If you find yourself feeling slow, heavy, or unmotivated to give your climb the power it needs, then these excitation strategies will help rev your engine!
Sometimes calm and collected just doesn’t cut it. Just enough relaxation helps climbers stay focused on challenging climbs, especially ones involving delicate stances or precise aim. But when you start to feel like it’s nap time instead of go time, you’ll need to check in with your arousal levels and summon extra energy from your reserves.
Just because you don’t feel energized on the surface doesn’t mean that you don’t have it in you to put up a good fight; you might just have to dig a little deeper. Here are a few methods to help turn up the dial for moves and situations that demand above your average gusto.
Deep breathing is known for its calming nature, but it’s just as effective for excitation. The difference lies in which half of the breath you emphasize. The exhale is tied to your parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of all your “rest and digest” activity. The inhale links back to your sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates “fight or flight” behavior.
Fight or flight mode gets a bad rap for the way it ramps up your stress levels, but there are certain times when it serves you much better than its counterpart. It’s all about balance. Negative health effects from high stress only set in when you spend too much time stuck in fight or flight. In small doses, the sympathetic nervous system brings out the strongest performances.
To better engage your sympathetic nervous system for quick bursts of power, focus on the inhale. Breathe in deeply through your nose until you hit maximum capacity, filling both your chest and your lower abdomen. Then, let go of the breath in one quick release out your mouth. Draw out the inhale so it lasts at least twice as long as the exhale.
Conjure up a ball of fire in your mind, starting in the center of your chest near your heart. Think about what parts of your body feel the most sluggish or need the most energy for the moves ahead. Visualize that ball of fire growing tendrils and traveling along your limbs.
You can control the amount of heat that the fire gives off, too. If you know that a certain move requires an extremely tight core to keep from barn-dooring, for example, give the intensity you need a rating from 1 to 10 and turn up the heat to that level. Mapping it out like this can help you remember exactly how hard you need to bite down or core up on a move.
Think back on what encouraging words and phrases have made you feel the most motivated during climbing sessions. What have friends or climbing partners said to you that’s gotten you through hard, tenuous moves when you were on the verge of giving up? Make a mental bank of these phrases to pull out when you need more excitation. Use them as mantras to add oomph as you go. Say Yes, Surprise Yourself, and Just Try are some of my personal favorites.
Chances are you already warm up well at the beginning of your session, but each climb deserves its own mini prep routine. Prime your body for powerful moves at your limit with a few fiery teaser exercises like jumping jacks, jump squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, arm circles, or a short jog. Anything that gets your heart rate up for just a few seconds before the climb will increase your excitation levels.
Consider tailing these moves to the climb at hand. A long lock-off, for instance, might call for a round of arms circles to activate your upper body. Waking up your lower body with squats and lunges would then help you prep for a vigorous dyno.
Rolling your shoulders a few times and throwing on a smile can also work wonders on your excitation levels. “Fake it ‘til you make it” isn’t just a cliché. When positive energy in general is running low, start by simply changing your posture and expression. The rest will follow suit.
- Climb Better by Optimizing Your Arousal and Energy Levels
- Relaxation Strategies for Calm and Collected Climbing
- 10 Mental Strategies to Improve Performance…In Climbing and Beyond!
- Increasing Self-Awareness in the Pursuit of Excellence
- 10 Tips for Pursuing Maximum Climbing Performance
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