PhysiVantage athlete Natalia Grossman took home the gold in Salt Lake City last month during the only IFSC Bouldering World Cup event on American soil. Less than a month later, she stood on the top of the podium again at the next World Cup competition across the pond in Brixen. But what she overcame behind the scenes in order to stand on the top of the podium is even more impressive than her impeccable performance on the wall.  

Grossman, a 21 year old professional climber from Boulder, took first place at the Salt Lake City competition last month. She tends to train on a two-on, one-off schedule—which she kept up in the weeks leading up to her victory in SLC. Both the body and the mind relish in routine. Keeping to the same basic schedule helped Natalia stay grounded throughout the chaos of entering competition season. 

Natalia Grossman showing us what grit really looks like! 

Natalia Grossman showing us what grit really looks like!

What has changed since the height of Grossman’s training efforts over the winter is how she spends that time. Even though the SLC competition focused on bouldering, she kept sport climbing in the mix so she could stay fresh in both. Smart, considering that it won’t be long until the lead portion of the World Cup begins in mid-June. But across both disciplines, Grossman shifted over to a focus on execution rather than skill and strength development. She’s done the work; that’s what all the months of grueling training since the October 2022 finals in Japan were for. Now it comes down to implementation. She practiced putting the fruits of her labors into action so that she would be able to whip out any particular skill at any given moment. 

Physical and Mental Preparedness

For all the effort she dedicated to her physical state, however, Grossman put even more into her mental approach. She found herself struggling to stay confident in the wake of a “rocky start to the season,” as she sees it. A barrage of gastrointestinal issues didn’t make things any easier. Anyone who battles with stomach pain knows how hard it is to accomplish anything of merit, let alone perform on the international stage at the highest level of sport, when your body won’t cooperate. It’s even more impactful for athletes, who depend on the consistent flow of energy through their internal systems to power them through the physical demands in store.

Natalia Grossman from another first place finish, from the 2021 Moscow World Cup

Natalia Grossman from another first place finish, from the 2021 Moscow World Cup

To combat these detractors, Grossman worked with a sports psychologist. “I learned coping skills on how to handle my stomach pain and remain confident in my abilities,” she explained, “like visualization and breathwork in order to stay composed. This made a big difference in allowing me to remain positive and trust all the hard work I did this winter.” 

Stress often contributes to digestive concerns like Grossman’s, as well as a dip in confidence and overall well-being. Bouncing around along the competition circuit only adds more stress to the equation from there. With that in mind, Grossman made a concerted effort to reduce stress wherever she could: extra hours of sleep, downtime in nature with a good book, and plenty of time with family. Relying on the advice of experts like her coach and a nutritionist also helped reduce the load on her mind. 

Grossman’s efforts to improve her mental state show that success comes down to more than physical capabilities; mental strategy matters just as much. After all, it’s the mind that tells the body how to perform. Shifting her attention to cultivating a mental state that could better support her amidst the pressures of competition and distracting health concerns allowed Grossman to better channel her energy. The next time you hit a roadblock of your own, consider all the factors that might be impacting your performance. A mindset shift could be the catalyst for change.   

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