"In a sporting context research has shown that where an individual perceives a challenge, their response was to cope with the challenge, their bodies provided enough energy to perform and execute required skills. In contrast where a threat is perceived, individuals began to shut down after an initial burst of energy...."
".....A stepping stone to this is actually changing your reaction to bodily responses. In a new situation such as a competition the hear rate may begin to rise, you may have sweaty palms, feel an increase in body temperature etc. If you can interpret this and report this as 'Excitement' even telling others that you feel excited, studies have shown this has a much more positive effect on the body, in contrast those who express 'nervousness' have shown to exhibit negative physiological response and reduce capacity to perform."
In short, being aware of your own mental thoughts before committing to a climb/problem/event/competition is critical. I attended an AcroYoga* class yesterday and a comment from the brilliant instructor, Deirdre, was to "bring your minds thoughts line up with your body's action". It's no different in climbing - watch someone at the climbing wall or crag and it is regularly evident who is the person who is climbing in tune with themselves, enjoying the experience (even when in a difficult situation) over someone who is all tensed up, fighting against themselves. Additionally, it's also something that affects all levels of participants (and I'd suspect most people fall in the middle ground of the quote below):
I had my own experience of this when planning to flash/as-good-as-onsight the 7c+ on the last trip. Before starting up the route, there's all the various thoughts, nerves, excitement, random thoughts, distractions. As I waited a moment (and thus unwittingly waiting for my thoughts to line up with my body), I realised for one I could do it (and do it easily - I'd prepared properly for just such an occasion), A lot of times you'll do it intuitively, but with practice you can take more control of it. How? Report your nervousness as excitement :) We spent a lot of time reading various books/articles and discussing topic, and looking back, I do remember saying how excited I was to try the route - I was practising what we'd been discussing.
(On a side note, 'negative ways' isn't necessarily just comments like "I can't do it", it's everything from "I'm tired", to "I'm only doing it for fun" to "I don't care", etc etc.)
It Takes Practice
This isn't something that comes automatically also. With practice when you go climbing/training, you can develop mental cues that means your central nervous system will approach training more readily, and your performance will increase because of it. The wider benefit is that the amount of time you associate stress/anxiety with exercise/performance will decrease over time.
Good books on the topic
- Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
- Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing
- The Talent Code: Greatness isn't born. It's grown
- Training for Climbing, 2nd: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance (How To Climb Series)
- With Winning in Mind
* If you're looking for something different, AcroYoga is well worth trying out. Gymnastic style training but I've found it a lot more flowy (yes, I'm making up that word) which I find translates really well to climbing. There's a lot of balance awareness required which definitely translates to climbing!
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