When You’re “Not Feeling the Love”: Coping With Down Times in Climbing (& Other Sports)

In the spring after the rain stopped falling here, I felt pretty psyched and strong. I felt like I was climbing well. It’s always such a great feeling! I made significant progress, both in training and on routes that challenged me, had a few sends, and the summer seemed very, very promising.

However, the climbing gods had other plans for me this summer – somewhere during the heat, visitors, events, and a buildup of tweaks and twinges in my body, my psych took a hike, and I found myself more than once wondering if I even liked rock climbing any more.

This is not the first time this has happened, and I’m certain it will not be the last.

After all, 2016 marks my 24th year of climbing. Sustaining a passion for two and half decades will inevitably have its ups and downs. I feel like in a way we’re not supposed to admit that this happens, but the reality is that it does happen, to many of us.

So now, as I move from my summer doldrums back into feeling more psyched (and notably this is happening as the summer heat is starting to fade!), I put together some thoughts to share about what I’ve learned about weathering the down times. Hopefully, this will help you get through those unmotivated times that will almost inevitably strike you if you’re involved in climbing (or another sport or recreational activity) as a lifelong passion or endeavor.

  • Unless you’re injured, don’t stop training or climbing or all physical activities entirely. It will make it that much more difficult to get back into shape if and when you do feel stoked again. Oftentimes people have suggested that I “take some time off” completely, but I quickly learned long ago that starting back from being totally out of shape is not that fun. Stay active.
  • On the other hand, don’t force yourself to continue doing exactly what you’ve been doing at the same pace as you have been doing it. Burnout and loss of psych often stem from overdoing it, overtraining or accumulating fatigue. The more you force yourself to do something that is supposed to be fun but isn’t fun for you right now, the less likely you are to rediscover your fire for it anytime soon.
  • No matter what season it is (even if it’s prime climbing season where you live), consider shaking things up and redirecting your climbing focus. For me, diving into a training cycle with less climbing and more training often helps. You can also change the style of climbing you are into, if that’s an option for you (i.e. switch from sport to bouldering, or vice versa). If this doesn’t work, try this:
  • Feel free to pursue some other activities that interest you (physical or not), and spend way, way less time climbing or training for climbing. While you don’t want to “lose everything” (refer back to the first item on this list), you don’t need to continue climbing and training as much. Don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy the break.
  • As far as climbing goes, aim for maintenance and mitigating any fitness/strength losses. Even one or two sessions a week of efficient, climbing-focused training can be enough for you to not lose much, if anything.
  • Don’t fret about where your psych went or worry that it won’t return. It will, or it won’t. Expending time and energy worrying about it and wondering why you’ve lost it doesn’t usually help. I used to get really freaked out and distressed when I felt my passion for climbing dwindle – but for me, it has always rekindled at some point. This doesn’t rule out the possibility that it won’t, but nowadays I tend to have faith that I’ll always find the love again…and if or when I don’t, then it will be time to move on.
  • Giving your whole being the time and space it needs to recover – physically, mentally and emotionally – is usually quite effective for helping recover the passion for your activity. Don’t put yourself on a timeline in terms of when you must feel ready and stoked to climb or train intensely again. Let your love for climbing guide you through the cycles of your psych and your life. Honor yourself when you need a break without any negative self-judgment.
  • View the time away from climbing as productive and helpful in the big picture. Understand that most sports have an off-season, and that giving your body (and your whole being) a break from intensive training and climbing can be helpful in healing micro-injuries or any aches and pains you might have built up. It’s okay to step away for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months.
  • I believe one of the biggest reasons people fail at exercise programs is because they’re generally not viewed as fun or enjoyable. Rock climbing enables us to stay fit and strong while sharing our love of climbing movement and outdoor living with others. Don’t forget this! You are lucky to have found an activity that makes exercising and staying fit fun for you; handle it with the utmost care so that you don’t lose it – even if that means giving it a rest now and again.

2016 Yoga Class Schedule, Ten Sleep & Worland, WY

Photo courtesy of Louis Arevalo

Photo courtesy of Louis Arevalo

Relax and Rejuvenate Yoga Retreat: September 9-12 at Red Reflet Ranch in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Sign up now!

Summer Outdoor Yoga Class: Wednesday Mornings, 8 to 9 a.m.

This Vinyasa Slow yoga class takes place at Red Reflet Ranch, located south of Ten Sleep via WY 434. Dress for outdoor practice overlooking beautiful red sandstone cliffs. However, if the weather is bad, we will practice inside. Bring your yoga mat!

Session 2: August 10, 17, 24, 31, September 7, 14 (6-week session)

Ten Sleep Yoga Classes: Monday Evenings

Session 4: August 8, 15, 22, 29, September 12, 19, 26, October 3
Session 5:
October 24, 31, November 7, 14, 21, 28, December 5, 12

NOTE: You must bring your own yoga mat to yoga classes in Ten Sleep; no mats will be provided. Classes take place in a classroom at the school via the northwest door. Find class descriptions below.

Vinyasa Slow: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Vinyasa Flow Combined I & II: 5:45 to 6:45 p.m.

Drop-in fee is $8 per class; email me for details on multi-class pricing options.

Worland Yoga Classes: Wednesday Evenings

Session 4: August 10, 17, 24, 31, September 7, 14, 21, 28
Session 5:
October 19, 26, November 2, 9, 16, 30, December 7, 14

Vinyasa Slow: 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Gottsche Wellness Center, next to the DMV and Gottsche Rehab Center in Worland. Priced according to current Gottsche rates.

Vinyasa Flow Combined I & II: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the WHC studio.

Stretch & Refresh: 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. at the at the WHC studio.

Drop-in fee is $8 per class at WHC; email me for details on multi-class pricing options. You do NOT need to be a member of Worland Health Club to attend a class there.

CLASS DESCRIPTIONS

Vinyasa Slow. Slow-Flow followed by gentle stretching. Slow-Flow involves a slow-paced flow of supine (lying down), seated, and kneeling postures, plus several standing flows and poses. These sequences aim to encourage gains in agility, coordination, strength and balance. After warming the muscles, the final portion of the class will provide gentle seated/supine stretches to improve range of motion and encourage greater flexibility. Suitable for almost any level of practitioner and almost any fitness level, so long as lying down, sitting/kneeling on the floor, and standing up from lying down/seated/kneeling do not present any issues.

Vinyasa Flow Level I. A moderately-paced, alignment-oriented Vinyasa flow class featuring an active warm-up, sun salutations, standing/balancing sequences, optional arm balances/inversions in some classes, backbends, forward bends, twists and hip openers, with attention to yogic breathing, staying present, cultivating steadiness and ease in each posture, and staying respectful of your body’s limits and edges throughout this mindful, flowing practice. Suitable for those with previous yoga experience and/or those with an established basic fitness level and a willingness/open mind toward trying something new.

Vinyasa Flow Level II. A faster-paced/more difficult alignment-oriented Vinyasa class featuring an active warm-up, sun salutations, standing/balancing sequences, optional arm balances/inversions in some classes, backbends, forward bends, twists and hip openers, with attention to yogic breathing, staying present, cultivating steadiness and ease in each posture, and staying respectful of your body’s limits and edges throughout this mindful, flowing practice. Suitable for those with previous yoga experience and/or those with an established solid fitness level and a willingness to “go with the flow” and be okay with not having as much visual guidance/demonstration of poses.

Stretch and Refresh. A slow-paced, hour-long practice featuring roughly half an hour of Yin poses followed by roughly half an hour of purely restorative poses. This class concludes with a guided meditation. Yin yoga works to gently and persistently strengthen, lengthen and nourish the body’s deeper, less elastic tissues – fascia, ligaments, joints and bones. Restorative yoga involves the use of passive poses (asanas) to help relieve stress and promote a greater sense of overall relaxation and wellbeing. Guided relaxation meditation is often included. Yin yoga and restorative yoga are suitable for almost anyone, so long as lying down on the ground does not pose health issues. This cooling class provides a great complement/counter-practice to the active Vinyasa flow class taking place just before it.

Climber. Writer. Climbing Coach/Trainer. Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). ACTION Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Avid Lifelong Learner.

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