Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

What Can Your Earth-Suit Do (aka Perceptions on Body Image)

I’ve never heard this conversation at the crag…

I think most of us tend to focus on what our body is and what it isn’t. That’s how I used to think anyway, especially a few lifetimes ago back when I was a personal trainer at a gym filled with a bunch of testosterone-driven meatheads.

For example – my body IS/ISN’T able to fit into those jeans today.  My body IS/ISN’T as pretty as that girl at the gym.  My body IS this, it ISN’T that – put in your own words, I’m sure you have some.

One of the first things I noticed when I started climbing was the wide variety of shapes and sizes of climbers.  It was a refreshing change to the image-obsessed fitness arena I was accustomed to!  No one cared what anyone else looked like – everyone was there to push their body to new limits and explore new ways in which they could get to their personal high point.

After I’d been climbing for a while, I noticed that I began thinking that way too.  I would come home from a day at the crag completely spent, and feel good about what I had accomplished.  I became more in tune with my body’s inner voice – I realized that if I would just listen to my body it would tell me what it needs – when it needed to eat or drink, when it was in a frame of mind to push, when it needed to back off and rest and rebuild.

Earthsuits can do all sorts of amazing things…

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d wager that most people in today’s society spend a good deal of time thinking about their body – whether it be healthy thinking or destructive thinking.  I’ve learned to adopt the attitude that my body is the “earth-suit” my soul has been given to get me through this life.  I can either focus on what it looks like – which is going to change with age no matter what I do, or I can focus on all the cool and crazy things I’m able to do from inside of it.

Not all of God’s creations are blessed with such an amazing Earth-suit as we humans – although I will admit that I am a bit envious of the capabilities of a few animal earth-suits (the ability to fly, the ability to hold one’s breath for 20 minutes, along with the capabilities to spin webs, to name a few).

Most of my favorite memories come from times where me and my Earth-suit have done some really cool things – backcountry kayaking in the Everglades, summitting Estrellita in El Potrero Chico, Mexico, bungee jumping in Queenstown, NZ, and about a billion other things I don’t have time to even get started on.

…but growing and giving birth to another human being is at the top of the list!

The really neat thing that comes to my mind when I think about all of the things our bodies are capable of, is the mind-blowing fact that we are created in God’s image. Not exactly of course – clearly I am NOT God, and obviously everyone is created different, but its my personal belief that all those quirky things that make us unique are actually just little tidbits that reflect God himself.  The cool part is that when we look around we get to see all those little tidbits enacted by others – the set drummer that can play a different time signature with each limb, the diver that can do 10 crazy contortions in 100 feet of air and still enter the water with only a ripple, the skier who can strap two long flat panels to her feet and whiz down a snow-covered mountain side, and of course, the climber that is hanging out quite comfortably upside down with a fist jammed in a crack, fiddling around to find the right size gear to use.

In my opinion, this “Earth-suit uniqueness” is actually one of the most interesting parts about climbing.  But unfortunately I hear a lot of climbers getting caught up in IS/ISN’T mode – too short, too fat, too weak, etc.  In truth, each climber’s earth-suit is equipped with natural strengths and weaknesses – and our job is to figure out how to tap into our personal strengths while minimizing our weaknesses. Once you can appreciate the differences, its really neat to watch 10 climbers do the crux of a route completely differently.  As a smaller woman, I will use really high feet and match hands on the smallest of holds to move through sequences that a taller climber like my husband can just reach past.  However, as a bigger guy, he relies on great footwork and technique to pull him through steep, overhanging terrain that lighter climbers can muscle their way through.

The bottom line?  We are all blessed to have bodies that are capable of far more than we often give it credit for – yet so often do we put it down and complain about what it can’t do, or more commonly, what it IS and ISN’T?  Whether you’re a climber, hiker, grandmother, computer guru, architect, or film stunt man, your body is unique and is intended to reflect the Creator.  So treat it as such!  Think twice before allowing yourself to wallow in a sea of negativity or do anything to mistreat it.

Now its time for some Earth-suit Love!  What’s the best part about the Earth-suit YOU’VE been given?


19 Responses to “What Can Your Earth-Suit Do (aka Perceptions on Body Image)”

  1. Jean Adams

    LOVE today’s post. 🙂 great mindset w/ which to start my day. Thx!


  2. stephcorke

    Love it 🙂 I climb with guys a lot taller and stronger than me, and can be quite bitter about it! I struggle to find my own way up a route sometimes. I’ll be focusing on high feet and not afraid to match my hands when I’m back at the wall! And try and leave behidn my belief that I’m “big” for a climber… And maybe one day I’ll outclimb the boys!


  3. Super post!
    It’s sad to watch your earth suit become limited by age and injury, but I STILL enjoy a good cannonball or two!


  4. beautiful post by @Cragmama on body image and what our "earth suits" can do!


  5. Amen! Erica I whole-heartedly agree, once we let go of image and focus on our boby’s needs, we find peace and overall performance. The best part about my ‘earth-suit’ is its ability to adapt to whatever non-sense i put it through and I love how it glows when its outside doing whatever (since sometimes being outside isnt all play, but regardless it feels satisfied). I love how animals respond to it, the calm it seems to bring to many animals i come in contact with, even a strange horse that doesnt know me but trusts me. The connections are miraculous.


  6. LOVELY! RT @k8tlevy: beautiful post by @Cragmama on body image and what our "earth suits" can do!


  7. Meg

    I love it!


  8. First of all, I’m loving the look of your website!

    Second, thanks for a fantastic reminder. We’re so hard on ourselves sometimes and just need to be so thankful for our unique earth suits! I’ll be sharing this one. 🙂


  9. What Can Your Earth-Suit Do (aka Perceptions on #Body_Image) via @cragmama


  10. Cindy Nelson

    Awesome! I had to repost!


  11. Lovely post. A truth that we need to be reminded of time and time again. I love that you call them “earth-suits.” 🙂 Our own self-judgments based on body image can keep us from accomplishing what we’re capable of. Thanks for putting this into words!


  12. thanks erica! i needed that! im happiest when im outside pushing my earth suit to it’s fullest potential!


  13. Wow! Overwhelmed by the positive response – so glad everyone can relate…

    @Steph – Don’t sell yourself short with body-type excuses and I bet you’ll be climbing stronger than the guys before you know it 🙂

    @Christie – love the imagery of peace and performance working together!

    @Elizabeth – I can’t remember who, but I heard someone use the term “earth-suit” several years ago, and I thought it was cool so it stuck with me.

    Thanks all for the comments and the re-posts!


  14. Patricia Cheng Terry

    Great post! I love how you can’t just look at a climber at a crag and know whether or not they are going to be any good. I’ve watched big meathead guys just struggling to get up a thin slab that I can dance up. I think that because I’m a short and stout climber I’ve learned to be very flexible to compensate for my height, and very strong because I have a lot of muscle bulk to carry around. Sometimes I still watch the long and lean climbers with jealousy, but we just have to work with what we have.


  15. Great post! Love the “earth-suit” title. I think I may have to adopt it.

    “and our job is to figure out how to tap into our personal strengths while minimizing our weaknesses” <– This is so true and often so hard to do. Our personal strengths are wide and varied and beautiful. We tend to spend so much energy wondering what others think, imagining what we could do "if only" we had that other person's talent, height, strength… but we forget that others are looking at us with the exact same thoughts.

    Thanks for the great reminder to be grateful and appreciative of our unique earth-suit. 🙂


  16. Awesome post, thanks for the uplifting message today! I have been struggling with the fact that my climbing is so, so far behind where it was when I got pregnant a year and a half ago. I’ve lost so much physical strength, and gained so much weight, that getting back on the rock has been, well, disappointing. But, I think you are right, giving birth is an incredible thing that we do with our bodies, and they will always be changing, especially after something so dramatic. We just need to learn to love and work with what we have right now!


  17. @Patricia – you are right, it’s awesome how looks can be deceiving when it comes to climber’s abilities!

    @Amy – You bring up a great point that others are probably looking at us with the exact same thoughts!

    @Kate C – Glad I could be of encouragement…cut yourself some slack – the process of pregnancy and birth certainly takes a long time to fully recover from, not to mention now you have a little one to take care of in addition to your own needs. I’m sure that with time an patience you’ll get back to where you were, probably even stronger 🙂


  18. Great post! I am the negative thinker and what my body isn’t or can’t do. MUST be more positive and grateful what I have and can do. Thanks for the reminder.

    One of my motivating factors for running is to tell myself that I am fortunate to be able to run unlike those that can’t for one reason or another and to take advantage of my abilities.

    Thanks again! 🙂


  19. Check this out: What Can Your Earth-Suit Do (aka Perceptions on Body Image) by @ericalineberry


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN