The Mental Game Of Climbing
Handle Your Fears And Stay In The Moment
Bill Cole, MS, MA
The mental game of climbing is one of the most challenging
areas of coaching I have done in over 30 years. Climbing can
be exhilarating, exciting, alluring and adventuresome. It
can also sometimes generate lots of fear and doubt. This anxiety,
of course, causes mental, emotional and muscular tension,
and this causes problems for climbers. Climbers freeze up,
use too much muscular energy, move too quickly and impulsively,
make poor decisions, lose balance and coordination and have
trouble maintaining concentration. They lose their nerve to
go up, or to take calculated risks and they lose enjoyment
from what was once a fun and challenging sport. But there
is hope for those climbers who fall victim to fear, doubt,
over-thinking and indecision.
I've been mental coach to competitive climbers who have won
highly competitive events and who have climbed some of the
toughest slopes on the planet. When we were shooting a segment
of our TV show, The Mental Game TV Show (www.mentalgametvshow.com)
in Denver, Colorado, I led blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer
up the slope of a mountain in Golden Colorado, high above
the Coors Brewing Company world headquarters. Erik Weihenmayer
is perhaps the most famous blind athlete in history. He remains
the only blind person in history to climb to the top of the
world's highest peakMount Evereston May 25, 2001.
That accomplishment got Erik his own cover in Time Magazine.
What follows are some mental game of climbing techniques I
taught Erik that you can use in your own climbing.
1. Use The Proper Time Zone: The ability to consistently
stay in the moment when needed is what marks all great athletes
and performers. This is even more important when fear and
doubt is present. All three times zones are valid and can
be helpful, depending on what you want to accomplish. Good
uses for the past time zone are to review a performance or
recall a past great move or experience in order to ignite
a current move. Good uses of the future time zone are to review
a game plan, to create contingency plans to handle problems,
to picture yourself succeeding, and to psych yourself up.
The problem with the past time zone is that it is the depository
of regrets and anger over missed opportunities or mistakes.
The problem with the future time zone is that our mind zooms
into it when it is fearful, in doubt or focused on an exciting
or negative outcome. As you climb, you can use the past and
future time zones between moves for positive reasons. But
once you decide to make a new hand hold or foot hold, you
must already have left these two zones to be firmly in the
now. The now is the place that gives you the highest awareness
and alertness levels, and allows you to make real-time adjustments
in your performance.
You should also use the "green light" concept here. Consider
a traffic light with its red, yellow and green lights. Once
you are in "the now", consider that you have a green light
to make a move. If you have a red or yellow, pause. You can
tell you are in the now by the feelings you have. You are
sense-based. Your mind is clear and relatively empty of thoughts.
Your muscles are alert, yet relaxed, and your emotions are
clear, not apprehensive. This cluster of sensations signals
that you are in the now, you have the green light, and that
you can make a move. You should also use the technique called
"the three R's" between moves. The three R's stand for Review,
Release and Reset. After a move, evaluate briefly, for three
to five seconds, the move you made. Did you like it? Is it
solid? Are you in good position? Next, release that thought,
and any emotions behind it. Finally, reset your mind, body
and emotions and get the green light so you can make your
next move. That's it. Simple. But the problem is that it's
so simple that climbers often forget to do it. But on any
great climbing day you've had, you had already been doing
this. Otherwise, how could you have cleared your mind into
the present moment for each move?
2. Use Attachment Breathing: The goal, as we have learned,
is to make contact with the present moment and to get the
green light so you can make your move a quality one. Here
is another technique I taught Erik that he immediately loved
and started using. This is called attachment breathing. What
you do is exhale a small breath of air each time you begin
your move. The volume of air does not have to be large at
all. Simply make the exhalation and continue it until you
make the hand or foot placement. That's all you need to do.
Breathing out keeps you focused on what you are doing at that
very moment, so your mind cannot wander. It also prevents
you from tensing up from accidentally holding your breath.
Continue breathing out with each succeeding move.
Now you have some new mental insights into the mental game
of climbing. And now you know more about how to manage your
mind, and how to maintain contact with the present time zone
and how to use attachment breathing. Take these out to your
next climb or tournament and put them to good use. Good luck!
Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2014 All rights reserved.
This article covers only one small part of the mental game.
A complete mental training program includes motivation and
goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review
and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training,
breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal,
concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training,
confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump
prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation
training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media
For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you
need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete
mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take
65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right
on the spot, visit https://www.mentalgamecoach.com/Assessments/MentalGameOfSports.html.
This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths
and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a
guide in creating your own mental training program, or as
the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS,
MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an
excellent first step to help you get the big picture about
your mental game.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness
and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching
Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps
organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports.
He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published
book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league
pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive
article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.
Article Source: SportsPsychologyCoaching.com
Return to The Mental Game
of Climbing Articles directory.