David Garcia

Birthdate: 5 March 1979

What is your occupation? I'm a television producer.

What/when was your first climb? My first race was the American Lung Association's Fight For Air Climb in Los Angeles. It's in the Aon Center, which is 63 stories, and it was in 2012.

How many climbs have you completed? Nearly three dozen.  

Why/how did you start? In 2010, I started what would become a life-long journey to lose weight and get healthy. At the time, I weighed over four hundred pounds. In about a year's time, I lost 160 pounds through diet and exercise - which I've kept off ever since. (I write about my struggles and successes at www.keepitupdavid.com. One of my weight loss habits was to try new things, whether they're foods, workouts, or mindsets. In 2011, I began eyeballing the StairMaster at my gym. It intimidated me, but I knew it burned tons of calories and provided a kickass cardio workout. So I pushed myself to start using it. I started with just 5 minutes, and slowly, over weeks, increased the time. I began noting, after each climb, how many floors I had climbed (the StairMaster includes this info on the display), and I would go home and look up a skyscraper somewhere in the country that was the same height. Seeing photos of these tall buildings and knowing I climbed the equivalent inspired me to keep going, and soon I began challenging myself to climb, on a StairMaster, the equivalent of landmark buildings around the world. In a few months, I had climbed the equivalent of the Burj Khalifa, Willis Tower, Chrysler Building, Petronas Towers… the list goes on and on. I don't remember where I first heard about an actual stair climb race, but the idea stuck in my head. If I was climbing buildings hypothetically at the gym, why couldn't I do it in real life, too? So I signed up for that first Aon Center climb, and worked my ass off to prepare. I was terrified on the big day, looking up at that looming 63-story building, but the feeling of pride and accomplishment I got on the roof, afterward, was overwhelming. It brought me to tears. I had done something that, just a few years prior, at 400 pounds, would've been nearly impossible. It makes my heart race just thinking about it!

Do you have a favorite climb? Why? I'm partial to the Aon Center, because that's where I popped my stair racing cherry. Otherwise, I love traveling and conquering new buildings much more than doing the same ones again. So far, i've competed in nine different cities, with ten and eleven on the calendar. I've raced in all four time zones!     

Why do you climb? I climb because these races require so much focus and dedication, and I like having events to work towards. Stair racing keeps me on track with my health and fitness goals, and is a huge reason why I've been able to maintain my 160-lb loss. I climb because it's so challenging, so grueling, so intense… and therefore so rewarding. I climb because I like getting access to skyscraper rooftops and penthouse offce suites - where the finish lines are - and access to those places is nearly impossible outside of a race setting. I climb because I've met an astounding, inspiring network of friends - many of whom are in this book - and I've never felt so welcomed and embraced in a team-like setting. Mostly, though, I race because I like proving to myself, again and again, that I am capable of extraordinary things, and I am worth the hard work and sacrifice needed to compete in such a strenuous sport.

Did you have injuries or issues you needed to overcome to climb? I'm not the fastest climber, and I probably never will be, and I'm fine with that. Now that I've lost and kept off the weight, my largest isues are mental ones. Starting up the stairs at the beginning of the race requires a lot of physical strength and endurance, but I also focus just as much on my attitude. This means encouraging myself, squashing thoughts of doubt or sabotage, and staying positive from the first floor to the last.

How do you train? I can't train too much on actual stairs because I start to go a little crazy from the repitition. So once a week I'll train in a stairwell, or on some of the public stairways in the hilly parts of Los Angeles. I'll work out five other times during any given week, and some of that is cardio and weightlifting that targets the leg muscles that are engaged in climbing. But generally I switch it up - running, lifting, aerobic classes, swimming… I try to never do the same thing 2 days in a row.

Do you have a special relationship with any of your step-siblings? I've developed great friendships with a couple step-siblings that have become really important to me. And there's a couple dudes that I have big crushes on!

Do you have a good luck charm or any superstitions or pre-race rituals?  I've worn the same pair of underwear at every race for the past year. (Yes, I wash them after each race!)

What's on your iPod during workouts/competitions? I'm constantly tweaking my workout playlist, but some tentpoles include "What I've Done"/Linkin Park, "Geronimo"/Sheppard, "It's Not Over Yet"/For King & Country, and "Army of Me"/Bjork.

Do you have a website or blog for those interested in learning more about you? YES! www.keepitupdavid.com - there's a good deal of content about climbing and my races. I'm @keepitupdavid on Twitter and Instagram as well.   

What would you like to tell others about yourself and your experience with stair climbing that might inspire them in their lives? Had you told me five years ago that I would become so heavily invested in such an extreme sport in my mid-thirties, I would have laughed at you. I've never excelled at physical activity, historically, and I never thought I ever would. But I kept an open mind, and ended up falling into something I love. I want to encourage your readers to keep an open mind. They'll never know where a new experience might lead. Don't be afraid to try new things. The first time I stepped on a StairMaster, over 4 years ago, I certainly didn't think I'd become a nationally-ranked stair racer with 20 races under his belt, but that's happened, because I was open-minded.