Without a doubt, people know that rock climbing is pretty physically demanding – but one thing non-climbers often don’t see is how mentally demanding the sport is. Now I’m not talking about the mental fatigue you get when you do too many sudoku puzzles. You do a couple sudokus and you stop because you don’t want to think anymore – that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m simply talking about a little thing called confidence.
It’s what we lacked when we were younger being introduced to new things. Learning new sports, what do little kids says when they inevitably fail? ‘I can’t do it.’ The pouting starts. They get all sad and crap. Their whole day is ruined. Sounds pathetic, right? But it still happens when we are all grown up and is one major reason for lack of progression.
I’m sure we have all had our “super psyched” days where we finish something awesome and for the rest of the day, we bask in the “confidence domino effect” : ‘Holy crap I did that? Dang I finished that too? Man, today is the best day ever!’ Ok, it doesn’t sound as cheesy as that, but that is exactly what occurs upon boosted confidence typically following the completion of one route. But sadly, the opposite occurs just as easily.
This is when you don’t complete a problem and think about how much of a better climber you were __ days ago. This is when the pouty, whiny kid in all of us comes out and says ‘I can’t do it.’ This leads to failure upon failure. Why? Having failed already, we doubt our capabilities and don’t put forth that 100%. Instead we think – ‘That move is pretty hard, I don’t think I can do it.’ That negative thought automatically puts you so much closer to failure than you realize.
When you climb, you need to climb with a positive mindset and having 100% confidence that you can finish the problem. That means committing every move and trusting in your capabilities that you will stay there once you touch the next hold. If you keep thinking about how you might not make the next move - you don’t commit yourself, you lose energy, you won’t get anywhere near as far in the longer reaches, or you don’t exert nearly as much strength to hold on to the next hold (which all leads to falling).
Why is it that when you complete a hard route you have been projecting for a while, you can do it flawlessly soon after? It goes from a route where you think ‘I want to get that but it’s so hard’ to ‘that’s whatever, I already did that.’ Did you get that much stronger? No. You just have the full confidence that you can do every single move in the problem because you have done them previously. For maximum progression – this needs to be your mindset for not only climbs you have completed, but for climbs you haven’t completed.
When Alex Honnold free solos all that tall crap, he knows that he must have this positive mindset because if not, it will only make him closer to falling, and well, death. He climbs knowing that every single move is well within his ability and without hesitation. That is why rock climbing is so mentally demanding. Full confidence in your abilities and skills as climber is the difference between success and failure. The Little Tank Engine that Could wasn’t playing around. Be positive. Climb with passion. Climb with
con·fi·dence - belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities