While there is no doubt that physical training and keeping fit and strong are essential to being a successful climber, what makes the great climbers stand out is the mental capacity for facing challenging climbs.
It takes a strong climbing philosophy and mental belief to overcome the really challenging issues which climbing throws at our bodies and to get through the tricky situations we can find ourselves in as climbers
So if you want to be the best you need to change your climbing philosophy and work on your attitude as much as your strength work. Your state of mind will ultimately dictate how you cope with fear while climbing – if your mind is racing and you start to panic it won’t support your body’s requirement to keep climbing.
The guys at SportzBits (check out their reviews of some great options for climbing shoes) helped us out with some exercises you can do to help improve your climbing philosophy. Here they are…
- Practice breathing techniques
Consciously being aware of, and controlling how we are breathing is a key to our mental state and performance. We all breathe without thinking about it all the time but when you stop to think about how you are breathing it can have a dramatic impact.
If you are feeling tired and need an energy boost halfway through a challenging climb, for example, simply changing the way you are breathing can help give your body that extra kick it needs to keep going.
Likewise, if you are feeling scared and panicky then concentrating on slowing down your breathing can help to bring calm back into your body and mind helping you to get back into focus and concentration and enabling you to do what you need to do to carry on.
- Use positive self-talk
Your thoughts have a very powerful influence over your mind and your actions so try examining your own internal self-talk to see where you could make it more positive and motivational.
If you start to panic at the first challenge, what kind of things are you saying to yourself? If you resort to telling yourself “you can’t do it and you need to give up” then you need to actively change your thought processes.
Thinking positively and telling yourself motivational things like, “Okay, how can I best deal with this new challenge?” instead of just saying “I can’t do it”, can go a very long way to changing your climbing philosophy and supporting your climbing success
- Share motivational words with your climbing buddies
Before you set out on a climb, work with your climbing buddies to identify key words and phrases which help you to relax and keep you calm, or help to motivate and focus you to keep going
You should also identify any words and phrases which make you feel negative or demotivated. Then work with your climbing partners to share each other’s positive words and phrases so that you can support each other emotionally during the climb, and avoid the negative words you have all identified.
- Practice focusing your concentration
As a climber you need to be focussed on the present moment and the task at hand and it can be all too easy for our minds to wander off and start thinking about other things so you need to practice having a laser sharp focus on the here and now and blocking out any other thoughts.
You can do this through meditation and mindfulness techniques when you are not climbing, to help you learn how to keep your mind focussed on a single thing but when you are up on the rock face and feel yourself becoming distracted, there is another technique you can use.
Simply identify a key detail in the rock, or choose a handhold or something within your eye line and stare at it and focus on seeing only it, in all of its detail. Then close your eyes, put your hands in your climbing position and take a deep breath. Remember that focus on that single point and realise you are focussed on the task at hand, then open your eyes and go.
While you are climbing maintain that focus by only looking at the holds you are reaching for next and don’t turn to look at anything else. Move with intention and purpose and you will overcome your distraction easily.
To be a winner at climbing you need to go beyond the purely physical aspects and focus on the mental challenges which this sport brings. You need to change your philosophy to become laser-focussed, full of positive self-talk and make use of breathing techniques to help keep your calm or give you energy and these small changes to your climbing approach will soon provide big dividends when it comes to your overall climbing success.