When I turned 30, I was able to finally try rock climbing. I have only been climbing for 4 years, on and off, dabbling with a couple other climbing disciplines. It has been an enjoyable journey but also challenging as I deal with minor injuries and longer recovery times. Age is only a number but sometimes your body reminds you of it.
Climbing, in general, has taught me many things that I can apply outside climbing. I sure am still learning a lot from it. Here are some of them:
Climbing is like solving a puzzle or a mathematical problem. Brute strength is not enough and maybe not as important as skill and technique. There’s a method in solving a bouldering route, or as we call it, a problem. But your method doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the other person next to you. Sometimes, what you think is the solution, or as we call it, the beta, may or may not work in solving the problem and/or finishing a route. There’s no one specific way of solving a problem.
I would say that climbing is 80% mental and 20% physical. In my opinion, there’s a small gap between confidence and fear when it comes to climbing. It’s hard to dismiss the fact that the environment [environmental psychology], such as the height of the rock or how exposed the climb is, affects how we think about our ability to successfully climb a route. Falling is a significant fear factor when it comes to climbing. I still suffer from this — no surprise here. Trust your skills, technique, and your gear [climbing shoes, crash pads, etc.]. You’ll hear this a lot from climbers and it’s very true, “Trust your feet!” I hope that boosted your confidence.
How do we handle disappointment and frustration when things don’t go the way we wanted them to? Climbing has done this to me many times and there will be many more in my future. I have fallen on climbs even during moments when I thought I had everything under control. I have fallen on climbs that are considered easy. Climbing is continuously teaching me that it is alright to fail, to switch my focus to a different climbing route, and to look at my failures as learning and training opportunities.
4. Celebrating Small Successes
Climbing problems and routes have sections we call the “crux”. That’s a section[s] where climbers usually fall from or the moves are difficult to execute. A climbing problem is like putting puzzle pieces together but instead you’re using body movements to do it; you’re putting all the different body movements together to complete the puzzle. I may never complete an entire climb after 1 or 10 tries but climbing is teaching me how to celebrate small successes such as a good execution of a hard move or being able to finish sections of the route. All these small successes will eventually lead me to the big ones.
5. Patience and Perseverance
It can be discouraging to keep climbing when you keep falling from the same section of a climb or when you cannot finish a climb you strongly believe you are capable of completing. There’s also the struggle of comparing my progress with others and I have to remind myself that my climbing journey is my journey. It may take me 5 years or 10 years to become a v4 climber; it may take someone a couple of years to become a v6 climber. Here’s a good reminder: It is your effort and the work you put in that matters, not the time it took you. Have fun and keep climbing!
This does not only mean climbing boulders that are exposed, this could mean a hurt ego, our body image, experiencing physical weakness, or expressing emotions such as fear, anger, and frustration. There are times when you fall from climbs that you never thought you’d fall from. Sometimes you feel physically weak to execute a move that others can. And sometimes climbing can take you on the brink of crying, either due to fear or because you kept falling. Finally, some of us have an impression or an expectation of how a climber [bouldering, specifically] should look like — lean, muscular, and strong. You don’t have to look like a climber to be a climber. Allowing myself to be vulnerable is continuously helping me improve as a climber while learning to accept who I am and what I am capable of as a climber, and as a person in general.
7. Self-care and Rest are Important
It is so easy for me to ignore self-care and not take a break because I have the tendency to keep pushing when I am focused on something. Being frustrated makes it worse, too. Aside from some minor injuries I’ve experienced from running, climbing has been teaching me more about self-care and rest — from stretching to deep tissue massages. Short and long breaks from climbing also allow my body to heal and refresh my mind. In life, whether it be at work or personal, self-care is usually last on our list but it is definitely necessary like eating, sleeping, and taking bio breaks. If I want to be better, I better take care of myself!