Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 1 (HARD)

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The power of the mind…we’ve all heard about it and we all know that our minds can affect how our bodies perform, but how many of us have really tapped into our brainpower’s fullest potential? My guess is that it would be 0 percent of us. Like climbing technique, mental training and tactics – your mental game – has the potential for lifelong growth and refinement.

This means you should never step back and muse (with a self-satisfied grin), “Well, I think I’ve mastered all there is to know about this brain-body connection. I understand entirely how I can harness every aspect of my mind to improve my body’s performance, and I’ve done this to my fullest capability.”

Even though we all “know” that our minds have a powerful impact on our bodies and our beings and our outcomes, we all too often don’t put this knowledge into practice very effectively or consistently. How common is it to hear climbers spewing negative comments about the whys and wherefores of their future lack of success even as they’re tying into the rope to go for a redpoint attempt or in isolation before a competition? How often do you catch yourself doubting your abilities before you even step off the ground, whether you voice this externally or internally? Can you turn those voices off or at the very least, down? And why are they there at all?

In this series, I’ll cover a wide range of factors that play into the mental game of sport climbing, starting in the next entry with a discussion of that No. 1 fear that will keep you from ever performing at your true peak – the fear of falling/fear of heights. From there we’ll travel to other fears that can impact performance, namely fear of failure and fear of success. Methods of cultivating positive thinking before, during and after climbing experiences come next, followed by visualizing and memorization.

We’ll wrap back around at this point to bringing all this together in the moment on the climb with a discussion about how to handle the mind from moment to moment and how to stay in the present moment, too. Next, we’ll travel into the areas of goal setting, learning to embrace what you “hate” and the mentality of training, cultivating discipline and toughness as well as knowing when to stop. After this, I’ll sum it all up and we’ll move naturally into the next series of Improve Your Climbing entries – (15) Injuries (HARD).

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

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