I met Angie Payne in 2004 when she first moved to Boulder. I worked at the Spot Bouldering Gym and she lived at the Spot Bouldering Gym. Not really, but she was there an awful lot. She was quiet, shy, sweet, and studious (she studied in the café where I “worked”). And obviously strong as hell.
She won three ABS National Championships and two PCA competitions during the 2003-2004 season. Over the next six years, Angie stood atop more than ten podiums as a top 3 finisher in bouldering competitions.
She doesn’t just crush inside, though — Angie has been a trailblazer among female climbers on boulders outside, too. Between 2004 and 2010, Payne did first female ascents of 17 V10-V12 boulder problems.
In 2010, after climbing European Human Being (video) V12 and No More Greener Grasses V12, Angie completed The Automator (video), becoming the first woman in the world to climb a confirmed V13. These accomplishments earned her two Climbing Magazine Golden Piton honorable mentions and the 2007 Everest Award in Women’s Bouldering.
Angie graciously sat down with me last summer (2013) to talk about how she got to be such a badass, how she continues to be such a badass after so many years competing, and how her “rivals” – who are also some of her best friends – keep her motivated. I’m lookin’ at you, Puccio.
We also talk about…
- Being a female in a man’s world, and how she avoids the notorious downgrading of her FFAs
- How she trains
- What she eats
- How weight affects her climbing
- Her struggle with eating disorders
- Her roller coaster relationship with competition climbing
- Why she’s not a full-time pro climber
- The mental blocks she gets with projects and how she overcomes them
- Her thoughts on climbing a V14
- And lots of other things…
- Oh, and I apologize for the temporary outdoor noises in the background intermittently. Recording a podcast outside is nice because of the birds in the background, but NOT good for the noise factor. Duly noted.
- You can read her full bio here.
- Check out her website here.
- She also wrote an article about how she trains on TrainingBeta here.
- The podcast is made possible by the training programs on TrainingBeta here. Check ’em out if you need some help sending.
Listen on iTunes
- Link to the TrainingBeta Podcast on iTunes is HERE.
- Please give the podcast an honest review on iTunes here to help the show reach more curious climbers around the world 😉
Thanks for listening!
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. We’re on episode four today and I want to thank you again for your support of not only the podcast but the site and the Facebook page and all of it. We’ll keep working hard to get new blog posts, reviews, and podcasts out every week for you.
Today I’m talking with one of my climbing heroes, Angie Payne. I’ve always looked up to Angie for her technical skills, her finger strength, and her fierce determination. When Angie climbs something hard you can see it all over her face, how badly she wants it. That’s always been inspirational for me. I love watching Angie compete.
She’s admittedly stubborn as hell and does not give up easily, which seems to be a common theme among the climbers I’ve interviewed. Maybe it’s just a common theme among successful people in general. I don’t know, but it’s working for her.
She’s won three ABS National Championships and two PCA competitions. She’s finished in the top three in countless other comps around the world. She doesn’t just dominate inside, though, she also crushes boulders outside.
Between 2004 and 2010 Angie did 17 first female ascents of V10-V12 boulder problems. In 2010, after climbing European Human Being, which is a V12, and No More Greener Grasses, also V12, Angie sent The Automator which made her the first woman in the world to climb a confirmed V13.
These accomplishments earned her two Climbing Magazine Golden Piton honorable mentions and the 2007 Everest Award in women’s bouldering.
Angie graciously sat down with me last summer to talk about how she got to be such a badass, how she continues to be such a badass after so many years competing, and how her comp rivals, who are also some of her best friends, keep her motivated. We also talked about what it’s like being a woman sending hard stuff, her struggles with eating disorders, how she eats now, and when she’s going to climb V14. I know I want to see it.
Before we get to the interview I want to let you know that this podcast is made possible by the training programs that you can find on www.trainingbeta.com under the ‘training programs’ tab. They’re downloadable training plans and the first one is a six-week power endurance program by Kris Peters. A couple weeks ago we released our second training program which is by Kris Hampton, a well known Red River Gorge climber. It’s an eight-week endurance program that will build your forearm stamina and teach you how to rest on routes better.
Again, you can check out the programs at www.trainingbeta.com under the ‘training programs’ tab.
Okay, moving along. Here’s Angie. Oh yeah – and I hope you don’t mind the sound of chainsaws because we naively recorded this outside. It was supposed to be a video originally and it was a beautiful day in Boulder. Unfortunately, there are a few minutes when the landscapers were doing some work so I apologize for that and I solemnly swear that it will never happen again. Okay, here’s Angie. Enjoy.
Angie Payne: I’m Angie Payne. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, transplanted to Boulder, Colorado. I am 28 years old, 5’5”, 121 pounds, and I have a +1 and a little bit. I actually don’t really know. It’s maybe just plus +¾ or maybe +1.
My sponsors are Mountain Hardwear Five Ten, and Organic, and Mac’s Smack.
Neely Quinn: Like lip stuff? Tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living?
Angie Payne: Right now I’m working at a doctor’s office. For seven years I worked at a veterinary clinic and I just started working for a gastroenterologist as an endoscopy technician. The simple way to describe that is that I help in the procedure room for a gastroenterologist. And, I’m a professional climber part time plus working for the doctor part time plus climbing.
Neely Quinn: What is your goal with working for the doctor?
Angie Payne: Originally I thought – well, I worked for a vet for seven years because I wanted to go to vet school and then I didn’t get in. Twice. I changed my plan and I’m considering going to physician assistant school so I have to change gears and work in the field of human healthcare instead of veterinary care. I’m trying to get experience. It’s my very first job with humans in health.
Neely Quinn: Do you like it?
Angie Payne: Yeah, I do. I do like it. I really like a lot of the people I work with which makes it a lot better. We’ve become good friends already.
Neely Quinn: What about you being a professional rock climber?
Angie Payne: What about that? I’ve gone back and forth about it. I really love rock climbing and I’m definitely passionate about it. It’s really hard for me to only have climbing in my life so that’s why I feel like I need something else to balance it out. I’ve always done better when I have things to work on when I’m not climbing. Otherwise, I get too obsessed and burn out. It’s something I really struggle with.
Somedays I really wish that I could just climb full time but that’s typically when I’m not climbing full time is when I wish that. Then, when I have been climbing full time I’m not as motivated. I feel like I don’t do as well. I’ve played with it and gone back and forth a lot and I think that I’m better when I have other things going on in addition to climbing. That’s sort of what I’m going for now. The plan changes frequently. I used to be really attached to certain plans but I’ve learned that doesn’t really always work out in life. I’m being flexible now but I realize that climbing will always be a part of my life. It just changes depending on how the rest of my life is going. The amount of climbing that I’m doing changes and my climbing experience changes.
Neely Quinn: So how much are you climbing right now?
Angie Payne: A lot, actually. I’m working a lot and climbing. Pretty much all my free time is spent climbing, or most of my free time. I’m climbing 4-5 days a week and trying to go outside more now so I only get out one or two days a week right now, if I’m lucky. I went out yesterday for the first time in a few weeks but hopefully this summer I’ll get out twice a week and then climb in the gym probably once or twice a week.
Neely Quinn: Do you have any goals for this summer?
Angie Payne: Yes. I’ve been working on this boulder problem in Rocky Mountain National Park two seasons now. It’s called Freaks of the Industry and I thought that I would finish it two seasons ago [laughs] and I’ve been working on it since. This will be my third season on it and I’ve been falling at the end for two seasons, so…
Neely Quinn: How hard is that?
Angie Payne: V13.
Neely Quinn: What is it about it that you’re falling off of it?
Angie Payne: It’s really long.
Neely Quinn: I mean, besides that it’s V13.
Angie Payne: Yeah, it’s hard but it’s really long. I need more power endurance. I think it’s a mental thing now, at this point.
Neely Quinn: Really?
Angie Payne: Yeah. I think it’s 90% mental now because I can go back up and get the fitness for it relatively quickly because I know the moves so well and I’ve climbed to the end so many times that I have a mental block about it. I’ve gotten so used to falling at the end that I’m having trouble not falling.
Neely Quinn: Have you had a talk about that before? I mean, have you had that before where you’ve had projects that [unclear]…
Angie Payne: Yeah, I worked on this boulder problem called European Human Being, also in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Neely Quinn: How hard is that?
Angie Payne: It’s a V12. It was the first V12 that I did and I worked on it for two seasons. It’s only four moves long and I fell on the last move for, I estimate, at least 20 days, falling on the last move. Somewhere around that number. I think I just got used to falling. It was the same thing. I didn’t know how to breakthrough and then one day I just did and that was it. I don’t know what changed. I think I just got used to falling and then one time I just didn’t fall. [laughs] It’s as simple as that.
I mean, it’s hard because you can’t overthink it. That’s why I get myself in the predicament in the first place, because I’m overthinking it. Then, to try to think of how to get out of it, it just turns into a vicious cycle. I’ve tried everything but I think at this point, it’s just going to be persistence and staying positive and going up there again and again and again and keep trying.
Neely Quinn: Speaking of persistence, what’s the most number of days that you’ve ever put on a project?
Angie Payne: This one, Freaks of the Industry. I’ve probably spent, last season alone I think I spent almost 30 days up there and the season before probably at least 20 days, so I mean I’m going on 50-something days spent on this boulder problem. It’s just crazy but I love it.
Not a lot of people find joy in that but I actually do. I really enjoy the frustration and I also enjoy – I kind of use it as my mind escape, in a way. I know that’s weird but I sometimes go up there with only one person or there have been times where I’ve gone up there alone and it’s some of the only time that I spend away from everything. It’s insanely frustrating but at the same time it’s so nice to be like, ‘I’m going to work on this thing.’ I’ll only be climbing on it for a small amount of the time that I spend up there. The rest of the time I’ll just be relaxing and enjoying – well, relaxing is a relative term [laughs].
Neely Quinn: In a very frustrated state.
Angie Payne: In a very frustrated state. Grrrr. At least I’ll be outside in a really pretty place that I like.
Neely Quinn: So that’s kind of one of the driving forces behind you continuing to go up day after day?
Angie Payne: Yeah, it really is. I realized that probably after the twentieth day or something. I was like, ‘You know what? I actually like being up here, even though I’m insanely frustrated and I really want to finish this.’
I was just back up in the Park for the first time yesterday this season and I had to go over there. I knew the boulder was under snow but I’m so comfortable in that place, it’s like a home away from home almost. It’s so weird, but it’s so pretty and I had missed it through the winter. That’s so dorky but I miss it when I’m not climbing on it, you know?
Neely Quinn: All of us do.
Angie Payne: Yeah, to go back there is always really refreshing. It’s like, ‘Ah, yes. I’m back. Here I am.’ I had to go over and sit next to it yesterday and just be like, ‘[Sighs] Okay, I’m psyched to come back up here and do this again,’ even though I’ll be so frustrated at times, and even if I don’t do it, it really doesn’t matter.
Neely Quinn: Is that how you’ve always thought about things? Or were you more intense about projecting?
Angie Payne: No, I was always a lot more intense about it. It’s taken a long time to realize that I actually do enjoy the process. I used to be really focused on just doing the boulder problem, especially when I was in my early 20s, late teens/early 20s. It was all about doing the boulder problem. I’m still very driven to complete things because I like accomplishing goals but the actual completion of the boulder problem isn’t as meaningful to me anymore. It’s more everything that it took to get to that point.
Neely Quinn: So when you send a boulder, what are the thoughts that are going through your head?
Angie Payne: It’s weird. It really depends on the boulder, but if it’s just a boulder, like yesterday I did a boulder problem that I had just started working on yesterday. I did it quickly and when I sent it it was, more than anything, if it doesn’t take long I’m proud of myself for being able to execute. Like, okay, I figured out the moves and I knew that I could do it and then I did it. Mentally, that’s an accomplishment for me, to not get hung up on, ‘Oh, that move’s hard,’ and self-doubt and all these things. That was an accomplishment yesterday.
The actual grade or the boulder problem itself – it’s super fun – I’m not nearly as tied to the numbers as I used to be. I still think about them and care about them and use them as a gauge of progress, and I like to be climbing on the harder end of what women are doing, I do, but I used to get really excited when I would climb a certain grade, you know? It’s changed. It’s more about how much time I put into it or how hard it is for me.
I want to climb this V13 partially because yes, V13 is hard, but now it’s become – that’s what originally attracted me to it. I wanted to do another V13, but now it’s become so much more than just another V13 because I’ve spent so much time on it that when I do it, it’s going to be, ‘Okay, I climbed another V13,’ but more than that, it’s going to be, ‘Oh my gosh, I finally closed this chapter in my life of this boulder problem and this whole adventure of going to the same boulder for 50 days.’ That’s kind of crazy.
I still care about the difficulty and I still pay attention to the grades. I would never say that I don’t. I like challenging myself so I like climbing on things that are hard for me. There’s a lot more women now climbing V12 and V13 but I still enjoy trying to be on the cutting edge, on the leading edge of women’s bouldering.
Neely Quinn: Do you think about trying to climb V14?
Angie Payne: Yeah, I do actually, a lot. When I did my first V13 I thought about just going and trying to start a V14 but I kind of just happened to go over and try this other boulder problem, Freaks, and was like, ‘Oh, I think I could do this one. This feels doable so I’ll come back next season,’ this was at the end of the season, ‘I’ll come back next season and I’ll finish this off and then I’ll go and try a V14.’
I like the idea of trying to do a couple of one grade and then progressing. I’m just a Type A I guess. It just seems like I need to establish myself in this grade and then I’ll try the next grade, which maybe isn’t the best approach but it seemed to make sense at the time. Like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do another V13 so I’ll know the first one wasn’t a fluke and then I’ll try a V14.’ It just happens that the second V13 is taking a little longer than planned, but I still would love to try V14. I do care about that now because it would be really, really cool to climb something even harder than I’ve climbed so far, and harder than a lot of women have climbed before. I like that and I’m very driven by that, but I am getting a lot better at enjoying the actual climb, the process, the quality of it, the movement, and things that like that, that I didn’t always pay as much attention to.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, and you’re kind of in the very small subgroup of people on the planet who, as a woman, can climb this hard. I wonder how you feel about that, like if you get any flack from guys. I’ve heard from other women who have climbed this hard and they say that when they do problems this hard, guys automatically downgrade them. Does that happen to you?
Angie Payne: I know that that’s a concern of women, like, ‘Oh, if I do it it’s going to get downgraded.’ I haven’t personally had a big problem with that but I will admit that when I – one of the things that I liked about The Automator, the first V13 I did, was I knew it was established at the grade and so I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be an issue. That’s part of the reason I would pick that boulder problem over another boulder problem.
Neely Quinn: That’s telling.
Angie Payne: Which is telling, yeah. Exactly. I was happy with the fact that – and it’s the same with European Human Being, the first V12 I did – not a lot of people downgrade it. It’s pretty established as a V12. That, for me, was like, ‘Okay, if I’m going to do a V12, I want to do a V12 and I don’t want to have to deal with this crap of a woman did it so it’s only V11.’
Yeah, I definitely think about that.
Neely Quinn: Do you get guys saying, “You did that because your fingers are small,” or “You did that because…?”
Angie Payne: Yeah, for sure. I’m sure people say that. Not a lot of people say that to my face but I’m sure people say that. I mean, people are just going to say that. I mean yeah, I didn’t go and climb a powerful, crazy, squeeze box V13. I know I didn’t. I picked one that fit my strengths, for sure. In the future I would like to climb a V13 that doesn’t fit my strengths but that would be another goal, to climb something hard that isn’t just a crimpy traverse.
I get crap all the time, like, ‘Oh, you’re going to do another crimpy V13 traverse? Cool.’ I know. That is what I’m doing. I like it and I am good at it. That is my strength, crimping, so I’m not going to deny that. People usually are – I don’t know, maybe not everyone – attracted to things that they’re good at so it’s not uncommon.
Neely Quinn: Can we talk a little bit about comp climbing?
Angie Payne: Yeah, sure. I do that.
Neely Quinn: Tell me where you’re at with comp climbing right now.
Angie Payne: Oh gosh. I’ve gone through such a roller coaster with comp climbing. That’s how I started climbing. I was almost immediately involved in competitions when I was young.
Neely Quinn: How old were you when you started competing?
Angie Payne: I was 11. I might have just turned 12 but I started climbing when I was 11 and within a year I was competing, so it was pretty immediate. I got really involved in the competition circuit, the youth competition circuit, and I did that for five years and then I got really burnt out and I remember crying and hating it and being like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.’
I stopped doing it and I found bouldering. That’s when I started bouldering because it was something different and I didn’t have to rely on anybody to go to the gym with me.
Neely Quinn: You were just competing in ropes?
Angie Payne: Ropes, yeah. For five years I was pretty much exclusively a sport climber, doing sport climbing competitions in the youth roped comps. I did that and I got tired of it and then I found bouldering and I was horrible at it. I was really bad because I was such a slow, static climber and had no power. Pretty good technique but no power, so I started bouldering and I think I stuck with it just because I was stubborn and I didn’t want to be in the youth rope comps anymore. I was like, ‘I’m going to do this instead,’ but I was horrible at it.
I just kept doing it and it became a social thing and I was 16 and like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do this. I don’t need my parents to belay me. I can be cool and I can drive myself to the gym. I have friends there.’ I did that for a while and then I got back into competing, in bouldering, because that was a whole new competition experience. I would have a good year and then a not-as-good year and then a good year. It’s a cycle and I have years when I’m more motivated than others, too, so this year has been a pretty good year. I made the finals of the World Cup again, which was a big accomplishment for me, and I didn’t expect which is probably why it went relatively well. I wasn’t expecting anything.
Neely Quinn: Why didn’t you expect to make finals?
Angie Payne: Because I went to Europe last year and did a couple of the World Cups and got my butt kicked, essentially. I went into those with relatively high expectations that I might have a chance at making finals, because I had made finals the year before in Vail. I was like, ‘Okay, I think I could do well. I know that I can make finals I just need to get my head together.’ I had very bad results in Europe last year. Not horrible, but not what I wanted, so that was really hard.
Going into this competition this year, I was like, ‘I have to not expect to make finals because it’s really, really hard to make finals.’ Making finals is such a battle. Making semi-finals is hard in those things. You just have to take it one step at a time and I had a better attitude about that this year. ‘Okay, I’m going to try to make semifinals. If I make semi-finals then I’ll just see what happens.’ I’m sure I wanted to make finals but I wasn’t making that my absolute goal, like, ‘If I do not make finals I do not accomplish my goal.’ That wasn’t how I approached it.
Neely Quinn: It seems like you didn’t set yourself up for disappointment.
Angie Payne: Yeah, and I knew I was in good shape but you can be in really good shape but not execute well, so everything just sort of has to come together. You can’t really make a lot of mistakes and it happens really quickly, so it’s hard to – it’s just hard. Competitions are hard. They are always hard. They really don’t get that much easier. I, personally, think they get harder because you expect more the more you do.
Neely Quinn: What about the competition between you and some of the other girls? Like, you’re basically with the same women at these comps and all the time in general. Can you say a few words about those relationships?
Angie Payne: Definitely. A lot of/most of my closest friends are climbers that I compete against. I would say at least half of my close friends are my competitors, so it’s a very interesting dynamic because we’re all very competitive. If we weren’t competitive, we wouldn’t be doing competitions.
Neely Quinn: Competing.
Angie Payne: Yeah, exactly, so we’re competitive: check. Got that. I would say 99% of the time it’s a really healthy competition and it helps me a lot.
Neely Quinn: To be able to say, “I want to beat her?”
Angie Payne: I try not to make it a goal to beat a certain person because I don’t think that that really turns out – it’s hard because yeah, I would love to beat Puccio and I’ve told her that 100 times. “Yeah, Pucc, some day I want to beat you! You’re so good at this. I want to beat you someday.” She knows that, but I try not to dwell on that because it’s really hard if you go into a competition like, ‘I want to beat Puccio.’ Then, you think so much about what did Puccio do? It’s really hard. You really just need to focus on what you did.
I can sit here and say, “I’ll only focus on how I’m doing,” but in reality I know that part of me thinks about what the other people did, as much as I don’t want to. I can’t obsess about it like, ‘Okay, if I don’t beat this person it’s not a successful competition.’ That just doesn’t get me very far.
I use it as: okay, someday that would be awesome and I know it could happen that I could beat so-and-so. I do have the ability, but if it doesn’t happen at the competition then it’s not a total loss, but sure, Puccio knows. We all want to beat Puccio. She’s so dominant in the past few years at Nationals. She wants to beat us, too, so we all, on some level – yeah, we all want to win. We’re there because it’d be great to win. I’m a competitor. I’m not going to be sad if I win. I like winning and I enjoy doing well, but they’re my friends before anything, really. We’ve come to the point where we’re friends. We’re all really good friends and I’m not going to be bent out of shape if Puccio beats me again. It’s fine, I can handle it, but someday I’ll get her. One of us will get her someday.
Neely Quinn: So how do you train to beat Puccio?
Angie Payne: [laughs] Oh gosh, I don’t know. I don’t train that much, honestly, in a structured way. I do train and I do climb a lot but…
Neely Quinn: And you have trained.
Angie Payne: I have trained, yes. I’ve gone through cycles where I have trained in a structured way. When I first moved to Colorado I did a lot of cross training. I did animal strength, strength training, and I found that the most valuable thing about that was that it taught me how to try hard and be uncomfortable.
Neely Quinn: Because you’re carrying big bags, 50-100 pound bags, up stairs?
Angie Payne: Up stairs or something. I was like, ‘Me? That’s going to work.’ That was really hard and it was good for that, just learning how to fight through discomfort and fatigue, but it made me so tired that I couldn’t climb so I was like, ‘Oh okay, this isn’t working. Really, what I want to be doing is climbing so if I’m so tired that I can’t climb, that’s not going to work.’
I did that for awhile and then I stopped and then, for awhile, I just climbed at my own pace, when I wanted to and as much as I could. Then, I realized a couple years ago that I had some major weaknesses that I really had to work on if I wanted to keep up in the competitions.
Neely Quinn: Like what?
Angie Payne: Dynamic movement, mainly, and power, but mostly dynamic movement. I talked to a friend at the time and was like, ‘I really need somebody who knows my climbing style, who’s willing to make a schedule for me, and teach me how to jump, essentially. I just need to learn how to jump and I will pay you.’
He made a schedule and I paid him and he taught me how to jump. I fell and fell and fell. I spent a long time falling and I worked on some other things, too, it wasn’t just dynoing the whole time. I was onsight training, I was dynoing a lot, some systems board things, some weight room stuff to build my leg power because I have puny little legs.
Neely Quinn: You were doing jumping up onto boxes and stuff, right?
Angie Payne: Yeah, and doing some coordination stuff. We were really playing around with it. He was playing around with ideas and I was testing them out. He’s not a certified trainer of any kind but he’s a route setter and has a lot of knowledge about my climbing style and how to set things that tested and work my weaknesses, so that was really helpful.
I did that for awhile, for about a year or a little less than a year that I trained with him, and then that was the last time that I’ve had any structured training.
Neely Quinn: Did that training help?
Angie Payne: Yeah, it helped tremendously. I actually can jump now. Just having somebody tell me what to do and when to do it and to hold me accountable for doing it was what I really needed. I knew that was what I needed and that’s why I didn’t feel like I had to have somebody who was specifically certified in cross training things. It wasn’t so much about the cross training as it was that I specifically needed to learn how to do dynamic movements. It was more of a climbing focus, improving a certain technique.
Neely Quinn: When you were training with him, how many days a week were you training?
Angie Payne: Four, I think, most of the time, but it was different things each day. One day we would do an onsight session and then the next day we would do just jumps and the next day we would do systems board – and these days weren’t all in a row, but the first day of the week we would do this, the second day we would do this, the third day – and some of it was focused around competitions. Strategy and that kind of thing. He would make a round of boulder problems and I would try to do an onsight session so some days would be that, and then some days would just be more like open climbing and a little bit of [unclear].
My legs felt stronger, which helps, but more than anything it was just learning the movement and learning how to jump, how to jump on a climbing wall, and how to execute a dyno.
Neely Quinn: You’re not doing any structured training right now and so when you go into the climbing gym or outside – for instance, when you’re in the gym four days a week or two or three or whatever it is, what does the session look like and how long is it?
Angie Payne: Now I’ve had – one of my good friends moved to Colorado recently and she is really motivated to climb all the time and she has a very flexible schedule. Having her around has really given me a little bit more structure to my climbing. It’s somebody to hold me accountable for actually showing up to the gym. That helps a lot, but a lot of times we’ll do onsight sessions. It’s what we do a lot. It’s not formal, like, ‘Okay, we have five minutes on this boulder and five minutes on this boulder.’
Chris, my boyfriend, goes in and sets. He just makes up problems. That’s what he does. If he goes climbing with us he just makes up problems all the time. It’s what he’s doing, constantly. He’ll be playing on something and some days he’ll say, “Alright, I have boulders if you guys want to try them.” Some of our sessions will be that, trying made-up boulder problems, and then some of our sessions will be going into Movement, let’s say, or one of the gyms if they have new boulder problems set and climb on those. Or, sometimes we’ll just climb on stuff we’ve climbed on before because there’s nothing new.
Building up to a couple of the recent competitions we did some 4x4s, some power endurance training and things like that, but…
Neely Quinn: Power endurance training meaning what?
Angie Payne: We had this Dominion River Rock climbing competition that was longer boulder problems, so kind of like a mix between routes and boulder problems, and so we did 4x4s where we picked four boulder problems and we did them all in a row and then rested and then did them all in a row and we did that four times. That was just to try to work our power endurance. Aside from that, that’s about as structured as it got. I think just climbing together and climbing with somebody else who pushes me made me a lot stronger. I think that’s really training for me, personally.
Neely Quinn: She inspires you.
Angie Payne: Yeah, just having somebody else there and that I’m competitive with. We are competitive with each other, me and the girl. I climb with other girls, too, but when I climb with other girls, if there is a healthy level of competition, I climb better and get a lot out of it.
Neely Quinn: You don’t do anything outside of climbing? Like, do you do pull-ups or push-ups or ab work or anything?
Angie Payne: No, I do nothing. I do nothing outside of climbing, I swear.
Neely Quinn: [laughs] How long are your sessions?
Angie Payne: Usually, at most two hours but typically like an hour and something.
Neely Quinn: And that’s probably less than it used to be.
Angie Payne: Yeah, I used to go to the gym for like four hours at at time. I don’t know what I was doing before. I lived in the climbing gym. It was bad on so many levels.
I loved the climbing gym. It wasn’t bad because it was the climbing gym. I was born and raised in the climbing gym but just, for me, it was a very vicious cycle of spending way too much time climbing, wearing my body down, becoming obsessed with it, digging myself into this hole of self destruction. I try to keep my sessions shorter now, for my body’s sake. I’m older now and I think I get more out of it if I’m not beating myself into the ground.
Neely Quinn: Do you find that you get injured if you climb more than that?
Angie Payne: Yeah, I do, and if I climb in certain gyms too often, like if I climb on certain types of boulder problems too often. I kind of have to move around because there are certain gyms that are crimpier and certain places that aren’t. You can say that in Boulder because there are so many gyms, but the styles are different and I have to be careful not to spend too much time crimping or I’ll injure my fingers.
I just don’t have that much training going on. I like climbing as training because I just like climbing a lot, I guess. I’m not opposed to training.
Neely Quinn: And I guess it works for you.
Angie Payne: Yeah, I’m not opposed to training and to do this boulder problem I probably should do some sort of training. I should go in and start doing longer boulder problems, which I think I will in a couple days.
Neely Quinn: If you can motivate yourself.
Angie Payne: Yeah, if I can motivate myself to go into the gym when it’s so nice outside now. I’m kind of transitioning into going outside a lot more, so I hope.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so how do you fuel your climbing?
Angie Payne: I’m trying to eat better. I’ve tried to eat pretty well but I’m not the best, just like I’m not that good at training. I’m pretty good at eating, though. I’m really good at eating but not as good at eating well. I do try to eat pretty well but I don’t have a strict diet. Neely has helped me a little. I’m trying to be better.
I’ve had a lot of trouble with diets in the past, so basically I try to eat a lot of food now. A lot more than I used to, but I keep it pretty healthy. I’m pretty lazy when it comes to eating well. I don’t eat a lot of fast food but I don’t cook enough food. I don’t make enough of my own food.
Neely Quinn: So, take us through a day of your eating.
Angie Payne: A day of my eating? If I’ve gone grocery shopping – this is my first big problem, I don’t go grocery shopping enough because I’m cheap and I don’t like spending lots of money on food but I end up spending money anyway.
Neely Quinn: You end up spending money anyway because you go out?
Angie Payne: Because I go out to eat sometimes. I honestly don’t have food in the fridge. A day would be like: I wake up and I always eat breakfast. I am very good about eating breakfast because I have to because I don’t function without it. I make myself breakfast. I’m pretty good about breakfast. I eat eggs and toast or I eat an egg and cheese burrito, like a breakfast burrito that I make, or I eat avocado and toast or yogurt or a little bit of cereal or some fruit. Sometimes I eat fruit for breakfast with something else. I’m good at breakfast. I think I’m pretty good at breakfast.
Then, lunch I’m not as good at because sometimes, at work, I sometimes bring lunch but sometimes I don’t because of the grocery thing. That’s a problem. Now, I’ve become even worse about that because I’m running out of time so I’ll eat leftovers a lot of days for lunch but that usually comes from food that I’ve eaten the night before, which is sometimes food I’ve made and sometimes food I’ve not. In general, I don’t eat total junk. I try to be pretty good about it.
Neely Quinn: What would your leftovers be?
Angie Payne: I do eat a lot of salads, soup and salads. So what would my leftovers be?
Neely Quinn: Yeah.
Angie Payne: If I’m really good and I make a lot of chicken then I’ll eat chicken for a couple of days.
Neely Quinn: Like chicken on a salad?
Angie Payne: Yeah, chicken on salad, chicken in a taco, mostly chicken on a salad. I eat a lot of chicken.
Neely Quinn: What kind of dressing would you have with it?
Angie Payne: I would have honey mustard or balsamic. Those are my favorites. With balsamic I like lots. I have three bottles of it at my house so I’m very excited. I’ll be eating a lot of balsamic in the future since I have three bottles. But yeah, a lot of chicken on salads and I eat a lot of turkey and ham sandwiches.
Sometimes, like today, I’ll admit I did not bring a bunch because I didn’t plan ahead and I was real anxious to get out of work, so I ate half an avocado that somebody gave me and I ate some berries that somebody gave me [laughs] and I ate a Luna bar that I had with me. That was probably not a very good lunch, but usually I’m a lot better about lunch.
Neely Quinn: So what have you noticed about food, like how it affects your climbing and your health?
Angie Payne: Oh man, it’s huge. I have to eat. I’ve gone through some really bad low times when I was not eating enough and destroying myself.
Neely Quinn: And you were weighing a lot less.
Angie Payne: And I was weighing a lot less. A lot less. I was way too small and having kind of a rough time. I was climbing way too much, not eating enough, had just moved, I was depressed about being away from home, I was living in the climbing gym, and I knew I was losing weight but I didn’t know I was losing as much weight as I was. It’s a pretty vicious cycle. It was a pretty destructive, unsustainable cycle and I realized that eventually. It was manageable for a little while but not long term.
Neely Quinn: You mean your energy levels and stuff?
Angie Payne: Well, it wasn’t really manageable but I did it for a little while but my energy level was horrible. I was super unhealthy. I’m surprised I didn’t get injured. I think it was just because I was light enough that I wasn’t hurting my fingers but I’m lucky I didn’t get injured. And, I realized that there is this really unique feeling of feeling light.
When you’re light you feel light and that is a feeling that, I’m not going to lie, feels good when you feel light. Every climber knows that you have those days when you’re like, ‘Man, I feel light.’ When you’re pretty small you feel that more often. You’re like, ‘Oh, I feel really light, okay,’ but the feeling of feeling strong, I’ve realized, is a lot cooler than feeling light. They’re very different. They are two very different feelings.
Once I gained muscle, it was scary. That sounds stupid but it was scary to start eating a lot again. I’d be like, ‘Okay, I know I’m going to gain weight now. If I start eating as much as I should, I’m going to gain weight.’ Gaining weight was really hard. Well, the actual process of gaining weight wasn’t hard, I just had to eat more, but mentally gaining weight was hard. Then I realized that I actually feel better when I’m at a healthy weight, and then I started climbing well at a healthy weight so I was like, ‘Oh, okay, so I can do this.’ Obviously.
Neely Quinn: So you were climbing as well as or better when you…
Angie Payne: Yeah, and then I started climbing better because I had energy, I had power that I never had when I was smaller…
Neely Quinn: You probably weren’t as depressed, either.
Angie Payne: I was a lot happier. So much happier. Now, I’ve realized that the more muscle – I’ve even gained muscle since then and now I’m even heavier than I was a couple of years ago, but I feel stronger. I’m realizing that I’m not planning on gaining 15 more pounds of muscle. I think there’s definitely a balance but yeah, I’m never going back there. It’s horrible.
Neely Quinn: Moral of the story is: the skinnier you are, not necessarily the better climber you are.
Angie Payne: Definitely. I think I’m a much better climber/person/etcetera to be around. It’s just all-around much better this way and I will never, never go back. It was a hard lesson to learn and I think a lot of climbers go through it, especially female climbers. It’s hard to be there, it’s hard to see people that are there now because I have been.
Neely Quinn: You can’t really just go up to them…
Angie Payne: You want to shake people but you can’t. It’s hard because when I was in that place I don’t know if anybody really knew what to say because nobody really knew me that well anyway because I just moved here. It was rough. You have to kind of go through it and unfortunately, that’s the way you learn. Not that I encourage that at all, but it’s hard. When someone’s in that it’s hard to just snap them out of it. It’s such a destructive cycle.
Neely Quinn: If you were an outsider looking in on you, what would you have wanted somebody to say?
Angie Payne: I wish somebody would have just said something to me. I know people knew but I think people didn’t think they knew me well enough to actually approach me about it. I really wish some people would have approached me about it and been like, ‘Hey, are you okay?’ Really, nobody talked to me about it. I knew it wasn’t healthy but it was easier to ignore if nobody was confronting me about it. Eventually, my parents luckily were like, ‘This is not okay. You’re not going to stay in Colorado. We’re not going to support your decision to be in Colorado, essentially, if you don’t change something.’ That was enough. I was like, ‘I am not thinking about leaving Colorado. Okay, alright, done.’
Neely Quinn: See me eating?
Angie Payne: See? Eating, eating, eating all the time. I’m eating. That’s what it took for me, the threat. Not that they could make me leave but just knowing that gosh, I might really jeopardize my future of being here if I don’t get help. Best thing ever, besides sending, getting healthy.
Neely Quinn: I’m glad. That’s some private information. I appreciate you sharing it.
Angie Payne: That’s very private. I don’t talk very much about it.
Neely Quinn: Not anymore!
Angie Payne: I think it’s important. I don’t try to keep it private but people don’t talk about it very much. I don’t really know why because people should, because everybody sees it. We all see it happen and it’s sad and it sucks to be there.
Neely Quinn: It’s interesting because every person that I’ve talked to, every climber, has said, “Yes, at one point I went down to an unhealthy weight.” They have all said that it wasn’t healthy for them, that they didn’t feel that good and that their climbing wasn’t even that great, sustainably.
Angie Payne: Exactly. It’s very unsustainable and I think that – I don’t know. I don’t think that talking about it is going to prevent every person ever in the future from dealing with it, because when you feel light and you start climbing better, it’s tempting. ‘Oh, I wonder what happens if I lose a little bit more weight? And a little bit more weight?’ but I would hope that people know that it’s just not sustainable and you have to trust that. It actually isn’t sustainable and it’s not a fun process and cycle to go through. I don’t really see the benefit of it. Yeah, you tick off a couple things. Maybe you do the boulder problems you wanted to do but in the long run, to destroy your body like that? It’s not worth it.
Neely Quinn: One last question. You have maintained a really healthy weight for a long time now. How do you know when to stop eating?
Angie Payne: I have more trouble with that now. [laughs] I’m fine with that. I basically eat until I’m full. I can eat a lot, actually, and I’m pretty good at eating. It’s not like I don’t watch my weight now. I still do. I don’t like to be over a certain weight and I don’t let myself go under a certain weight, so I keep myself – I do keep a relatively close eye on it still but I don’t let myself diet, I don’t let myself count calories, and there’s a weight I cannot go under. I cannot go under it.
I eat when I’m hungry and if I’m building up to some competition or some project I’ll try to not eat as much sweet stuff, I’ll try to not eat as much junk food, but I have to be really careful not to overly-restrict myself because then I just crave it more. I feel like I have to be careful to not start going down some slippery slope again. If I say, “Absolutely no ice cream ever again,” that, for me – yeah, maybe in the long run it would be better if I didn’t eat ice cream but mentally, for me, it’s too dangerous a game to try to restrict everything. It’s not worth it so I have to try to find the healthy balance. Not too much ice cream but I’m happy to eat it sometimes.
[unclear due to background noise]
Neely Quinn: Thanks for sharing all that and thanks for talking.
Angie Payne: Yes.
Neely Quinn: Thank you so much for listening to the fourth episode of the TrainingBeta podcast. I hope you liked my talk with Angie, and Angie, if you’re listening to this, thank you so much for taking that time to talk with me.
You can find out more about Angie at www.angiepayne.com and you can always find this interview on www.trainingbeta.com under the ‘podcasts’ tab. I’d love it if you would leave an honest review on iTunes of the podcast. The more reviews it gets the more people the podcast will reach.
Also, if you’re wanting to improve your own climbing, definitely check out our training programs. So far there’s a power endurance program by Kris Peters and an endurance training program by Kris Hampton. You can find them on www.trainingbeta.com under the ‘training programs’ tab.
One last thing: if there’s anyone you would like me to interview, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll try to make it happen. Alright, until next week, happy climbing.