About a year ago, I watched a video of my boyfriend snapping his pulley on the infamous route, Rock Atrocity, at Parisella’s Cave. I watched the process of rest and rehabilitation, which wasn’t very pretty, and how it has prevented him from crimping (which I suppose is a good thing).
It was a wake up call, letting me know just how fragile our fingers are, and how important it is for us to pay attention to our bodies.
Watching someone close to you go through something scary and demoralising does also affect you. It makes you scared of that ever happening to you, and worrying about all the times you had committed to a full crimp on a sharp edge. At least, that’s what it did to me. Of course, I disguised this fear with learning how to open hand everything, which is a good by-product, don’t get me wrong, but I also stopped committing to scary moves on what I perceived as small, crimpy holds. As a result, I stopped trying hard on almost everything.
A fear, quiet as a new blooming flower, started telling me to take it easy, don’t commit. Basically, this is scary.
The mind can be a scary place, as I’m sure every one of us knows. If we are not careful, it can hinder us while we are climbing, making a move seem scary and the hold far away, when in reality, it’s actually quite close. If only we could see that in those moments of uncertainty.
I recently read Hazel Findlay’s article on tips for mental training; it brought to light just how much my mind was holding me back when it came to those crucial moves, and how it stopped me from progressing altogether. The article makes a lot of sense, emphasizing on key attributes we should have as climbers, such as visualisation, focus and the ability to ask ourselves that fundamental question, in the rare times we feel philosophical between boulder problems, why do we climb?
When I started climbing, it was all about getting stronger, fitter, feeling like I could actually climb on anything that wasn’t a jug. That’s everyone’s main focus when we first start, naturally, you need to get to that level of fitness that makes you believe you can climb so much harder. So why do I plateau? Because there is so much more to climbing than what you initially see. Climbing is definitely a physical sport, but it’s also a mental game. A game you don’t really enter until you feel like you should be climbing harder. After all, you’ve done all of the training, campused up every juggy route in the gym, so why doesn’t this relatively straightforward move make you feel so weak? That is when the mental training needs to start.
After reading Hazel’s article, I’ve been trying to apply some of the techniques to my own climbing, to break past the plateau I can’t seem to escape from. For example, at the gym yesterday, I was trying a route that initially felt like it was near the top end of my ability, when after doing it, I realised it wasn’t that bad. In the past, I had tried this route and deemed it “too hard, the holds are worse than I thought and the move at the top looks too scary”. But new beta and a new awareness about what I was thinking while I was trying to commit to these supposedly “scary” moves, helped me overcome them.
Up there, when my body feels stressed and my mind is thinking “that is too far, I’m not strong enough”, I purposefully plant into my mind “just do it anyway” and that has made all the difference between getting the move done or not. Every time I grab that hold, I feel relieved and triumphant, I’ve proven myself wrong, and right. Or, I made that part of my mind that says I can do it, just that little bit stronger. Sometimes though, there are days when I feel crap about my climbing, the routes, everything, but that doesn’t need to stop me, and from now on, I will always at least be trying to try hard.