6 April 2010

Try harder?

Climbers I’ve coached are sometimes quite dramatically split on their ability to try hard. A lot of them can move well on the rock, have fingers of steel, but just can’t grit their teeth and fight their way through a crux.
A lot are at the opposite end of the scale, they take a deep breath every single time they step on the rock and get themselves ready to give everything all the way to the top/bitter end.
This has some good effects, acute and long term. The long term effects are that the delivery of a high level of muscular effort provides a stimulus to get strong. The acute effects are you sometimes hit a slap for a hold you otherwise wouldn't. But it’s not all good. 
Climbing isn’t sprinting. A continuous output of maximum workrate through the whole bout is the thing to do on the 100m track. In climbing, this causes as many problems as benefits. Application of force (effort) can only be done if your foot or hand is on the exact right spot of the right hold. And to get it there accurately you need to be quite calm.
So climbing hard is tough challenge of switching instantly between a mental state of calm decision making and feedback from the hands, feet and body position, and the explosive delivery of force during execution of the hard move.
Try hard, but only at the right moment.


Neal said...

Good post - I recently blew a redpoint of a route for this exact reason. Fought hard on the lower crux of the route and gritted my way though it, getting to the big rest in the middle of the route. And then went into idle, efficient mode and fell off the last hard move of the route by not gritting at the chains. Live and learn!

I presume this is something you just learn with experience

Scott said...

I definitely find with myself that the delivery of maximum force only comes from the depths of the cool and calm mindset. Without a steady breath, my mind certainly reaches this hectic state which my body falls into, completely eliminating my ability to receive proper feedback from my hands and feet, causing me to peel off. The ability to maintain a steady breathing cadence and a calm mind allows me to focus my all into the hard moves.

When my breathing and mind get hectic, it completely destroys my ability to focus deep to put out the work needed to make it through a hard crux. Part of my battle is keeping my mind calm to deliver the power. Being reminded to breathe helps immensely.

Willgold@blueyonder.co.uk said...

Interesting. Do you think being someone who tries as hard as you possibly can, makes them more likely to develop overuse injuries such as Tendonitis?

Dave MacLeod said...

Will - the short answer is 'no'. operating near maximal effort gets you closer to tissue damaging forces more often. But it's these forces that stimulate strengthening of tissue which ultimately protects against injury. Also, being in the habit of operating at maximal effort trains you to be more receptive, responsive and in control close to your limit. Hence the incidence of injuries is high through all levels of performance.

Tom said...

I often find myself at a crux sequence with the moves feeling too hard. (This sometimes happens at my indoor wall, because the routes aren't always consistent) At this point, I usually back off to look for an easier way to do the sequence. In the end noting that it is probably this hard and should just power through, but by then might be too tired from trying other things.

I was wondering where the tipping point lies between trying harder and looking for a more efficient sequence. Some of my mates power their way through the route, but I don't think this is a good approach. You can notice this with my mates, when they fall off a few meters after because they are completely pumped.

Is there a tipping point between the two approaches? Wouldn't either way end up being hard-wired: always backing off/trying again or powering through when things get tough?