The Zach Lerner Interview

Ok, Zach. How old are you now, and where, when, and why did you start climbing?

I’m 24 now, and I started climbing when I was 12. Where I grew up in Pennsylvania, there wasn’t a climbing gym, so I convinced a few other local climbers to help me build a co-op in an old barn. The wall is thriving to this day, and is still one of my favorite places to climb on plastic.

Wow. So when there was no gym, you just built your own wall! Does your family climb?
No, but my sister is very talented at pull-ups (for a girl). This is not a sexist comment, just a big brother comment.

And what are your hobbies or interests besides climbing?
We just got a foosball table in the Biomechanics lab where I’m a graduate research assistant, so that’s been a hobby of mine lately.

Ear candy of choice?
I’ve been listening to Crystal Castles and M83 radio stations on Pandora lately.

Where do you go to school?
I went to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff for Mechanical Engineering. I’m now a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins.

Woah, you’re getting a PhD! What are you researching?
I’m interested in research that involves using musculoskeletal modeling to analyze the biomechanics of how we move…and using that information as a predictive tool to analyze locomotion, to validate the benefits of proper exercise prescription, and to assist in the design of movement aiding/joint-unloading devices.

If we understand the components that lead to musculoskeletal injury we can design ways to prevent them, with the overall goal of improving quality of life through physical activity.

Any random talents besides being a scientist?
I’m pretty good at collecting Apple products and making breakfast for dinner (aka “brinner”).

So who are your heroes?
Timy Fairfield, Chris Sharma, and Ben Moon

Where and how do you train?
My training consists of climbing specific exercises (like 4×4’s, circuits, double dynos, etc) as well as hang-board and campus board exercises. I’ll only do structured training before competitions and long climbing trips; otherwise I use training to maintain a baseline fitness.

And what motivates you to compete?
The adrenaline and excitement of competitions make them addicting. I’m motivated to compete because it provides me with tangible goals, and keeps me trying hard..

What’s your favorite climbing fuel?
Coffee and Scones.

What’s your preferred clothing?
Blurr makes really excellent clothes for both climbing and school/work.

And what are some frustrations?
Being injured is a frustration that everyone will have to deal with if they’re pushing themselves. Getting injured refuels my motivation ‘bank’, and it makes it painfully clear what a life without climbing would be like! It’s all a part of the process.

What are your current projects?
I’ve recently moved to Colorado, and I’m fortunate to have RMNP and Mt Evans in my backyard. As soon as the snow melts, I’ll be back up at the Park to try and complete Aslan.

Direct North, at the Buttermilks in Bishop, is a beautiful and proud line on the Grandma Peabody boulder that I came really close to repeating during a short trip there last year. I would love to get back on it! [Ed. Note: Both lines are V14.]

What will you do in 5 years? 30 years?
In 5 years, I’ll probably be climbing 5 times harder than I am now. And in 30 years…I’d like to be a professor.

What would you change about the world?
Here in the US, I think it would be beneficial for our cities to be designed for pedestrians and public transportation rather than cars. This would force people to actually walk or bike places, as well as reduce consumption and pollution. I think it’s really cool that in Switzerland many of their amazing (and remote) climbing areas are reachable by bus.

By the way, who would win in a fight? Jens Larssen or ClimbingNarc?
Jens would employ some crazy psychological warfare and win, hands down! Actually, I’m not sure who CN even is…

And finally: If Mad Rock could invent anything never been seen before on earth, what would it be?
A robot that would fold my socks.

We’ll get started. Thanks for the interview, Zach!

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