Svana Bjarnason spent years outdoors, passionately climbing whenever she could. But last year she switched gears, focusing solely on indoor climbing to pursue her dream of joining the Icelandic Olympic Team for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Despite facing setbacks along the way, this blog post highlights Svana's resilience, positivity, and adaptability, serving as an inspiration to climbers and athletes alike.

Read more about the conversation that COROS Coaches had with Svana about her injury, training, and the big goals that she has set for herself.

Positivity and Adaptability Amidst Injury

During Svana's first qualifying tournament, she injured her foot only minutes into the competition. Despite the setback, Svana didn't stop training to work towards her goal of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics. She kept showing up each day, putting in the work, and refusing to let obstacles slow her down.

As an athlete, when you have big goals, you may forget, in a way, about your body. We kinda sacrifice it as we want to push ourselves. But we need to take better care of it, because it is so important for our career. Sometimes we forget this and we push too hard.

That's what happened to me. I had a bad fall at the competition, after only 10 minutes. I had just started. So I kept going, even though I didn't even really have to do this competition, as it was just a test for me. I was there and I thought "My coach is here, my family and friends are here. I simply cannot give up.". I was crying because of the pain, but I kept going. I realized afterwards: at that time I didn't care about my body anymore, I just followed my mind.

Svana still focused on training during her injury.

Climbing requires the use of the entire body, so when Svana couldn't use one of her feet, she didn't let it stop her. While her training remained pretty similar, it was her daily routine that changed.

I actually do the same things, it's just that I do them with one leg. Which means I’m working way more on my core ! The training didn't change that much, I guess we just adapted it. Though, my routine changed, in a way that every night I have to stretch more, massage and ice the foot, do a lot of mobility exercises. And now I'm doing rehab, which means I am going to the physio 3 hours every day. It's a lot. That part definitely changed.

Regardless of whether an athlete is injured, maintaining consistent training isn't always easy. There will inevitably be days filled with a lack of motivation and self-doubt about one's abilities. Svana has dealt with these challenges throughout her climbing career, but her experiences have led her to develop strategies for overcoming such obstacles.

It's very important, in my opinion, to accept, to let go from time to time. You cannot be perfect and you cannot be 100% invested every day. It's just not possible. We are not superheroes. I wish I was, but I'm not. I'm only human.

If you don't really feel like training, then it's gonna be super worthless. And I've done that in the past, I've been there: I went to training because I felt "I have to train today. I cannot miss one session". But then you go and you're completely useless.

And sometimes it is also important to push yourself a little bit. Otherwise, you are not going to get anywhere. It is a question of finding the right balance. It's a little bit of both: accepting to let go, and accepting that, sometimes, training is going to be hard.

Tips for Athletes New to Climbing

Navigating a new sport can feel daunting, especially with all of the available information online. It's easy to get overwhelmed and lose sight of the basics. Here are Svana's top three tips for those new to climbing:

  1. First of all, climb ! I see many beginners at the gym who see me doing hang boarding and pull-ups with weights, etc. - which is actually very specific training. Do not think about training too specifically at first. Just go and practice the sport itself. What you need to be good at a sport is just doing the sport !
  2. Warm up properly. Like in any sport it's very important to warm up properly, and I've not been doing that for a long time. Because you always think that it's going to be OK and then bad things happen and you get injured and you're stuck recovering for six months.
  3. Finally, stretch. When I was younger I would never do it and now I do it every night, between 30 minutes and one hour. And I swear I cannot have a day where I don't. If I don't, if I cannot stretch for one day because - for example - I'm traveling, I feel so bad. Both physically but mentally, I really feel that I need it. It's also a time when you can just chill and rest your body and your mind. I think it's super important.

As a beginner in any sport, we always have athletes that we can look up to for guidance. Climbing is a huge part of Svana's life and you can hear her passion for the sport in her voice.

Do not be afraid. Of course, you're going to fail at the beginning and you're going to think that you're weak... But just keep going - and it is climbing but also for everything in life - just keep trying. And even if you never get super good at it, as long as you enjoy it, I don't think it matters. You're doing it for yourself and not for others, so don't care about what other people say. Just focus on doing your own thing, and if you are happy with it, then all good.

The Road Ahead

The next three months are going to be very busy for Svana as she prepares for her upcoming competitions in Shanghai and Budapest. With ambitious goals set for herself, both in the short term and as a long-term athlete, Svana understands the importance of patience in achieving success. Training cycles will always challenge you in different ways, even to your breaking point, but that doesn't mean you should give up.

You will always have that, ups and downs. I have big goals this year, so if I just focus on the downs, it's never gonna work. I cannot really afford to lose time now. So I need to get back in the game, and for that I need my body to be OK, but I also need my mindset to be OK. That's why I need to be positive about everything.

But, like I said, it's not always easy and there will be days that are going to be super hard and others where you're just going to be happy to be climbing... And that's it. This is just a balance, but for me it's super important to focus on my main goal, and it's not in two days, it's not in one week, it's in 2.5 months. So I still have a bit of time.

She is committed to continually pushing her boundaries and testing her limits. For her, every obstacle is an opportunity for growth and learning, not just as an athlete but also on a personal level.

I just want to keep being a better and stronger climber this year. The main goal is definitely the Olympics, but then I want to keep pushing my limits on rock. Climbing, I just want to keep doing this as long as I can. But I'm someone who needs big unachievable goals. That will actually be achievable at the end, but that are going to take a super long time! That's really what drives me in life, to have massive goals. At the beginning everybody tells you you’ll never do it. But then, if you work hard enough and if you believe in it, then you get there. Maybe not all the time, but even if you don't, I think the journey itself is even more important. Because you learn so much about yourself along the way. I think it's not that important for me to succeed or to fail because it's the whole process that is nice.

Despite facing setbacks and obstacles, Svana's story underscores the importance of perseverance, determination, and unwavering commitment to one's goals. It serves as a powerful reminder for all athletes: never lose sight of the passion that drives you in your sport.