Updated: Apr 19
Climbing can be as much of a mental sport as it is a physical sport. Your ability to control fear and keep a positive attitude will play a large part in your improvement. As a staff member at a climbing gym I encounter a wide variety of climbers every day, but every now and then I encounter climbers who have what I consider bad mental habits. Today I’d like to discuss 3 bad mental habits you can eliminate to improve your climbing progress.
Thinking Too Much About Risk
Climbing is inherently dangerous. Most of you know this all too well at this point. While you absolutely want to be aware of the many risks you take when climbing, whether you’re going for that big dyno that might cause you to miss your crash pad or placing gear in a sketchy crack, you don’t want to be continuously going over the dangers in your head. It’s that fear that will cause you to fall.
We’ve all gotten spooked on though climbs before, making it to the crux and getting too pumped to go for the next move but instead just hanging there with shaky arms trying to make the move that you know deep down that you’re gonna blow. While that is often caused by our loss of stamina, it can sometimes be caused by subconscious fear. While there’s a lot that can possibly go wrong while climbing, there’s also every possibility that things could go right. Keeping a positive attitude and maintaining confidence throughout the entire session will greatly increase your improvement rate.
Being Too Hard on Yourself
Whether they may be long term or short term goals that you’ve set, having self-discipline will undoubtedly help you achieve them. Self-discipline, however, often gets mistaken for being hard on yourself. Some people find that beating themselves up when they fail will help them succeed on their next attempt. While different things work for different people, I think that most people are better off trashing this mentality.
Enough scientific research relating to sports psychology has proven that heavy self-criticism comes with negative side-effects including decreased performance levels and impacts on your overall mental health. Again, positivity and confidence are what you need to see more progress.
Comparing Yourself to Others
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” - Theodore Roosevelt
While watching footage of pro climbers and reading their articles is inspiring, comparing yourself to those around you will only cause stress. If you spend too much time dwelling on what you haven’t accomplished compared to others, you’re going to lose the ability to make progress and enjoy climbing. Whether you’re a gym climber who’s just started climbing or you’re training to send your first 5.13, just remember to be patient. Those friends you have who are climbing a grade above you didn’t get that good overnight. Be happy for them, but don’t let their successes devalue yours.
These 3 bad habits are a great place to start if you’re a climber looking to improve their game. While your climbing technique is obviously something you should always be working to improve, your mental game will (arguably) have just as much of an impact on your improvement rate.