m not climbing, I’ll usually run and do a light core session.

That’s another thing. I usually do core about 3-5 days a week.

 

Neely Quinn: What does that look like for you?

 

Alex Puccio: For my core – I don’t know if this is proven or not, but for my own body I really like doing more days of core workouts but lighter sessions. I kind of have a little circuit that I made up for myself where I will do 40 bicycles straight into a one minute plank and then straight into, well, I’ll have push-ups in there as well. I do think that helps your core as well as your shoulders so I’ll do 15 push-ups and then into 40 v-ups or 20 box jumps or something.

So I’ll make up a little circuit and then sometimes one of the exercises will change a little bit but I usually pick five different things. I’ll do that back-to-back then I’ll rest about 3-5 minutes and then I’ll do another circuit of it, then I’ll rest 3-5 minutes and then repeat it again for about five times.

 

Neely Quinn: Five sets. That’s intense. That’s a lot.

 

Alex Puccio: It seems like it is but anything you do, it does feel really intense at first but then your body gets used to it and then you have to start upping the time or maybe shortening the rest period or upping the sets that you do or how many you do of each thing. Like, my body is so used to it that my body doesn’t really feel any of the core exercises that I do anymore.

 

Neely Quinn: So at this point do you think you’ll start changing it?

 

Alex Puccio: I don’t know if I’ll change it necessarily because we’re so close to the World Cups anyways and I honestly, that’s what I’ve come to figure out for myself. I kind of just do it all the time and I think it just maintains my core because I think it’s strong already. Not that it can’t get stronger but I think it’s strong already so I’ll just maintain and keep on doing it about 3-5 days a week.

 

Neely Quinn: Do you do this after your climbing sessions?

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, I usually do it after.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay. Can you tell me about your climbing sessions?

 

Alex Puccio: My climbing sessions? Two days a week I’m working with Justen. It’s not a huge volume but it’s more the mental training or the onsighting or flashing or the pressure training. When I do it on my own I don’t necessarily have a thing that I do, I just go in there and I think it’s really important to always be trying your hardest so if I don’t feel great that day then I’ll just maybe have a shorter session. If I’m feeling really awesome and I have friends there to motivate me then maybe I’ll go a little bit longer, but typically it’s around 2-3 hours per session.

Sometimes I try to incorporate a little bit of a plan, like: today I want to try to do a little bit of power endurance so I will make up something where I have to do so many of a certain number grade of boulder problem in 30 minutes, so I have shorter rests in between each climb but usually, about 90% of the time when I go in there, I’m just working on kind of what I think my weakness is at that point. Like, if it’s a run-and-jump or if it’s dynamic movement or if it’s slab or a roof climb or something, I’ll kind of try to incorporate a little bit of everything into each session.

 

Neely Quinn: So it’s really not strict or super structured at all. It sounds like you’re having fun while you’re climbing.

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, I try to. If you’re not having fun it’s really hard to stay motivated and I think that’s the number one thing. You don’t really want to overwork yourself. You want to stay as motivated as you can.

 

Neely Quinn: Is it hard for you to motivate to try super hard things in the gym for yourself? Are there even any super hard things for you in the gym?

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah. Usually there are a few boulder problems that are a little ridiculous for me. In Movement sometimes Jon Cardwell would set something and be like, ‘Well, Daniel did it so it went.’ Even though it took Daniel Woods a few hours to do.

Usually I do things pretty quick and then there’s some that I probably will never do and there’s some that I just need a little bit more motivation. I was like, ‘Justen, there’s this move that I can’t do on this boulder problem. This one is too hard.’ He’s like, ‘Let’s see the move.’ Then, he’ll power spot me just a little bit and about 98% of the time, after he power spots me, I always do the move and then do the boulder problem from the beginning. He’s like, ‘It’s so funny how that works.’

The power spot really helps engage your core so a lot of the times the reason I couldn’t do a move, if it was on an overhung wall, would be because you have to jump to a hold that’s not amazing and if your feet come out too far when they swing off, it’ll just rip you off the holds. You have to learn to engage your core right as your feet are cutting or even before they cut so your swing is less and you’re engaged in your shoulders and your biceps and your core. He’s helped me a lot with that. It’s pretty awesome how I feel the difference. He’s like, ‘Okay, do it again. Do it again. Now you just need to make sure you learn how your core is like that in that five minutes on that boulder problem in the comp.’

 

Neely Quinn: And that’s probably why you focus a lot on your core?

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, and breathing, too. That comes down to the breath. If you have to breathe in and hold it tight to do the move and then release and exhale right as you stick the hold and then get your feet back on and get back into the flow, your breath does control your core.

 

Neely Quinn: With your core exercises, I always wonder about this. When you’re climbing, you’re not necessarily doing a v-up or a plank. It’s more like you’re hanging on. It seems like you would have better luck if you were training your core hanging on something and lifting your legs up. Those kinds of core exercises. What do you think about that? Do you think it makes a difference?

 

Alex Puccio: I’m not sure because I honestly haven’t really tried them. I mean, I’ve obviously tried them before just playing around but I don’t know. I think maybe it comes to a part of being lazy. I don’t like doing them. They just don’t feel very nice to me. My arms get pumped hanging on the bar and doing abs and I’m just like,’ Uh, this isn’t fun.’

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, they suck. It’s awful.

 

Alex Puccio: Exactly. This is what I tell people when they ask about exercises and training: find something that you like that you will be motivated to do and you can do and just stick to that. Everyone has – there’s so many different core exercises out there and there’s different ways to work the same part of your core that I think you just have to play with different ones and see what you like the best.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. Okay, so I have a question about running. Obviously, this is a question that’s happening in a conversation with climbers about whether or not to run. You seem to think that it does really good things for you both mentally and physically. Can you talk about that for a little bit?

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah, for running – this is why I got into running. Last summer when I started climbing outside all the time and going up to Rocky Mountain National Park, the cardio is crazy that you’re doing. You’re hiking minimum an hour. Some places like Upper Upper was like two and a bit hours and with a 20 pound pack on, your pad, everything. Then you’re climbing all day and then you’re hiking back down. It’s uphill at 11,000 feet.

I naturally lost weight doing that. I didn’t change anything diet-wise. I mean, I have the biggest sugar tooth. You can ask anyone. Any one of my friends, they were just like – because other people that don’t see me, they obviously saw that I lost weight. I lost about 10-12 pounds naturally, just by climbing outside in the Park everyday. I never trained cardio. I could probably count on two hands how many days of my life I trained cardio before last summer, running or anything. I never did any training, whatsoever. I just climbed. It’s almost like bodybuilding, climbing and not doing any other exercise.

Just by going out climbing and hiking and that cardio, I naturally lost weight. I’m still eating, like, cake every night, a massive bag of trail mix a day, plus other food. Eating a crap ton. I remember being like, ‘Oh, I feel really light. I look skinnier. This is weird. I’m going to step on a scale and see what I’m at now.’ I think I went from 129 to 117 within a month and a half, probably. I was like, ‘Wow. This is crazy. I’m feeling really strong. I actually look like a professional athlete now.’

I think everyone has a different peak performance weight and I think I naturally found mine. Then, after the season was over, I was like, ‘Okay. I know I’ll go up a little bit. That’s fine. I want to keep on doing cardio now that I can’t go hiking up there anymore. I’m going to start running.’ I hated it for the first two months, absolutely. I was like, ‘This is stupid. I hate this. Why am I doing it?’

I learned to love it and now I’ve gone up maybe three or four pounds since the Park season is over because it’s not as much cardio as I was doing but I honestly do it a little to stay where I’m at. I want to have that cardio in there somehow and I’m not willing to give up all the sugar. I tried to eat less sugar. I bake all the time. I try to bake healthier and it doesn’t – Joel and I, I think every week, we’re like, ‘Okay. No sugar this week,’ and it lasts like two days. I have the biggest sweet tooth. I think that yeah, trying to eat healthier is awesome and people should do that, but there is a fine line. I think it’s a big battle for people in competitions. Especially sport climbers seem to have it a bit worse with strength-to-weight ratio and they want to be skinnier. There is a fine line between being unhealthy and being a perfect weight for yourself.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. I’m so glad you brought this up because I was going to bring it up anyway. [laughs] Most people who have seen pictures of you or seen you in person, including myself, I was like, ‘Oh my god. She looks beastly.’ I mean, you have no body fat. You’re just super muscular.

 

Alex Puccio: It’s funny. We took our – Joel and I went to this place and we took our/we paid a bit of money and got all of our stats like how much body fat we have, our BMI, all that stuff. Actually, surprisingly, I was at 12.-something % body fat or whatever. I think that’s what it was. 12.-something % fat on me and I think Joel was at 6.-something. Then, my BMI was in exactly the middle part for me. This whole scan of your whole body even tells you how much each arm weighs and how much each leg weighs and the rest of your body, and how much water you have in you and all of these crazy stats.

We didn’t do this because I was worried or anything. I don’t know – we’re just really into fitness. I actually do fitness because I like doing fitness and seeing body transformation. I kind of do want to get into fitness modeling just because, I know it sounds silly but, I love fitness. Not because what it does for my climbing but because I’m a fitness fanatic as well.

 

Neely Quinn: You should. You will win.

 

Alex Puccio: It’s just so much fun. I don’t have the butt for it, I don’t think. I’m like, ‘If I wasn’t a professional climber, Joel, I would probably work on getting my butt bigger.’ I just think that’s a lot of extra weight. That’s a massive muscle.

 

Neely Quinn: So you’re saying that your BMI was normal? It’s because you have so much muscle.

 

Alex Puccio: I think I had 14 or something pounds of fat on me. It’s funny because it tells you your water weight, your muscle weight, your normal weight, and your fat weight and everything. It’s just crazy to see all the stats. They also say that in the World Cups they played around with it a little bit but also that in the next few years it’s going to mandatory to have this BMI, that you have to pass a certain percentage. I think some people will have to change. They won’t pass or they’ll have to change something.

 

Neely Quinn: I have a couple personal questions for you. With 12% body fat a lot of times women will lose their periods. Are you still healthy in that way? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah. I actually kind of stopped having my period before I lost all the weight because I got an IUD, a birth control thing, and it usually becomes lighter or in some cases you don’t get one at all. Some months I still get one and some months I don’t. For a few months it just stopped all of a sudden. This was back when I was at 129 pounds, at my normal – well, I wouldn’t say normal but – weight before.

That’s the thing I didn’t really know but now I still get one every few months, which is kind of annoying. Three months I won’t have one and then I’ll have one for two weeks for three months later. I definitely have one but I think from the IUD – that’s hard.

I think if you’re young, you know, – I’ve known some people who actually don’t get one anymore because of how athletic they are. They’ve never got one. I think that’s, in my opinion, pretty unhealthy and I don’t really think when you’re a kid and going through puberty and, especially if you’re under 20, you’re still building muscle. I don’t think you should diet that much or be that crazy into fitness.

As you get older, that’s when I really started noticing a difference. When I got older I was still eating the same and every year I gained another pound because I didn’t do any other exercise besides climbing at all. I’m not going to lie. I did have a little cellulite on my thighs. I didn’t care about my body weight before. I didn’t care about eating healthy. I would indulge in anything and everything. I love eating. I have an addiction to eating and…

 

Neely Quinn: I think we all do.

 

Alex Puccio: Mine is so – you know those people. You have your food in front of you on the table when you go out to dinner and it tastes so good but your stomach hurts so bad because you’re so full? That would be me every night. I couldn’t stop. I would actually have to unbutton my pants because my stomach hurt so bad and I was so full. Even Joel says my sweet tooth is a little bit – that I just don’t have self control. I think some people have better self control than others and mine is pretty bad. He’s like, ‘Good thing you don’t like doing drugs because you would probably be an addict. You’re such an addict to sugar it’s crazy.’

 

Neely Quinn: As a nutritionist, that part of it isn’t the greatest to hear but you know, I was kind of wondering if you were starving yourself. I’m not going to lie. Because so many of us do it, it’s really interesting to hear the process that you’ve gone through.

 

Alex Puccio: I’m completely open with it and I love when people ask these questions because I like to set it straight that I do honestly want to lose another pound right now. I want to be back in between 119 and 118 and I want to be down to 117. In ABS Nationals I was between 115 and 116 and I know people will go, ‘Oh, a pound doesn’t matter.’ It’s one of these things that for me, I could cut back on a little bit of sugar and I can stop eating as much dairy as I eat and do a little bit less, but if I’m not – I told Joel the other day, “If I’m not there by the World Cup season, one pound less, it doesn’t really/it’s not really going to affect much and I honestly don’t care. It’d be nice but whatever. I don’t honestly care that much.”

 

Neely Quinn: So you are dieting or you’re not dieting to get down?

 

Alex Puccio: I’m trying to cut out as much sweets. I picked up a cake in Whole Foods yesterday and I was really proud of myself. I was like, ‘Joel. We could just share this right now. I mean, look at it. It’s like five bites apiece. I know I’ll have peanut butter and stuff tonight.’ He was like, ‘Alex. You just said that you didn’t want to have sugar for four days, okay? Just four days. Just think about it: if you just last four days for yourself, see if you can have self control, then on Sunday we can go out and have a massive breakfast, like at Snooze. Have tons of pancakes and maple syrup and whatever you want.’ I was like, ‘Okay,’ and I put the cake back and was really proud of myself. [laughs] ‘You don’t understand how hard this is for me right now.’

I baked cookies and everything the other day. I try to bake healthier things but it still has sugar in it but it’s not as much processed. I eat gluten less. I don’t eat gluten-free. I have a very hard time going to the bathroom. It’s genetics and I have to take magnesium and all of this stuff. I don’t know if it’s true or not but for me it seems like the less gluten I eat, the easier it is to be able to go to the bathroom regularly. There’s some things I try to stay away from as much. I know dairy – I’m learning that sometimes people have worse allergies, like their nose sniffling all the time or they’re dripping all the time because they eat/maybe their body doesn’t like dairy, so I’m trying not to eat as much dairy right now. It’s kind of hard putting soy milk in my coffee. I don’t really like it as much.

 

Neely Quinn: Try almond milk or coconut milk.

 

Alex Puccio: I don’t know. There’s just something about, like, cheese and cream and stuff. It’s so good.

 

Neely Quinn: It’s amazing. It’s the best thing ever created.

 

Alex Puccio: Then why does it have to be bad?

 

Neely Quinn: I don’t know.

Okay, I think we only have – yeah, we’ve been going for about an hour now but I have so many more questions for you and I’ll never get them all in. How do you think the weight loss/how much do you think it affected your climbing?

 

Alex Puccio: I think it affected my climbing probably significantly and it’s such a touchy subject because I think people that don’t – I don’t want to put it out there that it’s good to lose weight, because it’s not for everyone. I think you need as much muscle – okay, so muscle weighs more than fat. People should know that for number one. If you’re someone trying to gain power and you want to be more powerful, don’t just lose weight. Don’t just get on a scale. Don’t even look at a scale is my opinion. I think you need to gain all the muscle.

It’s like a bodybuilder. They gain – they actually look really weird during their off season because they’re gaining all their muscle and gaining weight and they’re eating more and then they thin out for the competitions but they have all that muscle still.

I think you need to gain all the muscle that you need first, but I’m not a nutritionist so I can’t say this for a fact but in my opinion you need to gain all the muscle you need to be powerful. If you step on a scale during that process you’re going to, even if you feel light and good, you’re going to look at the scale and be like, ‘Oh wow. I’m gaining weight. This is weird,’ but you might even look thin still. Gain muscle, do all that, and then later down the road, once you’ve gained all the muscle and you know your peak performance weight, if you feel really healthy and good then maybe look at the scale if you want to once a week or something to make sure you’re maintaining, I guess.

I don’t know. I mean, you’re a nutritionist so I don’t know what – maybe you have a different outlook on it or a different opinion but that’s kind of how I see it, I guess.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I mean if that’s what you feel. I mean, have you experimented with it or do you feel like your whole life is kind of an experiment? Like, you gained weight, like you were big, and then all of a sudden you leaned out and had all of this muscle still.

 

Alex Puccio: I think for me it just naturally came easier because I think I got lucky in that way, as in I’m genetically gifted into building muscle. My calling is probably in bodybuilding or something. [laughs] I mean, I just gain muscle so easily and for girls, I know for a lot of girls it’s actually hard to gain muscle and a lot of girls have to do protein or anything else to help build muscle. Me, I’ve never been one of those people and I just love eating. I never weighed myself, never did anything, I just did not care.

I remember being younger and being like, ‘I don’t need to be on a diet and watch the sugar I eat to win a competition.’ The older I got I realized you need to do some little things. You need to treat your body like a professional athlete if you want to be a professional athlete. Kind of this whole last summer, just by losing the weight naturally like I said, not even changing my eating, just losing it by doing a lot of cardio and seeing my slow progress – I guess in my head it was kind of slow but maybe it wasn’t that slow. Over the course of a few months just feeling stronger and stronger and stronger outside, it also transferred into indoor climbing, too. I just naturally was lucky enough to find where, if I did that cardio and actually did a little extra training, what my body would actually look like and be, naturally.

 

Neely Quinn: Do you think – you do a lot. You workout a lot. Do you feel like this is sustainable, where you’re just going to keep getting stronger and stronger? Or do you feel like at some point you’re going to need to gain some fat back or stop the running so much or how do you feel about that?

 

Alex Puccio: I don’t necessarily think I need to stop running. I will stop running once I start climbing outside in the Park. If I go climbing outside and I hike at least 20 minutes then I won’t run. That will be supplementing a day of running. Last summer we were going outside five days a week and I never thought about running until after we couldn’t go up there anymore so I will stop running when I’m hiking and going outside more.

I have gained weight since then. I think my lowest I got was 114. For me, I don’t want to go under 115 so if I was 115 or in the morning I was 114 or something, I would eat more that day. When I was losing more weight, in the beginning I was stepping on the scale everyday just to make sure I didn’t go under a certain weight and then I didn’t really want to go over a certain weight. I didn’t want to go over 118 but I didn’t want to go under 115. I think that’s really important, just to make sure that you don’t – I never go under 114 so I don’t know what it felt like. I don’t know. I just felt that 115, under that would kind of be bad for me so if I was doing more cardio from hiking all the time then I would make sure we ate a lot more.

 

Neely Quinn: Alright, I’m going to try to cruise through the last few questions. Do you take any supplements?

 

Alex Puccio: I don’t take any supplements, no. Well, I guess I take vitamins. I take fish oil, a multivitamin, and fiber. They’re all gummies, too, because I can’t swallow pills. They probably do taste more like candy. I take those every morning and I take magnesium at night so that I can go to the bathroom the next day.

 

Neely Quinn: How do you feel about doping? Like drugs.

 

Alex Puccio: I think it’s unfair. I don’t know what I think about it, honestly. It’s funny. You know how there’s bodybuilding competitions? There’s some where you can take whatever you want and there’s some where you can’t take any, you can’t dope at all for bodybuilding. I was like, ‘Oh that’s cool. They have two different competitions and categories. One you can look like a monster and do whatever you want and one’s natural.’

I think for climbing it’s uncool and unfair but I don’t know if people do it in climbing. Climbing is not that big. I hope they don’t do it in climbing. We have an anti-doping [unclear] so if you do get drug tested and they also test you throughout the year where – I remember when I was in Switzerland on a climbing trip, not even during the season.Someone came to the gite that we were staying at at six in the morning. I was like, ‘Who the heck is here for me at six in the morning in the Alps? This is really weird.’ They were like, ‘Oh, it’s time for you to take your drug test. You have to pee in this bottle.’ So yeah, throughout the whole year they test you and they’ll test you if you come in first place at the competition.

 

Neely Quinn: Okay. Got it. So it sounds like it’s not something you’ve put too much thought into, even.

 

Alex Puccio: No. I mean, for me, even if I was okay with it, I don’t even take supplements. I don’t take protein or anything because I build muscle so easily that I don’t want to build more muscle. It’s not the weight thing, either. When I was younger I was just so self conscious about my muscles because part of it is appearance. I don’t have the feminine body. Part of me is feminine but I just have these big muscles and it’s funny – I got more confidence as I got older and I know now, if I’m in a changing room or something and a girl sees that I have muscle, usually it’s women in their late-20s or older. They’re like, ‘Oh, I wish I had those muscles,’ and everything. I think I’ve learned that when you’re younger, you can just look pretty and everything without even exercising but when you get to your mid-20s or later, if you don’t exercise you can definitely see it.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, and that is not you my friend.

When are you going to try to climb V15?

 

Alex Puccio: I say that I would love to climb V15 by the end of this year. I would also like to climb, and I don’t know why I picked this number, 5.14d by the end of this year.

 

Neely Quinn: Really?

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah. Maybe it will be a shorter one. I don’t know. [laughs] I’ve always been a person that has to be inspired by the climb. Everyone asked me for years, “Why haven’t you climbed V13 yet? Why haven’t you climbed V13 before last summer?” I was like, ‘I don’t chase numbers. It’d be great to do one and I’ll definitely go and try some but if there’s, even if it’s a V8, if there’s a climb and I’m not having fun on it, it feels like I’m trying hard. But then if I’m having fun on a climb and I enjoy it and I think it’s beautiful and I like trying it, it doesn’t really feel like I‘m trying hard. Even though I am I don’t notice it.’

I just have to find something that – first of all, I do have to try a climb, a V15, but the next step is to love the climb as well.

 

Neely Quinn: So maybe by the end of this year we can see you trying something that you found that you love.

 

Alex Puccio: That would be awesome. We have different trips planned and stuff coming up, well, in the works I guess. After this season we want to go back to Europe, Switzerland hopefully. We also would like to go check out Leavenworth. Joel has actually established a lot of climbing there and I’ve never been there. The bouldering looks amazing.

 

Neely Quinn: When does the season end?

 

Alex Puccio: The last competition is in Munich and that’s, I think, in August.

 

Neely Quinn: When is the first one?

 

Alex Puccio: The first one is the end of this month in Canada, in Toronto. I fly out the 27th of this month and the very next weekend is Vail, at the GoPro games. Then, we have one weekend off and the next two weekends in a row after that are both in China.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh wow. That’s big.

 

Alex Puccio: It’s not my favorite country. It’s different. It’s cool. The travel – it would be nice if we could have it somewhere different. I’ve been to China I think seven times now for the competition there. It would be nice to check out other parts of Asia or some other parts of Europe but it is what it is and the season only has five World Cups. Usually it’s more than that so if you want to have a chance at being overall champion this year you have to actually go to every single event. Usually, they’ll take your worst result out so if you didn’t show up to a comp you’d get zero points for that comp and they would just take that one out.

 

Neely Quinn: But this time you have to go to all of them.

 

Alex Puccio: Yeah. If you want a shot at winning overall you have to go to all of them.

 

Neely Quinn: And that’s your goal.

 

Alex Puccio: That is my goal.

 

Neely Quinn: I know that you had the RallyMe to try to raise money for you to go to all of these comps. Is that full yet? Did you meet your goal or do you want to mention that?

 

Alex Puccio: I think it’s just about there. I asked for 10 grand, which I don’t think will – I haven’t bought all my tickets yet but I don’t think it will cover all of the tickets and the hotel and the food and everything. That’s the thing. I’m not looking for all of that. I’m looking for a good chunk of that which that definitely will. I’m at, I think, $9,900 or something so it’s just about there. It’s awesome how great the community has been in helping support myself. Honestly, I would not ask for this help if I did not need it. It was a hard thing to do a crowdfunding and it felt funny to ask for money.

The majority of the comments and feedback were really positive and obviously, since I’m almost there for the goal, but there were some people that have different opinions. Like, ‘Why doesn’t she get a job?’ or ‘Why don’t her sponsors help?’ I’m like, ‘Well, I do have a job and my sponsors do help but it’s just that there are a few climbers that make it big climbing. I’m not one of them. Would I like to be one of them? That would be awesome someday.’

I think this goal right now to do the World Cups, it’s also definitely a personal goal. I think climbing is an individual sport but then also, I’m psyched to help grow climbing. I love to help pave the way for the youth competitors coming up. The youth competitors are so strong and it would be awesome if, by the time they want to do the World Cup circuit, there is more funding actually for the team and they don’t have to do crowdfunding or anything else to try to raise money to go to these comps.

We have such a strong team and the only reason we haven’t gone all the time – I’ve been the only competitor for the last four years to go to every competition – is because the funding is not there. There’s not enough money for them to go so I hope that I can help pave the way for them to be able to, so that they can go and not have the same struggles.

 

Neely Quinn: Well, I think you’re doing just that. When I heard about the crowdfunding thing I was like, ‘What? She doesn’t have sponsors? How?’ I kind of got mad at the climbing industry for not just shoveling out money to you.

 

Alex Puccio: It was a hard thing because my sponsors got a little bit – I did my own thing and I didn’t anticipate what the public would think in general and I didn’t mention it to my sponsors that I’m doing a crowdfunding. USA Climbing set it up and they were like, ‘Yeah, we just saw this and it kind of looks a little bad on us that people think we’re not supporting you, which we are supporting you.’ Joel and I were in this meeting and we were like, ‘Wow. We didn’t even think that would even happen.’ I felt bad for that because they do support me but I guess I don’t have enough big sponsors to help support in that sense.

 

Neely Quinn: Well, you at least are raising awareness about it so I think you’ve accomplished that.

 

Alex Puccio: I hope so.

 

Neely Quinn: About the fact that there’s not enough money for climbers.

 

Alex Puccio: It’s growing.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, for sure. Well, I’m going to let you go because I’ve taken up a lot of your time but thank you so much. I hope that you reach all of your goals this year.

 

Alex Puccio: Thank you.

 

Neely Quinn: Do you want to mention any websites or Facebook pages or any other place where people can find you and follow you?

 

Alex Puccio: My Instagram, if people like to follow more about my training, and I’ll be posting about my travels with the World Cup circuit and everything on it. I love Instagram. I think it’s good for followers where we can all be connected together in this awesome community. Mine is – oh my gosh, what is it? I don’t even look at it. [laughs] @alex_puccio89

 

Neely Quinn: Okay.

 

Alex Puccio: I have my Facebook athlete page which I post stuff on and post videos of my training right now, daily, so it’s fine if you guys want to go check it out. Joel also just made a little, I guess it’s not little, it’s about 16 minutes. A climbing film of him and I climbing in the Park last summer. That’s on my Facebook page now.

 

Neely Quinn: I think I just saw that. Cool.

 

Alex Puccio: It’s a little long but it’s cool. It’s called Switching Gears and it was about my struggles with the comps and then decompressing and going outside and finding fun and enjoyment in climbing again.

 

Neely Quinn: I’m glad you did that. You seem to be in a really good place.

 

Alex Puccio: Thank you.

 

Neely Quinn: Alright. Thanks so much, Alex

 

Alex Puccio: Thank you for this opportunity and this is really awesome. Hopefully I can do it again sometime.

 

Neely Quinn: Yes. Okay, see ya.

 

Alex Puccio: Bye.

 

Neely Quinn: Alright, thanks so much for listening to episode 21 of the TrainingBeta podcast. I’m Neely Quinn, your host. I hope you enjoyed that interview as much as I did with her. She’s such an open book. I really appreciated her honesty and being so forthcoming with information. I mean, some of those topics were a little bit sensitive so thank you for that, Alex.

You can find her on Facebook at her athlete page, at www.facebook.com/Alex-Puccio and then as she said she’s on Instagram a lot. That’s @alex_puccio89. Check those out.

Let’s see. I know I said last week that I was going to have Bill Ramsey on the show next week but then I had this interview with The Pucc so that didn’t happen this week, so I will have Bill Ramsey on the show next week. He’s a 54 year old guy, a friend of ours, who just sent .14b so very inspirational.

In the meantime, if you need more help with your own training that’s what we’re here for. We created TrainingBeta to give you cohesive training information and super easy-to-follow training programs, which is what I need for myself. We have our route training program and our bouldering training program, which are both subscription programs where you get three workouts every week that are different. Those are both by Kris Peters. That starts at about $12.49 a month.

Then, we have our six week power endurance program that’s mostly for route climbers but it can also be used for boulderers, and our endurance program which is an eight week program for route climbers, and then we also have our nutrition program by Acacia Young, and our strength guide by Steve Bechtel, and an injury prevention program or guide by Jared Vagy, who is a doctor of physical therapy.

Go to www.trainingbeta.com/climbingtrainingprograms and you’ll find all that stuff on there. You buying those programs helps us keep doing this stuff and putting out training information for you so we really appreciate your support.

I think that’s it for this week. I hope that you get out climbing this weekend. I hope to, too, except that Boulder is now a rainforest and none of us climb anything so hopefully that will change. Until next week, happy training and climbing.

 

Thanks for listening!

TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. Check out our blog, our interviews on the TrainingBeta Podcast, our rock climbing training programs, personal training for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.


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