I love climbing and have so ever since I first discovered it on a beautiful October day on the south coast of England.

I was hooked from the moment I did my first route. That was in Swanage, with waves crashing below me, seagulls screaming in the air, and a sparkling sea on the horizon.

I was excited.

That was 21 years ago. I was 17.

From that day on, subconsciously rather than consciously I would say, the desire to climb rock in beautiful places has directed my life.

The town I chose to study in, the jobs I took, the places I lived in, people I spend my time with.

[caption id="attachment_6301" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Chamonix Chamonix[/caption]

Climbing has led, directed and shaped my life. For the last 21 years I have always climbed. Some years more, some years less, little breaks here and there mainly due to work or travel but I was always a climber.

What does it mean to be a climber? To me it doesn’t mean you have to be climbing at a high level, or be doing it all the time or be making your living with it. But what does it mean?

[caption id="attachment_6302" align="aligncenter" width="446"]Chamonix granite Chamonix granite[/caption]

I can say that I have been a climber since that very first day on the rock. My heart has been in it since then. I always seek to climb at some point or another.

I tried other sports and activities, I have other interests and hobbies but it is climbing which is the one thing that has been the steady string in my life for the last 20 years.

If you ask me why, I will struggle to explain. Moving on rock in beautiful places makes me happy. It may be as simple as that. Like the need to dance when hearing a tune with a rhythm that captures me, climbing is a need to move on rock when a route or a rock formation inspires me.

And….I enjoy climbing well.

[caption id="attachment_6303" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

To me, climbing well does not mean climbing a hard grade. Climbing well to me means flowing. Climbing well to me means feeling in tune with my body and with my mind. Being aware of every slight shift I perform in body positioning to establish myself better on the rock with more efficiency and fluidity. Shifts so small that they may be invisible to the outside observer but of great significance in how I feel on the rock.

Climbing well to me therefore means being 100% aware of my body and myself and it simply feels good. Add to that good friends, nature and my character to challenge myself physically explains the rest.

It may also explain why, pretty much exactly a year ago, after 20 years of climbing, I decided to stop. I had just spent a wonderful weekend at Céüse, climbing a bunch of great routes with a good friend .

This may come as a surprise to you?

Let me explain.

During quite some time, maybe even as long as 3 years I had climbed with a slight bother in my shoulder. Too caught up chasing the rock and trying to get stronger I had stopped listening to my body.

The pain, or lets call it discomfort, was always there but bearable....then increasingly not bearable.

Last summer I was strong and I was climbing decent grades...but I suddenly realised that I wasn’t climbing well anymore. I wasn’t flowing anymore. I was often in discomfort. My mind had stopped being free. The pain in my shoulder was becoming more and more distracting.

That night, eating dinner on the campsite in my van at Ceuse I decided that I would stop and that I would start again when the pain is gone. Whether it takes a month, a year, two years….I just wanted to feel normal again. I wanted to climb again with a free mind.

With this decision I started a search.

One physiotherapist was convinced hat I had a tear in my shoulder tendon and that an operation was needed.

Fine I say. Whatever needs doing.

I had scans and various tests done. None showed anything other than inflammation. No tears, no damage, nothing unusual to see. In fact my shoulder seemed in good shape with little wear and tear even after 20 years of climbing. No operation needed.

So now what? Working with some of the best physiotherapists I slowly started to get to know my body again. I learned that years of doing rope access work had caused a lot of imbalances. My posture, which seems good at first glance needed lots of subtle, tiny adjustments.

I learned that stress would change my posture and consequently cause pain. I looked at my life, my diet, my habits, how to reduce stress. I spent money and more money to see various people in search of answers. Physios, osteos, acupuncturists, rolfers, private yoga lessons. I took a lot of time to simply listen to my body, to each move I was doing, to my emotions and needs.

Months and months went by first with only subtle changes, ups and downs. Whenever I thought I had a breakthrough, there would be a week or a month when the pain came back. I kept persevering. Hours and hours of physio exercises, a one-week fast, changes in my diet. Adjustments to my life, relationships, work.

Not much changed for quite some time.

[caption id="attachment_6307" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

Was I just imagining it all? Having had no accident, no impact I found myself running from one doctor and therapist to the next.

There are enough people out there who had serious accidents, really were going through hard times with damaged bodies. And here I am, apparently all healthy, making such a fuss.

I was almost hoping that one of the scans would show something…just explain where the discomfort would come from.

Sometimes the pain was so bad I really didn’t believe there was no damage. I stopped working as a climbing guide, luckily had other work where I wasn’t relying on my body. Even going for a walk would aggravate the shoulder.

Finally, after several months things started shifting, little improvements here and there. It may seem crazy but I started to get as much enjoyment out of a successful physio session than I used to get out of a great days climbing? What was a successful physio session? Usually when a new window of awareness opened. A slight shift in posture for example that brought release and ease in movement.

The greatest thing I learned was to be able to listen again, to listen to my body.

And here I am, climbing again.

[caption id="attachment_6305" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

Yes that’s right. After about 8 months I gave it a go but quickly stopped as the pain came back. I persevered with daily physio sessions, massages, kept spending my savings on treatments, integrated yoga into my life and continued a healthy diet.

2 months on I tried again. I never focused on strength and fitness but instead on listening to my body and posture with every move. Doing miniature sessions at the time, as little as 10 minutes

Patience…..

…..perseverance…..

Thanks to my shoulder I learned to readdress certain things in my life and to readdress myself. I am feeling better than I have in a long time…..with all that looking after myself not surprising.

I learned to be more aware of what causes stress for me, how to reduce or avoid it, and to listen to the needs of my body and mind.

I am writing this today after a great morning out on the rock in the sun with a good friend. Today more than any other day since I have started climbing again I felt that I was climbing well. I felt that I had found again something I had lost a long time ago. I couldn’t help but smile to myself numerous times moving upwards today.

[caption id="attachment_6300" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Bivy Bivy[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6299" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Bivy Bivy[/caption]

Why was I not getting pumped, or scared, run out above the last bolt? Instead I felt fully in touch with how I needed to shift with each move to be efficient and to avoid the pump in my rather unfit forearms.

I still have some work to do. There are still days that are not so good but they seem to get less and less. The days I feel that I am moving well without discomfort are increasing.

I am climbing again and I am clear about my objectives for the next little while. The focus is on movement and sensation rather than on grades, location rather than difficulty. Already by simply working on my technique, posture and awareness I am doing routes I didn’t think would seem this easy after such a long break. The flow is back, climbing brings joy again.

We all climb for different reason. Thanks to my shoulder I remembered why I do.

Jude Spancken

I love climbing and have so ever since I first discovered it on a beautiful October day on the south coast of England.

I was hooked from the moment I did my first route. That was in Swanage, with waves crashing below me, seagulls screaming in the air, and a sparkling sea on the horizon.

I was excited.

That was 21 years ago. I was 17.

From that day on, subconsciously rather than consciously I would say, the desire to climb rock in beautiful places has directed my life.

The town I chose to study in, the jobs I took, the places I lived in, people I spend my time with.

[caption id="attachment_6301" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Chamonix Chamonix[/caption]

Climbing has led, directed and shaped my life. For the last 21 years I have always climbed. Some years more, some years less, little breaks here and there mainly due to work or travel but I was always a climber.

What does it mean to be a climber? To me it doesn’t mean you have to be climbing at a high level, or be doing it all the time or be making your living with it. But what does it mean?

[caption id="attachment_6302" align="aligncenter" width="446"]Chamonix granite Chamonix granite[/caption]

I can say that I have been a climber since that very first day on the rock. My heart has been in it since then. I always seek to climb at some point or another.

I tried other sports and activities, I have other interests and hobbies but it is climbing which is the one thing that has been the steady string in my life for the last 20 years.

If you ask me why, I will struggle to explain. Moving on rock in beautiful places makes me happy. It may be as simple as that. Like the need to dance when hearing a tune with a rhythm that captures me, climbing is a need to move on rock when a route or a rock formation inspires me.

And….I enjoy climbing well.

[caption id="attachment_6303" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

To me, climbing well does not mean climbing a hard grade. Climbing well to me means flowing. Climbing well to me means feeling in tune with my body and with my mind. Being aware of every slight shift I perform in body positioning to establish myself better on the rock with more efficiency and fluidity. Shifts so small that they may be invisible to the outside observer but of great significance in how I feel on the rock.

Climbing well to me therefore means being 100% aware of my body and myself and it simply feels good. Add to that good friends, nature and my character to challenge myself physically explains the rest.

It may also explain why, pretty much exactly a year ago, after 20 years of climbing, I decided to stop. I had just spent a wonderful weekend at Céüse, climbing a bunch of great routes with a good friend .

This may come as a surprise to you?

Let me explain.

During quite some time, maybe even as long as 3 years I had climbed with a slight bother in my shoulder. Too caught up chasing the rock and trying to get stronger I had stopped listening to my body.

The pain, or lets call it discomfort, was always there but bearable....then increasingly not bearable.

Last summer I was strong and I was climbing decent grades...but I suddenly realised that I wasn’t climbing well anymore. I wasn’t flowing anymore. I was often in discomfort. My mind had stopped being free. The pain in my shoulder was becoming more and more distracting.

That night, eating dinner on the campsite in my van at Ceuse I decided that I would stop and that I would start again when the pain is gone. Whether it takes a month, a year, two years….I just wanted to feel normal again. I wanted to climb again with a free mind.

With this decision I started a search.

One physiotherapist was convinced hat I had a tear in my shoulder tendon and that an operation was needed.

Fine I say. Whatever needs doing.

I had scans and various tests done. None showed anything other than inflammation. No tears, no damage, nothing unusual to see. In fact my shoulder seemed in good shape with little wear and tear even after 20 years of climbing. No operation needed.

So now what? Working with some of the best physiotherapists I slowly started to get to know my body again. I learned that years of doing rope access work had caused a lot of imbalances. My posture, which seems good at first glance needed lots of subtle, tiny adjustments.

I learned that stress would change my posture and consequently cause pain. I looked at my life, my diet, my habits, how to reduce stress. I spent money and more money to see various people in search of answers. Physios, osteos, acupuncturists, rolfers, private yoga lessons. I took a lot of time to simply listen to my body, to each move I was doing, to my emotions and needs.

Months and months went by first with only subtle changes, ups and downs. Whenever I thought I had a breakthrough, there would be a week or a month when the pain came back. I kept persevering. Hours and hours of physio exercises, a one-week fast, changes in my diet. Adjustments to my life, relationships, work.

Not much changed for quite some time.

[caption id="attachment_6307" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

Was I just imagining it all? Having had no accident, no impact I found myself running from one doctor and therapist to the next.

There are enough people out there who had serious accidents, really were going through hard times with damaged bodies. And here I am, apparently all healthy, making such a fuss.

I was almost hoping that one of the scans would show something…just explain where the discomfort would come from.

Sometimes the pain was so bad I really didn’t believe there was no damage. I stopped working as a climbing guide, luckily had other work where I wasn’t relying on my body. Even going for a walk would aggravate the shoulder.

Finally, after several months things started shifting, little improvements here and there. It may seem crazy but I started to get as much enjoyment out of a successful physio session than I used to get out of a great days climbing? What was a successful physio session? Usually when a new window of awareness opened. A slight shift in posture for example that brought release and ease in movement.

The greatest thing I learned was to be able to listen again, to listen to my body.

And here I am, climbing again.

[caption id="attachment_6305" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

Yes that’s right. After about 8 months I gave it a go but quickly stopped as the pain came back. I persevered with daily physio sessions, massages, kept spending my savings on treatments, integrated yoga into my life and continued a healthy diet.

2 months on I tried again. I never focused on strength and fitness but instead on listening to my body and posture with every move. Doing miniature sessions at the time, as little as 10 minutes

Patience…..

…..perseverance…..

Thanks to my shoulder I learned to readdress certain things in my life and to readdress myself. I am feeling better than I have in a long time…..with all that looking after myself not surprising.

I learned to be more aware of what causes stress for me, how to reduce or avoid it, and to listen to the needs of my body and mind.

I am writing this today after a great morning out on the rock in the sun with a good friend. Today more than any other day since I have started climbing again I felt that I was climbing well. I felt that I had found again something I had lost a long time ago. I couldn’t help but smile to myself numerous times moving upwards today.

[caption id="attachment_6300" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Bivy Bivy[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6299" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Bivy Bivy[/caption]

Why was I not getting pumped, or scared, run out above the last bolt? Instead I felt fully in touch with how I needed to shift with each move to be efficient and to avoid the pump in my rather unfit forearms.

I still have some work to do. There are still days that are not so good but they seem to get less and less. The days I feel that I am moving well without discomfort are increasing.

I am climbing again and I am clear about my objectives for the next little while. The focus is on movement and sensation rather than on grades, location rather than difficulty. Already by simply working on my technique, posture and awareness I am doing routes I didn’t think would seem this easy after such a long break. The flow is back, climbing brings joy again.

We all climb for different reason. Thanks to my shoulder I remembered why I do.

Jude Spancken

I love climbing and have so ever since I first discovered it on a beautiful October day on the south coast of England.

I was hooked from the moment I did my first route. That was in Swanage, with waves crashing below me, seagulls screaming in the air, and a sparkling sea on the horizon.

I was excited.

That was 21 years ago. I was 17.

From that day on, subconsciously rather than consciously I would say, the desire to climb rock in beautiful places has directed my life.

The town I chose to study in, the jobs I took, the places I lived in, people I spend my time with.

[caption id="attachment_6301" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Chamonix Chamonix[/caption]

Climbing has led, directed and shaped my life. For the last 21 years I have always climbed. Some years more, some years less, little breaks here and there mainly due to work or travel but I was always a climber.

What does it mean to be a climber? To me it doesn’t mean you have to be climbing at a high level, or be doing it all the time or be making your living with it. But what does it mean?

[caption id="attachment_6302" align="aligncenter" width="446"]Chamonix granite Chamonix granite[/caption]

I can say that I have been a climber since that very first day on the rock. My heart has been in it since then. I always seek to climb at some point or another.

I tried other sports and activities, I have other interests and hobbies but it is climbing which is the one thing that has been the steady string in my life for the last 20 years.

If you ask me why, I will struggle to explain. Moving on rock in beautiful places makes me happy. It may be as simple as that. Like the need to dance when hearing a tune with a rhythm that captures me, climbing is a need to move on rock when a route or a rock formation inspires me.

And….I enjoy climbing well.

[caption id="attachment_6303" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

To me, climbing well does not mean climbing a hard grade. Climbing well to me means flowing. Climbing well to me means feeling in tune with my body and with my mind. Being aware of every slight shift I perform in body positioning to establish myself better on the rock with more efficiency and fluidity. Shifts so small that they may be invisible to the outside observer but of great significance in how I feel on the rock.

Climbing well to me therefore means being 100% aware of my body and myself and it simply feels good. Add to that good friends, nature and my character to challenge myself physically explains the rest.

It may also explain why, pretty much exactly a year ago, after 20 years of climbing, I decided to stop. I had just spent a wonderful weekend at Céüse, climbing a bunch of great routes with a good friend .

This may come as a surprise to you?

Let me explain.

During quite some time, maybe even as long as 3 years I had climbed with a slight bother in my shoulder. Too caught up chasing the rock and trying to get stronger I had stopped listening to my body.

The pain, or lets call it discomfort, was always there but bearable....then increasingly not bearable.

Last summer I was strong and I was climbing decent grades...but I suddenly realised that I wasn’t climbing well anymore. I wasn’t flowing anymore. I was often in discomfort. My mind had stopped being free. The pain in my shoulder was becoming more and more distracting.

That night, eating dinner on the campsite in my van at Ceuse I decided that I would stop and that I would start again when the pain is gone. Whether it takes a month, a year, two years….I just wanted to feel normal again. I wanted to climb again with a free mind.

With this decision I started a search.

One physiotherapist was convinced hat I had a tear in my shoulder tendon and that an operation was needed.

Fine I say. Whatever needs doing.

I had scans and various tests done. None showed anything other than inflammation. No tears, no damage, nothing unusual to see. In fact my shoulder seemed in good shape with little wear and tear even after 20 years of climbing. No operation needed.

So now what? Working with some of the best physiotherapists I slowly started to get to know my body again. I learned that years of doing rope access work had caused a lot of imbalances. My posture, which seems good at first glance needed lots of subtle, tiny adjustments.

I learned that stress would change my posture and consequently cause pain. I looked at my life, my diet, my habits, how to reduce stress. I spent money and more money to see various people in search of answers. Physios, osteos, acupuncturists, rolfers, private yoga lessons. I took a lot of time to simply listen to my body, to each move I was doing, to my emotions and needs.

Months and months went by first with only subtle changes, ups and downs. Whenever I thought I had a breakthrough, there would be a week or a month when the pain came back. I kept persevering. Hours and hours of physio exercises, a one-week fast, changes in my diet. Adjustments to my life, relationships, work.

Not much changed for quite some time.

[caption id="attachment_6307" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

Was I just imagining it all? Having had no accident, no impact I found myself running from one doctor and therapist to the next.

There are enough people out there who had serious accidents, really were going through hard times with damaged bodies. And here I am, apparently all healthy, making such a fuss.

I was almost hoping that one of the scans would show something…just explain where the discomfort would come from.

Sometimes the pain was so bad I really didn’t believe there was no damage. I stopped working as a climbing guide, luckily had other work where I wasn’t relying on my body. Even going for a walk would aggravate the shoulder.

Finally, after several months things started shifting, little improvements here and there. It may seem crazy but I started to get as much enjoyment out of a successful physio session than I used to get out of a great days climbing? What was a successful physio session? Usually when a new window of awareness opened. A slight shift in posture for example that brought release and ease in movement.

The greatest thing I learned was to be able to listen again, to listen to my body.

And here I am, climbing again.

[caption id="attachment_6305" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Petit Clocher Petit Clocher[/caption]

Yes that’s right. After about 8 months I gave it a go but quickly stopped as the pain came back. I persevered with daily physio sessions, massages, kept spending my savings on treatments, integrated yoga into my life and continued a healthy diet.

2 months on I tried again. I never focused on strength and fitness but instead on listening to my body and posture with every move. Doing miniature sessions at the time, as little as 10 minutes

Patience…..

…..perseverance…..

Thanks to my shoulder I learned to readdress certain things in my life and to readdress myself. I am feeling better than I have in a long time…..with all that looking after myself not surprising.

I learned to be more aware of what causes stress for me, how to reduce or avoid it, and to listen to the needs of my body and mind.

I am writing this today after a great morning out on the rock in the sun with a good friend. Today more than any other day since I have started climbing again I felt that I was climbing well. I felt that I had found again something I had lost a long time ago. I couldn’t help but smile to myself numerous times moving upwards today.

[caption id="attachment_6300" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Bivy Bivy[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6299" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Bivy Bivy[/caption]

Why was I not getting pumped, or scared, run out above the last bolt? Instead I felt fully in touch with how I needed to shift with each move to be efficient and to avoid the pump in my rather unfit forearms.

I still have some work to do. There are still days that are not so good but they seem to get less and less. The days I feel that I am moving well without discomfort are increasing.

I am climbing again and I am clear about my objectives for the next little while. The focus is on movement and sensation rather than on grades, location rather than difficulty. Already by simply working on my technique, posture and awareness I am doing routes I didn’t think would seem this easy after such a long break. The flow is back, climbing brings joy again.

We all climb for different reason. Thanks to my shoulder I remembered why I do.

Jude Spancken