Performance Anxiety

Why are we so afraid of others seeing us fail?

Can you imagine if you just tried REALLY hard? What would you find out about yourself?

In a world of grade centric mindsets (when one focuses on where they stand based on one of the climbing difficulty scales) I see a growing unwillingness to push beyond perceived capabilities. I say perceived because climbers aren't defined by how hard they climb on a scale. Your climbing repertoire cannot be solely explained by a number. It shouldn't define you - only be a useful measure when structuring training.

The term "that's not my style" is a very convenient term for the ego. I hear these word uttered all the time. As a coach, when I hear this sentence my reply is..."Perfect! Now we know what needs addressed." Consider this question for your next session: What is the last thing you'd want to work on in the gym? Now go work on that thing. It's probably holding you back. 

Climbing wasn't thrusted into the mainstream because it's comfortable. Humans NEED struggle. We need an excuse to descend into chaos and battle the dragon of fear, doubt and uncertainty. You won't always come out as a victor, but in the process you'll become less shakeable, more knowledgable and even inspired. I urge you to let others see you push yourself to your limits. If you become nervous when others watch, use it as fuel. Give the people good theatre. "Positive drama" as Justin Sjong, the climbing sensei, would say. That's what a performance is after all.


Route Reading and Being a Better Climbing Partner

Reading a climb is a conversation. In order to have an open dialogue, even if it's with yourself, it is vitally important to keep asking questions. Staying curious will avoid letting the ego or external elements effect how you climb and engage in the route-reading process. If you're giving beta, never use absolutes. Absolutes in climbing hardly ever exist. Absolutes also dictate a master. There are no masters.

Ask your climbing partner pointed questions. Allow them to understand your thought process. If you can't explain your thoughts clearly at first, it's okay. At least you're engaged in a conversation and learning more about each other. Let's take a look at an example of an Absolute Exchange (AE) and a Question Based Exchange (QBE) :


Belayer  - You're hesitating. Stop climbing so extended. If you work your right foot up that move is easy.

Climber - Oh... okay. I can't seem to stand on that foot... it seems too high.

Belayer - It's not.


I have seen this scenario play out so many times both outside and in the gym. The belayer doesn't leave any room for discussion. He/she is setting a clear hierarchy. This seems to happen a lot with couples. Which really puts a damper on how fun self discovery in climbing should be. Let's try a Question Based Exchange:


Belayer  - Why do you think you fell on that part?

Climber - I'm not completely sure... I think I may have been holding my breath.

Belayer - Yeah often when I hold my breath, I climb real stiff. I think you may have been missing some feet out right. Do you see those feet out right by the third clip?

Climber - Oops! Yeah I see those now.

Belayer - Want to take a second to read your sequence and try it again?

Climber - Sure that sounds good. Can you remind me to breath when I go through the sequence again? I think that would help.

Belayer - For sure.


There is so much more room for back in forth dialogue in this scenario. It plays out a lot like any regular conversation. But in the process, the climbing partners are learning much more about each other and working on solving the route together. It's also important to only shout out commands or reminders when asked. Doing this may interrupt some climbers processes. The climber in this scenario asked for breathing reminders, so the belayer obliged.

Personally, the QBE route makes me feel valued as the climber. Often times, when someone sprays beta, it can make you feel pretty stupid, even incapable - even though the beta sprayer may have taken months to figure out that particular beta for the climb. Please make sure to ask your climbing partner if they want specific beta for a climb. Often times giving established beta to another climber can stunt their route-reading and climbing process. Especially if the given beta is for a tall climber and the receiver is only 5 foot 4 inches tall.

Think about it like this - Would you rather be lectured? Or would you rather have a conversation? AE lectures, while QBE converses. My choice is clearly option two.

What's yours?



The Epic Burnout, Mindset and Goal Setting

The Epic Burnout can happen at anytime. It can be described as the more specific unwillingness to rock climb or just deciding everything sucks and nothing matters. I've honestly found myself pretty damn burnt out today as I'm writing this. The holiday climbing industry rush means trying to mitigate risk for hundreds of new climbers. Maybe that did me in... Or maybe it was forsaking my meal prep by elbow dropping my gut with loads of carbs and delicious, heart stopping pastries. HNNNNG. Whatever it was, the most important part of the burnout is first recognizing that one is burnt out! Now it's time to fix it.

Mindset will directly effect how you climb and more importantly live your life. Let's separate the word in two.

Mind: Ask yourself this question and really take time to think about it - Do you have control of your mind or does your mind have control of you? The first step of taking control of your mental space is to understand how to regulate your breathing. The next step is to change how you perceive your climbing world. Try to approach climbing with a curious mind. Ask yourself questions as you read a climb. Describe holds objectively and specifically instead of assigning emotions to them. For example: describing a crimp as a 3 finger, half pad, sloping crimp paints a lot clearer picture than describing the hold as simply bad. Curiously perceiving your surroundings will stimulate your unconscious mind and create solutions. If you let your insecurity dictate your focus you will only create more problems and boundaries.

Set: Now that you're looking at your climbing with a curious and objective mind, figure out your unique skillset and what you value in climbing. What would you like to accomplish? Do you value constant progression or do you just simply enjoy staying fit and climbing outside as much as possible? Understand your capabilities, weaknesses and strengths, then work to improve them.

Goal Setting starts by picking a goal that will keep you motivated and excited to train. Always optimize body composition, increase flexibility, participate in antagonist training and increase your overall aerobic capability before training for climbing strength, power and endurance. If you're motivated by outdoor climbs, pick a long term project and train specifically for said project. Is it powerful, requiring a lot of core tension? Then hop on the moon-board or a 45 degree wall for some power sessions. Or maybe your climb has a mono pocket that you'll have to carefully isolate in training by slowly pulling weight off until you can effectively pull on a mono. Let's say, for example, outside climbing doesn't motivate you as much. That's okay. I started my climbing career in a gym and continue to do most of my climbing inside. If you're this side of the coin, talk to your local gym and find a project that will be up for a full cycle. A setting cycle will be different in every gym, so this approach will take a little more research. You can also build goals around specific aspects of climbing such as finger strength. Making the goal of "I want to have stronger fingers" or "I want the finger strength of a v12 climber" isn't necessarily specific enough. Instead, change it to"I want to be able to add 20 pounds to myself on a full pad crimp for 3 seconds". This goal is now a lot more actionable.

Well I feel better now. Hopefully this helps.