Mental Strategies For Rock Climbing
By Alexis Rose, Guest Blogger
Rock climbing will challenge you mentally and physically, and give you an adrenaline rush to remember. Whether you’re facing a wall that’s twenty feet high or two hundred, you know there’s going to be something fun, yet challenging about the route. But that can be daunting. After all, you’re only 5 or 6 feet tall and standing at the foot of a route can make you feel like an ant; an ant that has no business bothering this wall with your tiny climbing.
But deep down, we both know the wall is just asking to be scaled. It’s just this terrible mixture of fear and “I can’t” that is holding you back.
I’ve been there. I remember many of my climbs where I faced a formidable route. I’d stand at the foot of the wall for a long five minutes before my husband repeated, “Belay is on, babe. Climb on.”
That’s where the mental game needs to be strongest. The body is willing, but the mind has doubts. So no matter who you are or how often you climb, having mental strategies for rock climbing will help you send like you’re Chris Sharma.
Here are some strategies to help you get up that next wall:
1. Look At Your Route
If you’re lead climbing, this is critical; you need to know where the anchors are to clip in or where the cracks are to place your trad gear. But if you’re top roping, it’s sometimes easy to start climbing the wall without thinking about the best line from bottom to top.
Before you start climbing, step back and take a look at the wall. Where’s the best-looking route? Where are some areas you want to stay away from? Are there cracks you could use to your advantage? If you’re sport climbing, try to spot the anchors on the rock and follow them to the top. They often provide the best route to the summit.
2. Take A Deep Breath
Before you even touch the wall, stop and take a deep breath. It sounds strange, but deep breathing helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which puts your body (and your brain!) on rest, recovery and relaxation mode. Basically, taking deep breaths sends messages to the brain that tells the rest of the body to “chill out.” It helps you focus on the task at hand, rather than getting caught up in the emotions of the moment.
3. Go One Step At A Time
You don’t have to tackle the wall in one push. In fact, you’re going to have to take a lot of steps to get to the top. So, just take it one at a time. Move your right foot. Then your left hand. Then your left foot. Then your right hand.
By taking the wall one movement at a time, you’re helping yourself stay grounded (no pun intended) in the situation. You’re creating physical and mental stability by keeping unnecessary movements to a minimum and keeping your focus on one, simple task. Need to make a big move? Go slowly, if you can, and keep yourself as stabilized as possible.
4. Stop For A Break
If you’re getting high up and you start to panic, stop for a break. This is not a race. Let your belayer know you need to take a break so they can put more tension in the rope. When your belayer gives the “go-ahead” release your arms from the wall and relax back in your harness. Position your feet out in front of you, so they’re both flat on the wall. Don’t worry; you’re not going anywhere!
Shake out your arms. Take more deep breaths. Don’t look down, but instead, take in the view from your new vantage point. Shake out your legs if they’re feeling strained. Roll your shoulders and let yourself relax a little bit. Then when you’re ready, let your belayer know and get back on the wall.
Breaks are not only good for your body, but for your mind as well. Like I said, rock climbing is as much as a mental challenge as it is a physical one.
I know it sounds crazy, but I end up singing during almost every climb I do. I do a lot of lead climbing and that can get scary sometimes. So, to take my mind off the fear of falling and everything that could go wrong, I sing to myself.
I got this strategy from one of my climbing buddies and though it sounds weird, it works wonders. As soon as I start crooning Billy Currington’s “Good Directions,” my fears begin to melt away. Suddenly, I’m hyper focused on one task: finding my next hand or foot-hold. By the end of the song, it’s amazing how far up I’ve gone.
If you’re out of breath or singing out loud isn’t an option, hum to yourself. And it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. The Barney song, “Happy Birthday,” or any Adele song that’s been beaten to death on the radio will do. What’s important is to set aside your fears and focus on getting up that wall.
6. Rely On Your Legs
One of the biggest challenges I face when climbing is relying on the incredible strength in my legs. When you’re looking up and focused on going upward, it’s easy to get tunnel vision on your hands and arms. But your legs are incredibly powerful and are critical to any successful climb. Taking big steps up or using heel hooks are both great ways to give yourself leverage during the climb. It also helps keep your arms “fresh” and prevents them from giving out.
I hope this article gave you some new mental strategies for rock climbing during your next adventure. Climbing can be daunting at times, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Anything is possible when you set your mind to it (cheesy but true!). Remember to stay calm and enjoy the moment. Now, climb on!
About the Author:
Alexis Rose is the founder of Wife in the Wild Blue Yonder, a blog dedicated to providing advice and resources to military spouses. She’s determined to help others by sharing personal stories and useful information that other military spouses can learn from and apply to their own lives. She’s a passionate writer and photographer, a Harry Potter fanatic, a lover of dogs, a swimmer, a rock climber and a yogi. She’s always up for an adventure and she loves to travel.
Check out her the other post that she wrote for us, “10 + 1 Tips for Hiking Your First Fourteener.”