Thursday Thoughts: A Logical Disorganization

An Insight into the Mind of the Climber: A Logical Disorganization

If you were to step foot in my room on almost any given day, it would look like a hurricane had gone through it.  Chalky, sweaty climbing clothes would be strewn across the floor, drawers would be hanging open with random articles of clothing spilling out, and smelly shoes would be lying in a corner.  A guidebook, a plastic lantern, multiple rocks, and crumpled slips of paper would adorn my dresser, and two chalkbags, a beanie, and a headlamp dangle from my bedpost, a bedpost belonging to a bed that is a sea of twisted sheets.

Now, your room is probably not as bad as mine, but most climbers have an unorganized, messy, carefree bent.  Unkempt, hippie-like hair and beards are common, as well as a lack of respect for clean clothing and a disturbing disregard for personal hygiene.  Some of us rarely know what day it is, much less our schedule for the next week.  Yet, when it comes to climbing, suddenly climbers care… a lot.

We plan climbing trips months ahead of time, peruse guidebooks in search for the next mega project, and pack and repack gear until we are sure that we haven’t forgotten anything.  We create and follow our training plans with diligence, never miss a gym climbing session, and always arrive early, or at least on time, to every competition.  Many of us also have a unique routine that we follow immediately before we climb.  We have a particular way we tie our knot, a certain shoe we put on first, a time to chalk up and sequence, and an order to do all of this.  On the wall, we focus on each and every hold, pouring all of our attention, energy, and determination into that one move, and the next, and the next, concentrating on the texture of the holds, the movement, the body positioning.  Only after we have topped out the boulder or clipped the chains do we release our hold on this intense focus, and the triumphant joy comes flooding in.

We live for these moments, yearn and hunger for the satisfaction, the thrill, the feeling of simply being that climbing brings us.  Because we are so focused on this, the rest of our lives often fall into disorganization.  Climbing is one of our top priorities, and we arrange much of our lives around it.  That passion, that love, that overwhelming joy calls to us and makes us forget everything else in pursuit of it.


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Monday Movies: Slow Moments

Today’s Monday Movie is Slow Moments by Louder Than Eleven!

This video showcases the recent bouldering world cup that went down in Vail, Colorado.  These crazy hard moves look even cooler in slow motion.

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Mental Toughness

Hello again!  Wow, I haven’t posted in a long time but am going to try to blog more consistently now.  It’s been a busy fall so far; school is in full swing, and climbing competitions are starting up once more.  I should have lots to blog about!

First off, here’s the climbing technique for today: back flagging.  This balancing tactic could be described as a backward flag.  I found this awesome definition in a list of climbing terms online:

A climbing technique where a foot is extended behind the other leg in an effort to counter-balance the movement of the hand on the same side of the body.

I am finding that I use this technique more and more often, especially on highly technical routes on vertical terrain.  On one particular boulder problem, I was able to prevent barn dooring by sinking beneath those slopey holds and back flagging.  It worked like a charm, and I was surprised at how natural the move felt.  So, whenever a move may be done more efficiently, or if switching feet is impossible, try the back flag and see what happens!

Now to the main topic of this post: mental toughness.  This past weekend I participated in an ABS 14 competition at my home gym.  A few minutes before it was time to climb, the adrenaline levels were soaring, and psych was high.  The signal was given to begin climbing, and we rushed into the bouldering cave, eager to get on our first route.  Then it all came crashing down.  A young climber screamed for help; he had fallen and broken his arm badly.  “Competitors, stop climbing.  Move away from the bouldering cave, toward the garage doors,” blared over the loudspeaker as coaches rushed to the spot of the accident.  The crowd of confused kids moved as one toward the doors.  Separated from my partner in the chaos, I felt lost.  Two very different emotions, one of elation, the other of fear, had exploded on impact and combined to create a sickening feeling deep in my gut.  After finding each other, my partner and I extracted ourselves from the puzzled mass of climbers and collected ourselves outdoors.  The injury was bad, we had heard, but an absolute fluke.  After everything was taken care of, climbing was resumed as if nothing had gone wrong in the first place, but I couldn’t shake the nervous feeling until two hours later.  Even then, it still wasn’t the same.

What had upset my mental balance?  It’s extremely hard to explain.  I wasn’t truly scared of injuring myself, but the shock of the tragic unexpected had shaken me.  One of the best Youth B competitors in the country saw the injury occur but was still able to gather himself and tie for first in his category.  How does one acquire this type of mental toughness?  Many things can and will go wrong at a comp, and even smaller problems than the example above can devastate your performance.  On this site, I found a definition of mental toughness:

Mental Toughness- Having a physiological edge that enables you to be consistent, confident, focused, and determined during high pressure situations in order to perform at maximum potential.

I want to have this “physiological edge” when I compete.  I have realized that I can’t let frustrating circumstances faze me.  Pondering on this past competition, I have tried to figure out what I could have done differently, what I will do in the next situation that confronts me when it is crucial to keep my psych high.  I have decided that next time, I will only allow myself to think of the climbing ahead of me.  If I don’t allow myself to become distracted by what is going on around me, I won’t be shaken by the performance-crushing occurrences.  Also, next time I’m going to pull out my iPod and drown out the entire world with some upbeat music.  Continuing to warm up and talking to myself mentally about the competition ahead may do some good as well.  Next time I compete, I will be prepared!  But at the end of the competition, I was feeling alright again, was proud that I did my best, and placed after all.  It was a day of learning for me, and the experience I had has helped prepare me for a day when there may be more at stake than a local comp.  I also learned to not set too much store in what place one earns at a comp.  The point is to do your best, enjoy the journey, and, at the end of the day, be proud of yourself.

A big shout out to the climber who broke his arm: Get well soon!  You are one tough cookie.  I hope to see you  back climbing in the gym in the near future!

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The Wheel of Life

Here’s a video to get you psyched: Ethan Pringle on the Wheel of Life.  This beast of a boulder problem is a V16 located in the Grampians, Australia, considered by some to be one of the hardest in the world.  The line was first cleaned and sent by Koyamada Dai.  This video shows how awesome this problem really is, as well as shows off Ethan’s strength and technique.  Enjoy!

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Past the Edge of My Comfort Zone – The Best Place to Be

I’ve been on vacation in the Outer Banks, NC, and so far it’s been absolutely amazing.  My last rest week from climbing was way back in March, and this break has been long overdue.  Since I have a terrible time forcing myself to take week long rests like this when I am close to my home gym, leaving Richmond is the only way I will take one unless my coaches mandate a rest.  Rest weeks at home are a torture, but I’ve been surprised at how much fun I’ve been having off the walls here at the beach.  During this break, I have noticed a few ways that I have been physically and mentally refreshed and strengthened.

While here, I have noticed how much climbing has increased my self-confidence and helped me expel irrational fears.  As some of my close friends may know, as of a few years ago, I was a big fat chicken.  Attempting anything close to the edge of my comfort zone was out of the question, and that included jumping off the diving board at the pool.  No, not the high dive… just the diving board.   I know, I was a really pathetic fourteen year old.  I also disliked pushing myself physically in any way, shape, or form, and had never truly participated in any sport.  Yet all that changed from the day I started climbing.  I was obsessed with climbing from the start, addicted to the thrill of climbing higher, the fight of pushing my body harder, the rush of adrenaline coursing through the new climber.  I had never realized what my mind and body could do, and it was exhilarating testing my limits.  Since then I have learned to lead climb and have experienced the feeling of utter terror… and have learned to fight back and conquer it.  Now, a little over one year later, remaining inside my comfort zone feels wrong- stretching my limits seems right.  My body is so much stronger than I ever believed it could be, and getting stronger still.  I have a confidence in myself that I never dreamed I would have, and I am finding that this confidence not only relates to climbing, but to all of life as well.  Above all things, I used to be terrified of the water.  If the water was not calm, and I could not stand, then it was too deep, period.  Even before I started climbing, I partially overcame that fear, but was still wary of the ocean.  Now, after a year of pushing myself in ways that I never have before, I have faced the ocean once more, and have found in it, like the rock wall, an opponent worthy of testing my physical and mental limits.  And doing so is exhilarating.  Striding through the waves with my boogie board, I once again find myself in that awesome place between lazily comfortable and scared, and attribute that inner strength to rock climbing.

When I return to Richmond, just in time for the true start of competitive season training, I know that I will be ready for a new challenge.  Refreshed from throwing myself into new surroundings and new challenges, and from testing my limits through new experiences, I will be happy to again find myself in that awesome yet uncomfortable place between scared and confident doing the sport I love best- rock climbing.

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Competition Season!

It’s competition season!  Well, almost.  The ABS 14 season is just around the corner; September will bring the start of another round of comps.  Now, for those of us who enjoy competing, we know it’s a special thing.  There’s nothing like the feeling of pushing yourself to the limit, both physically and mentally.  Dave Wetmore explains it best in his blog post about the 2011 ABS open nationals.

Over the course of two days, top level competitors from all over the world descended on Boulder, Colorado, for one of the most elite climbing competitions our country has to offer. A sizable pool of rock climbing professionals paid hundreds of dollars on airfare, food, lodging, and competition entry for a shot at winning the American Bouldering Series National Championship. Cooped up inside a cold, dusty warehouse equipped with the most elegant and creative walls this circuit has ever seen, we were given a total of 24 minutes to climb on 6 Qualifying problems—showcasing an entire year’s worth of training and preparation. Hundreds of hours spent pulling to the death in chalky, back-alley buildings, would culminate in just a few minutes of success or failure.

So why bother competing? What’s the big deal?

Some come to test their abilities and ego among the best in the country. Others come to party with their friends as if tomorrow won’t come. Many do both. However, at the epicenter of this competition frenzy, I like to believe that there lies one common denominator: Passion. We all share it. It’s our addiction. It’s everything. And being among this small group of people, even just for a few days, always reminds me of what I am constantly training for and why I will never stop. Whether it’s inside or outside, exceeding efforts beyond your best is definitely an experience I always look forward to.

I love that: passion.  It’s true; this is why climbers compete, why I compete.  And although I know that a regional or divisional youth competition is nowhere near as extreme as an open national comp, but it sends that same thrill through me.  This will be my first ABS (American Bouldering Series) season ever (I have only competed in one ABS local comp), and I still have much to learn.  Since I have posted everything I know on the subject of healthy eating for climbers, I will post about bouldering competitions: rules, strategies, routes, and everything else I come across.  Hopefully I’ll learn too as I search for useful info.  Without further ado, here’s the first article in the new Friday series, a useful article about local bouldering comps from Rock Climbing For Life.

How to Dominate at Bouldering Competitions

There are tons of indoor comps all over the country. That being the case I decided to write this little article about how to succeed at indoor competitions.

If you have never been to an ABS or other bouldering competition here is what you can expect: about 30-50 sick new boulder routes, a ton of climbers, a great time, and probably an entertaining finals to watch.

How they work

Every climber gets an individual scorecard that has all the boulder problems on it. As you climb different problems you will need to have 1-2 people sign off that you did that problem on your scorecard. Most comps take your top 5 scores.

I’ll break this up for you in 3 sections before, during, and after the comp.


Set a Goal: Before the comp you should set a specific and measurable goal for yourself. A good goal might be ‘I am going to climb 5 V5 routes or higher not ‘I am going to climb my best’. Do you see that the first one is specific and measurable and the second is not, that is important.

Intend to have fun: Climbing competitions are a chance to test your abilities, climb with some great climbers, maybe win some prizes, and have fun. Few people win prizes at comps, this should not really be your intention.

We all climb because we love it so climb in a bouldering competition to learn and have fun and if you win some prizes that is just a little bonus.

Warm up: You need to warm up before the competition. You should warm your muscles up with something like jumping jacks (50-100) and then start to loosen up your muscles and joints.

Some yoga or stretching is always a great idea. Make sure you at least focus on stretching out your hips, fingers, forearms, and shoulders, but it would be best to do a full body stretching routine.


Preview: Once the comp starts you need to walk around and look at the routes. You should go around and circle the top 5-8 routes that you would like to have on your scorecard.

Easy routes: Ok so you put your shoes on and are ready to go, now what. I suggest that you jump on 2-4 routes that are easy for you. This always help me to relax and loosen up my fingers.

Crack some beta: A great thing about being at a comp is that there are several people trying to climb the same routes as you. This is an advantage because you can watch and see what is working and what is not working on the route.

These people can help you climb a route much faster and without wasting a ton of time and energy.

Take your time: Most competitions last for 3 hours or so and you only have to complete 5 problems. This is important to recognize because a lot of climbers end up getting pumped out after about an hour or an hour and a half.

You need to rest accordingly. If you need to climb your top 5 problems that means you should be completing one problem every 35 minutes or so.

Eat and Hydrate: Staying hydrated is really important during a comp you should be drinking water and some type of sports drink like Gatorade to replace your electrolytes.

Also, you should eat light foods throughout the competition during your rest breaks. Some good things to eat are cliff bars, fruit, string cheese, or nuts. You want to eat food that is not too heavy and gives you nourishment.

Don’t leave all your hard routes till the end: Like I mentioned earlier you should be getting one of your five routes about every 35 minutes or so. In theory that sounds good, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

You don’t want to get to the point where you only have an hour left and you still need to climb 4 problems. If you just can’t seem to be getting your hard routes move on to something else, but don’t leave them all for the end they should be spread out through the bouldering competition.


Cool down: Usually after a bouldering competition you are dead tired, but nonetheless it is always a great idea to cool down. The best way is to do some really easy boulder problems and stretch. Make sure you also drink plenty of fluids after the comp and eat something that has quality protein in it like fish, lean turkey, protein bars or shakes, etc.

Reflect: Looking back on the last 3-4 hours during your bouldering competition is important. A lot of people might think about it, but not many reflect on it.

You should start by asking yourself if you had fun, if not why? Did you achieve your goal that you set before the comp, why or why not? What could you of done differently that would have helped you achieve your goal? What was the best thing that you learned during the comp about yourself and about climbing? These are just some questions that I use. Feel free to use them.

Remember it is important to your growth to intentionally reflect on your bouldering competition experiences.

Climb strong climb safe

Rock Climbing For Life

For all of you that experience in bouldering comps, please let me know what you think of this comp advice.  I would love to hear your own as well!

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Motivation – A Climber’s Greatest Ally

Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it. – Anonymous

Climbing is not a battle with the elements, nor against the law of gravity.  It’s a battle against oneself. – Walter Bonatti

No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

The rock is a field of battle between our weakness and our strength. – Royal Robbins

Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Willing is not enough; we must do. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

All of these quotes speak of motivation in some way.  In climbing, motivation is important in becoming a good climber, and absolutely critical in becoming a great one.  In his book Training for Climbing, Eric Horst says, “Rock climbing is unique among sports, however, in that it requires a near-equal balance of mental, technical, and physical prowess.”  Therefore, the mental aspect of climbing takes up about one third of the sport as a whole, and motivation occupies, in one way or another, all of that third.  The importance of motivation largely depends on whether your have set any goals for yourself.  They may be small, such as sending your 5.11 project, or large, such as winning Open nationals; but in order to reach these goals, every climber needs motivation. This article, found on the Nicros site, was written by Eric Horst.  Here he aptly explains what true motivation is and how to maintain it.

Strategies for Increasing Motivation

Motivation is an integral part of the success formula in any sport and is a common topic in many sports periodicals. Interestingly, most of the articles I’ve seen on the subject get it all wrong! So what is motivation? And how can you increase your motivation when it begins to wane? This powerful information is outlined below, but let’s start off with what many people confuse with motivation.

Some Get It Wrong
Most articles on motivation focus on getting you “psyched” for training or competition. They may instruct you to surround yourself with aggressive people, play loud music, find new training facilities, read inspirational stories, look at dreamy photos, maybe even quaff some coffee.

But these things do NOT motivate! They are simply external stimuli that change your state. They may provide a quick fix to your low-energy level for a single workout, but they do not provide the consistent drive necessary for long-term dedication to training/climbing. Once you remove the stimuli, the intensity and enthusiasm quickly disappear.

All In Your Head
Unlike state changes brought about by external stimuli, motivation is a function of internal stimuli. Your level of motivation is a direct result of your thoughts and emotions.

Expectations and incentives drive persistent, intense workouts. Desire to achieve gets you out to try your “impossible” project at the crags. Unstoppable self-confidence lifts you when external things are getting you down. And your mental visions shape your future realities.

Getting Motivated
Below I touch on a few of the larger contributors to motivation. Although described separately, they are interrelated. Review your day-to-day thought processes to determine your use of them (or lack of use) in motivating yourself. Make notes on changes you should make immediately!

Expect success whether you’re climbing or training. The best on-sight climbers believe they’re going to on-sight the route. That expectation alone increases their chance of success!

In the gym both your expectation of how the “exercise” will change you physiologically and how that change will help you reach your goals, generate higher motivation. Simply put, you must believe there is a causal connection between your actions and the desired outcome. If you don’t, you’ll probably blow off the workout, not put your best effort into it, or grab a pizza and beer with your friends instead.

For example, you are more likely to do traverse training if you believe it will improve your technique and strength. What’s more, you are more likely to want to improve your technique and strength if you believe it will improve your overall performance at the crags.

For this reason I believe every serious climber should want to learn as much as possible about human performance. The greater your knowledge about training principles, avoiding injury, motor learning, mental control, nutrition and such, the more likely you are to act accordingly. This is critical to motivation–so visit regularly!

Motivation increases with greater incentive value. In the context of climbing competitions, you may be motivated by the possibility of placing in the cash. (Although this is probably a greater source of motivation for golfers!)

For most, the true incentives are the feelings experienced in cranking a hard climb, winning a comp, or as Jerry Moffatt says “just burning someone off.”

Incentive motivation gets stronger the closer you are to the event or your goal. Set lots of short-term goals, in addition to a couple long-term aims, to shoot for (and hopefully achieve) on a regular basis. Too long a delay between your actions and their payoff makes it more difficult to stay motivated.

This explains why an active “tick-list” (a detailed list of routes to do) is such a great motivator. If you are regularly sending routes on that list then it’ll be awfully easy to train between climbing trips. Oppositely, if your only goal is something broad or singular, such as to travel to Smith Rock or to climb a 5.11, your motivation will be consistently lower and you’ll probably get spanked once you get to Smith or head up that 5.11!

Confident, positive climbers are highly-motivated, successful climbers. Conversely, if you have a lack of confidence or are constantly negative about things, then your motivation is probably about 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Maybe more than any other trait, your degree of positiveness (in general) is something you learned as a child. Fortunately, a day-to-day effort to turn your negative thoughts around can have dramatic effects on your confidence and degree of motivation.

You must first become aware of your negative thoughts. Statements questioning the value of training or predictions of poor performances may be the most common among climbers. Learn to immediately counter these thoughts with something positive. Use self-talk and self-instruction such as “this will help me build strength,” “stick it,” or “I can do it.”

To stick to a serious training program or diet, you’re going to need some regular payoffs–maybe in the form of harder leads when at the crag. There are times, however, when you’ll need other kinds of rewards.

Becoming a great climber means lots of sacrifice. Regular training, dieting, and climbing often result in missing out in other areas. But an occasional reward for a job well done may be just what you need to stay motivated.

The best application of this rule is to allow yourself a day off from training, dieting, or whatever, after achieving one of your short-term goals.

Research seems to indicate that irregularly spaced rewards (like those received when reaching a goal) are more effective than regularly spaced rewards (like a weekly reward). Don’t forget, too many rewards in the form of food, drink or blowing off workouts will sabotage your performance. So resist the peer pressure to participate in the decadence, except on rare, well-deserved days.

Visualizing Success
The most powerful tool for increasing motivation may be visualization (a more detailed discussion later this chapter). Studies of peak performers in both business and sports have shown a common trait of being able to visualize the end result of labors long before they come to fruition. For example, athletes with long-term goals like winning an Olympic medal were consistently able to get motivated by visualizing themself standing on a podium receiving a medal.

To motivate for training and climbing, visualize yourself honed and buffed. Visualize yourself cranking through the routes on your tick-list. Most of all, visualize yourself clipping the anchors or standing on top of the crag!

Visualization is most effective when your pictures are bright, crisp, big, and overly detailed. The more you blow up and exaggerate the picture, the more motivated you’ll feel. This may sound strange, but it works!

High levels of motivation are necessary for fueling the consistent, comprehensive training and practice that are so critical for improved climbing performance. As your skill level increases, you’ll notice that the gains come more slowly and are less noticeable, so you’ll need even greater motivation and devotion to improve.

Clearly, everybody experiences periods when motivation wanes. True peak performers, however, are able to maintain, or create, high levels of motivation through thick and thin. So practice the preceding motivational techniques and always visualize success!

Some awesome stuff, to be sure.  Eric also wrote this mini article with some specific recommendations on how to up your psych level.

Amping Motivation

Motivation is an integral part of the success formula and, therefore, being able to create and maintain motivation is an invaluable skill you need to develop. Here are five techniques to amp-up your motivation and elevate your performance.

1.) Set Goals. Training and performance goals are the ultimate motivator. Write down five things you’d like to accomplish over the next twelve months–set deadlines and get to work.

2.) Visualize the success process and outcome. Regular mental review of your success strategy and the goal achieved programs your subconscious mind and helps keep you on course to achieving it.

3.) Be positive, 24-7. Negative thoughts and non-constructive criticisms of yourself (and others) will drag you down. Keep your self-talk (and conversations with others) positive and productive. Leave the negative spray to the naysayers and losers of the world.

4.) Consume high-quality media that opens your mind and expands your views of what is possible. Biographies and interviews with peak performers (in anything) will inspire, motivation, and provide you with the seeds for success.

5.) Believe! Regardless of short-term setbacks or failures, believe that success is inevitable if you persevere and continue to extend your reach beyond your grasp.

The challenge for this week: try one of the ideas listed above and post in the comments about how it affected your motivation.

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The Ten-Minute-Cycle Workout

Hello again!  For today’s Wednesday Workout, I will take six of the core and shoulder exercises that have been most effective for me and combine them into one awesome training session.  This is meant to be a power workout; so focus on quality, not quantity.  The alternating ten minutes of core and shoulders will ensure full recovery, so that you can try your hardest for the next ten minute bout of shoulder/core exercises.  Do each exercise for ten minutes each; the whole workout should take about an hour.  Remember to warm up thoroughly before starting, and drink a bit of water between ten minute sections.

  • Assisted one-arm pull-ups: Place one hand in the lowest feature of a hangboard, and the other on a jug.  Perform your max amount of pull-ups.  Switch positions and repeat.  Rest for the remainder of the minute and then restart.  Remember to switch which arm you begin with for an even workout.
  • Knee raises: Dead hang on a hangboard and perform 20 knee raises.  Rest for ten seconds, still hanging, and repeat.  After one minute is up, rest for thirty seconds and restart.
  • Weight raises: Grab a ten pound weight with your right arm and hold it at about head height, elbow bent.  Lift it straight up above your head ten times, then switch arms and repeat.  Continue till ten minutes is up.
  • Bicycle crunches (described in the post The V13 Workout): Do ten on one side, then switch sides, and continue.  After you’ve done twenty per side, rest for thirty seconds and restart.
  • Ninety degree lock-offs: Do a pull-up and lock off at ninety degrees.  Hold for as long as you can, rest for a minute, and repeat.
  • V-ups (described in the post The V13 Workout): Do fifteen of these, rest for thirty seconds, and repeat.

Have fun with this workout!  Post in the comments to let me know how it went.

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Flagging – An Essential Technique

Hiya!  Today’s technical training lesson is on flagging.  One of the most basic yet essential moves for a climber’s skill set, flagging will help you retain your balance and climb with grace.  Flagging aids the climber by eliminating the danger of barn dooring.  “Barn dooring,” in climbing lingo, means to swing out from the wall as if on the hinges of a barn door.  For instance, a climber is in danger of barn dooring, and thus falling off the wall, when only their right hand and foot are on the wall.  When you barn door, your center of balance is off.  This is the beauty of flagging- it maintains your center of balance.

Imagine three holds set like a triangle: two handholds and one centered foothold.  If you are moving out right, which foot should you place on the hold?  If you place your left foot on the hold, your center of balance is off, the move is harder, and you are in danger of barn dooring if you fail to reach the hold.  Instead, place your right foot on the hold and stretch out your left leg along the wall.  Your balance is now centered, and you can reach the right handhold with ease.  The same principle works if you have a hold out left instead; simply place your left foot on the hold, and stretch your right leg along the wall.  Here is a video to demonstrate this amazingly simple concept; the girl demonstrating flags perfectly at 00:34.


Here is another helpful explanation of flagging from the Climbing Techniques website:

Flagging is an incredibly useful technique and quite necessary if you’re pushing into more intermediate climbs. When flagging, you use one limb (usually a leg) to point and balance your weight in order to keep from swinging out from the rock (i.e. barn dooring) or extend in the opposite direction of where the limb is pointing. You are not using this leg for support, but rather using it to shift your center of balance. It usually is not touching the rock. This is useful on big, reachy moves and allows you to gain a bit more span with your body without expending too much extra energy. This technique is also necessary when a right hand/foot combo is not possible. If you don’t flag when you don’t have a good hand/foot combo on one side, you’ll notice that your body wants to swiiiiiing out towards the side that is more solidly positioned on the rock. This is known as the “barn door” effect. If you flag with the foot that doesn’t have a good hold and point it towards the side of your body that is solid, while maintaining body and leg tension, your barn door will be easier to keep shut. Both climbers in the videos above use flagging; watching their technique is a good way to incorporate it into your climbing.

Hope this is a helpful intro to the flagging technique!  If possible, get an experienced climber at your climbing gym to show you how its done.  For this post’s challenge, try this technique for yourself and post in the comments to let me know!

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Lead Falls

Today’s Tuesday Training!  First off, our mental training exercise for today is lead falls.  Now, you must know that I am a terrified lead climber.  I have an irrational fear of lead falls, even safe ones, and this near phobia often inhibits my climbing.  For example, last night for climbing practice, the team was practicing for a competition by climbing in a mock onsight competition.  In a onsight competition, a climber will warm up in a bouldering cave or at some other warm up wall until they are called to climb.  They will be shown to their first climb and have thirty seconds to start climbing.  Usually, they will have never climbed the route before, but, in my case, I had already climbed the rout.  Because it was a mock competition, no new routes had been set specially for practice.  This time, however, I was required to lead the route, and I became scared before my feet left the ground.  I freaked out at the exact spot I had predicted I would, climbed off route, and clipped a quickdraw that wasn’t mine.  Shaking and crying, I lowered and rested while the rest of my teammates climbed in turn.  Feeling defeated by one’s fears is the worst feeling of all, an empty ache that I hate above all else, perhaps even above fear.  I decided to try the climb once more, and after everyone else had gone, I gathered my courage and sent the route on lead.

After lowering from the climb for the second time, I realized that (1) I should have sent the route in the first place, and (2) I need to take lead falls.  Taking purposeful falls on lead is a form of mental training, an exercise that I have always maintained a love-hate relationship with.  I am incredibly scared while taking lead falls, but afterwards I feel like I’m on top of the world.  The only downside to this exercise is that it needs to be done often to retain its freeing, mind-clearing effect.

Clip at least four quickdraws on a fairly easy route with a clean, straight line of clips and a safe fall zone.  Take baby steps at first; begin with falling with the clip at your waist.  Remember to always fall looking up or straight ahead, never down, so as to ensure that you do not fall awkwardly.  Climb 1/4 of the way to the next bolt and fall again, then 1/2 of the way, and then 3/4 of the way.  Finally, fall with your head at the next bolt.  If you’re feeling really brave, fall with the unclipped bolt at your waist.  After you gain some confidence, fall faking a move to the next hold; this will create the feeling of falling on a hard project.  If you do this exercise two to three times per week,  you’ll soon be taking the largest whippers with ease.

The challenge for this post: try this mental exercise and post in the comments to tell me how it goes!

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