This Pro Climber Transformed Her Garage Into a Climbing Gym So She Could Train In Quarantine

Sasha DiGiulian wasn't about to let coronavirus lockdown get in the way of her training.

Sasha Digiulian
Photo: Sasha Digiulian

At just 27 years old, Sasha DiGiulian is one of the most recognizable faces in the climbing world. The Columbia University graduate and Red Bull athlete was only 6 years old when she started competing and has broken innumerable records ever since.

Not only is she the first North American woman to climb the difficulty grade of 9a or 5.14d—recognized as one of the hardest climbs ever achieved by a female—she's also the first woman to ascend the North Face of the Eiger Mountain (notoriously referred to as the "Murder Wall") in the Swiss Alps. To top it off, she's also the first woman to free climb Mora Mora, a 2,300-foot granite dome in Madagascar. In short: DiGiulian is a total beast.

Even though she decided not to compete in the 2020 Olympics (before they were postponed due to COVID-19), the Colorado native is always training for her next big adventure. But, as many people have experienced, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put a wrench in DiGiulian's routine. Gyms were closed and climbing outside was no longer an option for DiGiulian as people were forced into quarantine. So, the athlete decided to get creative with her at-home training. (

Since moving to her new place in Boulder in 2019, DiGiulian had been toying with the idea of transforming her two-car garage into a climbing gym. Once the COVID-19 lockdown happened, DiGiulian saw it as the perfect excuse to go full-throttle with the project, she tells Shape.

"I wanted to build a training center where I could really concentrate without the distractions that can come with going to a climbing gym," she explains. "I travel a lot to climb in remote places around the world, and when I am home, that's when I try to focus primarily on my training to prepare for my next expedition." (

How DiGiulian Built Her Home Climbing Gym

The gym's construction—spearheaded by Didier Raboutou, a former pro climber, as well as some of DiGiulian's friends from the climbing world—took about a month and a half to complete, shares DiGiulian. The project was already underway and going steady in February, but the coronavirus lockdown in March presented some challenges, she says. Pretty soon, only DiGiulian and Raboutou were bearing the brunt of the work. "Throughout quarantine, it was really important to me to be socially distanced from everyone and to also focus on training, so having had the preconceived idea for a gym in place before the pandemic really rolled through Boulder helped," explains DiGiulian.

All hiccups considered, the gym—which DiGiulian has dubbed the DiGi Dojo—turned out to be every climber's dream.

DiGiulian's garage-turned-gym has 14-foot walls and flooring made of universal gymnastic padding so that it's safe to fall from any position, shares the athlete. There's also a Treadwall, which is essentially a climbing-wall-meets-treadmill. The panels of the Treadwall rotate, allowing DiGiulian to cover about 3,000 feet of climbing in an hour, she says. For reference, that's about two and a half times as high as the Empire State Building and almost three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower. (

The DiGi Dojo also has a MoonBoard and Kilter Board, which are interactive bouldering walls with LED lights attached to the holds, says DiGiulian. Each of the boards come with apps that are equipped with a database of climbs set by different users around the world. "The walls hook up to these apps via Bluetooth, so when I choose a climb, the climbing holds associated with that specific climb, light up," she explains. "Green lights are for the starting holds, blue lights are for hands, purple lights are for the feet, and pink light is for the finish hold." (

DiGiulian's gym is also equipped with a pull-up bar (which she uses for TRX training), a campus board (a suspended wooden board with a variety of different-sized "rungs" or edges), and a hang board (a fingerboard that helps climbers work on their arm and shoulder muscles), shares the athlete.

All in all, the gym is designed specifically for very challenging, high-end training, says DiGiulian. "I have finger strength focus on the hang board and campus board area, power and technique training on the LED boards, and endurance training with the Treadwall," she explains.

As for the rest of her training, DiGiulian says she uses her basement for non-climbing exercises. There she has an Assault bike (which, BTW, is great for building endurance), a stationary bike, yoga mats, an exercise ball, and resistance bands. "But in the DiGi Dojo, the main focus is climbing," she adds.

Why DiGiulian Values Climbing at Home So Much

Privacy and limited distractions are key to DiGiulian's training, she says. But her new home climbing gym also helps her prioritize time management, says DiGiulian. "In a pre-COVID world, I traveled very frequently and would sometimes get home from, say, Europe, and not really have the bandwidth to go to the gym. Or the gym would be closed because it was late," she shares. "Having my own gym enables me to limit distractions and have my own space to really fine-tune my training with my team and train at whichever hours are most convenient for myself." (

Sasha Digiulian's garage home rock climbing gym
Sasha Digiulian

Now that she can train with more ease and comfort at home, climbing has become a form of therapy for DiGiulian, particularly amid the stress of the pandemic, she says. "I love the social aspect of climbing gyms, and I miss that while training in my garage at times, but having the capacity to still be putting in my hours grinding it out, and feeling like I'm improving in my sport, is important to me," she explains. "Also, physical exercise is so intricately tied to mental health, so I have been really grateful to have the ability to maintain my training during these uncertain times."

Feeling inspired by DiGiulian's garage-turned-climbing-gym? Here's how to build your own DIY home gym for under $250.

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