Climber Molly Thompson-Smith on lockdown and competing in Germany

Mark Ashenden

Monday 27 July 2020 11:20, UK

Image: Sky Scholar Molly Thompson-Smith enjoying life back on the rocks

Adjusting to life in Germany, new yoga moves and flying high in international competitions again.

Lockdown has been nothing but extraordinary - on and off the rocks - for climber Molly Thompson-Smith.

The 22-year-old Sky Sport Scholar reveals all.....

"A few months ago, I made what seemed to be at the time, a tough decision to leave the UK for Germany with my boyfriend Jan.

It was two days after my first, and so far last, competition of 2020 and I was starting to worry about how I would train during the impending UK lockdown.

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Germany had already begun closing shops and leisure facilities, but seemed to have a much better handle on their coronavirus cases, meaning the country would be ready to ease back into normality soon.

I headed to Cologne with Jan as I thought I'd have the best chances to get back to training full-time.

I was really anxious and tense for the first few weeks, constantly checking the UK news and seeing the COVID-19 cases increase, thinking about my family and friends and what would happen to 2020.

Molly Thompson-Smith 3:27
Climber Molly Thompson-Smith gives an insight to lockdown training and hitting the walls again

I knew how serious the situation was, but I was still somehow naive enough to think in a few short weeks I'd be back to my normal life in Sheffield.

It didn't take long for me to realise I'd be in Germany for quite some time!

The most intense form of lockdown I experienced was just no shops or leisure facilities open, but unlimited time outside and takeaway purchases available.

I started running again and doing exercises in the park to make the most of being outside and the amazing weather.

I had always done a short yoga routine to warm up for training, and with more time at home, I started getting more creative - looking for new poses, balances, flows and slowly making my routine longer and daily.

I enjoyed having some time to work on the things I thought I didn't have time to do in the past, and treating all the niggles or tight spots I usually shrugged off.

It didn't take long before we were able to go rock climbing, and this was a huge motivational boost for me. Finally I was able to test myself.

When you try a rock climb, you form a connection with it - you go up and figure out where to go, how hard you have to try, how much rest you need the day and days before, how many tries your skin can handle.

I memorise every place and position each hand and foot needs to get from the ground to the top, and go through this sequence in bed each night until I do the climb.

To climb something near your limit on rock, it takes a lot of work and I really enjoyed getting back into the mindset of thinking about small margins, trying really hard, and also feeling successful when I made an ascent.

Molly Thompson-Smith
Image: Its been a long few months but Molly has been reaping the benefits of staying active during lockdown

After a bit of time on rock, we went back to Cologne where everything had opened up again in our absence - dine in restaurants, shops, and all leisure facilities.

My motivation for training inside had been refreshed after finding new projects on rock, and I spent a few weeks working hard so I'd feel prepared on my return.

The current situation is of course different from country to country, and Germany is in a place where they can start preparing for the return of international competitive sport.

Earlier in July was the German Climbing Team's first national selection event for the provisional World Cups later this year, and I was invited to compete.

You'd think that after a decade of competing, I wouldn't be nervous for competitions - especially ones that held no real meaning or consequences for me! But there I was in the days before, feeling rusty and worried I would be completely out of my depth.

Fortunately I was wrong and with each route I climbed, the flow returned and I felt more confident. I was pleasantly surprised with my shape, and managed to win all three rounds and therefore the overall competition.

It was a great learning experience as it showed what holes created by this unusual time off I had in my performance.

Unsurprisingly, I was lacking the finer details that come as you settle into a competition season; such as the switch in
gear you need to make when you think you've hit your max and climbing confidently without hesitation.

Overall, it was incredible climbing in an international competition again with world class route setting, and have days to train with the team after.

So until the competitions are confirmed, I'll carry on training indoors and finding my 'try hard' on rock here in Germany.

I feel incredibly lucky to be out here and have access to climbing walls, gyms and the rocks without restriction. I hope everyone back in the UK can get back to what they love doing safely as soon as possible!

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