Her strength-Soni Cheng

Indie guitarist and rock climber soni cheng | finding the balance 

People who survive life-threatening illnesses often have compelling stories to share.  A blessing in disguise, Soni’s struggle shows us how every situation can be a chance to learn something new.

After narrowly escaping a serious illness, Soni fell in love with rock climbing. This exhilarating sport has had a profound impact on her music, while teaching her more about herself and what she wants out of life.

Her strength-Soni Cheng

Soni cheng

Full-time music producer, musician and guitar teacher. Lead guitarist for indie band GDJYB. Experienced in composing, arranging, producing and performing music, including sound effect design and film and advertising music. Also a rock climbing enthusiast.

Her strength-Soni Cheng

How did you get into rock climbing?

A few years ago, I suddenly lost 15 kg and constantly felt tired, but at the same time I was having trouble sleeping at night. After going to the doctors, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. The doctor prescribed me with medication, but after 2 months, my body developed an allergic reaction and I went into a coma. I was put in an isolation ward as a precaution – my white blood cell count was so low that even a mild infection could be fatal. After discharge from the hospital, I was eager to get fit and healthy again. A friend took me to a climbing wall at Po Wing Road Sports Centre. It wasn't long before I was hooked on this new sport, and I headed there most weeks to train. Today, climbing is an integral part of my life.  Looking back, I realised that the reason I fell ill was because I neglected my health. Yet if I hadn’t fallen ill, I might never have found this exciting new sport.

Her strength-Soni Cheng

What do you enjoy most about rock climbing?

I enjoy the constant mental tug of war between perseverance and giving up. Sometimes, you get to a point in a climb where you know if you push yourself you can finish the route, but it’s tempting to back out to avoid the risk of injury. You're constantly learning to push your limits. When it comes to success or failure in life, I don't believe there is any right or wrong. Climbing is similar: you try to climb a route, and if you don’t succeed, you can always try again. The key is to focus on the process.

This fresh perspective on life has helped me set new goals for myself. For example, to improve my climbing, I decided to work on my back muscles. I bought 2 dumbbells from Decathlon so I could train at home and build up my strength. I even used a bunk bed at home to practise pull-ups for 3 or 4 months. Towards the end of my first year as a climber, I managed to do my first ever chin-up. Thanks to all this training, when the band is setting up for a show, I can now carry 2 guitars all by myself, but I’m still mindful not to injure myself.

I imagine you've inspired many friends and fans to try rock climbing?

Everyone wants to improve and do better. But we achieve that in different ways. I encourage my friends to seek out new experiences so they have more options. If they like something after a few tries, they can pursue it further; otherwise they can try something different. For me personally, it was climbing that changed my outlook on life.

For example, I used to eat a lot of junk food. I’d even add 2 sachets of sugar to my Ovaltine. However, since getting into climbing, I’ve been much more careful about what I eat. I watch my sugar and fat intake and read the nutrition facts on product labels. I also drink warm water instead of cold. Even if I'm on a hike in the sweltering summer heat, I can drink 2 whole flasks of warm water. It goes down better because it’s closer to body temperature. Doing exercise has made me more aware of my body, so I know what it needs.


Do you have any advice for people new to climbing?

The most important thing is to take care of yourself. Don't try to climb routes that are too hard, otherwise you could end up injuring yourself. I've personally had lots of injuries, but they're best avoided if possible. It might sound a bit scary, but I once saw a climber take a ground fall from 4 metres up. I think she broke a bone or suffered internal bleeding. However, if it had been her head that hit the ground first, it could have been life-threatening.

HER STRENGTH  | 搖滾吉他手Soni Cheng熱愛攀石  找回力量與溫柔的平衡

What’s your ‘strength’?

The good balance between force and finesse. Many people rely too much on strength, both when climbing and playing the guitar. For example, guys who work out tend to overuse their upper body when climbing, to the detriment of their footwork and mental ability. Girls, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily as strong, but they can make up for this with technique.  The key is to find the right balance. I’m a huge fan of Ashima Shiraishi, a Japanese-American climber. She’s only 154 cm tall, but she’s really flexible. Ashima uses excellent technique to overcome her physical limitations, so she can find alternative ways of finishing a climb.

In this regard, climbing and music are similar: there’s more than one way to play a chord or climb a route, and each has its own unique style and qualities. For example, when you strum a guitar, if you pinch the pick too hard, it can sound rigid. But when you perform on stage, you sometimes want to exaggerate more and let your emotions run free. In other words, in some circumstances you need to be more gentle, and in others more passionate. If you watch a good climber, they can stick to the wall like a magnet by using body tension, but this requires a great balance between force and finesse.

you try to climb a route, and if you don’t succeed, you can always try again. The key is to focus on the process. 

Her strength-Soni Cheng

Are you worried that a climbing injury could affect your music career? 

After climbing, my fingers are often sore and my skin peels, so I apply an ice pack when I get home. If I overuse my middle finger, it can make it difficult to pluck a guitar. But I won’t give up on climbing for fear of not being able to play the guitar. I think moderation is key to find the right balance so I can get the best out of both. Sometimes if I climb too much, I neglect other aspects of my life. It’s a bit like when I used to work too much and forgot to rest. That was what ultimately caused my illness. There are pros and cons to everything. It’s up to us to find the right balance. If I hadn’t learned some important lessons, climbing could also have caused me some misfortune. Thankfully, this sport has helped me learn more about myself, which gives me the confidence to improve.

Do you have any tips for balancing force and finesse?

First of all, you have to learn to control your breathing. I remember one time I fell near the end of a route because my hands were sweaty. I told myself: “Come on Soni, you’ve got this!”  But after another 3 tries, I still couldn’t complete the route. Then, I slowed down my breathing and tried to rest a bit before swapping my hands, and that time it worked! This tells us that breathing affects our rhythm. Our breathing intensity and frequency varies from person to person. But if we can find the right balance, then we can greatly increase our athletic performance. The same can be said when you’re performing on stage.

What is your favourite decathlon product?

It’s hard to choose one thing. In the past, I’ve bought all sorts of Decathlon products for a range of activities: badminton, yoga, weightlifting, snorkelling, skiing, hiking and camping. I start by deciding what gear I need for a particular activity. Then, I compare all the different models and features before deciding which to buy. I think of Decathlon as a sports ‘library’, with a vast collection that covers all of my needs. When I’m in Mong Kok, I always pop into the Decathlon store. It’s a chance to browse equipment for a range of sports and try out your favourite products.

If I had to settle on one thing, I’d say that my favourite product is the Decathlon Mini Massage Gun. After doing exercise, our muscles are often sore – that’s a normal part of muscle growth. However, using a massage gun can help our muscles relax and our body to recover. Moreover, Decathlon’s massage gun is highly effective and extremely compact – you can even fit it in your suitcase when travelling!


    Mini massage gun

    Give your body a deeply SPA without any effort from you after sports!

  • CHALK BAG-Decathlon

    Chalk bag

    Deep and rigid chalk bag that prevents chalk dust escaping bag.

  • CLIMBING TANK TOP - Decathlon

    Climbing tank top

    perfectly to all types of climbing moves while keeping you comfortable.

Soni’s story reminds us that we should practise sports in moderation and be careful not to injure ourselves. That way, we can get more out of the sport and enhance our experience. Before taking part in a sport, it’s crucial that you master the basics well and have all the necessary gear. Come and view our selected equipment for women!