You have had a seriously significant rock climbing career. Tell us a bit about your origin story. How did Alex Puccio find rock climbing and why did it become your life's work?
Well, it all started when I was 13 years old and my mother, Kim Puccio, introduced me to climbing. My younger sister was actually the naturally talented one and I was the scared one. The one great thing I had going for me was my competitive spirit and stubbornness. I was determined to get better and overcome my fears!
Fast Forward to being 16 years old. I entered ABS Nationals for my very first time, not knowing how strong the field of woman were since I never really did any Pro Competitions before that, and ended up WINNING! I was stunned and shocked for months! That feeling of winning that comp for the first time will never be replaced! Since then I have been named Adult National Champion 10 Times.
You have quite an impressive trophy room. What is it like to compete at the highest level of a sport? Where do you find the motivation to train and improve?
I believe you are your biggest competition. You are the only one that can win or lose a comp or get to the top of your project or not. Climbing is a individual sport so naturally being a pro in the sport you have to deal with a lot of pressure! Losing a competition or not achieving your goals on a trip is not always a bad thing. It gives you an opportunity to reflect and learn and then improve from your loses. This is a good chance to get reenergized and motivated to improve! :)
Maintaining a position as a top athlete in the world for so long and being in such a visible position comes with a lot of pressure and expectation. How do you balance your career, your family, and your passion?
Pressure just comes with the career. In most people's jobs, whatever they do, there will be parts of it that are challenging and dealing with the pressure from different directions and balancing your time is something that will never be easy, but you just learn to get through it the best you can.
For me I found climbing outside more in Summer of 2014 helped me A LOT! I was doing a lot of the World Cups before that point and doing alright in them, but always coming up a bit short from my goals. I would always mentally break down in finals and find myself not standing on top of the podium, my goal, not because I wasn’t strong or good enough, but because of my head and not being able to deal with the all the pressure I put on myself.
So Summer of 2014 I ended my WC Season early and decided to enjoy bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in Colorado. I had climbed outside here and there before that point, but never really, seriously, pushing my limits. I was always known as the “Comp Queen” before that point. This is when I climbed my first V13, Top Notch, and then went on to climbing my first V14, Jade, shortly after. I was no longer just a “Comp Queen”! Now I have a healthy balance between training, Comp climbing and climbing outside and it balances each other out! :)
Do you have trouble balancing outdoor climbing goals with training for indoor comps? Which do you prefer and why? Are there other disciplines of climbing you want to explore?
I usually don't have a training plan at all these days. Actually I mostly climb outside when I can and then just go to the competitions. It's been working for the past few years so why not! For the Adidas Rockstar Comp I just won a couple months back I only went to because I was already in Europe, Magic Wood Switzerland, on a climbing trip. I think I have less pressure on myself if I don't put all my eggs in one basket and just train for a competition season and then go and compete in it. When I climb outside I still feel really strong in my fingers, body and head. I might be lacking a bit in the jumping department since you don't get too much of that outside, but my head is WAY better and I’m much happier!!! :)
What has your experience been like as a female that is better than nearly all the boys? It is extremely obvious that the gap between ability is shrinking and will likely flip in the near future. How does this motivate you?
Honestly, I don’t actually pay attention to the fact that most of the time I’m the only or one of the few woman in a group climbing. I feel that we are all just people doing what we love to do and helping eachother out. The only time I get annoyed, and this doesn’t happen a lot anymore, is when there is a guy that I can tell gets competitive with me because I’m a girl that is climbing as well as or better than him. In that situation something lights up inside of me and I naturally just want to out perform him then, just to prove a point that he better get used to it and woman are just as strong and can be stronger!
Maybe this isn't the best way to be, but it’s just a natural instinct. I see every person as just a person and that we are all different sizes and all have our own strengths and weaknesses, not that he's a guy so he is strong and she is a girls so she is probably more flexible. I’m a woman and let's be honest, i’m not that flexible at all, but I sure do have a lot of power and muscles! I’m only 5’2” as well!
And yes, I believe the gap is closing in fast. We are just seeing more and more women in the sport these days and they are pushing their own limits naturally! This is a beautiful thing to see and be a part of!!!
What advice would you give to a young climber today that is moving up in the competition circuit?
Have fun with it and don’t expect the pressure to ever go away or get easier, but you will learn your own way of dealing with it. There isn’t a right or wrong way to improving, but we all simply have our own ways and try different things out till you find what works for you! Like I said before, we all have OUR OWN strengths and weaknesses so something that works for your friend or someone else might not work for you. Don’t be afraid to be different, embrace it!!! :)
You have been literally all over the world for your career and to climb. You must have seen first hand, the darkest of environmental crisis. Can you tell us a bit about some experiences you have had that made you feel upset or concerned for nature's well being?
Wow, this answer could go on forever! I will just leave it at, we should all try our hardest to be kind to each other and treat others how you want them to treat you! And if you are passionate about your climbing areas then respect them! It was sad when I was in Magic Wood Switzerland climbing outside just a couple months ago and saw ALL the trash left behind at the boulders! Everyday I would pick up trash as I saw it even if it was just a little piece of tape. Don't just treat others the way you want to be treated, but the environment that you say you LOVE so much as well!
If we all just start doing a little each day to help out our environment and communities then they will thrive and you in return can keep climbing, hiking and playing in the places you love. I am not saying everyone needs to be a huge activist, but we all have a part to play; so make your's a good one!
How do you express the environmentalist within you while you are simply living day to day? What are some simply things that you are mindful of which keep your own footprint on this earth small?
Being honest, i’m not a minimalist, but these are the “guidelines” I try to apply to my life, whenever possible. 1.)Recycle what can be recycled. 2.)Eat the food I buy. 3.)Keep our lands clean and pick up trash when I come across it! 4.)Stay on trails when they are there! 5.)Walk places if you can or take public transportation… it’s also a good workout to walk more! ;) 6.)Don’t abuse the environment as much as possible!
With the Olympic’s being included as a recognized event in the 2020 Olympics, what are your plans to represent the USA?
I will try out for them in hopes of being selected, but not sure if that will happen or not. It’s going to be a tough selection!
What is your next great adventure or goal?
I’m currently in Hueco Tanks climbing outside and I have a project here, well maybe more than one! I will be here till Jan 3rd and then it’s time for a few more big Competitions here in the states, like nationals in Feb! After that we will see. Right now I’m thinking I might want to do some World Cups for Bouldering and maybe Sport Climbing! Time will tell though. I kind of just have a rough draft plan that can change and I like that! :)