What do you get when you combine a passion for climbing, 11 national bouldering championships, and a world-class coaching business? Only the most accomplished female bouldering competitor in the U.S., Alex Puccio.
With a passion for climbing and a beloved career, Alex is an expert in what it takes to overcome mental and physical barriers and how to recover – hint, her routine includes CBD. We were thrilled to chat with Alex and get to know the woman making climbing history. Read on for her climbing tips, recovery routine, and a look at her newest venture into coaching.
Q&A with Alex Puccio
When Did You First Fall in Love with Climbing?
The first time I ever walked into a climbing gym was when I was 13 years old when my mother introduced my siblings and me to it.
I tend to skew on the fearful side and was terrified to go to the top of a 22-foot wall on a top rope my first time. Fortunately, sibling rivalry prevailed and when my naturally fearless little sister Casey became interested, my competitive nature kicked in, and I had to give it a shot.
I instantly loved it and found that it helped my ADD. Climbing gave me an outlet to express myself, have fun, and excel at something.
Now That You’re Hooked (pun intended), What Motivated You to Scale to the Top of the Climbing World?
My motivation to become better at climbing was a natural progression. I looked forward to climbing practice after school and was always eagerly waiting for the next climbing day! I wasn’t thinking about the future of my climbing right away, I just loved the way I felt while I was climbing and even more so when I competed in climbing competitions.
When Did You Compete in Your First Climbing Competition?
I competed in my first professional level competition, the USA Bouldering Nationals, at 16 years old and took home first place. Winning at this level was the start of my professional climbing career.
Tell Us About a Make-or-Break-it Moment in Your Climbing Career.
My first big injury was a left knee ACL reconstruction with Meniscus, LCL, and MCL damage. All I could think about and voice aloud as I laid on the ground feeling my knee rip apart inside was, “My career is over. I'll never climb again.”
Two weeks later I was in surgery and began my road to recovery. Looking back, the scariest thing about it all was the uncertainty. I had to embark on an unknown path when I had been perfectly healthy and strong weeks before.
This setback forced me to become more stronger mentally, stronger than I ever thought I could be. Around four-week post-operation, I found a new and powerful sense of motivation I had never felt before. This injury became a challenge, and it fueled my flame into a raging fire of motivation. Fast forward six months and I became a stronger athlete, climber, and competitor than I was previously.
How Do You Recover from Everyday Climbing Training and Competitions? Describe What’s Included in Your Recovery Toolbox.
Recovery is essential for becoming a better athlete and staying at the top of my game (especially as I get older). In my mind, there’s never one tip or trick. In reality, it’s a combination of a carefully curated routine, including plenty of EVN CBD, that makes me a better athlete.
Here are some of the tools I use for deep tissue and muscle recovery: I use a Hyper Volt massage gun, Wave Tool for fascia, sports massages, cold therapy treatments, heat therapy treatments, Marc Pro Electric Stems unit, and bands.
Working closely with physical therapists is also a must for addressing problem areas or minor injuries.
For supplements and topicals, I love using EVN CBD salve. Their broad-spectrum CBD is amazing at relieving sore muscles and the eucalyptus and lavender oils help my mind relax while my body recovers. I like to pair EVN CBD salve with my Wave Tool to help my muscles relax, remedy fascial issues, as well as break up scar tissue.
My routine wouldn’t be complete without EVN CBD Gummies, EVN CBD Oil, KION Aminos, and KION Protein Powder, drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of sleep, routine stretching, and practicing mindfulness.
How Do You Stay Fueled as a Professional Athlete?
I love food and going out for dinners with friends and my husband, so I refuse to restrict myself. My motto is “everything in moderation!” I look for balance and try to remember that what I put into my body is what I get out of it.
Being aware of the effect of what we enjoy is also helpful in maintaining a healthy diet. I can expect a headache or a more difficult night of sleep after a glass of wine or a lot of cake these days. Making healthier swaps, like fruit with some whipped cream and some dark chocolate, can still feel like an indulgence without the sugar crash.
How Has Your Training Evolved in Over a Decade of Competing? Walk Us Through an Average Workout.
I’m in my thirties now and need to listen to my body to not overtrain. Earlier in my career, I could climb five or six days in a row, and the only time I really needed to rest was if the skin on my fingers needed time to heal.
Now I train with more purpose and structure. I climb a maximum of five days a week, sometimes four, and cross-train for three days. My cross-training consists of different off-the-wall exercises like running, weights, different types of pull-ups, push-ups, band exercises, physical therapy exercises, leg work, shoulder work, core workouts, and more.
The balance between training and recovery is so important and everyone’s body is different. Learning to listen to what your body needs is such a crucial component of training, no matter how much or little you train.
As I get older, I find that I am becoming a stronger and a better climber.
Climbing Requires Overcoming Physical and Mental Hurdles. How Do You Recommend Staying Mentally Strong?
Some people are naturally fearless. I was terrified of climbing when I first started, but now that I’m on the other side – and have been for almost two decades – I practice mindfulness to ground myself.
That’s not to say there aren’t times when the nerves don’t kick in, but it all depends on how I frame it in my mind. When fear takes over, you can’t live in the present moment. I’ve found that daily practices of mindfulness and meditation can help better facilitate the narratives we tell ourselves.
Let’s Talk About Women’s Health. Do You Have Any Tips for Other Women Who Want to Climb – and How to Manage Period Pain While Training?
Yes, let’s talk about that “FUN” time of the month! I had a hormonal IUD for about 8-10 years and personally loved it. It’s not for everyone, but I didn’t have to think about getting my cycle while I was traveling, competing, or training.
More recently, I’ve moved away from the IUD and therefore am getting my period again. I continue to train through my cycle, but I am very aware of the energy dips that come with it. Listening to your body is key – not just when you are on your period, but all the time.
I encourage other women and people with periods to listen to their bodies, track their energy, and modify all training as needed so they can continue to climb and train at their best.
Whether it’s your cycle, stress, lack of sleep, or your body fighting off a cold any one of us can have an off day or week and it’s important to take cues from your body, so you don’t strain and injure yourself. Using EVN CBD salve has really been a great addition to my modified workouts and recovery. From period pain to sore muscles, it’s helpful in relieving any discomfort.
In Addition to Being a World-Class Climber, You’re Also a Professional Climbing Coach. What Makes your Training Programs on ROAP Coaching Unique? How Can Climbers Improve Their Technique, Skills, and Strength Through ROAP?
My husband, Robin O’Leary, and I joined forces over a year ago and created ROAP. The goal of the coaching program is to help others reach their climbing goals by offering several different coaching options.
Through ROAP we offer various training plans including a fully remote personalized training program. With this plan, we do an assessment before you start your plan so we can identify your strengths and areas for improvement. Next, we connect with the client to better understand their lifestyle and goals so we can tailor the training plan to them. Lines of communication are always open with both Robin and me to answer any questions and keep clients motivated.
For People Looking to Become Better Boulderers, What Should They Focus On?
Don’t just work on what you are naturally good at, work on everything – especially your weaker styles. There is a rule I always tell my clients called the 60-70/30-40% rule. This means 60–70% of the time we should be practicing or training our “weaker” styles and 30-40% of the time we should practice our strengths. The goal is to become a more well-rounded climber which requires focusing on turning our weaknesses into our greatest strengths.
What’s Your Number One Climbing Training Tip?
My biggest piece of advice would be to make sure you are truly passionate about what you’re training for. I wouldn’t be where I am today in this sport without a passion for climbing. Like a healthy relationship, climbing and I have our ups and downs, but those hard times make the good times even better! When I look at the bigger picture, my happiness is directly tied to climbing.
Check out the EVN CBD products that Alex Puccio uses to help aid her climbing recovery process online.