Mark Vallance’s Thesis

Mark Vallance is one of the key volunteers for the BMC, he is involved with many facets of their work, and was interested in the report on coaching by the NSG, so turn up to ask a few questions at the coaching forum held at the BMC AGM, of which I was a member of the panel along with Brian Griffiths, Andy Say, John Cousins and Johnny Garside.

Anyway after the meeting Mark showed me his undergrad thesis, interestingly it had a quote from a coaching book popular in the 1960’s which the report had quoted from as well. However more interesting than that was his thesis was on instructing mountaineering and rock climbing. From which I have shown some of the lovely hand drawn diagrams. Who said coaching was a modern idea?

Declumsification: Johnny Dawes

I was in the Gallt Y Glyn last night and amongst the other people who were in there was Johnny Dawes. We managed to get him talking about what he does on his coaching workshops. Now this is only one part of it, but i was interested, as Johnny comes from a non-instructor/coach education background. What he does is take what he has known and done for years and try to distill it as simply as possible.

His three word approach to a single move is very interesting when you approach it from the more science based approach of sport psychology. Johnny uses the Shape, Voice and Face of a move.

Now the Shape is the end product, the shape that will most effective allow you to hang the hold you are move to. You have to imagine that shape before you attempt the move. Seeing the move and the end position that you want your body to adopt. Now visualisation is a very powerful tool and one that has much empirical support to showing how it improves performance.

The next part of the single move is its voice, the sound that is associated with the move. Now I did mention this to one of my lecturers before I heard Johnny’s voice of the move. In that the lecturer was an expert in Self-talk, however he dismissed it. I do believe that in climbing, i use a sound to help me control the timing and intensity of a movement. This is what Johnny has done with his voice.

The last aspect of the individual move is the face of the move, or the face you will be pulling when you hang the hold. In that a really hard move will end up with quite a gurn. Again this can be linked back to visualisation, in that it gives you another thing to help make your imagery more vivid and controllable, which has been link greater imagery effects in research.

All in all, whilst Johnny doesn’t realise it, he is using several powerful mental tool that sport psychologist call on to help performance, and what’s more he is using them in a way that climbers should be able to connect with. Whats more he isn’t just giving a climber the solution, he allows them to find there own solution through experimentation, what he gives them is a method to reach that solution, by considering the move through implicit knowledge, rather than explicit rules.

Of course there is far more to Johnny’s masterclasses than three simple words, if your interested then click the Johnny Dawes link to be transported to his website, where you can book a session.

Top Tip: Lowering Off from the top of the cliff

Being lowered off the top of a cliff.

I posted some pictures of one of the course I was working on last week, and someone asked why in one of the pictures the rope had been clipped through a carabiner behind the belay plate. It was to add additional friction when lowering people off the top of a cliff or pitch. It makes a real difference to the control that you feel when lowering someone, you just have to remember to remove it and belay normally when the person is climbing up. It also means that the rope is locked off by holding it forwards rather than backwards.

Belay plate set up for belaying from the top of a pitch/crag, with an extra carabiner with the rope clipped through to add extra friction

The extra carabiner in action, whilst the belayer looks like he has locked the rope of incorrectly, the extra carabiner means that the rope is locked off by pulling it forwards, not backwards like when the belay plate is used normally on its own.

Stevie Haston’s Brief Training Advice

Stevie Haston has long been an amazing climber, however he disappeared from the limelight a bit in favour of enjoying being a grandfather and the French/Spanish sun. However he re-ignited interest in his climbing when he made an ascent of a F8c+ at age 52. Now for anyone this is an amazing achievement. In an article in Climb magazine he advises us to Eat less, train more and try harder.

Now I know that Stevie the man who has trained by doing thousands of pulls up, press ups and sit up during a ‘training day’, so he sure knows about proper training however those three simple words are probably a very best advice anyone could offer someone who wanted to start training.

Eat Less, Train More and Try Harder….

…..and if your lucky your climbing like a grandad!

Coaching: The New Buzz Word, but what does it mean?

Within our society we from time to time get buzz words, in government a few years back everything was about ‘community’, in sport it is all ‘Coaching’. The big problem is that one simple word can conjure up a very diverse image of what it actually means, and therefore what a ‘coach’ actually does to be ‘coaching’ someone is a rather grey area.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition: noun. , a trainer or instructor of sport. b, a private tutor. verb. a, to train or teach. b, give hints to; prime with facts. So whilst the dictionary uses the descriptors of teaching, training and instructing at Sport Coach UK they use the definition that, ‘A coach is someone who uses sport as a vehicle for development of individuals, both as performers and as people’ (What is Sports Coaching, Sports Coach UK, 2003).

However this still does very little to help us to understand what the difference is between a coach, teacher or instructor. What many people seem to be doing at the moment is branding the term coaching at anything that refers to helping people improve there performance, which fits within all of our definitions. However with no official coaching qualification it has meant that whilst well-known experience climbers have set themselves up as a ‘Celebrity Climbing Coaches’, other people less well known but arguably as well qualified coaches are unable to compete, despite offering comparable services.

Whilst some are ‘coaches’ are unqualified, it is important to remember that in the UK there is no requirement for official qualifications. The Health and Safety Executive instead say there are four ways to demonstrate competency, which are in house training, official qualification, equivalent qualification or appropriate experience.

What is important whether you are qualified or not as a instructor, coach or teacher is the legal and moral responsibility of your position. The need to be able to justify, if someone was to have an accident under your supervision and was to take you to court, that you were at an appropriate venue on an appropriate route using appropriate equipment, not to mention that you were managing the situation in an appropriate manner. Failure to do so will make it easy for someone to prove your negligence.

Now qualification isn’t a defence against negligence, however it will help you understand your legal and moral duty, as we as be aware of what appropriate practice is. Any accusers will call their own ‘expert witness’ to back their case up. So even the courts won’t recognise the difference between a qualified instructor or self declared coach, what they are interested in is good and appropriate practice that is backed up by a demonstration of the coaches/instructors competence under the HSE recommendations. So qualified or not, a coach or instructor still needs to be offering a service that has some underlying management of the students safety.

What qualification offers at present to students is piece of mind that the individual coaching or instructing has reached a level of ‘competence’ and therefore likely to offer a student a safe and appropriate course. To the coach or instructor they give piece of mind that they are using appropriate techniques, equipment, crags and routes. Where the current qualification fall short is the softer skills of the coaching process.

However in terms of coaching and instructing, my experience is most coaches instruct and most instructors coach, in that they both use good coaching practice even if they have come across by accident. To clarify this statement we need to understand the science of coaching, and that comes from much research into what is referred to as effective coaching.

Now in order for a coach to be effective they need to teach someone as efficiently as possible a new skill, and that skill needs to be what is referred to as robust, in that they can perform it in a variety of situation and more importantly when the coach or instructor isn’t looking over their shoulder, which in climbing can be quite challenging. To achieve this understanding of effective coaching we need to look at what we know about the psychology of learning and skill acquisition.

In order to learn something our brains have to take in various pieces of information, process that information and then store it ready to use again. This process uses three types of memory; short term sensory store (STSS), Short term memory (STM) and long term memory (LTM).

The STSS is where we receive all senses from physical feelings, hearing, vision, taste. There is evidence that has shown our STSS to have a capacity of around 25 to 30 items, but these can only be stored from a few seconds, before they disappear.

In order to cut down on unnecessary information the brain filters what we take in through the STSS and sends the ‘edited highlights’ through to our short term memory. This filtering process is often the reason that different people experience the same situation in different ways. Our STM has been shown to have a capacity of 7+/-2 ‘chunks’ of information and last up to 20 seconds.

That information is then sent to be stored in our LTM, which stores information as procedures, autobiographically and semantically it is this bridge between the long term and short term memory that is important to developing a skill, as whilst the STSS and STM are use to get the initial information, it is the driving of a skill from the LTM to the STM where it is used, and back again that helps create engrams or memories of movement skill.

In order to do this effectively many researchers have looked at a variety of learning paradigms. In these experiments they have shown that there are various underlying principles that help create the optimum learning through what has become know as effective practice. It is a coaches job to ensure that any practice is appropriate for the learning required, and based on the notion that it takes over 150 repetitions of a movement for it to become an ingrained in our muscle memory.

These forms of practice can be:
blocked – repeating an exercise over and over(1,1,1,1,1…….)
series – repeating different exercise in order (1,1,1,1,2,2,2,2,…)
varied – repeating different exercises (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4….
random – repeating exercises in random order (1,4,2,3,3,1,2,4,1,)
bilateral – repeating the exercise left and right, up and down
augmented – having a rest in between practice
observational – extra information gained through observation

Each of these different forms of practice has pro’s and con’s; some are good for experts others for beginners. Some will create a skill quickly, however that skill won’t necessarily be transferable to a slightly different task. Others will produce a robust skill that will allow an individual to reconstruct and elaborate on the original skill and apply it to a different setting.

So how does a coach ensure that all of this is catered for during a session, well the answer is through experience and a lot of forethought. As well as a series of teaching models that help to ensure that all the necessary bases are covered.
Two of the most common are IDEAS and EDICT, both of which are acronyms. What these teaching models do is cater for the three major learning pathways (Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic – VAK for short)

IDEAS – INTRODUCE the skill, DEMONSTRATE the skill, EXPLAIN the skill, Allow the group some ACTION to practice the skill, SUMMARISE after the activity.

EDICT – EXPLAIN the skill, DEMONSTRATE the skill, Allow the group to IMITATE the skill, CORRECT any mistake, let the group TRY again.

Researchers have also investigated how best to apply these components of the model, so when explaining you have to remember the 7+/-2 chunks of information, otherwise you might overload your students. However because we chunk information we can use that to our advantage.

An example of this is belaying where at first, it is a very confusing series of instruction:

take the rope in by pulling down with the left hand and pushing up with the right, then lock the right hand by putting it down by your side, move your left hand down and grab the dead rope, and swap the right hand up to just below the belay plate on the dead rope, and return you left hand to the live rope just in front of your nose.

…this then becomes…

Take in, lock off, hand swap…..

…and then it just becomes belaying.

Other research has looked at how to give good demonstration, how to analyse performance and give appropriate feedback, as well as looking at your own teach/coaching and using reflective practice to constantly develop your own work.

On top of this a coach also needs to understand the physiological and psychological demands of a sport. In climbing there is a common opinion that research in other sports does translate to climbing, which is a bit of a myth. Many sports actually have used climbing based studies to research anxiety-performance problems. Similarly there are a growing number of studies that have looked into the physiological components of rock climbing. There is very little evidence to suggest climbing is a special case.

What is unfortunate at the moment is that the current qualifications all pretty much overlook the majority of this coaching process, they all concentrate on safety and group management rather than teaching/coaching skills. Many of the ‘climbing coaches’ may well have researched and taught themselves some of this coaching science/art but at present there is no official way of gaining recognition for your skills as a coach. At present many people who are coached prefer to be coached by someone who is a high performer themselves.

Whilst the elite coaches have the credentials that they have trained themselves to a high level, there is still no guarantee they can actually transfer that knowledge of how you can improve your performance effectively. Perhaps the best argument against this is that the majority of coaches that train Olympic athlete actually don’t out performs their athletes. Lynford Christies coach didn’t run quicker than him, he just knew how to analyse performance and design an effective coaching strategy.

At the moment British climbing is on the cusp of a revolution in teaching, coaching, instructing or whatever you want to call it. The Mountain Leader Training Boards are all looking towards the creation of a coaching structure, that will run alongside the current qualification, and cover the ‘coaching’ aspect of improving performance whilst the current awards will stay the same to allow the terrain where coaching can take place to be defined (CWA – Indoors, SPA – Outdoors Single Pitch (not lead climbing), MIA – Outdoors Lead Climbing).

It is anticipated that these coaching awards may well include levels 1 to 3 which might be inline with UKCC but might not. The coaching awards will also include coaching navigation and mountaineering skills, as well as traditional climbing skill, and the long term development of an athlete. None of this is linked to the the Olympics in 2012, its just happened that we have jumped on national push to develop a coaching structure that is second to none.

I for one believe that we all have a lot to learn, and that we will never finish that learning. I see new things all the time when i work, sometimes it is my students that show me, others times it is trainee instructors and sometimes it is the people who I consider my mentors. What I think people need to understand is that qualified or not, an instructor, leader or coach will use some of these ‘coaching skills’ however we can all get better at it, and at the end of the day it benefits anyone who wants to be learn and improve. A new qualification in these disciplines can only be of benefit to the thousands of children that are coached over an extended period in many after school clubs, by instructors with little to no understanding of the issues surrounding the long-term athlete development and climbing.

About Mark Reeves

Mark has been an active member of the National Source Group on who examined Coaching in Mountaineering, which made a series of recommendations to the Mountaineering Co-ordination group, who in turn recommended to the training boards many of the recommendations on a possible future for coaching awards, who have since made a commitment to look into the development of coaching awards.

Mark is also nearing the completion of a part-time MSc student studying Applied Sport Science, and has already passed units in effective coaching, performance physiology and sport psychology, and only has a thesis which is researching imagery and rock climbing. If you live in the North Wales Area and would like to be a part of this research and can boulder above V2 he would love to hear from you.

If you take part in the research then you also get a place on a coaching day that will look at mental, physical and technical aspect of climbing performance.

Training For Climbing: Fear of Falling and Anxiety

Wes Hunter Controlling the Anxiety on Poetry Pink E5 6a, Rainbow Slab.

In 1993 Jana Navotna was set to win wimbledon, she was 4-1 up in the final set, and then it all fell apart. The first sign of her collapse was a first service straight into the net, followed by a half hearted second serve, and a double fault. She quickly lost the service game and folded quickly receiving Steffi Graf’s serve, before losing successive game after successive game, barely winning a point and making numerous double faults. She had gone from potential hero to nothing in the space of a couple of minutes.

It was a classic example of anxiety’s ability to created what have become know as performance catastrophes. It is a facet of being human that sometimes when under pressure we ‘choke’, and our ability to perform even the most basic of tasks becomes agonisingly hard. In climbing that pressure becomes immense, as it literally becomes life or death in our minds.

* * *

Anxiety is often misunderstood and overlooked by climber, and in order to overcome its effects we must first understand what anxiety is and how it can effect us. Anxiety is hypothesised to have two dimensions one is in the mind and manifests itself as a worrying thoughts, this is referred to as cognitive anxiety, the other is the physiological effect of a burst of adrenaline.

Cognitive anxiety, stress or fear have an action on what is referred to as the Hypothamulus-Pituatary- Adrenal axis (HPA Axis). As the body senses danger, stress or worry a message is sent from the hypothamulus to the pituitary gland which in turn releases a hormone that makes the adrenal gland situated on the kidneys release adrenaline. This is often referred to as physiological arousal, as it has an effect on our bodies.

The body has several reactions adrenaline, which have typically been attributed to an evolved ‘fight or flight’ response. Where if meet with a challenge to our life the body rapidly prepares to fight the challenger or run from it. As such Adrenaline has various physiological effects. These are typified by opening up the arteries to the heart and skeletal muscles, and constricting those to that go to systems not essential to the fight or flight like the stomach and intestine. It also increases our breathing and heart rate, and increases the amount of blood glucose. It also stimulates protein catabolism which proves energy and readies the body to repair tissue. As such many of the physiological reactions will make us physically stronger and increase our endurance.

Sense of confusion
Feeling heavy
Negative thoughts
Poor concentration
Loss of confidence
Images of failure
Defeatist self-talk
Feeling rushed
Feeling weak
Constant dissatisfaction
Unable to take instructions
Thoughts of avoidance
Increased blood pressure
Pounding heart
Increased respiration rate
Clammy hands and feet
Butterflies in the stomach
Adrenaline surge
Dry mouth
Need to urinate
Muscular tension
Tightness in neck and shoulders
Incessant talking
Pacing up and down
Distorted vision
Voice distortion
Loss of appetite
Loss of libido
Biting fingernails
Lethargic movements
Inhibited posture
Playing safe
Going through the motions
Uncharacteristic displays of extroversion
Avoidance of eye contact
Covering face with hand

from list of effects of adrenaline.

Whilst these are the physiological symptons of adrenaline, the way each person reacts or expereinces them is referred by psychologist as somatic arousal. If you like each individual will find various parts of the physiological reaction either facilitative or debilitative. Some people may well be overwhelm, whilst others won’t notice it. Typically the way we experience the physiological changes is butterflies in the stomach, fluttering heart rate, heavy breathing, sweaty palms, bodily tension and nerves.

Whilst it is impossible to stop the physiological arousal, we can learn to see it in a postive and facilitative way. However one of the biggest problems we as climbers face is that of cognitive anxiety. This is often the cause of our literal downfall, as when climbing we can be plagued by negative thoughts and self-talk, that prevent us from reaching our peak performance. It is often the cognitive side of anxiety that leads to the sudden drop in performance, there are several hypothesized reasons for the mechanics of the catastrophe.

Multi-dimension Anxiety Theory

This theory suggested that there was an invert U link to anxiety and performance, in that if you are under or over aroused then performance would be low, and that there is an optimum level of arousal for maximum performance.

Conscious Processing

Conscious processing which was a hypothesis put forward by Master 1992 that suggests that anxiety makes you over think an movement action, and in over thinking it, you stop that movement being automatic and instead revert to being a beginner. Sometimes referred to as paralyses by analysis.

Process Efficiency Theory

The process efficiency theory was put forward by Eysenck and Calvo who suggested that as anxiety increased the working memory would become overloaded with worry, and that because of this performance would drop. However in order to compensate for this reduction in processing efficency we increase the physical effort we put into a task to compensate.

Ironic Effects

Wegner came up with Ironic effect by experimenting with the repression or suppression of a thought and finding that by asking people not to think about a white polar bear they thought about it more. The argument being that if you try and not think about falling off, or failing that you will increase the occurrence of those negative thoughts, and potentially the likelihood of that happening.

Cusp Catastrophe Model

This is a complex model that suggest that under the specific conditions of somatic and cognitive arousal that performance suffer a steep and radical drop like dropping on the cusp of a wave. It also suggest that after that drop it will take a period of time at a lower arousal for performance to return to normal.

* * *

Reducing the fear factor

One of the most important things with understand anxiety is that we need to be able to try and control its effect on us. This is what the following section of the article looks at. Some tried and tested methods and some that are applications of other sport psychology techniques to that of climbing, and reducing the fear factor that we all feel from time to time.

An important consideration with fear is that it often occurs as a precursor to an activity, in that you are more likely to feel its effects both cognitively and somatically just before you embark on a climb. The cognitive worry prior to a climb will quickly subside, but the somatic influence may well continue.

Fall training

There have been several articles by Dave Binney in CLIMB magazine on the use of fall training to help overcome the fear of falling. Until a few years ago there was little scientific support for fall training, although a great deal of support from the real world experience of climbers. A few years back Steve Parry investigated one of Dave’s protocols in a scienctific fashion, and wrote his thesis on the findings. I was given an overview by Andy Boorman, senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moore University.

The overview gives some support to the fact that fall training can reduce the cognitive anxiety of someone by up to 50%. There is however several things that are worth noting in this research. The research had a small number of participants, so it is hard to see it as having a generalised effect. Similarly the only measure was cognitive anxiety, as the measure of somatic anxiety/physiological arousal failed. The test also only the effects in the very short-term, with individuals only being tested on one or possible two days (the methodology was vague in the overview I read).

As such there are questions as to whether fall training would have lasting effects, over several days, weeks or months? Similarly the use of the STAI as a anxiety measure was good, however the CSAI-2 measures both cognitive and somatic anxiety, as well as confidence, so may well have should some other more interesting results, like would confidence have a moderating effect on anxiety.

The further issue is that if the testing takes place over a short period, then cognitive anxiety is said to deminish short after we start an activity, so would cognitive anxiety naturally reduce over a short time period, therefore effecting the validity of the experiment because it could be hypthesised that cognitive anxiety would decreases anyway fall training or not.

Similarly physiological arousal would also have a ceiling level, as a feedback mechanism that as adrenaline levels reach a certain level in the blood, it effective switches off the release of anymore adrenaline, so the first few falls may max out our systems with adrenaline.

Whatever the case falling off often allows us to rationalise the process of falling off. Where before falling it is very, very scary prospect, but afterwards we realise that the fall isn’t as bad as we expect. It is perhaps this reason alone that makes the progressive fall training a great tool to help us come to terms with the fear, becasue at the very least it allows us to experience the somatic influence of adrenaline and to come to terms with how we react to it.

The general thought of the practical side of fall training is to progressive increase the distance of a fall from the rope being clipped into an anchor by your face to eventually below your feet. It is best to start this process inside on bolts, pick a gently overhanging wall, so there are no ledges or large hold to hit. Also the higher up the wall the better as the impact forces will be lower, as there is more rope out.

Finally make sure you trust your belayer, there is some research ongoing at the moment in the belayer/climber trust relationship. I am sure they will find a link between trust in the person holding your ropes and your performance.

Similarly be very careful if attempting fall training outside, as there are far greater risks like protection failing, ledges to hit, etc…

PMR and Imagery

Progressive Muscle relaxation was used in conjunction with imagery to help to desensitize people from fearful stimuli from as early as the 1940’s, where it has been proven to be effective. The general idea is that you use progressive muscle relaxation to find a zero activiation level, where you are totally relaxed. Once you have mastered the relaxation you then relax and add in the imagined fearful stimuli.

Ask yourself what your response to the fearful stimulus was, and we want to try and change that negative response to a positive one. So write a script, that has the fearful stimulus and the new positive response propositions. So whilst you might not be able to change the sinking feeling in your stomach, you can turn the idea of that sinking feeling to be a positive action that happens before the excitement of the climb.

When have your new script combine the relaxation and new imagery script.

Brief Relaxation stratgeies

Often before a route our worrying thoughts can over power us, similarly if we have a good rest before the crux move of a route then the anxiety can return. In order to help keep those worries at bay and help counteract the racing breathing and heart rate caused by anxiety, it is good to have a mental relaxation technique, that you can quickly use, to help focus of the here and now rather than what might or might might not happen.

The easiest thing to control to relax is the Breathing and if we use it in conjunction with a mantra like ‘re-lax’, where we use the ‘re’ during the inhalation and and ‘lax’ during the exhalation. At the same time choose a point to focus on, it might be a speck of rock, a piece of protection, just anything that will help you focus on your current position.

To start with many people will need to follow a complete relaxation exercise that lasts 20 minutes. Over a few session the amount of time that it takes you to relax will reduce, and over a couple of weeks of practice you might find that the time you take to relax may come down to 5 to 10 minutes. Eventually the breathing exercises will help to relax in a less than minute or two.

Self-talk strategies

Now we have mentioned that anxiety has a large cognitive component, it is therefore important that you understand what your negative thoughts are and how they effect you. This can be achieve by noting down negative thoughts that occur prior to falling or feeling that you are about to fall. Often people have a pattern of negative thoughts, they almost expect to fail as soon as they experience those thoughts.

In exploring you negative thoughts, ‘my hands are going to slip’, ‘My arms won’t pull me to the next hold’, ‘my foot is going to slip’, ‘I can’t find the next hand/foot hold’, ‘I can see a runner’, any or all of these might have an effect on your climbing. Whatever the thought or thoughts are you need to be ready for them, and have something up your sleeve to stop and counteract the negativity.

At its most basic you need to say “Stop!” when you get those negative thoughts, beyond that you need to add a counter argument. So for ‘My hands are going to slip’ you might counter with ‘Not before i reach that good rest beyond the crux’.

Similarly you can use self talk to attack the crux of a route, I often find myself reasonably calm on most parts of a route, but as I get to the crux I use the cue phrase ‘Go for it’. This mentally shifts to a place where I have accepted that i might fall off, but I am not going to stop before I get to the next rest, or that fall occurs.

The transistion is deliberate, and calculated, in that I have assessed that the gear is good enough to take a fall, and the next rest isn’t that far away that your going to hit the ground. Whilst this isn’t a controlling technique, it is a technique of acceptance, afterall you have decided to put yourself in that position.

In fact it fits in more with something called reversal theory, I am not sure of the scientific backing for such a theory, but it contested that we can if we wish to see something that is at first scary as something that is fun and exciting. It is this transforming of a situation from a negative experience to a positive one. If during the fall training you concentrate of whooping with joy every time you fall off them this may well help you ‘frame’ falling as fun.

Personal Training Programmes

If you are interested in a personalised training regime to help combat the fear of falling, or help to improve other aspects of your performance then contact the climbing coach via this website.

Why would you need a coach/instructor/sport psychologist?

I got asked a question by a friend trying to play devils advocate to my work as a coach and instructor. I was stunned for a minute, but essentially offered the argument that for many people what a coach/instructor offers is a unbias analysis of your performance. In that it is hard for an individual to be impartial about themselves, as they can barely see the proverbial ‘wood from the trees’, as they are too close.

More importantly though when we see what part of someone’s performance needs working on we have a variety of tools to help us improve that specific area. In essence though it is the ability to analyze performance that enables us to offer and appropriate intervention, after all everyone is different so there is no one size fits all approach to coaching climbing.

Over the years that I have been instructing and coaching, I have come up with various typical behaviours that climbers use when various techniques are lacking. Clawing blindly at the rock signifies that the climber hasn’t bothered to plan where the next hold is, often due to the fear. Similarly pedalling indicates poor footwork. Most of it is common sense however it is only through experience that we as coaches learn to pick on on these things very rapidly.

If you are interested in some coaching to improve your performance then I offer my services at £150 per day, the climbing coaching is based in North Wales. You can contact me via this website. As well as the information on this blog, my other experience include freelancing for Plas y Brenin for over four years including directing some of their climbing courses, writing a book due out later this year for pesda press on self-coaching climbing and studying an MSc in Applied Sport Science, with units in sport psychology, performance physiology and effective coaching methods.

Early Season Shake down

Well, the UK has just had a few nice weekends where it has finally been possible to climb, I have also managed to get out after work and climb a few route. One of the things I try to do this time of year is have a bit of a shake down, in that I try and see where I am this year when it comes to climbing. If you like I have a few ‘acid test’ routes like Comes the Dervish, that allow me to see how I am climbing based on the experience from passed years.

I also try and get on a few easy routes to get my eye in for gear placements, rests and route finding. I might also get on a bold route to kick my mind back into shape after a winters bouldering at the climbing. I basically use the first few climbing session of a year to perform a few system checks to ensure that all is well in the climbing machine that is me.

How this helps you is to build your confidence in your ability to climb, and allow you to see the benefit of all that training on your real climbing. I am fairly luck as I spend much of the early season teaching people to climb on easy routes, so nearly always have an eye for gear placements and route finding. However if your not that lucky then it is best to ease yourself into the summer by climbing some nice easy routes, before strapping yourself to something too hard.

1. Climd a few easy routes to try and get your gear placement eye in.
2. Climb a few easy route to get your route finding eye in.
3. Climb a reasonably hard route that you have climbed before to see how you are going this year.
4. Check you rack when your climbing these first routes.
5. Set yourself a route to do in this early season to kick start your outdoor climbing year.