2 August 2006

Perspective - a culture of low standards

It is quite amazing how much we are influenced by the people around us and their habits. It happens in every sphere of life (I could give thousands of examples but a moments thought will surely reveal them). Climbing is no different. Have you ever ended up bouldering with some new people at the wall and found yourself picking up their habits. Niall McNair climbs with a very positive-aggressive technique style. My normal style is fast but careful. After a day out with Niall I find myself naturally climbing more like him. We are incredibly limited by our own inhibitions and habits and they work on us without us even noticing. When doing strength research in a sport science lab it never fails to amaze me the immediate effect on a subject’s muscular output just from screaming “COME ON!” at them. And yes, the effect has been soundly proven. Basically you are saying ‘it’s OK to let your guard down and give it your all’.

The national average standard for climbers in the UK is very low – VS/HVS from what I gather. Ask most climbers and they will tell you they would like to be climbing harder. You can bet a VS climber would be more likely to make it happen if 90% of climbers were at E4. It takes bit of courage to break out of the normal culture – it takes some individual thinking.

Interacting with as many people, places, habits, and resources as possible that have a ‘social norm’ that oozes a high standard of quality, performance, effort, whatever the variable, will work its way into your norms. Yes, believe is or not if you spend all your time climbing with good climbers (good in some respect, not necessarily grade, maybe just effort level) it rubs off on you without you even knowing it. It’s quite a marvellous feeling when it happens! If none of your climbing mates train, will you go and train on your own while they go to the pub? If you live in the Spanish Basque country and EVERYONE climbs 8c including the females these days, will you stick at VS? Of course there is a balance to be struck between your climbing goals compromising the places and people you spend your time with, but most peoples balance has room to shift a little. You only get one life and there are many paths through it, you might as well choose a good one.


tonan said...

been climbing for 5 months, lead a few e2's. can see how i can improve. Life is in part about laying your own path and you illustrate this point well in the article

Anonymous said...

When I was climbing with my mates in the UK, we never went beyond E1. I put this down to the mental block of moving into the E number grade range – suddenly way more serious than HVS, VS, etc. I now live in Australia, and by using the Australian grading system, this mental block has been completely removed.