While her busy working career is divided between two surgeries, Dr Rebecca O’Sullivan’s leisure time is all about climbing boulders.
The first time I went rock climbing, I suffered from a terrible case of ‘Elvis legs’. This happens when you’re so nervous, your legs begin to shake involuntarily. Thankfully, I eventually managed to settle down and enjoy the experience. When you have a fear of heights, like I do, it’s actually quite liberating to get a few metres off the ground. That fear never completely disappears but I’ve learned to keep a lid on it through meditation.
“The style of climbing I most enjoy is called bouldering. Typically, the climbs are less than six metres high and done without ropes. All you need are climbing shoes, a landing mat, a little chalk and a lot of determination. It’s quite different to climbing longer routes. The moves are more powerful and punchy—core and lower body strength are crucial—and at times, it requires some quite creative problem solving to reach the top.
“I’ve visited some fantastic climbing spots over the past few years. There’s a place just south of Paris, within the forest of Fontainebleau, that’s a boulderer’s paradise. The forest is full of boulders you can get lost in for weeks at a time.
“I was lucky enough to attend a dental conference in Istanbul a few years ago and managed to tack on a week of climbing in Fontainebleau. I’ve also visited Colombia, Vietnam, Thailand and Croatia for climbing adventures. That’s the great thing about this sport—there are rocks to climb almost everywhere.
“I train about three to four times a week, with each session lasting two to three hours. In addition to indoor climbing, I do strength/power training, yoga for flexibility, lots of chin-ups, and campus board work (ascending and descending a piece of equipment that resembles a wooden ladder, using only your hands). The ability to support your body weight with just your hands allows you to attack more challenging routes. The other really fun technique is called a dyno. That’s where you jump from one handhold to another. For a moment you are completely free of the cliff face.
“There’s so much I love about rock climbing. It’s fun, competitive and very social. You end up becoming very fit and strong without even realising you’re exercising. It’s also a great excuse to
travel the world and visit some of the most beautiful spots on the planet.