An Interview with Becky Alarcon - Climber & Mom
Editor: How old were you when did you first start climbing?
Becky Alarcon: 25.
Editor: How old is your child? Boy or girl?
Becky Alarcon: I have a 6 month old girl, Juniper.
Editor: Did you always want children before you became a mom?
Becky Alarcon: I was definitely more on the yes end of the spectrum than on the no, but I wasn’t one of those people rushing towards motherhood. I wanted to go on a lot of adventures before diving head first into the big adventure of becoming a mother.
Editor: Have you climbed while pregnant and what was that feeling like for you?
Becky Alarcon: We actually went to Colombia to climb when I was about 9 weeks pregnant, and I climbed up until about 18 weeks or so, mostly bouldering. I stopped because I had some odd pregnancy scares come up around that time so I figured it would be smartest to stop bouldering and running. It was a bit frustrating because I wanted to continue at the same level of activity that I had before becoming pregnant. Sitting idle is never fun.
Editor: Was bouncing back from pregnancy easy or did it take a little time?
Becky Alarcon: It was much harder than I thought it would be. I’ve taken up to 7 months off from climbing before so I thought I’d be well prepared for the slow return to climbing, but returning postpartum was nothing like I had expected. I stopped being really active at 18 weeks so I was really out of shape by the time Juniper was born. In addition, my recovery felt slow in comparison to the norm.
Some of my friends were back in the gym, climbing and running, one week after delivering their children. On the other end of that spectrum was Beth and her longer recovery. I was somewhere in the middle, but I think it was a longer recovery than most women experience. I was nowhere near back in the game at 8 weeks postpartum. It took me a while to be comfortable even doing simple chores around the house or standing for a prolonged period of time, for example, to clean dishes. Now at 6 months, I’m feeling a bit stronger again, but still nowhere near my baseline fitness level from before, and nowhere near my pre-pregnancy weight. It's training weight, right?
Editor: Right! So, which route/s (and grades) did you do and really enjoy first after having your baby?
Becky Alarcon: Oh boy, I think I gravitated toward easy vertical climbing for a long time. I would come to the gym and try and do five V0s, then five V1s, then five V2s and on up until either Juniper woke up and couldn’t be lulled back to a sleepy state, or until I could not do five of the grade and I was exhausted. It was a great way to measure success and see myself slowly progressing.
When we went to Font at 5 months postpartum I hardly ever picked up a guide book and would just pick circuits. Some days were blue circuit days, some were red circuit days, but everything was super easy grade-wise, yet so fun and challenging. Font was a great place to go postpartum.
Editor: Can you describe the feeling when you topped out? It must have felt exhilarating!
Becky Alarcon: I think I felt a bit more back in the game when I finally had to try really hard topping out a boulder problem in Font. I felt like my head was more in the game at that point. I think mentally I was not in it for some time and I wouldn’t allow myself to try very hard up until that point.
Editor: Climbing is one of those sports that really becomes a part of you emotionally. Did you ever think you’d have to give up climbing due to a mom’s hectic daily schedule?
Becky Alarcon: I think it was only a number of days or weeks after we had Juniper that my husband, Justin, had built out the back of our truck with a bed. We first managed to camp in the back of our truck in Yosemite on a cold late November weekend when Juniper was just 6 weeks old. She looked like a starfish with her little down outfit. I think I always knew that we would somehow make it work, even if it felt like forcing a round peg into a square hole sometimes, although there are moments when getting to the gym is so daunting and feels like an ocean away. In those moments I slightly falter in motivation, but I always go back to repeating the mantra “We can do this.” Justin is also a huge help and sometimes nudges me out the door while he and Juniper stay home. I have to say though, I am now finally in Justin’s camp of wanting to build a woody shed in our backyard.
Editor: That's great! So, how has being a mom changed you as a climber? Are you more intuitive and more emotionally in-tune with how your body reacts to climbing?
Becky Alarcon: I am not necessarily more in-tune with my body in regards to climbing but I have become much more conservative with how I climb. My husband has had a rash of injuries in the last two years. He is currently recovering from achilles surgery. I can’t imagine what it would be like if neither of us could walk while caring for our daughter.
The thought terrifies me, so I have definitely tried to be mindful of making smart decisions and not doing highballs or climbs with sketchy top-outs. I guess I have become that dreadful thing: a worry wart! I am not sure it will stick forever; maybe I will get back to that gutsy high-ballin' climbing style but for now I am taking it easy.
Editor: When your child reaches the toddler phase, you’ll be doing a lot more running around as your little one begins to explore the world around them. Who are/will be your go-to people who you can trust your toddler with when you go climbing?
Becky Alarcon: A number of friends in the bay area have been having children that climb outside. While we were in Font there were 4 other babies traveling with us, 2 of which were already running around. I think it helps to have all of these friends with kids to not only help wrangle the little ones but also to inspire and motivate each other to keep getting outside and showing that not only is it possible to continue climbing but that it is fun, arguably more so than before, but that may be a stretch in some scenarios.
Editor: What advice do you have for young women who love climbing or climb professionally when it comes to having children? Is there a right time, a right age, a right frame of mind so that they have the best advice possible going in?
Becky Alarcon: While I cannot ever imagine feeling “ready” for parenthood, I could not have imagined a better time for us to have kids. It seems that the majority of my climbing friends are having kids, which has made it so much easier mentally, and the thought that our daughter will have other kids around with her tromping through the forest of Yosemite makes me thrilled. I can’t wait! Doing this without all of their guidance and support would still be doable, but this is just ideal and even more fun.
I am pretty new to this whole climbing with a baby gig, but as far as advice goes, I think it is important to actually get outside and force that round peg into that square hole. The first time you do it, it feels ridiculous and hard. But each time you do it, it gets slightly easier and you forget less items and learn more tricks to make it more streamlined the next time. It would be easy to become resigned to not climbing outside since, let's face it, the weekend warrior thing is not easy even without a baby. I think I have also changed my expectations somewhat with how much actual climbing I will get in and what time we will finally leave the house, but I still reap the rewards of us making it outside and climbing.
Editor: What if your daughter doesn’t show an interest in climbing, how will you handle that?
Becky Alarcon: We have thought a lot about this. I think if she does not show an interest in climbing or in the outdoors then I will cry myself to sleep every night. No, of course we will support her in whatever her passions are, but it would be really special if she did take to climbing and found inspiration in being outdoors. Truthfully, I do not think having a kid should prevent a parent from doing things they are passionate about, whatever it may be. We certainly would have to think outside the box a bit and find creative solutions, but hopefully we would find a way to support her passions while nurturing our own.
Editor: That's awesome. You're such a great mom. Are there any climbing locations in particular that you’d love to show your little daughter when she's a bit older?
Becky Alarcon: Yosemite and the Eastern Sierras are two at the top of my list. Mammoth in particular is near and dear to my heart and feels like my home away from home. Climbing aside, I would like my daughter to experience Mammoth Lakes multiple times, especially in the summer. We have also talked about moving to France for a year to give her (and ourselves) a year abroad climbing and learning French. Font is such a great place to expose kids to climbing. It is a big sandbox with high quality climbs for all abilities, even for kids. Outside of that, I hope to expose her to other amazing places I have been to, like Squamish, and the amazing places that I have yet to see.
Editor: What advice would you give to men who don’t climb, whose wives are pro-climbers or just love the climbing life? While their wives climb, how should they handle the role of care-taker? They should be supportive to begin with, of course.
Becky Alarcon: Having a partner that does not climb sounds really difficult to me. I dated a couple of partners that did not climb before being with Justin and I swore I would never do that again. I would recommend that the partner give it a try since climbing makes for such a fun family activity. If the partner does not and will not climb, then encouraging the mom to get outside and being willing to take on more for her is helpful, since sometimes motivation can wane when it feels daunting and hard to get out. Handling the role of care-taker while the mom climbs should look like any other day when they are handling the role of care-taker. Not much needs to change except the partner will have the outdoors to help entertain your child.
Editor: Thank you for your amazing insights and your time. As climbing becomes more mainstream, there will be a lot of women who will become climbers, who have or will have children, and your words will be of great value to them.
We wish you lots of happy, family climbing trips!
Becky Alarcon: Thank you!
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Editor of the Facebook Page: 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad
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On the Cover: Becky Alarcon
Moms Who Climb -
Managing Motherhood & Keeping the Climbing Spirit Alive
Cover Date: April 30th, 2015