So I ended the spring season feeling like a complete failure. I trained the hardest I’ve ever trained, I set my sights on sending really hard things and breaking into new grades, and I ended up spending most of the season flailing on my projects and having a miserable time when I went outside.
Once the season was officially over and the temps started to rise, I made a real effort to look back at the season and analyze why exactly I was feeling so frustrated… No, I did not meet my goal of sending a new grade, but is that really what is important to me with climbing? The answer I came up with is both yes and no haha. It is important for me to keep pushing myself and challenging myself to be the best climber I can be and keep striving towards meeting my physical potential, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be determined by a number and it is counter productive for me to try and put that into a self-imposed timeline. Would I like to send harder grades? Of course, but I would also like to have it happen organically and I would like to have fun doing it (which is something that I wasn’t having this last spring).
So, I decided to spend my summer working on the things that were obviously not working: my attitude, my mental strategies, and my overall approach to climbing. I continued with my Kris Peters training so that I could continue to get stronger and be physically ready for the fall season, but I also spent some time focusing on these other aspects.
Honestly, I feel like this summer season has been a breakthrough season for me, not because I have sent all my proj’s or broken into new grades (for the record, I haven’t), but because working on dealing with my mental hang-ups and focusing on having fun has actually translated into better climbing performance and more success on the boulders, not to mention the fact that it has restored my love of climbing again! It’s pretty crazy how the mental side of things can make such a difference, but I truly believe it has!
So here are the specifics of what I have been working on:
- Expectations: I have noticed that I tend to fall apart when I start having the expectation that “I am going to/should send this”. I decided to take this out of the equation and instead focus on just being present in the moment, thinking about each movement, and not worrying about whether or not this particular go would end in a send or not. Funny thing, when I lowered my expectations, I started sending more stuff!
- Breath: I read an e-book by Georgie Abel that talked about how breathing and mindfulness can help with redpointing. It’s a pretty short read, but she talks about different strategies and breathing techniques that can be used for climbing. The main take away for me was to take deep, full breaths in between goes and right before I get on a climb, and to remember to breathe while I’m climbing. Focusing on my breath while I climb actually seems to be a good strategy to get me to not think about whether or not I’m going to send!
- Meditation: So in my training plan I have incorporated that once a week on a rest day I do a meditation/yoga session. This typically involves me and my yoga mat outside in my yard. I spend the first few minutes just sitting with my eyes closed and trying to think of nothing but the present: the sounds I hear, the feel of the wind, the warmth from the sun on my skin, etc. I then start my yoga practice (which is typically pretty basic), and try to keep my focus on the present throughout my session. I also try and use this same technique in between goes while I am climbing. I close my eyes, try and focus on taking deep breaths, and think about how grateful I am to have the opportunity to be outside climbing with the people I love. I actually took a scary/painful fall off of a climb in Squamish recently that literally caused me to hyperventilate, but I did this meditation ritual after to try and calm myself, and I was able to send the next go!
- Attitude: I have been trying really hard to have a good attitude, despite what my performance is like or how it’s going… The result: I’ve been consistently having the most fun climbing every time we get out! I’ve also been making sure that when I go outside, I don’t just spend all my time projecting, which can be pretty mentally taxing, but I also save some time to just try some other stuff and even repeat some of my favorites just so that I don’t forget what it feels like to top stuff out 🙂
- Economy of Movement: So I have also had a couple of sessions with Mercedes, a trainer from my climbing gym, and she astutely pointed out that I am pretty stressed when I climb, even on easier things, so I have been working with her on ways to relax while I’m climbing and be more economical in my movement (i.e. not always having bent arms). I have been starting my gym sessions with a 20-minute ARCing session where I focus on keeping straight arms and using my lower body to propel me upwards. So far it’s been really helpful!
So that’s it! I have learned that strength is not the only factor in progressing in climbing, and I will continue to work on the mental and technical side of things. I just finished up a phase of strength training workouts (based on my stuff with Kris Peters), and now I’m moving in to power (which is WAY more fun!). Getting psyched for the Fall, but also working on enjoying the process of training along the way 🙂