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Location #9: Chile

Written on April 15, 2014 at 4:31 pm , by

Rock climbing near santiago

Paige climbs at a desert cliff near Santiago, Chile. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com)

Paige is climbing in Chile to support VE Global, which fosters the development of children at social risk in Santiago by empowering volunteers to serve as positive role models, educators and advocates of social justice. Learn more and help Lead Now support VE at www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourchile

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By Paige Claassen

I awoke abruptly to horns, chatter, and clanging. I was in the city. Nothing unusual for most, except that I’d spent the last nine months far away from noise and traffic – deep in forests, barren Indian deserts, or vacant winter shores.  For most of Marmot’s Lead Now Tour, my climbing objectives were peacefully removed from civilization. But my final month of travel brought me to Santiago, Chile. I felt culture shocked.

For such a large, sprawling city, Santiago boasts many nearby outdoor climbing cliffs. Mountains surround the entire city, but the tall snowy peaks are rarely visible beneath the brown haze of pollution. My throat ached each morning, not yet accustomed to breathing the clouded air. Yet Santiago offered the change of pace I yearned for over the past months. I could practice my Spanish while navigating the city and find fresh fruits and vegetables at each corner.

I spent most days attempting hard climbs outside the city, completing a few routes that no women had climbed before. But the end of the month brought the final challenge of Lead Now – the largest climbing competition in South America. The pressure of performing well in front of a large audience and the challenge of attempting a route I’ve never before seen excited me as a teenager. But over time, I transitioned my focus to climbing outside. I hadn’t competed in three years, nor had I climbed in a gym in nine months. Climbing in a gym and climbing outside are practically two different sports. Each requires very different skill sets.

south american rock climbing competition

Paige places 4th at the largest climbing competition in South America. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com)

I wasn’t prepared for this competition, but I knew it would be a fun reintroduction to a facet of climbing I hadn’t recently explored. On the first day, I performed well, completing all 5 routes in the qualifying round and placing second. The following day, I placed third in semi finals after timing out on my last route. In finals that evening, my body felt exhausted. I opted for a brief warmup in hopes of conserving the little energy I had.

ve global

Young girls from a VE Global supported residential home in Santiago cheer for Paige at South America’s biggest climbing competition.

In climbing, competitors must remain behind the climbing wall before the competition, so as not to see the routes they will climb. As I walked out to the wall, I scanned the crowd and spotted four of the little girls supported by our Chilean non profit partner, VE Global. Their smiles calmed me. I didn’t feel intimidated. Instead, I felt my old competitive edge creep back in, fed by the loud music and cheers of the audience.

I didn’t do my best in finals. I couldn’t shake the fatigue built up in the previous rounds. My body was accustomed to climbing one very hard route outside each day, but I lacked the endurance needed for a multi-round competition. But unlike my early days of competition, I wasn’t disappointed. I had fun. I left Chile after nine months of travel with a smile on my face, reminiscing about all the new friends I had met around the world and the beautiful places I climbed. The journey has been rich with memories, but it feels good to be home!

To get involved and donate online to help, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a final video about Paige’s adventures and stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Chile!

Location #7: Turkey

Written on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 pm , by

Paige and Heather sit among ancient ruins in Turkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11)

Paige and Heather sit among ancient ruins in Turkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige climbed in Turkey to support CARE, which combats global poverty. Help Paige raise $10,000 for CARE on her Crowdrise page.

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By Paige Claassen

A marathon runner will likely earn sloth status in a sprint. A road cycler is prone to a few bruises on a mountain bike course. Put a technical sport climber on a horizontal roof and watch them flounder and fall. We’re all assumed to be experts in our respective sport, career, or hobby. But seemingly subtle variations from the outside actually make a big impact when you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

I spent the month of January climbing the steep limestone roofs of Geyikbayiri, Turkey. Typically, I prefer vertical climbs that require precise footwork, strong fingers, and technical movement. Alternatively, the rock in Turkey offers a much steeper, more powerful and physical style of climbing. My attempts to navigate the stalactite roof features left me feeling disoriented, as though I was underwater and didn’t know which way was up.

As with other styles of climbing, roof climbing is a very specific skill that requires dedicated practice. Roofs often require climbers to lead with their feet rather than hands. Surprisingly, roof climbs often offer “no hands rests,” whereby a climber can wedge their knees against features and let go of the rock with both hands. Unfortunately, my skillset does not lend itself to this style of climbing. I struggle to identify sections of the route where I can let go with both hands, or where I should climb feet first.

Paige navigates the sea of roof features, such as the stalactite in the foreground. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11)

Paige navigates the sea of roof features, such as the stalactite in the foreground. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Challenges within our own field of expertise can leave us frustrated and disheartened, when we struggle with a feat that we “should” be capable of performing. However, these obstacles offer unique opportunities to grow within our field. Likely, improvement in one area of our trade can only help us in our given specialty.

With this in mind, I tried to learn all I could about roof climbing in Turkey from my friend and fellow visiting American climber, Heather Weidner. I observed Heather’s seemingly effortless roof maneuvers. She gracefully twisted around the same stalactites I had tried to climb over. Whereas I saw a blank section of rock with no holds, save a 90 degree angle I couldn’t possibly grab, Heather saw an opportunity to “knee bar” and let go with her hands. After a few weeks of Heather’s instruction, I felt more comfortable identifying rests and tricky movements. What once felt impossible suddenly didn’t seem so unreasonable.

This is why I love to climb. Each route offers a new obstacle, a new chance to learn, and a fresh start. Thanks for showing me the way through the roofs, Heather!

Heather Weidner demonstrates a "no hands rest." Photo by Paige Claassen.

Heather Weidner demonstrates a “no hands rest.” Photo by Paige Claassen.

Did you know that women and girls make up 70 percent of the world’s 1 billion poorest people? Or that a child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5? These are statistics from CARE, a Lead Now supported organization that helps the poorest communities in the world unleash their full potential. Help Lead Now support CARE by donating online at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowturkey. Contribute $27 or more for a chance to win a Marmot two-person tent!

To get involved and donate online to help, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a video and update about Paige’s next location. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Turkey! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

LOCATION #4: Japan

Written on November 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm , by

The world’s busiest crosswalk is Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

The world’s busiest crosswalk is Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige used the month of October in Japan to raise money for the Colorado flood relief efforts of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross responded immediately to the September flash floods that claimed over 17,000 homes along the Front Range with rescue, food, shelter, care, and comfort for those who suffered severe damage. Help Paige raise $10,000 for the American Red Cross at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourcolorado. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!

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By Paige Claassen

Imagine you’re unable to distinguish between a restaurant and a bank when walking down the street. Going to the grocery store is a three hour event. A busy city street full of people is completely silent. This is Japan, one of the most unique and fascinating countries I’ve ever visited.

‘Organized chaos’ is the only way to truly describe Japan. From the outside, Japan seems cluttered, frantic, and hectic. But focus in and you’ll find perfect order and tidiness. At first, I found Japan intimidating in it’s lack of familiarity. But after a bit of acquaintance, I fell in love with this country, aptly known as the Land of the Rising Sun. Everything is sunny in Japan, except the weather.

I visited Japan in October and encountered an unusually late typhoon season. While my objective was to rock climb, I was forced out of the mountains by torrential rains, a small earthquake, and the threat of tsunamis.

Paige climbs on the Pacific Ocean as a typhoon rolls in.

Paige climbs on the Pacific Ocean as a typhoon rolls in. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Perhaps this interruption in my plans was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to dive into the Japanese culture. Here’s what I discovered:

Fresh sashimi from Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest fish market.

Fresh sashimi from Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest fish market. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

  • My new favorite foods: Okonomiyaki (the Japanese pancake, which is nothing like a pancake) and sashimi fresh off the boat, which melts in your mouth like butter. Japan also grows amazing fruits. My favorites were Fuji apples and Asian pears.
  • Bowing: To thank one another, or even to greet or bid farewell, the Japanese people bow. As a foreigner, I found this incredibly convenient, because even when I couldn’t express my gratitude in words, I could smile and bow.
  • Cleanliness: Feeling under the weather? The Japanese wear face masks when feeling ill to prevent the spread of germs out of respect for those around them. Hand rails in public areas are sterilized throughout the day. As a result of this respect for health, I found I could eat nearly anything in Japan. Unrecognizable seafood, street food, and nearly raw eggs served on top of most meals – no problem.
  • Prices: I had always heard Japan was incredibly expensive. In general, I found prices comparable with the US. The few things that will empty your wallet are toll roads, gasoline, and fruit (expect to pay $50 for a cantaloupe and $3 for one apple). On the other hand, I regularly paid $5-$10 for a full meal of sushi at the popular conveyor belt restaurants.
  • 7-Eleven convenience stores: 14,000 7-Eleven stores throughout Japan are open 24 hours a day and provide cheap meals on the go, prepared daily. For a quick, inexpensive, and tasty lunch, this is your stop.
Some sun! Paige enjoys the vibrant fall colors in the Japanese Alps.

Some sun! Paige enjoys the vibrant fall colors in the Japanese Alps. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

I hope these tips help you navigate Japan. While overwhelming at first, I think Japan might actually be a more comfortable and convenient vacation option than Europe. Try it out for yourself!

To get involved and donate online to help the Colorado Flood Recovery efforts, visit leadnowtourcoloradoflood.

Check back next month for a video and update about Location #5. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Japan! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

Related: Lead Now Tour Main Page

Shop to Help Keep Veterans Active

Written on November 4, 2013 at 10:41 am , by

(Photo courtesy of the Wounded Warrior Project)

Did you catch FITNESS reader Cassandra in the I Did It! section on page 20 of our September issue? (In case you missed it or need a reminder, she raised $5,420 for the Boot Campaign which helps military veterans and their families.) Now through Veteran’s Day, November 11, you too can make an impact and support our nation’s heroes. No sweat: You don’t have to drop and give us 20—although that’s never a bad thing to do!

The Believe in Heroes campaign, now in its fourth year, gathers funds to help wounded soldiers get back to their favorite activities (through programs like adaptive sports and rehab). Contributing can be as easy as visiting your local supermarket.

How to help:

  1. Donate at your grocery store. Thousands of supermarkets across the U.S. accept donations as you check out.
  2. Download free coupons. Coupons for some of your favorite food and drink brands will be available for free through December 2 at wwpbelieve.org. A contribution will be made to the Wounded Warrior Project for each coupon redeemed.
  3. Click over to Facebook. Learn about participating stores and learn more about Wounded Warriors’ personal stories at www.facebook.com/wwpinc.fans.

More from FITNESS:

Model Niki Taylor’s Giving Quest for National Blood Donor Day

Written on June 14, 2012 at 9:18 am , by

Taylor is showing off a '50s look, fitting for the "Giving Blood is Timeless" theme. (Photo courtesy of Nexcare Brand)

In 2001, model Niki Taylor was involved in a car accident so severe, “it tore my liver in half.” While doctors stitched her up and she recovered, Taylor needed more than 100 units of blood. “I owe my life to blood donors,” she now says, which is why Taylor is returning for her second year as a Nexcare Give ambassador—to thank donors and inspire others to give.

In honor of National Blood Donor Day today, here are five ways to stay healthy and happy like the TV host (check out Having it All on WE), model and mom of three.

  • Lace up your sneakers. “I wake up at 4:50 a.m. every other morning to get out the door by 5 for a 40-minute jog. It’s nice and cool then and no one else is out. I always have more energy first thing!”
  • Eat smart, but enjoy splurges. “Our family tries to eat very clean and healthy, but we’re in the middle of moving so last night we ordered pizza! My husband and I made sure to have salad too.”
  • Invest in a good pair of jeans. “Everything is in style, it’s just about your personal fashion picks. For me, jeans are a staple and I usually pair them with a cute blouse.”
  • Don’t let the haters get you down. “A long time ago, I decided to not get easily offended. As a model, you have to move past the, ‘Oh my gosh—what do they think of me?’ stage quickly when you’re posing. Everybody has insecurities, but you have to try to focus on what makes you happy while not worrying about what others think, write or say about you.”
  • Help others. “It’s why we’re here on earth! We go through difficult things in our lives, and while doing so, we learn to help others struggling with the same things. I always tell people that things may be bad, but they can get better. My recovery is proof of that!”

Visit nexcaregive.com to learn more about the “Giving Blood is Timeless” campaign, in partnership with The American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers. On the site, you can pledge to donate and receive free samples of the fun decade-themed bandages.

Spring Clean Your Pantry to Help Stamp Out Hunger

Written on May 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm , by

(Image courtesy of Stamp Out Hunger)

The words “spring cleaning” conjure up images of scrubbing floors, washing windows and maybe tidying up the garden so it’s ready for a new batch of plants. But while you’re accomplishing all of these things, why not tidy up your kitchen too? As an extra dose of motivation, if you do so this week, you can help a good cause at the same time (and who doesn’t love to multitask?)!

Just like FITNESS, Stamp Out Hunger, the nation’s largest one-day food drive, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In 2011, Americans cleaned out their pantries or shopped for nonperishable goods to donate 70.2 million pounds of food to Feeding America through the program. We talk quite a bit about obesity here, but it’s important to remember that more than 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. may go hungry today.

Helping out is easy: Simply leave a bag of non-perishable foods (soup and other canned items, pasta, juice, cereal, etc.) next to your mailbox before the USPS carrier arrives on Saturday. Your donation will then be dropped off at a local Feeding America or other food bank to help those in need in your community.

Find out more on the Stamp Out Hunger Facebook page.

More from FITNESS: Learn how to spring clean your life—physically, emotionally and financially.

Matt Damon-Approved Gifts That Give Back

Written on December 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm , by

As a kid, nothing put us in the holiday spirit quite like a visit to meet with jolly old St. Nick. But now that we’re grown up, it we were meeting Santa and discovered that Matt Damon was hiding under that red suit? Way better!

Most of these kids don’t seem to be in on the joke, but we found Damon’s antics to be good for a chuckle, and he also inspired those of us who are plugging away at our shopping lists. Damon is a co-founder of water.org, a charitable organization that focuses on bringing safe water to everyone. A few shocking facts:

  • 884 million people worldwide lack access to safe water (that’s more than three times the amount of people who live in the U.S.!)
  • One child dies from a water-related illness every 20 seconds
  • $10 from each water bottle purchased goes directly to water.org

And remember, “If you were stranded in the desert, what would you rather have: this water bottle or Justin Bieber?”