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Emotional and Mental Training

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 30 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Mental Preparation Toughness Climbing

Whilst physical strength and endurance training will be vital for you to succeed in any climbing expedition, they will be worth nothing if you’re not mentally prepared for the task you’re about to embark upon.

Pre-Climb Mental Preparation

There are many factors to consider when it comes to being mentally tough before a climb and this can only truly be learned through experience. Over time, you’ll develop a mental toughness through previous climbs that you’ve endured which will have been hardened through dealing with any or all of the following:
  • Discomfort from cold
  • Discomfort from fatigue
  • Coping with fear
  • Coping with altitude sickness
  • Overcoming nausea
  • Coping with acclimatisation and developing patience on high altitude climbs
There are plenty of books and websites which will give you more knowledge and information on dealing with all of the above but they will only prepare you so far. It’s by putting yourself through these experiences in controlled environments with more experienced climbers first that will develop your mental toughness to be able to cope with similar situations next time they arise.

Focus On the ‘Here and Now’

Learning how to concentrate on the ‘here and now’ is one of the most fundamental aspects of mental training that all climbers should learn how to master. Let’s face it, even a tall mountain in the UK can look daunting if you perceive it in its entirety so it’s important that once you begin your climb, you just focus on what your next move is going to be one move at a time.

Using Visualisation Techniques

It’s perfectly logical to survey the ‘wider picture’ and to look at the entire route you’re going to be attempting (that’s if you can see it all!). Then, you can spend some time using visualisation techniques to imagine how you might intend getting from various points to the next stage.

Three Step Process In Decision Making

One of the biggest barriers when it comes to your mental strength if you’re climbing is if you find it difficult to reach decisions. By adopting a three point process to decision making, you can break down difficult choices into separate components to help you reach decisions and stick by them more easily. This will also help toughen you up mentally.

As an example, imagine you need to cross an overhang to continue on with your route. The three step process involves assessment, decision, and action.

Firstly, it’s important that you mentally evaluate what lies before you in your next move – remember, at this stage, it’s ‘one move at a time’ – that’s all you should be concerned with.

Assess the difficulty of the move you’re faced with. Then visualise yourself making hand and feet placements on the rock or cliff face and how each possibility will have an effect on how you’re going to have to move your body to accommodate your hand and feet placements.

Go through each possibility in your mind and visualise it. Ask yourself, what feels the most comfortable for you to achieve your movement to the next level. Ask yourself what kind of impact that move is going to have on the equipment you’re carrying, the ropes, any knots you’ll need to make and determine what is going to cause the minimum stress on your body.

Once you’ve come to a decision stick by it then proceed to act upon it. You may need to adapt tactics and you will need to keep a cool head but visualisation techniques will help to keep your mind focused.

Other Mental Training Techniques

There are many other mental training techniques you can also incorporate into your training programme. Relaxation therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, sports psychology and yoga are just some of the things you can try to make you mentally prepared to take on a challenging climb with confidence.

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