This month, we’re featuring Jen Saito, Yoga and Fitness instructor at First Ascent Block 37! Take it away, Jen.

How did you get into climbing? 

My yoga student and friend Basha was convinced I’d love climbing so we took a class together back in August 2013. I dabbled here and there but didn’t start climbing outside until 2016.

What do you love about climbing? 

Every part of your body is working for you when you climb. And wow, when you project, you get to see your progress from taking whips galore to cleaning it all up. What an incomparable high you get when you clip the anchors on your project!

Bouldering or sport climbing? 

What’s bouldering? SPORT CLIMBING always. I don’t mind falling at all, but I am partial to falling into the fluffy clouds of my partner’s soft catches rather than the unforgiving hardness of a mat.

What is your favorite place to climb outdoors?

The Red is the closest we’ve got here in Chicago so my husband James and I go there often! I also love international climbing. Last year, we visited our friend Hector (whom I met at FA Block 37!) in Bernal, Mexico, and it was a blast climbing with him and getting to know the different climbing areas.

What other outdoor activities do you participate in? 

 In the summers I like to go salsa dancing at SummerDance in Grant Park.

Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year? 

I’d like to work on steeper climbs and send Betavul Pipeline at Bob Marley. I’d also like to get on (and send!) that gorgeous line Last Rites at Infirmary. By the end of 2020, I am aiming to get down to what my driver’s license says I weigh!

What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing?

I love teaching classes at FA mainly because everyone is so willing to work and laugh! When I am not teaching or climbing, I enjoy practicing yoga and taking dance classes. My latest love has involved my newfound discovery of kpop! 

What do you love about Chicago? 

I moved from New York City, which was a huge adjustment as Chicago is so much smaller. Not hating, just saying! Now that I have been in Chicago going on 10 years, though, I am truly in love with this city that is so bike-friendly, spacious, and gorgeous — hello, skyline! Plus, I met my husband here in Chicago, specifically at FA Avondale! I knew I wanted to marry a strong sport climber, and I found him!

What is your favorite Chicago spot for food, music, art or culture?

I love everything about Chinatown, especially since it’s not far from where I live. Meet Fresh is my go-to for some hot grass jelly. I know, I know. You’re like — what? Come find me, and we will go get some!

What is something about you that most people don’t know? 

I grew up speaking Mandarin. Please practice with me so I don’t lose my vocabulary!

Anything else you want to say to the FA community?

I spend so much of my time at FA, especially at Block 37. FA Fam, you are good to me. Thank you for always being up for some quick climbs, hearty laughs, and warm hugs. Let’s continue to push each other and send all the things!