Ed Note: We pulled this one out of the archives, and are leaving it as it was up there. It is a topic that still resonates with me and one that faces all outdoor athletes.
December 20th, 2011
How do you train fear?
This has been the nagging question for me the past few weeks, I tossed up a quote about it earlier this month, and it contines to resonate with me. I have surveyed a host of climbers and the question still sits oddly with me, when the physicallity of climbing is no longer the issue, how do you train the mind? My training over the past few months in preparation for going to worlds has been an interesting road. I have worked laps of figure 4/9s; one arm lock offs; horizontal pulling and rows; endurance work up and down walls with a weight vest; heavy weighted pull-up volume work; levers of all varieties; lever pull-ups… and am now finding myself physically strong enough to do the moves that I need to. Yet now that all the pieces of strength and technique are finally falling into place I find that trusting those sharp knives in my hands is becoming the issue. Somewhere in the transition from working movements on points on a rounded metal ring over a concrete floor with no rope and better holds on rock with a rope my confidence fails me. A point shifts, I overgrip, my breathing starts to go, and then I find myself struggling, that notion of falling while wrapped around my axe, my rope tangled in my feet leaving me frozen. I may at last have found the item you can’t just approach with a ferocious training regime, here is the element where you need the rock, the time on chossy holds that are liable to break. In chatting with Will yesterday on the drive home from the Cineplex [One day of which went great for pushing through that space of being uncomfortable, and one morning spent yielding to it.] I was told to go and do laps on moderates. To spend the time climbing up and down, not to work on power endurance so much as to train the mental endurance of trusting.
So then the question has to be raised, what is it that I need to learn to trust? Am I to trust the rock? No, in the rockies that is simply foolish, rock will break on occasion, that is an issue of acceptance and moving forward. Am I to trust my axes? A given, they are manufactured to take far more than the load of a carny, even a short fat one like myself. No, I think this is a drill in trusting myself. So here I am, starting to wonder if the commentary in Arno Ilgner’s book ‘The Rock Warrior’s Way is perhaps true, we need to climb, not for the grades or for the routes, but to know ourselves better. We shall see where that takes me in these last few weeks. In that I am going to treat this as an exercise in breaking patterns of not finishing, of not committing, and if that pristine zen like path begins to crumble I am going to turn my attention to the advice a far more experienced friend of mine recently gave me which was simply that “When you find the fear coming up, just tell it to f**k off”, and just get it done.