Imagery Scripts: Bouldering Content

Well I introduced the concept of scripts for imagery a while back, and thought I’d elaborate the concept to allow you to develop a script for a boulder problem that you can climb in overlapping sections but not yet link. Meaning that basically you can do every move but need help in making the route climb as efficiently as possible. To do this we want to concentrate on the not only a sequence but a series of stimuli and desired responses that we might have when climbing it.

As well as a starting point of a script, which in the case of a boulder problem should be just before you start the problem, and include you focusing and psyching up for the route. As well as the most important if not all the aspects of the sequence. In addition to this movement information we are also going to try to include movement as a stimuli and add desired responses or more simply put thoughts, feeling and meaning to the problem.

So the starting paragraph to the story of the boulder problem might read.

Sitting below the boulder, you focus on the staring holds and channel my energy, you feel strong, and know the sequence. You are confident in your ability to climb to the best of your ability. Taking two last deep breathes you feel the energy fill your body. As you watch yourself (this is from an external perspective) grasp the first holds you imagine yourself as a machine, the holds feel bigger than ever and your muscles like pistons on a charging steam train…..

One the crux you might use.

…reaching the pinch at the start of the crux, it feels better than ever and your body feels confident that you will succeed on the crux. As you set up for the crux you see yourself drive with your legs and explode upwards towards the next hold and slap it, instantly you see your fingers hit the hold and hear the slap and feel them lock solidly onto the hold, as you watch your body swings wildly out you know you have stuck it, and as you wait for the body to swing back to place you feet back on the foothold you feel the excitement of success…..

At the top.

….reach for the last hold you feel tired, but know you have enough energy to make the final mantelshelf. Steadying yourself you hold back the excitement and wait for the moment that you stand up on the top of the boulder. You have trained hard for this moment and deserve this moment of personal glory.

Pre-performance routines

Some footballers wear lucky pants throughout a FA cup season, whilst American Ice Hockey player grow their ‘play-off beards’. For some this psuedo-supisitious act is part of a routine that they deem to be ‘lucky’, whilst this is unlikely to be true, and at the very least unhygienic. In is part of a routine that a player may use to help there performance.

In climbing our pre-performance routine is important for several reasons, first we how to get our equipment on like rock shoes, harness, helmet and rack as part of learning the safety aspects of our sport. To remain safe we need to ensure that these good practices aren’t broken, but instead become part of routine aimed at preparing us mentally. In its simplest form it might be:

Prepare – Vanquish – Focus – Succeed

Prepare for the route – Put harness on, rack up, put shoes on and clean the soles and chalk up ready to go.

Vanquish any demons – Remember you have gone through the steps above, you’ve warmed up, trained for and are ready for this lead.

Focus on the Route – and start to shut out any background noise, the peripheral vision fades into the background. All you see is the line of the route.

Suceed – As you start up the route known you have done everything in you ability to lead to your success.

Self Talk: The Basics

Self talk is a phenomenon that whilst most of us will experience when climbing and it our day to day life, we probably don’t pay it much attention. What I refer to is the internal chatter in our mind like shall I eat that biscuit or shall I not. It often allows us to rationalise our decisions with ourselves. Sometimes that self talk will be positive other times it will be negative, either way it can be rational or irrational.

Yesterday when at my research proposal I saw a presentation on Self-talk, and inparticular ratio’s of positive to negative, and believe it or not there is a ratio of positive to negative thought where you are deemed to be able to function adequately (somewhere in the region of 0.6 positive to negative thoughts); above that you become ‘happy’ below that you become sad and eventually if the ratio gets too low can lead to depression.

To use it when climbing it is better to concentrate on irrational, as talking yourself into a danger position that you can’t physically back up is fool hardy, similarly if the self talk is unnecessarily negative like I can’t hold on anymore, when in fact you can, is going to have a negative effect on your performance. Whilst over confidence can lead to the irrational positive self talk, it is the pessimist in us that leads to the negative.

In order to do something about it, you first need to identify you self talk. There are several ways to do this, but with climbing it requires several of these technique. I often suggest that a climber has a carabiner on them, and everytime they experience a negative thought click the gate on the carabiner. Whether you bouldering or climbing, when you get down off route use a note book to write down your negative thought(s).

After a few session look through for patterns, an example I have come across is someone has a thought that tells them they are letting go of the hold, or they are about to slip off a hold. To counteract this I got them to say ‘I am solid’ if that thought entered there head. This counter acting or as NLP practitioners would say reframing of the thought helps stop the negative effect of the thought on your performance.

Similarly I have used it to trigger the transition between relaxed climbing and attacking the crux of the route, by using the phrase ‘Go for it’ and ‘Relax’. At its most basic Self-talk is really about identify negative thought patterns at consciously stopping them by overtly saying or shout alternative phrases like those mentioned above, and eventually making the a single word that you say internally to yourself.

Calling on your Mental Skills for success

Wes Hunter walking the ripple on Poetry Pink, Rainbow Slab – calling on his mental skill

I have posted up before on the mental skills that help elite athletes reach there peak performance. However in light of my climbing experience over the weekend I feel that it would be interestingly to use it as an example of how I use them when I climb to help me reach my peak performance.

Firstly having a goal has been paramount for me maintaining my motivation, however as well as dream rotes to aim for my training has used what can be described as micro-goals. In that every time I go to the wall I attempt to improve on what I achieved the last time. I don’t write it down, but you’d be surprised at what you can remember if you train a lot at the same wall.

I also used imagery, although not in a formal day to day pre-thought out scripted way. instead i tend to attempt to have more lucid dreams about my successful days out and dreaming about my the routes I want to do. I dream of the type of moves, type of holds, typical gear placements on the routes. Anything that will help build a mental parallel to the experience I expect to help me to plan for the ascent in my mind. If i had taken this further and imagine, what if this or that happened, I might well not have fallen off due to misreading the route first time round. In a way my imagery is more about mastering the rock and my emotions, than a specific sequence for onsighting routes.

I then used imagery at the based of the route, imagining getting to the first ledge, then the second, placing the gear, finding the ledges to be good rests. I do this to get me psyche up and in the right mind state. Although on Sunday I was fighting extreme nerves, I was suffering from feeling quite jittery and my heart was racing as the adrenaline flow through me in anticipation, similarly I was concerned over blowing the on-sight, rather than falling off and injuring myself. These are the two side of anxiety that of cognitive worry and the bodies interpretation of the physiological response to stress.

Whilst i was carrying out my pre-performance routine of racking up, tying in to the ropes, tying shoes tight, cleaning the shoes and chalking up. I was also doing so breathing exercises to relax my mind and control the anxiety. I am used to it and know that as soon as I start climbing the jitters tend to disappear. In my mind I had prepared well. I had previous climbed E5 of this slab and felt fitter than every despite not having climbed much on real rock I was cardio-vascularly at my best, as well as near the top of my game in terms of anaerobic endurance, I was confident in my ability to climb the route.

As I climbed up I made very deliberate transition from calm and relaxed to attacking the first hard crack and then back to calm and relaxed. Often the attacking transition was trigger by a cue words like “come on, reeves!” or “attack”. This form of self talk was vocalised rather than done silently in my head, and similarly words like ‘chill’ or ‘relax’ were used to go back to the relaxation, in the form of controlled breathing.

In total i think I consciously used goal setting, self-belief, self-confidence, imagery, relaxation, pre-performance routines and self-talk to reach my peak performance. Did it all help? In the right place I think it did.

Fingerboards: The Beastmaker

I am in the process of researching some fingerboard exercises for my coaching book, and stumbled across Simon Lee’s review of the Beastmaker on UKC. Which in turn lead my to the Beastmaker website, which has some very good and very hardcore advice on how to train using a fingerboard.

The training section has a host of terminology and even a glossary of holds to help the unwitting like me decipher their front three from the back three! Not only a great product but some stirling advice on how to use it to develop finger strength from guys that appear to have used it to do just that.

How’s the Training going?

Well from someone who thought training was a swear word, I have become somewhat addicted to it. My general approach is to boulder at the wall or do easy routes. However having started to run I have really noticed my recovery time when I get pumped dramatically reduced. In terms of power endurance I have been using linking a number of boulder problems into each other both up and down, to the extent that I think to link those moves on a sport route would probably warrant F7c.

Combining this with the running and climbing lots of easy routes for capillarisation seems to be paying dividends. If you read my other blog you’ll know I had a crack at climbing a route that I named on this blog as a major goal for this year. Despite failing narrowly I am sure I’ll get it done soon. But to get on it in early March is just amazing.

I am putting this progress down to the fact that I have a holiday planned, and the motivation that I am getting for training with that trip in mind is outstanding. If you remember the goal setting post a while back I can’t over emphasis the need for something to aim for even if it is just one major route for the year. I will do some research into motivation and try and write a post for you.

At the moment though my training is going great, and I am using several of the key training skills that I have blogged about on here. In particular I found improving my confidence in my own ability a real help for pushing the boat out. I just hope that your training is going as well.