It’s easy to get stuck in a performance rut on a project that is at the edge of your ability level, repeating the same performance every single day you climb. The most standard scenario seems to go as follows: climb up to sticking point, fall, pull back up to hard move, rest until pump dissipates and power returns, pull back on the rock and continue climbing to anchors. The problem with repeating this same pattern over and over again is that it actually trains your body to be less likely to quickly adapt to sending the route. This is a great real-life illustration of the athletic training principle of specific adaptations to imposed demands (SAID): when you do this, you are training the hang (rest period) into your body, not encouraging it to push through that place of difficulty.
You can take several approaches to stop training and ingraining this hang (or multiple hangs, as the case may be), and you can combine these approaches or employ a different one each day. The approaches I use most commonly are the following:
- Pull back on and continue climbing immediately with no rest, so your body is almost as fatigued as it was when you fell off (if you’re impossibly pumped, a variation if this is to rest for 10 seconds or 5 seconds and then try to continue – and then start to decrease that rest time and work toward pulling right back on);
- Lower down to several moves before your normal falling point – maybe all the way back to the last rest or shake-out spot on the route. Attempt to climb from there through the sticking point move and continue on. You can do this once, or do it several times in a row – being aware that climbing the hard section repeatedly is likely to be quite fatiguing, so multiple repetitions are usually best saved for the final effort of the day;
- Deliberate low pointing, in which you’ll take at a place well before your sticking point, most ideally a place on the route where you can normally rest and shake out on the rock (so you’re just giving yourself a better rest where you can normally rest anyway). After resting here, get back on the route and attempt to continue and climb through the sticking point area without falling. Gradually decrease the resting hang until you are resting on the rock again, hopefully now with the ability and confidence to climb through the former sticking point.
In addition to trying to break a “hanging habit,” several other on-route tactical changes can provide effective ways to help you send more quickly. These include the following:
- Beta reexamination. I most often employ this in two circumstances. One is if I do encounter a specific sticking point, even if I have the beta dialed, I will revisit the technical solution I’ve come up with – in other words, how I’ve worked the beta and wired it in – to see if I’ve missed anything, if there’s a more high-percentage solution instead of stubbornly sticking with what I have worked out. The other circumstance is if I watch another or several other climbers on the project, and they come up with a different way to do something that I have worked out – even if it’s not the sticking point for me. If what they’re doing appears to be way easier for that section of climbing for them than what I’m doing there, it’s worth checking to see if that works better for me. A key to this second circumstance is to know that if you do have beta dialed in, the first time you try someone else’s way it might feel awkward or not right because you don’t have it as wired – so it’s important to not immediately dismiss it in this case. I will usually play around with the new beta and try it out anywhere from five to 15 times before I decide whether it’s worth integrating into my beta for the climb.
- On-route resting can make or break your send, so really honing in on the amount of time you should spend at each rest and shaking out the ideal amount for your body to recover but not start to dip into diminishing returns from resting can help you send. I use breath counts at rests, assigning a certain number of breaths to each rest. This is not rigid, though – if I feel like I need more rest I’m okay with staying a little longer, or if I need less, I’ll leave earlier. But generally speaking, figuring out how to utilize rests intelligently and effectively can make a huge difference in your sending potential.
- Tied in with resting, your pacing on the route can also impact your success rate. Every climber has a pace that tends to work best for him or her, but it’s often the case that people who tend to climb slowly climb more slowly than is ideal, and that people who climb really quickly climb more quickly than is ideal. Finding that natural pace that works best for your body takes time and effort; it’s worth it to try to push the pace if you are slow or to slow down and breathe if you tend to climb quickly, and to observe if this makes a difference in your overall performance. In general, shaking out on every hold isn’t ideal, nor is never shaking out at all.
Summing it up: Stop training the hang, revisit your beta, use rests intelligently, and explore pacing adjustments.
Next Up: Plateauing on Your Climbing Project? Try This! Suggestions to Help You Send (4): Mental Work