Four words: How Comfortable Are You?
For anyone who climbs, new or experienced, whatever your ability, the need to move comfortably without worrying about clothing issues is crucial.
As a headscarf-wearing 1.5-armed and frequently mobility-reduced climber who is often in the media or giving talks, clothes that are comfortable are crucial to me. If I’m uncomfortable, it shows in my body language and impacts my concentration in whatever I am doing.
I’ll tell you a secret. I have some pretty serious body image issues. When I’ve told people, they have reacted in surprise because I appear confident. Part of the reason people are surprised is because I’ve only just started talking about it publicly in the last few months.
Image by Erin Davies
I also hate clothes shopping. Between needing to test how accessible the clothes I pick might be (think wrestling matches in changing rooms), thinking about desired coverage and making sure they are comfortable, I’ve become one of those people that will buy the same thing in multiple colours just so I don’t need to shop again as the experience will leave me anxious and with much self-doubt.
This is already an issue for my outer clothes; it’s way worse when it comes to bras. Partly because my body image issues centre on the fact that I have an hourglass body shape but also because bras are generally a nightmare to put on as a 1.5-armed person. Like shoelaces, they are fiddly and as a woman with quite a few medical issues including some significant complications, I experience a lot of pain in my day-to-day so finding something that fits right and doesn’t make things worse has never happened. In other words, I expect to be in pain when I get dressed every single day. No wonder I have body image issues!
Image by Anna Knight
A few weeks ago, HoldBreaker came to London to my local climbing centre, the Castle. They had a stall and I had been debating coming to the Castle to have a look at what they had. I was definitely not going to try it though. I was just curious at what a climbing bra would look like and had heard that HoldBreaker had taken a lot of women’s experiences into account when designing. A friend of mine had already been using them and said enough to persuade me to at least have a look.
From first sight the bra looks functional but also badass. I could easily see myself in it, but also women wearing it as a top. The passion from the HoldBreaker team was enough to persuade me to try it, and the fact that I could pull it on like a T-shirt was winning my favour.
For the first time in very many years, I wasn’t in pain and while I was being supported, I didn’t feel like I was even wearing a bra. I was comfortable and it showed in my climbing. It made me aware of just how much background energy gets swept up into ignoring the dull and sharp pains I get through the day in my arm, ribs and chest and how that type of distraction could and probably does make me uncomfortable without even realising, and impacts how much I’m able to commit during a climbing or training session. For the first time in forever, I felt free and uninhibited about that part of my body.
Image by Claire Clifton Coles
Comfort and freedom of movement in sports and in life is massively important. If you’re uncomfortable, it will impact your potential, especially if it’s something you’ve put in the back of your mind because it’s something you think might never be resolved.
As a new person to any activity, it can be very uncomfortable and even intimidating talking about the more intimate parts of our bodies, especially from a cultural perspective for some. Trust me, you’re definitely not alone and I’m hoping by sharing my experience, you will have the courage to find the right support for you.