20 October 2009
Recent coaching demonstrated to me once again the inescapable effects of fear of falling on your movement technique on rock, even where you might not expect it.
Climbers that find falling unpleasant (simply because they haven’t practiced it and reinforced the avoiding habit) invariably climb too statically and waste huge amounts of strength. They often also stay very front on to the rock and so miss out on the opportunity to twist their trunk on reaches, bringing the reaching arm closer to the rock and extending the reaching shoulder to reach the hold earlier.
The waste of strength is massive and often even very strong climbers are operating way below their immediate potential.
It’s not just reserved to those who have a recognisable falling fear they are self-aware of. It can also happen subconsciously. One case recently that got me thinking was where a very strong climber with a home board had a slightly less than ideal falling zone below the board. It wasn’t too bad, but just enough to enter the mind when slapping at your limit for the last hold of a problem. There wasn’t quite enough mattage and some protruding wood structure to potentially bang into with a backward fall.
The result - subconscious setting of problems that avoid big moves, twisting and anything other that basic front-on laddery problems. This had engrained a static style and seriously compromised footwork and move repertoire.
I noticed it myself working between my own board (which is fine to fall off, but still less than ideal for a wild backward swinging fall) and my nearest climbing centre board (The Ice Factor) which has a big amazing board with superb mats that take the wildest fall without any significant worry of nasty consequences. In the ice factor I subconsciouly set big powerful wild moves and my board has slightly more contained, more fingery moves.
The effect is subtle, but significant. The obvious thing to do - practice the falling or fix the landing to prevent or reverse the pervasive effect on your technique. If you can’t fix the landing 100%, at least be aware of it and plan accordingly. The lesson for me is to make sure and have one Ice Factor session per 5 home board sessions, so I don’t start sailing up the cul-de-sac of ‘board head’ climbing style.