Mentality and Approach in Climbing

@Serena Ge · 5 min read

There is not much of a difference in terms of physical strength between the world-cup finalists. Everyone there is extremely strong. What differentiates them is their mental game.

The Importance of Mental Game

If there is one thing climbers need to know about their mental game, it is that self-limiting thoughts will hold us back. One's mental game for climbing matters a whole lot. This is all about how we deal with challenges and failures.

A few months back, I was helping a friend at the climbing gym. He has been climbing consistently for more than 2 years now, but still climbs at a very basic level. I was beyond confused as to why he was not able to improve until I discovered his approach and mentality in climbing.

My dude fell down from a climb and shrugged, "Oh well, this one is just not working out," then walked away without a second thought.

This is it. This is exactly why he's not progressing.

When we fail at a climb - which should happen quite often - it's an indication that the climb requires something we lack. Our job, then, is to figure out what is that's preventing us from sending.

For example, we can ask ourselves "Do I lack upper-body strength? Or is my footwork not intricate enough so I keep slipping?" Identifying the issue is the first step to progress. As a rule of thumb, you should always ask yourself WHY you could not send.

While there isn't a rigid system for improving the mental game, but there are definitely common thought processes that can hold us back, as well as mental game drills that are designed to help us improve. We need to eliminate bad habits before building new systems, so without further ado, here are 3 detrimental mentalities that might be holding you back:

1. Believing You Are Only Good At a Particular Style of Climbing

Do you think of yourself as a slab climber? Are roof climbs just “not your style?” This kind of labeling can hold us back from improving our weak areas because we keep telling ourselves “that’s just not my style.” I have to admit that I’m guilty of this myself. When the new sets go up, I rush to try the new slab problems because I’m better at those. Then when I send a hard slab I can give myself a pat on the back and feel accomplished. As for the overhangs, I simply don’t do them because I feel guilty failing on the easier climbs.

This kind of thinking and labeling is actually detrimental to our progress. If we only focus on what we’re good at, we’ll never work on the weaker areas that are holding us back.

How to Tackle This Mental Challenge:

2. Being Too Embarrassed to Fail

Do you like to show off in front of your friends? Me too. Sometimes climbers strive hard to maintain the perfect image, so much so that they become too embarrassed to fail, especially in front of people. We are afraid that others will judge us, so we avoid the challenging climbs altogether. The truth is, if we are not failing then we are not learning.

“If you’re sending then it’s too easy.” 

Growth always happens outside of the comfort zones. Sticking solely to the comfortable and easy climbs is the worst thing one can do as a climber.

How to Tackle This Mental Challenge:

3. Only Focusing on the Grade

Being too attached to the grade of a climb is a common mentality for lots of climbers. After all, the grades define how well we climb, right? The problem with focusing on the grade is that climbers expect themselves to be in the performance zone all the time. The better approach that allows for growth is splitting sessions into “learning sessions” and “performance sessions.” This approach was suggested by Eduardo Briceño in his Ted Talk “How to Get Better at Things You Care About.” Progress happens when we allow ourselves to make mistakes in the learning zone. Evaluating every climbing session by performance will only provide judgment instead of an opportunity to practice and hone the lacking skills.

How to tackle this mental challenge:

How the Send Story Training App Helps Improve Your Mental Game

Send Story Training App creates a training plan for all 3 areas of your climbing, including physical strength, mental game, and technique. After talking to many climbers and looking at their assessment results, we realized that many climbers struggle with their mental game, so this is extremely relevant. Here's how Send Story Training improves your mental game:

You Get Mental Training Drills!

Based on your assessment results, the send story app scans our database of mental training drills and assigns you the best-fitting drills. For example, if your results indicate that you struggle with visualization in climbing, then the app will assign you visualization drills to incorporate into your sessions climbing. Likewise, if your results show that you need the most work on risk management (dealing with falls), then the app will provide drills to target that area.

What on earth are mental training drills? These drills often require the climber to think in a certain way or follow a mindset when climbing. Here's an example drill of what to expect:

Up next: No Hesitation

Area: Risk management

This drill helps climbers get better at risk-taking and committing to moves.

5 min

Instructions:

Pick a climb you’ve tried before but couldn’t send. If possible, pick a climb that you’ve tried but were a bit scared to do. On the ground, visualize yourself climbing it. Visualize the hand sequences and the foot placements until you know exactly what to do on the next attempt. Then go on to do those moves quickly and without hesitation.

Note: These mental drills will not be provided if you do not have access to actual climbing. As soon as you get access to a climbing gym again, you can update in "settings" and receive your mental drills.

Join the Waitlist to Get Your Mental Drills

Final Takeaways

The mental game is as important as physical strength and technique. These three components directly relate to a climber’s ability to send problems. 

Here are the main takeaways:

1. Having a good mentality is crucial for a climber to get better. On the flip side, having a bad mental game can seriously damage your rate of progression.

2. Always ask WHY you’re failing on a climb rather than accepting failure.

3. Work on all types of climbing instead of just focusing on one. We only improve by working on our weaknesses.

4. There is absolutely no need to be embarrassed about failing as failure is an indicator of growth.

5. Don’t always evaluate your sessions by the number of hard ascents. Instead, allow yourself to make mistakes while learning.

Climbing is not only about getting better but all about fun and growth. At the end of the day, remember to enjoy the process and feel good about your accomplishments.

Have more questions? Reach our team at SendStoryTraining@gmail.com

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