March 2, 2018

On Friday we explained how to become physically strong, but, as you may know, this is only half the battle—perhaps the easier half of the battle.  Becoming physically fit is somewhat straightforward if you are willing to follow the steps.  Essentially, a healthier lifestyle, regular training sessions, and consistent climbing will lead to a better physical performance.  This is not entirely the case with becoming mentally fit.  Mental fitness requires a self-awareness and self-reflection that does not often occur naturally.  It takes a strong mental game to push your limits, especially when going from indoor to outdoor climbing.  Here are a few tips to ease your mind.

 

Get comfortable

Well, duh. But, hear me out.  Comfortability results in calm climbing. Over the years I have taken dozens of gym partners, that climb 5.12+ in the gym, outdoors and see them get gripped on a 5.10 warm up. This is quite normal and easy to fix. If you lead the route and are scared, leave it up on top rope.  Run a couple consequence-less laps until you feel the flow of the rock. Soon enough you will find your hands relaxing when they should and your tunnel vision will dissipate. Once your mind realizes that not ALL outdoor rock climbing is terrifying, it will translate into other rock climbs.

 

Have realistic expectations

When going outside know that every crag is different and grades constantly vary.  Just have fun.  Climbing should be enjoyable and if you set the bar too high for yourself you will find that you are hung up on the things you didn’t do rather than the things you did.

 

Spend lots of time on the rock

The more you are on the wall the more you confident you get.  Any climb you do outside helps build your mental game, no matter the grade.

 

Control your breath

Have you ever been lowered off a climb and you were gasping for air?  The odds are you have done it AT LEAST once.  What does this tell you? You were holding your breath while climbing.  When you hold you breathe you are limiting the amount of oxygen in your body making you pump out faster.  Slow down and learn to breathe with every move.

 

Come up with a mantra

When I am pushing my limits outdoors I find myself repeating ‘Good hands, Good feet’.  Why?  I am not really sure, but it is almost as though I trick my mind into believing it.  A great example is the Little Engine that Could “I think I can, I think, I can, I think I can…”

 

Be confident

When it comes down to it confidence is key.  Changing my posture before I begin a climb can make me feel more powerful.  Knowing I have a good belayer can make me feel more self-assured.  It’s the little things that bring confidence.

 

There you have it.  Unfortunately, if you have read this article and seen the video sent in the last email you will be out of excuses for why you didn’t send… Well, I’m sure you’ll actually think of a few.

 

Cover Photo by Michelle Jung