Q&A: Ashima Shiraishi

The climbing prodigy on training regimens and guilty pleasures

Ashima Shiraishi was six when her father first took her to Rat Rock, a climbing wall in New York City’s Central Park. In just a few years, she became one of the most talked-about names in rock climbing—and, at 14, the first female and youngest climber in history to ever complete a V15 grade climb (the scale of difficulty goes from V0 to V17). Now the 17-year-old is setting her sights on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the first time in decades the sport has been included. Here, Shiraishi talks about her favorite food indulgence, the mental strategy she employs when facing an injury, and more.

Plus, take a look inside her gym bag here.

What's your ultimate climbing goal?

Climbing has become more of a lifestyle and it’s a passion, so it’s always changing. The way I look at climbing evolves. My goal now would be spread the word about the sport and inspire others to climb. I want people to hear about me and see how I got into climbing. I hope to raise the bar for the sport.

How do you train?

When I prepare for a competition, I am usually bouldering. I work with a coach and there are certain themes for each day, so some might be focused on coordination and others geared toward endurance.

What goes through your head when you’re on the wall?

I look at each climb like a puzzle. Before you actually make your move and try the climb, you have to map out what you're going to do so you can execute it successfully. It's really important so you don't get flustered while you're on the wall, because that’s what makes you tired faster.

What are the most memorable places you’ve climbed?

I went to Cape Town, South Africa, which was one of the most gorgeous places for outdoor climbing. The rock there is orange and the sunrises and sunsets are so amazing. I also like Thailand because I love tropical places. I climbed over water there; you climb without a rope and once you fall you just land in the water. Another one is Japan because of the food—I’m Japanese so I might be biased, but you have to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.

Speaking of food, do you follow a specific diet when eating out?

I try to eat mostly vegetables and protein, but then sometimes I’ll treat myself to something pretty decadent. My guilty pleasure is good-quality Italian pizza. It’s my favorite.

What’s the number one thing you do to regenerate?

I really love deep tissue massages.

You’ve taken some big 45-feet falls in the past. How do you deal with injuries?

I go to physical therapy a few times a week. Proper rehab is a big deal, you have to be consistent with exercises that your PT gives you and stay active. Mentally, it’s important to remember that while you might not be able to do one thing, there are other types of movement that you can do instead. Recently, I’ve been into taking hip-hop dance classes—they’re fun and go by so quickly.

You’ve also made a name for yourself in the fashion scene—how do you express yourself through your clothing?

Honestly, I’m really into thrift shopping right now. It’s very free and personal. Once you find something you love, you’re obsessed with it because you’re probably the only person who has it. I also like going to second-hand consignment shops when they have vintage picks from designer brands like YSL and Versace.

What’s next?

This summer, I’m climbing in several world cup events in Japan, Russia, and France. I’ll also be competing in one of the qualifiers for the Olympics, which will take place in Austria.

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