Our egos are ruthless. Whether we want them to be or not, they are always there, hiding just beneath the surface ready to throw a wrench in the works. I recently spoke with a climber who was feeling, for the first time ever, competitive about his climbing. I've seen climbers stop a workout early because they, admittedly, didn't want to "look bad" by failing on a 5.11 in front of people. This past weekend, at Rocktown in Georgia, I encountered it myself, for the first time in quite a while.
The day started off strong, having onsighted a V5 while warming up and sending my V8 project, "The Vagina", in a just a few attempts. I figured that with temps nearing perfection, now would be the time to go check out my ultimate dream boulder, "Golden Harvest" V10. As I approached the boulder from the backside, I could hear voices, and strangely, found myself hoping that the climbers were working on the V4 next to "Golden Harvest." They weren't. There were 3 guys working on "Golden Harvest," and according to the incessant spray, they were all close to sending. They looked strong. They were obviously dedicated boulderers, while I toted around a pad older than their climbing careers. I took a little time to commit, not wanting to make a fool of myself by falling off the first moves, which from the looks of things, were quite difficult.
After watching several attempts from the climbers, and taking a deep breath, I found myself standing at the start holds of one of the most beautiful boulders in the Southeast. I had watched the beta intently, visualized myself making the first couple moves, and stepped on without hesitation. To my surprise, the (what had appeared to be difficult) first move went easily. I almost hesitated on the second move, thinking that I must be doing something wrong for it to feel this doable. On my first try, I was able to get set up for the crux move, and move toward the distant, hard-to-snag hold. I was nowhere even close to hitting it, but on my first attempt, I had equaled the high point of these "stronger" climbers, and more importantly, had vanquished the jitters.
While sitting there on my ancient pad, psyching up to commit to trying, I had a few important thoughts. Regardless of the outcome, the situation was going to end up a positive one. Here's why:
1. Playing It Safe Is The Biggest Risk Of All.
How many times have you returned home from a climbing trip only to say to yourself, "Damn, I should have at least TRIED it while I was there." The cost of missed opportunities is far greater than what you pay for the attempt. In my case, it was important for me just to try the boulder. I had admired it many times, and many times had left, wondering what it would take to climb it. Now I have a much better idea.
2. "Trick" Yourself Into Believing.
The human psyche is a complex thing. If you don't believe something, you can't just tell yourself to believe it, and POOF!, it's done. While it isn't necessarily a "trick", you do have to find creative ways to convince yourself to believe. Because it isn't steep, and the holds are sloping sidepulls and odd underclings, it became immediately clear that "Golden Harvest" is all about balance, body position, and subtle movement. If I had to rank my climbing skills, those 3 would be at the top of the list. Also, while watching, one of the climbers, the most vocal of the group, claimed to have gotten a foot "not quite right," though it appeared to me to be a straightforward foot cam that any crack climber would own. This boulder was mine for the taking.
3. Throw Your Hat Over The Fence.
If you want to climb the fence, but can't muster the courage, throw your hat over. Now you've got to climb the damn thing, or the hat is lost forever. For me, it makes me work harder if I announce my intentions. When the guys asked me if I wanted to try the problem, I responded, "Someday I'm going to do it, so I may as well try it today." Sometimes I talk without thinking, and maybe over-confidently, but it's worked for me so far. I had already told my friends I was going to check it out, and now I had told these guys. At that point, there isn't much choice but to give it a go. More often than not, I'm glad I speak up.
4. When In Doubt, Remember The Ewoks.
Now, I'm not a Star Wars nerd by choice, but by default. Two roommates of mine in a row knew more about the stories than George Lucas did. I've lost more games of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit than I can count. Regardless, there are stories in the films that I constantly refer back to. One of these is the Ewoks. Originally, Lucas had Wookies in mind for the battle with the Empire. He wanted to accentuate the idea that simplicity could overpower technology, so he created a new species, the Ewok, to fight (and beat) the Empire. I'm also not a full-fledged boulderer, but I've become part boulderer by necessity. No, I didn't have the latest crash pad, or a brand new chalk pot. I still climb more like a route climber than a boulderer. I hadn't done a single V10, and only one V9, while these guys sprayed about their packed tick lists. In short, I was intimidated. Once I took a minute to remember that my training and my skills were what I had to fall back on, and that the only competition was between "Golden Harvest" and I, all of what I wasn't didn't seem to matter so much. What mattered is what I am, and that I was standing exactly where I wanted to be.
To wind up, let me leave you with a video short by Derek Thatcher that nicely captures the beauty and subtle power of the boulder problem known as "Golden Harvest".
"A good coach-athlete relationship means that coaches allow themselves to not always be right..."
- Madeleine Eppensteiner | Climbing Psychology
In this episode I talk with a successful coach/climber team: Taylor Reed and Bella Jariel. Taylor has helped coach Bella to big success on the international stage. She's the USA Climbing Youth National Champion in speed climbing, as well as a qualifier for the US Youth Team in all 4 disciplines - Sport, Speed, Bouldering, and the Olympic Combined Format.
Five days. Five episodes. One theme. Common sense isn't always common practice.
If you've heard of Justin Salas, you may refer to him as a "blind climber." You'd be wrong. He's a climber who just happens to be blind, just like you're a climber who just happens to have sight.
Dan John and I discuss his newest book, which asks and answers important questions we often forget to ask. After you've done your assessments, you've trained and met the standards, you've won or lost, or your season is over... Now What?
Trevor Ragan is one of the most well-versed in the science of learning and how mindset affects it, and he's out there working with teams, coaches, teachers, and businesses to actually apply the science.
So often we don't believe we can do a route because of one difficult move. Imagine that there are dozens of those moves over more than 3,000 feet of climbing, and it takes you years to unlock them. Would you stick with it? Would you believe? And what kind of partnership is required to make that happen?
Fresh off of his audacious free solo of “Freerider,” Alex Honnold sat down with Arno Ilgner and Jeff Lodas from The Warrior’s Way to discuss his mental preparation.
Mental training can be a pretty nebulous topic… but Hazel Findlay has a really great way of taking these concepts that are sometimes tough to connect with and making them seem simple.
Emily Tilden is a no-bullshit straight-shooter with a mental tenacity that is sometimes difficult to comprehend. She also has the often rare ability to vocalize why and how, in her ultra running, she is able to push through the wall that stops me at about mile #1.
The Process Journal is the simplest way to ensure that your climbing practice is producing the results that you're looking for.
In today's episode, I sit down with Kerry Scott, an unassuming, but very badass young lady from North Carolina. Kerry is a crusher. And she's not ashamed to "spray" a little.
Lantien Chu is the coach of a high school swim team that has won 21 consecutive state titles. I needed to know how she coached her team, how her team responds, and if any of those lessons could be applicable to climbing.
Pressure. No matter if it's a comp, a project, self-inflicted, or external - we all feel it. In these next three episodes I sit down with my good friend Angie Payne and discuss the pressure cooker situation of a World Cup comp.
We all like to call climbing an art form, but very few of us take it to the high degree that Jason Kehl does. From his haircut to his hold lines, his videos to his gym designs, Jason is anything but conventional, and that's exactly why he's so compelling.
For this episode we sat down in the Red River Gorge with coach and trainer Dan Mirsky to talk about the redpoint process, but the conversation went elsewhere, and essentially boiled down to: do what you're motivated and inspired to do, even if it doesn't make sense.
Tanner Wilson just went on his first extended road trip. Just before hitting the road, he changed his mind about his goals for the trip. Because of the new goals, Tanner learned several important lessons... ones that take most of us many trips and seasons to absorb.
Justen is an accomplished climber and coach who has worked with a veritable who's who of American climbing elite. Justen is known for his ability to get into a climber's head and coax more out of them.
JStar is one of the best sport climbers in the world, so it took a ton of courage for him to completely overhaul a training routine that took him to 14d (9a), but he did it anyway. We talk about the how and the why, what he learned from it, and where he's going from here.
When it comes down to it, a lot of us feel like we know the right answers, but aren’t sure which out of the seamlessly endless stream of "right answers" we should be using.
Meghan Baker is a recently married 43 year old mom (to a teenager), who works 50 hours a week, is a brilliant actress in local theater groups, volunteers, and still makes time to train for climbing. You think you are tight on time? Well, to be frank, you're full of shit.
Job, family, friends, hobbies, etc.. Trying to balance that with climbing, training for climbing, talking about climbing, thinking about climbing, and listening to podcasts about climbing is TOUGH WORK.
In this episode, Nate and I sit down to discuss the Top 3 Things We've Changed Our Minds About. Fact is, if you still believe all of the same things you believed last year, then you're probably fucking up.
In this episode, I have a really great conversation with V11 boulderer, mom, and physical therapist Carrie Cooper. We walk through her process, how she deals with the ego, and talk about what she's learning.
In Episode 17, I sit down with mental training guru Arno Ilgner. Athletes of all levels can benefit hugely from what we discuss during this podversation... the differences between being motivated by goals and being motivated by process.
Stoke is high with Dru Mack, and even though he comes about it naturally, we dig into how he brings that good energy, how he chooses partners that aren't energy suckers, and what being a good partner means.
In the Red River Gorge, "Omaha Beach" is everyone's favorite route to hate on. Locals love to depict it as a mindless jug-haul with no "hard" moves. In 2010, I decided to give this jug haul a go. I hung more times than there are bolts...
Are you allowing yourself to be too nonchalant with your projects? Are you allowing yourself to get intimidated by your goals and using that fear to exaggerate the process required to achieve them?
We measure our sport in numbers. A silly concept, really, but it's what we've got, and I've come to accept that. However, as an individual, I reserve the right to measure my own progressions however the hell I want to, and often times, the numbers don't quite reflect what I know to be the truth.
When someone who has been climbing half as long as you is performing as well as you would like to be, do you write them off as being "a natural?" Or, do you take an honest look at yourself and admit that maybe you haven’t been putting in the work necessary to become the climber you want to be?