Stuart's Blog

When the Blocks are Mental not Physical...

I went bouldering with my wife today and while I've been going about three times a week since May, she really only started coming along regularly in September and only once a week.

Today she nearly completed a boulder that I have not yet managed to complete.

You can imagine the turmoil. My ego is screaming... "Nooo... she can't be allowed to do something that you can't do", but my proud-husband-self is saying, "You go girl! Come on! You can do it!"

What I realised is that there is no physical reason why I can't do that particular route. It's all psychological.

I've actually written a list of the blocks I'm currently experiencing to my climbing and I'll work on systematically removing them.

They are (in no particular order):

  • Fear of Heights - this one is very reasonable. Not only is it a natural response, but I have the added baggage of being hung out of a third-floor window by my ankles when I was a toddler. I have always (well, since that day, anyway) had a somewhat difficult relationship with heights. And trust.
  • Not Trusting Outside Edges - I'm fine when my feet are on my tip toes or on the inside edge (ie. resting on my big toe), but I've not built a huge amount of strength or conditioning around having my weight on my pinky-toe side.
  • Giving Up When Meeting A Bad Hold - I've been climbing low grades up to now which generally have good handholds. I'm now starting to meet some difficult holds that need a particular hand position (or body position) or grip strength to successfully hold onto. Rather than explore my options I often just climb back down.
  • Fear Of Falling - in addition to my fear of heights, which kicks in on the top third of the wall, I have a fear of falling from much lower down. Today I was practicing falling from just four bolt-holes from the floor (maybe 2 feet). That was easy. I went to five bolt-holes (maybe another six inches) and it was suddenly terrifying. I will work on gradually falling from higher and higher. A lot of it is about separating the risk of falling (sometimes quite high) and the consequences of falling (not very high).
  • Fear Of Getting Stuck - there are often easier climbs near the harder climbs which can be used as an "escape route" when things get sketchy. When an easier climb isn't present, I'm much less likely to go up a harder route. I think that dealing with the above issues will probably bring this one out in the wash.
  • Psychological Block To Grades - I've been fine with the first two grades of climbs, but I seem to have a slight psychological block to the grade I'm currently working on... as if I don't believe that I am/will be able to climb it. This is silly because I've already climbed eight of the boulders at that grade (and one of the grade above).
  • My Weight - ok, this is a physical one. I'm carrying at least 20kg more than I need to and that has to affect both my climbing and my fear of falling off.
  • Commitment - sometimes a move just needs a commitment... like you'll get it or you'll fall off. I think that practicing falling more will help with this one.

I'm doing what I can to address these issues and being patient with myself about the speed of progress. It will come when it comes. Sometimes the progress is so slow I forget that I'm moving forward.

I have to remember that when I first started climbing, the second grade climbs seemed impossible, yet when that grade was last re-set in November I flashed 26 of the 29 climbs (flash = successfully climbing on your first attempt).

I guess when progress is slow, you have to look back to where you were a long time ago... and the addage is true:

"What today seems impossible will one day be your warm-up"

This is literally true of the second grade climbs that I've been doing.

#life #bouldering

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