13 February 2011

Clean and messy performance

Climbers who are into training or pushing themselves are often trying to keep everything ‘clean’. Clean in this sense means without complication - black and white, yes or no, all or nothing.
This is good, but it can backfire. It backfires because real life performance in sport (of life etc) is messy, always. Well, OK not always. If you’re a bit older, you’ll look back on a handful of moments, maybe only one, where everything was clean for a fleeting few minutes on a climb. Sometimes that’ll be during a lifetime best performance for you, but not always. Sometimes it happens on an easier climb that just went like a dream.
So the problem is that in all your mental effort and training, you’re pushing to make everything cleaner. Clean training schedule with no interruptions from work, weather or injury. Clean technique with no sloppy footwork, grunting or wobbling. Clean preparation with a good nights sleep, rested muscles, good food and good vibes before you want to climb something hard. It never happens does it? Well apart from those one or two times in your life when it does.
Obviously we can’t go around hoping for one of those once in a lifetime moments to happen right now. We need to find a way to climb well and be comfortable with our performance on a daily basis. It’s fine to try and keep everything clean and optimal. It’s the eternal game of the athlete. But accept that no matter how much you try, you dealing with something that is inherently messy (life) and you will never win. 
Climbers that do try to beat the messiness of life and sporting performance get backed into a corner. Narrowing your field of skills to keep greater control over them. Training fewer performance components so you don’t have to face losses of previous gains. Competing in smaller and smaller arenas, like one angle, board, discipline etc. In the short term it might even work and feel comforting. In the longer term, it is almost guaranteed to fail to make you a good climber and leaves you wide open to taking big hits to morale and motivation. Most of the keen climbers I’ve seen give up completely have done so for this reason.
Keep your climbing, your training, your mental preparation, your schedule as clean as life allows. But be ready to keep going when everything is a complete bloody mess.


Anonymous said...

Thank you again for great short posts that deal with the things i´ve been up against: injuries and lifemess. Your blogs gives a way to positive feelings! (I hope this was written right)
Keep going!! All the best with projects. looking forward to hear about how things go.
- From the winter of Finland-

Anonymous said...

Thank you for facing the subject of "messyness" - It's certainly a subject that's been neglected by the bulk of climbing/training literature. Remaining positive and goal oriented is key. Thanks again!

Brent Apgar DC said...

So true, I deal with this all the time in working w/ athletes... it's still a great reminder to hear.
I'm as guilty as the next person of getting caught up in the "clean" struggle.

Anonymous said...

I hit a brick wall and just when I was ebbing toward slacking in the training and mental focus I read your advice .. thanks mate ! words of wisdom yo ! Peace !

Nom said...

I must say I was in a similar position to the previous post and just started writing out quotes and answering emails. Now however I am getting up and going to the wall.


ktmt said...

One of my greatest motivators comes from something you wrote in Nine Out of Ten Climbers. To paraphrase, "Reward yourself not for performance, but for persistence." (pg 119)

When life derails my plans that I'll be sending my project or having a high intensity training session, I still have persistence to fall back on. I make sure I do what I can as hard as I can, even if that's at only 30% of maximum. And by keeping at it consistently, I am eventually rewarded with increased performance. Sometimes we expect to walk a mile but all we can muster is just one step. But we must always take that step. There's much to be gained in doing so.

Anonymous said...

nice! thank you for this philosophical post. it hit something inside me that i didn't put into words till now!
cheers, philipp

iCLIMB Climbing Videos and Magazine said...

Great perspective for climbing and life in general.

shekhar said...

very nice blog

ANdy said...

have a read of

A perfect mess: the benefits of disorder by Abrahamson and Freedman.

they explore the benefits of messiness as opposed to the cultural demand for tidiness.