7 November 2014
Natalie Berry stepping out on her first E4 trad lead.
There are now several books available on the difficult subject of mental training specifically for climbers. If you add in the wider sports psychology literature out there, you could read yourself to death on this subject. And yet I’m not convinced that all that literature has made as much impact as the equivalent literature on physical training.
As I observe climbers these days I see more and more physical strength and fewer tough performers who can get the most out of themselves when it matters. Why is this? It’s debatable. Maybe it’s because mental training is inherently less quantifiable, so less likely to get done? Maybe it’s because the cognitive habits we form are so hard to break and the impact of a book on it’s own is rarely enough? I also sometimes feel that the complexity of trying to explain performance psychology makes the literature hard going, maybe even self-defeating for some.
While writing on this subject elsewhere, I thought of a few simple messages I tell myself while preparing to climb or actually on a climb which distill these complex ideas down to a tool you can use in the heat of the moment. I hope they are useful to at least some of you:
“If it felt easy, it wouldn’t be hard, and I’d want to try something harder”
“Nobody cares about this effort except me. So relax, you’ve got nothing to lose by just trying and trying hard”
“There are no prizes for holding back”
Every so often I write the odd gear review for this blog, mainly of gear that I already like and want to share, and occasionally I’m asked to write. Here are 4 things I’ve seen over the year that I have tried and liked.
I was given a pair of Boot Bananas at the Outdoors show in London and they have lived in various pairs of my shoes and rockshoes ever since. Like a majority of folk, my shoes are boufing (Glasgow slang, in case you didn’t know) and I’ve tried quite a few things to make them less anti-social. Deodorising spray is the closest I’d come to a solution. But the effects on the smell seemed pretty short lived and it was a faff to keep a bottle of it handy. Boot bananas are simple shoved into the offending shoes and a mixture of various deodorisers (including charcoal and baking soda) do an excellent job of killing the odour. I found them to be more effective than spray or anything else I’ve tried. Their practicality was even better though - you just shove them in your street shoes while you put your rockshoes on, and vice versa at the end of your session. Well worth £13 to put an end to offending your own nose and more importantly your family and fellow climbers.
YY Belay Glasses
David Flanagan’s new book Bouldering Essentials is aimed at those just starting out in bouldering. It makes sense that there is a reference there for the large numbers of boulderers coming into climbing by introduction at the large bouldering centres in most cities. The does a good job of listing those basics you need to know from types of hold to how to fall and various other things you’d otherwise have to pick up in a peicemeal manner through experience. However, I’m not too sure it’s something I’d have read as a beginner. I found myself reading through wishing the information had been written by some of the famous names in bouldering, with some anecdotes that would have brought those lessons and tactics alive and made them easier to relate to. But if you are the type of person who likes the facts and techniques listed in a direct way, then you’ll find them here and you'll love it. It was nice to see a section on bouldering destinations which will no doubt start the imagination for some boulderers just starting out in their local bouldering centre.
Eva Lopez is one of the famous names in the world of training for climbing, and someone who has demonstrated the value of her own wisdom, climbing 8c+ at the age of 42. The Transgression is her own brainchild and a beast of a fingerboard. But it’s a bit more than that. The concept isn’t hard to understand. It’s a resin fingerboard with progressively smaller rungs, going from big and positive right down to a very thin 6mm. It comes with a well thought through recommended program to follow and several climbers at various levels right up to the top grades report good strength gains having followed this. The question of course, is can you not get the same gains from some of the more famous wooden fingerboards on the market. Especially since these might be both kinder on the skin and considerably cheaper. I’d say that is debatable. I must admit that although I’ve experimented a bit with the Transgression, I simply preferred training on wood. Only time and dedicated experimentation by numerous climbers would give a clearer idea if the concept of the small incremental increases in difficulty afforded by the board’s design yielded noticeably better results. It wouldn’t surprise me if either it did yield better results due to the steady progression of intensity. It also wouldn’t surprise me if there was no difference. Noone can confidently say I don’t think. However, if you can afford the price, I certainly don't think you will find a much more useful fingerboard available.
Posted by Dave MacLeod