One of the things I like most about climbing is that the balance between the physical, technical and mental skills needed to climb a route. Without any one of those three aspects, your climbing potential will be limited. Everyone generally focuses on the physical side when training but the technical and mental skills are just as important. An advantage of these is that is so easy to train these aspects anywhere, so a great thing to work on while in lockdown.
I’m going to focus on mental training as its where my fascination lies and it has such an impact on the other two factors. In a lot of our climbing, our biggest limiting factor is our mind. We look at a climb and say “I can’t do that”, “I’ll never get through that crux”, “I’m not strong enough”, or “I always fall off there”. This is where mental training comes in. One part of mental training is visualisation, the formation of a mental image. In this case it is all about introducing positive pictures into your mind. It’s amazing the impact this can have on your performance. There is a lot of research out there on the impact of your mind on improving physical performance. In one piece it stated that people who visualised improving their finger strength for two weeks saw up to a 35% increase in strength. The mind is a pretty powerful tool.
Our central nervous system doesn’t distinguish between what we imagine and what is real. Try this, close your eyes and imagine your favourite food. Imagine biting into it, how does it taste? Do you feel your mouth watering? How do you feel? Do the same for a food you don’t like or something you really wouldn’t want to eat? Climbing is just like this. If you imagine yourself falling at the crux you put yourself in a negative mindset. Your body will react to it, you will be tense, waste nervous energy and be less likely to get through it. If you can imagine yourself feeling strong, confident, relaxed and pulling through that crux with ease you are more likely to succeed… And personally, I would much rather think about getting to the top of a climb than falling off it.
Your imagination may take some work, but the more you practice the better you will become, especially if you practice regularly.
Try this climbing visualisation out:
Before you start you need a climb in mind. You can start buy looking at a picture of a climb, then trying to recall it. Think of that problem you remember from the wall. Or you can make up your own climb in your mind’s eye.
Sit or lie down somewhere quiet, close your eyes, take five slow relaxing deep breaths. Feel your body move with your breaths. Imagine yourself stood in front of a climb, what can you see, hear, smell? Once you have the picture, move to imagining yourself climbing it as if watching it on TV. Then imagine yourself climbing it as if you are actually climbing it. Feel yourself move. Imagine the feeling of your hands on the holds, your toes pushing down, your muscles tensing. Pulling through the moves and reaching the top, smile and feel how it feels to reach the top of the climb.
So, don’t say “I will be so rubbish when I get back to climbing”. Get climbing in your imagination until you can get back to the wall.
Blog written by Vicky Jennings HCC Duty Manager & Coach