Somehow this article on Mountain Project, “3 Ways to Climb Harder by Boosting Your Mental Game,” made its way into my Facebook feed, and I gave it a read.
To quickly summarize, the tips are:
2. Develop Positive Internal Dialogue
3. Use Pinpoint Focus
Basically, it boils down to finding the happy little Buddha inside that helps us climb a little better. For many, letting Buddha out onto the climbing wall will help them improve. Mindfulness certainly has its place inside and outside of climbing and can generally lead to a more fulfilling life. But sometimes, for some personalities (like those who think good isn’t good enough) or in certain circumstances, letting out the little devil can also improve our climbing game.
Some might see these suggestions as the darker side of climbing or self-motivation. Certainly sometimes people who do these things can have bad attitudes. But, when harnessed and controlled, you’re also going to see some really great climbers and some great successes from these techniques. Bear in mind, not all people have the same motivators. You have to find yours, and it may be some combination of Buddha and the Devil. But letting out the inner devil is the way that some people best operate.
So, what’s our little devil look like?
1. Yell - Yelling lets the demons do the climbing for you. Studies have shown yelling can make you 7% stronger, which may be just enough to help you dig out that crimp. Good climbing is being able to control the adrenaline rush, combining that extra strength with the technique needed to make the move happen.
Now, you might think “Oh, but I get self-conscious.” Sounds like it’s time to think about what you’re doing. Are you there to look good? Are you there to not bother people? Or are you there to get up the route? In my mind, yelling is the epitome of commitment. I can’t think about anything else but the move I’m going for when I’m yelling. In fact, yelling makes my focus so intense that, in those moments when my forearms would hit protruding holds and I’d bleed everywhere, I still got the move. (I’ve lost so much skin off my forearms from hitting certain holds on a route I’ve been working that hair doesn’t grow on that part of my arm anymore...it's about commitment.)
2. Get Mad At Yourself - The original article claims “I’m not talking about false positive thinking. Telling yourself you’re a V12 climber won’t make it true.” Agreed. But here is one of my main disagreements with mindfulness – it focuses too much on the present. Understand that you may not currently be a V12 climber, but know that you probably could be. Right now, you just suck. You probably do have the ability, you just haven’t done it. But if you stop there, then you are wallowing in negative thinking. Now get angry. The fact that you can’t do it, or haven’t done it, should make you mad. If you really want it, that anger should make you train until you get it.
- If you fall on something you know you can do, be upset. You didn’t execute.
- If you aren’t strong enough to make a move, be upset. You haven’t trained enough.
- If you’re too heavy, lose some weight.
- Identify what is making you fail, and change it.
Hating to lose is what fuels almost every professional athlete. It’s engrained in everyone if they want to be excellent. Anger’s motivational power is absurd. Trying to repress it is doing a disservice to yourself.
3. Be Cunning - If you walk up to the route and stare at the first move thinking that’s the key to climbing the route, then you’re probably doomed to fail. Half of the work of climbing a route comes before jumping on. Look up at it. Identify the tricky parts. Decide you are going to out-cun the route and plan out sequences through the difficult parts. Develop a basic understanding of what’s about to happen to you.
Figure out what you can exploit on the route. Look for areas that might let you conserve your energy, or places you might be able to break the route to make it easier. Consider things like your height and aptitude at certain holds, and how you might do the route differently than someone else would.
Most indoor routes have at least one fairly sequenced beta, which means that you can save a whole lot of headache if you figure out how to do the route before you leave the ground. Know where your hands, hips, and feet need to go, or at least understand the general area.
When you watch another climber fall, think about why they fell. Really think about it. Maybe they couldn’t do a move because they tired themselves out doing an earlier move inefficiently. Maybe they’re not presently strong enough to climb the route. Maybe their hands got twisted because they didn’t look far enough in the future. Try to predict when they will fall, and why. If they didn’t, think about what they were able to do to stay on the wall.
Now go grit your teeth and send it.