How Meditation and Yoga Help You Become a Better and Stronger Athlete

The benefits of meditation seem almost endless, so it’s something we should all learn to do and keep doing every day.

Meditation not only helps us with our normal life but it also helps great athletes become even better!

Just check out Jes Zaneis – or Chronic Climber Chick as she calls herself.

In this interview, Jes shares all about her meditation practice, why she is addicted to the climb and why she follows a paleo lifestyle.

She also shares some of her most useful tips for new climbers and hikers, her favorite gear and some of her best yoga and meditation tips.

Chronic Climber Chick

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I own a wellness & bodycare company called, SoulCare by CCC. It was launched in 2015 as a way to extend the journey I have been on into a fuller purpose and way to serve my calling. I also bartend private events a few times a week while I am building my business.

I am a native to Arizona! I was born in a small copper mining town called, Bagdad in Northern AZ. I grew up in Tempe and graduated from Arizona State University. I now live in North Phoenix/Cave Creek and travel as often as I can.

I love yoga, meditation, music, concerts, art, cultural activities, climbing, hiking, surfing, sup, rafting, really anything that involves moving my body in the outdoors. I recently started playing the Ukulele! I feel it’s very important to be well rounded, all these activities feed my soul, creativity and keeping this mix keeps my mind sharp and body healthy.

Chronic Climber Chick

How and why did you get into climbing?

I started many years ago here in Phoenix by hiking a local spot called, Camelback. It is a 1200 foot climb over 1.2 miles. I loved the energy exerted, the focus required during the steep and narrow sections, the rock itself, the views, everything about it. I would climb it almost daily.

I then extended my exploration of the sport of hiking and climbing during my travels for work. I was in medical sales and traveled constantly. I found that driving and taking time to explore the outdoors along my way was a great stress relief and way to break up all the time on the road. At the end of my career, I would take my clients for a hike or climb rather than to happy hour. It became a way to connect in a different setting that fostered a much healthier atmosphere for both.

I have always loved the outdoors, I was in Awana, Brownies, Girl Scouts and we camped and spent a ton of time in the outdoors as a family. I found that I preferred it to the gym, and since I had a job after school since I was 15 playing traditional sports in high school and college didn’t work for me. This was a way for me to fit in activity when I could. Early on in college, I was a competitive inline speed skater, I trained on the greenbelt of Scottsdale and would skate an average of 12 miles a day. I would climb Camelback on my days off from skating, eventually that took over.

I found I could find some rock or dirt trails just about anywhere and the convenience of that along with the solitude and natural scenes were something that opened up parts of me that brought on a sense of peace I couldn’t find elsewhere. The ability to make each climb or trail exactly what I needed that day or moment was a way for me to live in the moment. To be present with where I was at.

Physically needing to find that space, that challenge for my body and mind, to find a way to let the rest of the world fall away while I had to focus on that moment, that little crag, that piece of rock, that ridge below, it gave me a place of respite and presence. Seeing others finding alternative ways up the same chute, realizing there is a multitude of ways to learn from the climb. Knowing that would get me to focus.

I am generally an action person. The moment I start to overthink is the moment I get moving. I realize in the stall is where the fear lives, and while it is important to acknowledge that fear as it is a great teacher, action is the best way to overcome it, and momentum is born. The times that it was the last thing I wanted to do, were the times I knew it was absolutely what I needed to do most.

I do a multitude of cross training. I was a boxer for 3 years, I trained 2 hours a day 5 days a week and would hike on my days off. Boxing gave me so many ways to use my own body weight and strength to develop balance, rhythm, fast twitch muscles, breathing, core strength and mental toughness. I also have been doing yoga daily for 10 years. Yoga has become my most treasured sport, it is low impact, full of restorative qualities, breathing, flexibility, mind strength and most of all compassion and awareness for myself and my body.

I also would try to cover 30-40 miles a week of hiking to keep my feet, ankles and legs strong.

Chronic Climber Chick

Why is climbing important for you?

It is very meditative for me. It provides a personal challenge that only I can personally overcome when I am on that route or trail along with an atmosphere of others who are there to spot, support, and help you look for a better hold, route or technique during your climb and after to assess where and what could have been done differently.

It brings me to a place that no other sport has been able to and it changes my perspective constantly. The outdoors always gives us exactly what we need when we need it. Gaia is the greatest of teachers.

Chronic Climber Chick

What have been the best parts of your climbs?

My motto is “Addicted to the Climb” what that means: it’s those moments when you are in the middle of the climb, when you are so focused on that moment, that space, that rock, that scree, that dirt, when sweat is dripping off of you, when your body feels exhausted, your lungs so tight and constricted, you’re certain there isn’t one ounce of energy left in you, in that moment that I take a deep, soul filling breath and then I exhale. Then the pain, the suffering, the anxiety and fear all drop away. That moment of bliss. Then I keep climbing in a state of peace, serenity, that is when my meditation kicks in. The blissful trance.

Chronic Climber Chick

What have been the most difficult parts?

All of it. Ha! That is what I think is so great about it. You really have to want it, because it isn’t easy. But it is worth it. Always.

Planning and funding depend on the climb of course. Kilimanjaro took months of prep and lots of funding. The gear, the travel, the immersion in a different culture, the acclimatization process, it took a village. Some feel that this type of climbing is a detriment to the environment while the locals depend on it as a way of supporting their life and family. There is a balance.

I am fortunate to live in a part of the world where there are a multitude of amazing spaces for all kinds of climbs within a half day to a day roadtrip. I absolutely loved Africa and many of the other places I have had the fortune of visiting and would go again in a heartbeat, however I can find some of the most incredible places in my own backyard and sleep in the back of my truck to be just as fulfilled. I think both experiences are equally worthy.

Biggest dangers so far are the acclimatization and weather. I have seen many people fall ill and been on mountains where people perished due to either of these scenarios. I have been high up on a mountain during a fierce thunderstorm and could feel the lightning as the hair on my arms raised. I have been lifted off my feet wearing a 40lb pack by 60-70 mph winds. I have seen flash floods sweep trees away in canyons and bus sized icicles drop from 300 feet above. I have been rafting down a river in 45 degree waters during a thunderstorm. Nature is always in charge. We have to respect that.

When everything seems a mess, I keep myself hydrated, fueled correctly, breathe, take a moment to stop and gather myself. Knowing that I am in far better shape and more capable than I am aware of. I like smells, aromas, a way to stop whatever chaos is happening and breathe in.

I was a guide for The Foundation for Blind Children here in Arizona. We rafted the upper grand canyon with 10 blind and sight impaired students then hiked out of Bright Angel Trail. They rely on all their other senses. I think we often forget to close our eyes and listen, smell, feel, breathe. It can really be that simple to get yourself back on track. I always think about how they trusted their senses even when they could not see.

Chronic Climber Chick

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

Yoga. Yoga YOGA! I also eat a very anti inflammatory diet. I love bath and mineral soaks.

I have a GI disease, thyroid disease, and a 21 degree curve in my spine from Scoliosis. Whenever I am not taking care of myself I have inflammation flare ups. They vary from my gut to my elbow to my lower back to my knees and neck. Being very in tune with my diet, stress and level of activity in all of these arenas can help me stop the cause of these flair ups.

I follow a Paleo diet, rest, soak, KT tape, and restorative yoga. Most of all, you must allow your body to let go and allow your mind to release – your body is amazing at healing itself if you give it the chance to. Stressing about it is the worst possible thing you can do. I do a tremendous amount of preventative work to avoid injury. When it does happen, meditation, rest, hydration and diet are the most important things I can do to allow my body to heal.

Your body must take the time to fully heal or the injury will continue to plague you. Switch it up and try something else while that injury repairs.

Chronic Climber Chick

What is your best advice for new climbers?

Treat each day and each climb differently. Your body and mind will let you know what you need, listen to it. I have found that rest and recovery is just as important if not more important than the activity itself. Treat your body like the temple that it is. It’s not just about climbing the fastest, longest, highest or hardest route, it’s about personal growth on all levels of body mind and spirit.

Energy use. It is all about energy use. Knowing how to make the most of that precious energy.

Start small. Go for a walk, then a hike, get your body used to activity – any kind. Do push ups, planks, lunges, small things in your spare moments all throughout the day. Find a community to reach out to, that community is going to be the most important part of your dream turning into reality. Know your weaknesses and find ways to stop the excuses, if it is a friend to hold you accountable, an app, if you need to take a class, whatever will get you to start moving your body! Get yourself used to activity.

Chronic Climber Chick

How do you prepare for your climbs?

To keep me in shape, as mentioned above, I like to do just about every kind of outdoor sport. Surf, paddle, hike, yoga, boxing, skating, snowboarding, walking, lots of squats, lunges, plank and core work. Handstands have become one of my favorite ways to gain strength and balance. I hula hoop, dance, just keep the momentum of movement in my daily routine. I do a minimum of 30 minutes of yoga every single night before bed.

For books/materials, there are so many places to find resources on these things. The best advice I can give on any kind of research is to rent gear first before you decide to buy. When looking at gear reviews, look for a company that does 3rd party reviews. I am very into companies that do good things for our people and planet so will always recommend you take a look at their ethos too. I am a total bookworm so have books on just about everything. It is always wise to hire a guide in the beginning.

Some I plan months in advance, some I decide that morning, sometimes I get in my truck and start driving with no real idea of where I am going to go. Much of it for me is allowing the flow of the universe and timing of it all to work out. I like to think about and say out loud places I would like to go, then allow the flow to take over from there. I will research an area before going to see if there are any places I want to put on the list, and often I just show up and explore with no real plan in mind. You never know what the weather, your body, the timing or many other things that could change your plans may happen. Always be willing to go with the flow. So much of it is experience, it used to take me days, weeks or even months to know what gear to pack, now I can pack up for a trip in a couple hours.

Chronic Climber Chick

How do you finance your climbs?

Over the years, I have had gear sponsors, I also did a few years of gear testing myself, had generous companies extend offers for guest passes or grants. Most of that has been due to me giving to the community first. I have done fundraising only for the climbs that are associated with a charity like The Foundation for Blind Children. We raised money to pay for the kids to go on the trip, and for Kilimanjaro, we did fundraising in the form of getting medical supplies for the school/orphanage I volunteered at while there.

I was in medical sales for many years, 2 years ago I resigned from my position to open my own business encompassing all of the body, mind and spirit aspects of wellness – the outdoors being a tremendous part of that mission.

I also am a private bartender for events and clients I have here in Phoenix a couple days a week while my business grows. It allows me to meet so many different kinds of people and is a very flexible way to be able to do all the things I want to do.

My money is most spent definitely on traveling because I like experiences.

Chronic Climber Chick

How do you balance normal life with climbing?

Generally, I am gone 2-3 times a month for anywhere from two nights to a week or more.

I am transitioning in my life currently. My solution to that in any stage of life is to create a balance and the right mix of people in your life to include them in your activities. I do think solo time is very important for everyone in any situation, finding that slice of time for you makes you a better partner to all people in your life in whatever form they are currently in.

I think balancing earning money with climbing is something that is fluid for most people. Again, it comes down to balance, for me leaving the corporate world to create a better balance was a risky and rewarding move. It is a daily adventure. But one that I took on so I can spend more time immersed in doing what I love. I don’t make the money I used to, however I am more wealthy in all the right ways.

I try to keep the planning and training as simple as possible so I can enjoy the actual activity itself. However, the planning and training are the fun parts to me, the actual event is a nice bonus whenever I get there.

Chronic Climber Chick

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

First aid/survival kit, Hydroflask refillable water bottle + LifeStraw personal water filter. It is full of necessities for any adventure.

What other favorite gear do you have?

I love merino wool, a good pack, insoles, sunglasses & trucker hats.

Wool is the most versatile material for absorbing moisture and regulating temperature. A good pack carries all your essentials. Insoles help align your body and absorb shock, reducing injury and fatigue. Protecting your eyes and head from the sun is one of the most important ways to keep yourself happy. All of these things I have found to increase the comfort on any adventure.

Chronic Climber Chick

Can you tell us more about the Paleo Lifestyle?

I needed to control the inflammation in my body after my hospital visit and thyroid diagnosis. I also had several other health issues and when I consulted with several doctors felt this was the right way to go. Over the five years that I have been on it, it has been a way for me to really cleanse my diet and find a morphed version that works well for me.

About half of my diet is good fats, helping tremendously with long bursts of energy and recovery. I eat meats generally 2-3 times a week and lots of fresh fruits, veggies, superfoods and potato’s. I like to know where my food is sourced from, grown in, and how the animals are treated. I do my best to always buy grassfed, local and fair trade. It is a constant form of education to learn and adjust to new information along with many new products being introduced.

Beneficial bacteria, omegas, bone broth collagen, good fats, all of these things in conjunction help tremendously with energy levels and recovery. It has been years of experimenting with what works and what doesn’t for me. Knowing how my body reacts to different things. Incorporating some of the vegan options. It has been tweaked and is always going to be a source of constant education for me.

What will the future bring?

We shall see… stay tuned! Lots more to come.


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