Humans of UK: Zach Sears branches out to stay fit


Travis Fannon

Zach Sears poses for a portrait on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by staff

Liberty Gilbert, Reporter

Most students have trouble finding the time to stay active on a college campus. For Zach Sears, the opposite is true.

Where one might opt to visit the gym to jog on a treadmill or lift weights, Sears takes to the outdoors, utilizing the environment around him and climbing trees to exercise and challenge himself.

Sears is a fourth-year student at the University of Kentucky studying chemical engineering. He said he has been climbing trees since before he can remember.

“My grandma would take me outside and like just encourage me to climb s**t and I would,” Sears said.

Most of Sears’ climbs around campus are unplanned — he said he sees a good tree and just goes for it. Sears explained the activity is a good stress reliever and offers him a different outlet to do the thing he enjoys most in his classes: solving puzzles.

“To climb a tree, it’s like a new challenge for every tree, and you’ve got to think of a new way to get up,” Sears said.

Besides the mental stimulation, climbing in general works most of the major muscle groups, ensuring a full-body workout in each climb. There’s also the added benefit of not having to pay for a gym membership.

“I think it’s one of the best forms of exercise, not necessarily trees but just climbing and using your full body… it keeps me very mobile,” Sears said.

Not only does Sears climb trees, he also climbs abandoned buildings and rocks and practices gymnastics and parkour.

In his hometown, Sears had friends that would accompany him on his climbs and join in. On campus, Sears said he has friends who come, but he’s never had someone climb with him, mostly because they don’t know how.

There is an aspect of fear that comes along with climbing with no safety gear and being high off the ground. 

When climbing, there’s a lot to worry about: a ledge potentially breaking, a fear of heights and of course, the uneasy feeling that one wrong move could result in a fall and serious injury. According to Sears, you just have to get over that fear, be thoughtful about what you’re doing and still “flow.”

“My mom would get really nervous but my grandma was like ‘He’s doing it,’ and I would never fall,” Sears said.

Sears also said that he has never gotten hurt from climbing, but this isn’t to say that he hasn’t from participating in his other activities. 

When interviewed, Sears was nursing a wounded foot. He said that while he is healing very fast, he’s been sure not to push himself because he doesn’t want to make the injury worse and climbing harder in the future.

Sears highlighted that the main aspect about climbing is to not only enjoy it and have fun but also be smart and safe at the same time.

“I’m always encouraging people to climb trees, I think everyone should,” Sears said.