At only 23, Sierra Blair-Coyle is one of the most popular, and recognisable faces in climbing anywhere in the world (combining incredible athletic skill, success, & modelling). After taking up competitive climbing at the age of 14, this native of Arizona has been a world class athlete ever since, picking up two National titles, and has competed on the World Cup circuit for the last three years in a row.
We were incredibly lucky to get a few minutes with Sierra, to quiz her on her training and nutrition while she travels around the world competing...
So Sierra, thank you for taking a few minutes to chat with us; before you head out for a climb, do you eat much, or do you prefer to do it on an empty stomach?
"I definitely eat before I climb! If it’s right before I climb I try and eat something light, otherwise I feel like it weight me down. If it’s 1-2 hours before then I’ll eat something more filling so I can have sustained energy".
So do you eat as soon as you finish a climb then?
"I generally eat within 15-20 minutes of a workout, usually when I get home. Sometimes I bring food to the gym, but it just depends on how prepared I am that day".
They are incredibly popular across all competitive & amateur sports at the moment... do you go for protein bars or energy shakes or similar? How much can you carry with you?
"I am definitely a fan of protein shakes, they’re super easy to make! I always carry a decent amount of food with me when climbing outside or training…I don’t like being hungry and not performing well".
Does your diet change much depending on what obstacle you've got in front of you, or where you are in the world (i.e. does the heat or weather affect your food choice)? Does your diet change between winter & summer?
"I would say in the winter I eat heavier and warmer foods, while in the summer I eat cooler and lighter foods!"
Ok, so what does a climbing-training session look like away from a rock face? Are you in the gym much?
"I am in the gym constantly! I train two days on, one day off. I have two workout sessions on each day (one climbing and one strength training)".
What does a standard day of training look like for you?
"For training I usually wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, then hit the climbing gym for a few hours. After climbing I go home, eat lunch, rest a few hours and end the day with a strength training session".
How important is hydration when you climb?
"Hydration is very important when I climb. I always have water with me and I am constantly drinking".
What is the most common meal in your household?
"We eat pretty simple meals in my households…so usually baked chicken and a salad!"
Do you have a favourite place to train or compete?
"I love training in San Diego and I love competing in Germany".
You have achieved so much already, how do you stay motivated?
"My love of climbing helps me stay motivated. It isn’t always easy, but at the end of the day I enjoy the sport tremendously and want to continue climbing and training for as long as possible".
What is it really like behind-the-scenes? Is it all scenic drives, and beautiful sunsets, and stunning rock faces, or more camping in the rain & mud, sleeping in the back of a car, getting covered in bruises, etc?
"It’s definitely a bit more hectic behind the scenes than people realize. Climbing is a lot of fun, but the travel and training can be brutal at times! Overall it’s definitely worth it and trying times make the best stories!"
Do you have any 'game-day' rituals or superstitions? What do you do 5 minutes before you compete?
"I don’t really have any rituals before competitions…but I always re-velcro or re-lace my shoes to make sure that they are on tight!"
For a lot of athletes I've spoken to, the fame that comes with their success is sometimes unexpected, and often difficult to manage; how have you coped with the attention that you receive now (particularly on social media - do you get much negative attention)?
"At times, especially in the past, it was difficult to cope with negative attention. I grew up in a very positive environment at home so I was not used to people saying negative things about me or to me. There truly is a line between constructive criticism and Internet brutality. For the most part I would say I have more positive interactions via social media than negative ones…but when you are in the throws of negativity it’s difficult to see how much more positivity exists!"
What has been your best climbing experience so far?
"My best climbing experience so far has been competing on the World Cup circuit. This is my third year doing the circuit and I finally feel like I have hit my stride. I’m climbing better and feeling more in my league".
What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?
"In the next 12 months I hope to improve my climbing abilities, climb well in the US based competitions, and improve my ranking on the World Cup circuit".