Competition climbing is more of a demonstration of mental strength than physical strength. The difference in ability between the top competitors at a climbing competition is often very small. What determines the winner, comes down to how well the competitors deal with stress, and how well they can perform under pressure.
Mental Game In The Chair
I have not been competing for very long, so my authority on this topic is quite small. However, in my three years of competition experience, I have experimented with several different strategies. In my first year of competing, I was not aware of the implications of one’s mental game. Mental game was not something that I thought about, all I was focused on was my physical performance. This lead me to feeling stressed during the rounds, and probably had a negative impact on my results. More recently, I have become more aware of the implications of a good mental game.
What I try to focus on while in the chair is the following:
- The only thing that matters is the next boulder
- Your success or failure on previous boulders does not matter
- Force yourself to smile (even if you want to cry)
- Convince yourself that nervousness and excitement are the same thing
Mental Game On The Wall
I personally have a difficult time flashing boulders. I think this is because my natural instinct is to climb more delicately and statically when I’m going for a flash. This change in climbing style leads me to overthink the boulders, and second guess myself when in an insecure position. I need to work on having more confidence when I approach the boulders for the first time. I also think that being a little stressed out is good! If I know that the climber before me has topped the boulder that I am approaching, I find that I try much harder to get to the top!
Tips From Indiana Chapman
Indiana Chapman is a multi-year Provincial and National champion. She is also a Pan-American champion and came fourth place in the world for her age group at the Youth Bouldering World Championships 2 years in a row. After this past Ontario Bouldering Provincial Championships, I asked her a couple questions about her mental approach to competitions.
Me: What do you try to think about when you’re in the chair?
Indiana: If I don’t do well on a climb, I give myself about 1 minute to reflect on what I did wrong or be frustrated with myself, but after the minute is up, I completely reset and try to stay in the moment.
Me: How do you deal with rounds where you aren’t climbing your best?
Indiana: I always turn my music up really loud so it’s the only thing I can hear, and I try to focus on the lyrics, rather than think about anything else.
If you are a competition climber, I hope you found this helpful!