Tag Archives: climbing project

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 7 (HARD)

Your Mind On The Climb (1)

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“What good is a prepared body if you have a scattered mind?” (From Divergent, by Veronica Roth)

All of the physical training in the world can fall by the wayside, unused or underused, if your mental state while climbing doesn’t support and enhance your physical capabilities. Even if you have a great mental game off the rocks – daily visualization, positive attitude, belief in yourself and your abilities, a disciplined and informed approach to training, and so forth – this can all go to waste if you aren’t able to tap into your brainpower and use it to your advantage when you’re going for a peak performance. Doing this involves the following:

Reading sequences from the ground: Technically this happens right before you embark on a problem or a route, but it’s still a key part of utilizing your brainpower to its fullest capabilities, and it’s also good exercise that can help you improve at reading sequences ahead of you while you’re climbing. So before you step off the ground, whether you’re onsighting, redpointing, inside, outside, competing, or just clowning around with friends in the gym, always look at the route/problem in question and try to visualize exactly how you’ll climb what’s in front of you. Knowing where you’re going in advance and having an idea of how you’re going to get there can save you valuable time when you’re actually climbing, making for a more efficient and less draining effort and yielding greater success.

Looking ahead & planning en route: When you’re already climbing and you get to a resting position, use this time not only to bring your heart rate and breathing down (more about breathing later in this entry!) but also, to look ahead at what’s coming up and visualize yourself performing the sequence perfectly. If you’re redpointing and you know what’s coming, this is easier, of course, but it gives your brain and body the cue of what you want to happen and can help shut down voices of doubt, feeding yourself positive imagery of success instead. If you haven’t been on the route before, holds you couldn’t see from the ground can come into your field of vision, and you can also up climb and touch what’s available and look around for options and then return to the rest while you work to piece together what sequence you feel will be most effective for you to try – which brings us to the next on-the-route tool: downclimbing.

Downclimbing: Like so many parts of successful climbing, downclimbing is not just a mental tool, obviously. It’s the physical act of reversing sequences and getting back down the rock without taking or falling, which is often harder than climbing up into a position. Cultivating a deep well of knowledge about how and when and why to downclimb takes training, meaning you should definitely put some time into training climbing down. Knowing if and when you can or should reverse a sequence can be the difference between sending and failing, and sometimes, between wholeness/injury or even life and death. Diligent training can render this into an automatic response in certain emergency situations, so that when you know you can’t do the next move or that you’d have a better shot if you had more rest or that you need to climb into it with your hands or feet on different holds, your body just reverses direction back to the last rest, where you’ll shake out and prepare for what’s ahead. Downclimbing can also actually be a lifesaver if you find yourself unwilling or unable to perform a sequence, and/or you do not have the proper gear to protect yourself for the effort – instead of falling, you can downclimb back to your last piece of pro or to the ground.

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!

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 6 (HARD)

 

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Visualization

Visualization/Memorization: Visualization is a HUGE component of using your mind to bolster your performance and training outcomes. For awesome directions on how to effectively implement visualization for sports performance enhancement, check out The Power of Visualization and Teaching Athletes Visualization and Mental Imagery Skills.

For climbers, especially redpoint climbers, a key part of effective utilization of visualization is to memorize every single move you’ll make on your project, including breathing, clipping, how long to stay at rests, shouting, nuances of core positioning, foot placements, hand positions, and so forth. The more details you can retain and repeat in your brain during your daily visualization sessions, the less likely you’ll be to forget what to do in the moment. And yes, this might take years of practice to refine your visualization/memorization skills to this level of detail.

You can start to drill your ability to memorize at the gym. Get on a boulder problem once, then turn away from the wall and try to remember all the handholds you used in order. The next time, add in the footholds. After practicing this for a few months, you should notice a marked improvement in your ability to recall sequences even when you’re not at the gym or on the route outside. This practice will help you start to develop a method to remember that works for you when you get on a new project outside.

My method: I start by memorizing the handholds I use during the crux(es), then I memorize the crux feet, then the crux clips. Then I move out from there, recalling the moves before and after the crux, as well as the clips, breathing, rests, and so forth. I visualize projects 2-3x each a day, minimum, when I’m actively working them. It only takes 10 minutes or so to put in a solid visualization effort. For me, visualization works best either when I’m sitting or when I’m walking – not when I’m distracted by things like television or cooking dinner or the like.

Added to the intricacy of memorizing movement and persistent dedication required for visualization to really work, you also will still ideally be able to improvise in the moment if things don’t go as planned, too – so you do not want be totally attached to the visualization. When you get to a sticking point on the climb and you can’t move on as planned, you still want to be able to take advantage of another option that might work if it’s available, making the decision to go for that in a split second and letting go of the plan. This leads to the topic of the next entry: Mental Tactics for the Crag.

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!

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 5 (HARD)

 

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Positive Thinking

Your mental activities and overall state of mind when you’re not actually in the act of climbing can have a crucial impact on your outcomes when you are climbing or training, or even resting enough to support your peak performances or training efforts. Two key areas to consider here are positive thinking and visualization. Today’s discussion revolves around the first; the following entry will cover the second.

Positive thinking includes not just how you think about yourself as a climber, but your overall status quo state of being. Are you pessimistic or paranoid, or do you tend more toward optimism and thinking the best of yourself and others? The more positively you can frame your world, the more positive your outcomes tend to be…and this carries over into climbing, too. This doesn’t mean that being positive will make sending routes happen way faster, necessarily, but having a more positive worldview does mean that you can probably cultivate more tolerance for difficulties and are able to spin them more positively to yourself, making you more able to enjoy the moment (and to be a pleasant and fun climbing partner, too).

An example of the above is to shift a frustrating moment of being unable to do a move on a particular climb or boulder problem into an awesome moment of success for yourself. You can do this by reflecting on the move in question and analyzing why you’re failing on it – what muscle group(s) or motions are you struggling with, and why? As you figure this out (perhaps with the help of a coach or climbing partners), you can look to find solutions to help remedy this issue.

So the moment of frustration/failure turns into a successful moment of getting taught directly about something that you need to work on to improve your overall climbing game – a much more valuable experience in the big picture than just traipsing up a climb with little or no difficulty. Cultivating this mindset 100 percent of the time isn’t likely to happen overnight, mind you – or maybe not ever – but it’s good to have it wired as your fallback default mode of thinking about such things instead of perpetual negative self-talk about how weak you are and how much you suck and so forth.

If you’re not sure you are using positive thinking to your greatest advantage, start by paying attention to how often you think something negative about yourself, your body, your climbing ability, or even your rest days. For example, many climbers and other fitness-obsessed types have difficulty handling rest days (or even rest periods between efforts on routes or boulder problems), even when their body would make the most gains from more rest and they could actually improve both training and performance outcomes. Little negative inner voices whispering that you’ll lose fitness if you don’t adhere strictly to a training or climbing schedule can lead you to overtrain and also, to get disgusted with your body’s inability to handle what you’re willing to dish out to it should injury occur.

Staying positive and working to curtail negative thoughts and words about such issues can lead to more positive outcomes overall. This isn’t to say you have to walk around with a fake smile plastered on your face all the time (though it has been demonstrated that smiling has a whole host of positive health effects, not the least of which is an improved mood – I’ve even experimented with smiling at rests on routes; I’m not sure if it helps, but I’ll try anything, and smiling is easy).

Negativity, including a regularly negative state of mind, increases stress, and stress does not help you reap the full benefits of your efforts to improve at climbing or to put in strong climbing performances (not to mention a full enjoyment of your life). Stress can have a detrimental impact on your body’s healing time, your sleep quality/quantity, your digestion and your hormones, among other adverse effects, so keeping your thoughts positive and your stress levels low can together lead to improved climbing and training efforts, both.

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!