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Building Mental Toughness Through Climbing 2019.07.29



One of the main reasons, of many, that I started climbing, is for the development of mental strength. I started climbing about 3 years ago. I simply wanted to try it, as I was looking for a way to de-stress and de-saturate my life. What I like most about climbing, is that you get yourself into many situations, in which, you cannot back down. You don’t have an option to give up and quit. When you are in a middle of a pitch, there is no other way back to your vehicle, then going up!


These type of situations force you to slow your brain, your nerves, and try to logically work through a hard move or difficult encounter. These get into your mind. You start to doubt yourself and believe it’s not possible to make it past the next spot on the wall. This is where the mental strength rewards you. If you stick to it, calm yourself and logically work though the next set of moves, you can always find a way. If you don’t calm yourself, you let your mind get the best of you, and you make a rash decision which normally doesn’t work out well in the end.


Mental strength is necessary to fight through these encounters. If you are weak, you will make up every excuse, to work through the next move. Don’t let your mind hold you back, you need to test your body in every way. If you give it your all and don’t let your mind get in the way, and still can’t surpass a move, you still have mastered your mind, and have plenty to be thankful for.


I was in one of these situations a week ago, in Eldorado Canyon. There was the crux, that I simply wasn’t making the right moves to get past. My partners were already up, waiting for me. My hands bleeding and my nerves were on fire. I started to doubt I could make it. But I needed to turn that off fast. I spent a moment collecting, taking some breaths and calming my nerves. Once collected, the moves were a breeze and I wondered why I even struggled. It was all mental, holding me back.


It’s in these doubting moments, you discover who you are, how strong you really are. In these recent years, it’s extremely easy to live a privileged life. We have nice cosy houses or apartments, with central air. Water that you can make hot or cold; just by pulling a handle. Everything can be bought and shipped to your house within two days. You can jump on a plane, and be in Europe within less than 12 hours. In all honesty, these makes it easy, for a lack of a better term, to be a “wuss” or “entitled”. These words come to mind. Scenarios where humans are so used to these luxuries, that when things don’t go this easy, they break down and cannot handle it.


This is what I am trying to build on, for myself. I have found climbing is an excellent way to test and grow this toughness. I read and article once, which I don’t remember where it came. It stated similar ideas and challenged you to put yourself in tough situations, so you can handle hard times when the come up. Something as simple as taking a cold shower from time to time. You may start to hyperventilate, but remember, this only makes it worse, and you will start to panic. If you quit halfway you are only setting yourself up for failure in the future. Don’t do that to yourself.


The reason I believe this, is the growth is important to keep you going, keep you alive, and keep you strong. If you don’t strive to better yourself, or have anything to strive for, I truly believe people start to deteriorate. With this growth, you feel better about yourself, you grow confidence, and you will be sharp when times get tough; which will only result in a better outcome for yourself.


I find these situations relate to the day to day entirely. When you make a rash, knee jerk reaction to an environment you are in, it usually doesn’t turn out well. Say that nasty email you received and you want to bite back it. It’s not going to make the situation any better. You’ll usually say something you shouldn’t have or technically didn’t mean. You were living in the moment and basement it off your personal experiences from the past, and assuming too much. Always bring yourself back to center, stick with it, and make sure you are thinking clearly.


Climbing is a team sport, but in the end, such a personal journey. It impacts your inner mind tremendously. This sport lets you focus on yourself and challenges your mind. You can never feel comfortable. Complacency kills. Grit and determination is necessary. Giving up is not an option and it allows you to really connect with oneself. Up, Up, and Away!

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