A Psychological Insight with "Jane"* (Recreational)
Our first recreational climber to be interviewed is "Jane". In this interview, you can read all about her successes, failures, frustrations and hopes for the future. Being mentally prepared for any sport applies to everyone, whether you are a professional or new to the sport. "Jane" gives us an honest approach to her climbing psychology. Take from it what you will. Any queries, please contact Jessica.
* made up name to protect the individual
1) Please introduce yourself? (E.g. How long you have been climbing for? Your climbing status? Type of climbing? Etc)
I started climbing in my late twenties, eventually becoming more absorbed in it over the last 2-3 years (aged 34 now).
I do bouldering, sport and traditional climbing.
2) How did you first get into climbing and what keeps you climbing today?
I did a little bit of climbing as a child in France with my dad.
When I'm climbing I feel relaxed, focused and totally content/happy.
3) Who were and are your role models and why? (This can be both climbing or non climbing related)
Not sure I have any 'role models' as such.
4) What level/grade are you currently climbing at?
Eh, I'm not sure I find 'grading' to be quite variable.
Roughly 6c-7a, but I can easily be spat off a 6a outdoors sport climbing in Scotland!
Trad, my 'hardest' lead grade has been E2 5b (I think).
Bouldering grades for me are totally specific to the type of route - if it's a roof, I struggle with a super easy grade and if it's a pinch-y, thin nasty wee thing on a slab then I'm sorted.
YOUR CLIMBING PSYCHOLOGY
1) What would be a typical climbing week for you? (how many times do you climb? How long each session is? How each session is spent? (if different) etc.) Any specific pattern you follow? Any specific training you incorporate into your schedule?)
Ideally no less than 3 climbing sessions a week (preferably 4 - 5), but that doesn't always happen. Outside is always better than in, and chasing the dry weather for a 1hr session outside is preferable to a 6hrs indoors.
Indoor sessions I'll do about 2hrs (if bouldering) and about 3 - 4 hrs if climbing. I boulder a lot as I work shifts, so if I do 3 boulder sessions in the week I'll do 1 session on moderate problems/circuits, 1 session on endurance circuits and 1 session on difficult/compy wall stuff.
No pattern – whatever fits in with shifts. No training - Dave MacLeod and Arno Ilgner both reference that sometimes people focus too much on training and not enough time on actually just climbing routes with limited time for climbing I figure the more actual climbing I do the better. I'm also simply too damn undisciplined to stick to a training regime (I have tried!). I bought a finger board and I think I've used it three times in two years.
2) Through your climbing, is there anything you have identified as an issue or as a weakness? (This can be either physical or psychological). If there are any specific examples, please tell us about them.
Hazel Findley recently spoke about female climbers self-doubt, lack of ego and need to verbalise their negative perception of 'self' and I totally identified with that.
I am also scared of injury (that would prevent me from climbing for a prolonged period) and if I'm being really honest, I'm scared of falling.
3) The issue(s) or weakness(es) identified above, how have you tried to overcome them?
I try to practice falls when I climb sport admittedly I don't do this enough though.
4) What do you believe are your strengths with your climbing? And how have you tried to capitalise on this? (if you have)
Not sure what my strengths are. I'm naturally quite light which is helpful but I wouldn't say I've capitalised on this.
5) We all get days where we lack motivation. How do you try to maintain or increase your motivation on a particularly glum day? What is your recipe on keeping the mind entertained?
For me it's just about forcing myself out the door and going to the climbing gym/crag, as usually about half an hour into a session I start to feel better.
If I'm having a particularly poor performance day I try and remind myself that I'm never going to be the next Mina hahaha, and that having good heath to climb regularly is a very fortunate position to be in in life.
6) Have there been any problems/routes/places/climbers that have encouraged you to climb harder or try harder? Why do you think this is?
I boulder alone quite a bit so sometimes having others climb with me can boost my performance probably in an ego driven way. That said, outside I relish the quiet serenity of the outdoors and I'm not keen on busy climbing areas a busy crag really knocks my psych.
7) Have there been any particular knock-backs in climbing that have prevented you from climbing well? (this could be physical like injuries or psychological like nerves before a particular climb). How have you tried to overcome these? Please share some stories if you have any?
Not really, a few tweeks here and there from bouldering indoors but no 'knock-backs' to date so I've been lucky.
8) What has been your proudest moment in climbing so far? And how do you think this has affected you as a climber?
Hmmm, some of the multi-pitch trad climbing I experienced in Glen Coe this summer was really out of my comfort zone, and even though I didn't achieve a great deal grade wise, it was a massive learning curve for me as a climber and a truly amazing experience. It 'affcted' me in that something just clicked and made me recognise that climbing is a huge part of who I am now and who I want to be for the foreseeable future.
1) What is your definition of applied psychology?
Applying the fundamentals of psychology to assess/change/adapt human behaviour(s), such as CBT.
2) Mental techniques are commonly used amongst climbers, despite many not knowing they do so (e.g. Imagery, self talk, goal setting, video analysis etc.). The ability to be mentally resilient is certainly key to success in any sport. What are your thoughts of psychology and of mental preparation through known techniques?
I've just started reading the Rock Warriors Way by Arno Ilgner which is a psychological approach to climbing as I feel my mental 'self' is now lagging behind my physical 'self' in relation to climbing.
I've always used self talk and goal setting as a climber, without being particularly conscious of doing this.
3) How much of your training do you put towards learning and developing your own mental techniques/psychology? Please explain how or what you do in order to do so?
As above, I've only recently made an effort to focus on this.
4) A lot athletes use mental techniques without understanding the theoretical underpinnings. Therefore, these techniques aren't as effective as they should be. Do you believe more educational practices/workshops should be put in place to teach athletes how to use mental techniques appropriately?
Yes, without a doubt.
5) How has your approach to psychology in sport developed or changed over the years?
My understanding of the intrinsic relationship between mental and physical health has always been fairly good due to the nature of my career but really focusing on this for myself in relation to my climbing has taken a while to click.
5) A lot of athletes have a wide source of 'help' but this has focused more on the physical developments (physiotherapists, nutritionists, personal trainers etc). Sport psychologists, although present in some sports, are predominantly not present or readily available to many sports despite mental resilience being listed as one of the key traits to success. Why do you think this is? Should we be actively employing sport psychologists into immediate support groups like personal trainers, nutritionists etc?
The importance of mental health has forever been underestimated and metal ill health is still portrayed with negativity and negative stereotyping by the media so it is of no coincidence that sports psychology is undervalued compared to say a physiotherapist.
Yes, I think it is just as essential as the other disciplines.
1) Do you have a quote or saying you live or stand by?
Tell me about your recent trip to Font?
I went without any expectation of accomplishing grades. I had been well warned that I would struggle up some of the Font 5 routes and my goal was to focus on the circuits and get on as many different routes and shapes of boulders as I could, and I felt I achieved that.
Did the trip confirm a lot of things about your climbing for you or did it produce new issues?
I was a lot fitter/stronger than I had expected to be. I was a lot more psyched than I thought I would be.
Fear of falling let me down there were a good few problems I wimped out of toping out on and would have been stocked to complete. When I looked back at some of the photos, I was totally overestimating the impact of a fall I had like the biggest crash pad under me!
Published Interview 4th Jan 2015