Sasha DiGiulian (@sashadigiulian) is the most decorated and arguably the best female climber in the world. She’s been the “Female Overall World Champion” twice, the undefeated “Pan-American Champion” for a 10-year span, and a 3-time “US National Champion.” And she’s accomplished over 30 “First” and “First Female” Ascents. She’s also an entrepreneur, a business owner, an environmentalist, and the author of the new book “Take The Lead” which just came out this week! In this episode, Sasha shares her story of perseverance, resilience, focus, and grit and how she became one of the greatest rock climbers of all time. 

The most impactful climb of her life:

“At this point I’ve traveled to over 50 different countries in pursuit of my sport. And one of the initial journeys that changed my trajectory from just a competition climber to more of a big, expedition climber was a trip that I did in the Dolomites in Italy. It was my first ever ‘big-wall.’ I had, the previous year, won the overall World Championship Title and I was exploring what was next in my career. … During that trip I learned so much, just diving into the deep end with no prior knowledge but being with a climber who had more knowledge than I did. And I was a sponge to all these things going wrong and how to interact.” 

A dangerous situation near the summit:

“On the Dolomites, the rock is very malleable, and it breaks often and my left hand and my left foot ‘broke.” And I remember having this moment that was like 1,000 seconds in one second type of feeling, where time kind of just drew out like a slow-motion picture playing out. And my gut reaction was to be so angry and upset and wanting to be out of this situation, but the reality of it was that I was on a rock face, alone with my climbing partner who wasn’t connected to me, and it was like ‘what do you do with all that emotion? How do you control this fear, and anger, and rage, and discomfort and it really came down to being in control of myself.”

How she achieves her positive mindset:

“What I do for some of my tools in my kit is, first, visualization is a big part of how I practice. And that will be imagining myself in these extreme situations and bringing myself – through visualization – to really think about it and go deep. I actually write out situations too – I’m a big journaler – and forecasting how I’ll operate in my mind before I even get there. But then there’s also an element of the unknown in climbing, that I can visualize as much as I want about a climb that I’ve never been on, but the reality is that only when I get there will I be able to make that live puzzle piece come together. And so, in that frame of work, a lot of it comes down to breathing. Being in control of my breath enables me to make rational decisions and quickly think on my (toes).’”

How she stays present atop a mountain:

“If I’m in a situation where I’m in a precarious part of the wall and I need to get to a place where I can place the next piece of protection or clip my rope into a quick-draw, I actually count – which I don’t know if other people do – but I’ll give myself, ‘one, two, three,’ and it’s almost like the distraction in my mind of counting enables me to focus on something else while letting my body do the work.” 

Pushing through the days she doesn’t want to train:

“There are undoubtedly days where it is tough to train and tough to do whatever is associated with my career but because I’m passionate and because I’m curious about what I’m capable of, I think that the passion feeds off of that curiosity.”

Her daily workout regimen:

“I do five days a week of cross-training with cardio, about an hour to two hours a day. A lot of hand strengthening exercises, so I’ll be, like, hanging from my fingertips for an hour’s routine of what we call ‘hangboarding’ because as a climber everything really comes down to you holding on with your fingers and having your entire bodyweight relying on that strength that you can generate from that contact surface on the rock. … There’s a lot of core training that’s involved because the core is the connection between the upper body and the lower body. And then explosive lifting. “

Standing up for herself and self-love:

“I’ve had a really rocky road, through my career, being exposed (to fame) at a young age when I was a young teenager to being in the limelight of this niche industry that’s full of a lot of judgment. And people thinking they know me from judging me from afar. … A big part of my career has been laying a new foundation to a sport that came from a different background than how I’ve approached it and that was interjecting a level of commercial appeal to climbing which was a very male-dominated, earthy, origin sport. And when I introduced corporate sponsorship and more mainstream magazines, and even the fact that I’m very feminine as an athlete, I’ve learned through my career to just lean into who I am because I’m not going to change the opinions of people who don’t know me regardless of whether I cater to them or not.”

Why She Keeps Pushing Boundaries:

“There will always be haters. And as soon as there aren’t haters, that means that you’re kind of growing into irrelevancy, and maybe that sucks more.”